Wednesday, January 26, 2011



I recently came into possession of  PHOTO 136 - a single sepia toned photograph without title or dialogue - accompanied by a question mark.  And the understanding that it had something to do with Daniel Burnham.

Photo 136

So. What's this?? Looking closely, it is a motley, multigenerational, turn-of the century crew with varying degrees of wealth and education. The picture was taken in hot sun, (coats on at the insistence of the photographer) following a big dinner --- and one glass of wine too many for more than a few! (Back row, center, thinks this little party is the cat's meow.) (Where are the wives?)

Charles Moore, in "Daniel Burnham, Planner of Cities" solves part of the mystery with a title for this photo: "Celebrating Paul Morton's entrance into President Roosevelt's Cabinet at Arbor Lodge, Nebraska City." Moore's text dates the photo in July of 1904. But Burnham is not included in the picture -- although he did attend the two day "bash" arriving via special train (Arbor Lodge is near the Sante Fe mainline) and horse drawn stage from the station

Paul Morton

Paul Morton, the reason for this party, is standing in the second row, sixth from the left. He had just been named Theodore Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy. Arbor Lodge, the neo-classical home of Paul's brother, Joy is the backdrop for the photo. And some backdrop it is -- a 52 room mansion designed by Jarvis Hunt for Joy and his wife. (Joy -standing to Paul's left - founded Morton Salt.)

It would hard to find a family (excluding the Shermans and the Allertons) who had a more profound affect on Daniel Burnham's fortunes than the Mortons. Paul Morton became President of the Sante Fe Railroad (Burnham Commission: The Railway Exchange). As Secretary of the Navy, Morton oversaw the Philippines (Burnham Commission: Plan of Manila.) And later, Morton became President of New York Equitable Life Insurance (Burnham Commission: the Equitable Building.) The Morton's also gave their full and considerable weight to Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. ( And Burnham gave his considerable talent in return.)

So. PHOTO 136.

It shows Chicago's Mortons in a frozen moment of wealth, power, and influence -- throwing one helluva party at the old homestead in Nebraska. And through this photo we get a vicarious peak at how things got done in turn-of-the-century America.

What it doesn't show .... is Daniel and Margaret... in the Morton's sunroom, (summer is only half through)  amid the potted palms and tiffany glass (biggest piece west of the Mississippi)planning the following the Ryerson's on Lake Geneva.

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