Bertha Palmer


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Bertha Palmer

  1. 1. Chicago Philanthropist, Socialite and Businesswoman May 22, 1849–May 5, 1918
  2. 2. Marriage & Family <ul><li>Born in 1849 </li></ul><ul><li>Louisville, KY </li></ul><ul><li>Wealthy family </li></ul><ul><li>1855 moved to Chicago </li></ul><ul><li>At 13 met her future husband, Potter Palmer </li></ul>
  3. 3. Potter Palmer: Chicago Business Leader <ul><li>In 1871 Bertha married Potter Palmer, Chicago merchandising magnate </li></ul><ul><li>Marriage united two of Chicago’s wealthiest families </li></ul><ul><li>Together, his fortune and her works combined to produce some of the most significant contributions to the city’s artistic, social, civic and cultural history </li></ul>
  4. 4. Potter Palmer: Chicago Business Leader <ul><li>Quaker merchant from the east </li></ul><ul><li>Came to Chicago after failing twice in business </li></ul><ul><li>Established successful dry goods business in Chicago </li></ul><ul><li>Catered to women </li></ul><ul><li>Made customer service a priority </li></ul>
  5. 5. Potter Palmer: Chicago Business Leader <ul><li>Sold his store to Marshall Field so he could dabble in real estate </li></ul><ul><li>Responsible for the initial development of State Street </li></ul><ul><li>Built numerous buildings and the still renowned Palmer House Hotel </li></ul>
  6. 6. The Chicago Fire & Rebuilding of State St. <ul><li>13 days after the hotel was completed, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 decimates the city </li></ul><ul><li>Palmer House Hotel and all of Palmer’s State Street real estate holdings burn to the ground </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Chicago Fire & Rebuilding of State St. <ul><li>Bertha takes action </li></ul><ul><li>Drives buggy to nearby town </li></ul><ul><li>Wires NY for business loan </li></ul><ul><li>Reconstruction begins </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Chicago Fire & Rebuilding of State St. The Palmer House today
  9. 9. A Castle Fit for a Queen <ul><li>1350 N. Lake Shore Drive </li></ul><ul><li>Largest private residence in Chicago at the time </li></ul><ul><li>Took 3 years to build </li></ul><ul><li>Cost $20,000,000 (today’s dollars) </li></ul>
  10. 10. A Castle Fit for a Queen <ul><li>Designed by Henry Cobb & Charles Sumner Frost </li></ul><ul><li>The first brownstone on Lake Shore Drive </li></ul><ul><li>Unobstructed view of Lake Michigan </li></ul><ul><li>Potters’ move to LSD attracted other wealthy of Chicago from the mansions of Prairie Avenue </li></ul><ul><li>Marked the establishment of Chicago’s “Gold Coast” as one of the most desirable areas in the city to live </li></ul><ul><li>Still one of the most affluent areas of Chicago today </li></ul>
  11. 11. A Castle Fit for a Queen Exterior views Potter’s Gold Coast Mansion
  12. 12. A Castle Fit for a Queen <ul><li>Fashioned after English gothic castle </li></ul><ul><li>3 story central hall under glass dome </li></ul><ul><li>Variety of historic styles </li></ul><ul><li>Spanish music room </li></ul><ul><li>Renaissance library </li></ul><ul><li>Ottoman parlor </li></ul><ul><li>Grand ballroom 75 feet long </li></ul><ul><li>Dining room that could seat 50 </li></ul>
  13. 13. A Castle Fit for a Queen
  14. 14. A Castle Fit for a Queen <ul><li>Spiral staircase rose 80 feet into a tower </li></ul><ul><li>Two private elevators </li></ul><ul><li>Multiple turrets and minarets on exterior of building </li></ul><ul><li>Palmers used mansion to entertain 3 U.S. presidents, numerous international guests, and hold receptions during the World’s Fair </li></ul><ul><li>Mansion demolished in 1951 </li></ul>
  15. 15. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition <ul><li>World’s Fair catapulted Bertha to fame </li></ul><ul><li>President of Board of Lady Managers </li></ul><ul><li>Used her post to lobby for greater representation of women at the fair </li></ul>
  16. 16. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition <ul><li>Bertha saw to it women had a building of their own to feature their achievements </li></ul><ul><li>Made sure women were represented in all state pavilions too </li></ul>
  17. 17. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition <ul><li>The Woman’s Building </li></ul>
  18. 18. The 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition <ul><li>A postcard from the Fair </li></ul>A stereograph photo taken at the Fair
  19. 19. An Unrivaled Art Collection <ul><li>Bertha traveled to Europe to solicit help from abroad and obtained exhibits from 47 countries </li></ul><ul><li>Met artists and bought paintings for the Fair </li></ul><ul><li>This ignited her passion for French Impressionism which she then began to collect </li></ul>
  20. 20. An Unrivaled Art Collection <ul><li>Her collection included works of: </li></ul><ul><li>Monet </li></ul><ul><li>Degas </li></ul><ul><li>Renoir </li></ul><ul><li>Picasso </li></ul>
  21. 21. An Unrivaled Art Collection <ul><li>Priceless paintings which once hung in the Palmer mansion now hang at the Art Institute of Chicago </li></ul><ul><li>Her gift is the most visible legacy of Bertha Palmer to the citizens of Chicago </li></ul>
  22. 22. Other Leading Roles <ul><li>Though renowned for her mansion, jewelry, and art Bertha was a strong supporter of the less privileged </li></ul><ul><li>Supported kindergartens before the city included them in the school system </li></ul><ul><li>Lobbied for penny milk for poor children </li></ul><ul><li>Supported better care for the children of imprisoned women </li></ul>
  23. 23. Other Leading Roles <ul><li>Supported women’s rights and feminist causes </li></ul><ul><li>Invited business and labor leaders to a national conference at her home </li></ul><ul><li>Financially supported Jane Addams’ Hull House </li></ul><ul><li>Helped hatmakers form a milliner’s union </li></ul>
  24. 24. Other Leading Roles <ul><li>Appointed by Pres. McKinley to be U.S commissioner to the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris </li></ul><ul><li>Trustee of Northwestern University </li></ul><ul><li>VP of Chicago Civic Federation </li></ul>
  25. 25. The Death of Potter Palmer <ul><li>Husband’s obituary credits Bertha for encouraging Potter to remain in Chicago after the Fire of 1871 </li></ul><ul><li>“… It is our duty to stay and devote our fortunes and energies to rebuilding this stricken city…” </li></ul>
  26. 26. The Later Years <ul><li>Began wintering in Florida which encouraged other wealthy people to do the same </li></ul><ul><li>Purchased huge tracts of land in Florida spurring boom in Florida real estate </li></ul><ul><li>Became a progressive rancher, farmer and developer </li></ul><ul><li>Introduced innovations in citrus, dairy, farming industries </li></ul><ul><li>Donated thousands of acres to Florida for state parks </li></ul>
  27. 27. The Later Years <ul><li>So successful in her real estate dealings in Florida Bertha nearly doubled the $8 million left to her by her husband in 1902. </li></ul><ul><li>By the time she died 16 years later her estate was worth over $15 million </li></ul><ul><li>It was left to her two sons, Honore and Potter Palmer II. </li></ul>
  28. 28. The Passing of a Chicago Icon <ul><li>Bertha died in Florida, May 5, 1918 </li></ul><ul><li>Her body was returned to Chicago to lie in state at her castle on Chicago’s Gold Coast </li></ul>
  29. 29. The Passing of a Chicago Icon <ul><li>Bertha was buried with husband, Potter Palmer at Graceland Cemetery, Chicago </li></ul><ul><li>Tomb designed in style of Greek temple </li></ul>
  30. 30. The Passing of a Chicago Icon <ul><li>Potters were laid within two large granite sarcophagi with three generations of descendants around them. </li></ul><ul><li>Their tomb is believed by many to be the most magnificent burial place in Graceland </li></ul>