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The Demise of the Chicago Academy of Design and the Rise of the Art Institute of Chicago - Joel S. Dryer

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society Vol. 113 Nos. 3–4 Fall/Winter 2020

© 2021 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois


The Chicago Academy of Design (CAD) was modeled after such European and American art academies as the Royal Academies of Arts in London and Munich, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia (1805), and the National Academy of Design in New York (1825). These organizations offered regular exhibitions and instruction and were the backbones of art in those cities. As one critic noted, “New York and Boston and Philadelphia owe their art culture to their academies.”1 It was with this high ideal that a group of artists founded the CAD. On sound footing for the first five years of its existence, it was laid low by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, after which it became inactive for a short time, then prospered for a few years, and finally expired. In 1879, the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, which was later renamed the Art Institute of Chicago, was created from the ashes of the CAD. Histories of the Art Institute of Chicago portray its transition from the CAD as cooperative, with the Art Institute being a natural outgrowth of the CAD.2 However, the business leaders who created the Art Institute were ruthless in their effort to seize what the artists had begun. This article discusses the early successful activities of the CAD, its later struggles, and how, in its demise, it was “reborn” as the Art Institute. This history entwines the city’s leading artists and businessmen, and although the latter were not necessarily interested in the former, they were civic-minded enough to establish an art museum and school to rival those of the East Coast.

As early as 1855, a newspaper writer stated, “Had we an Academy of Fine Arts established, it would be a still stronger evidence for the encouragement of art, and it is hoped there is . . . spirit enough to save the credit of our young city by shortly taking steps to start such an Academy.”3 Organized art activity in Chicago began with an exhibition at the Burch Building in 1859.4 Several other financially successful exhibitions followed throughout the Civil War.5 Shortly after the war ended, the CAD was founded in 1866.6 Its stated purpose was to offer artist studios for rent, regular exhibitions, and teaching ateliers.7


In 1867, meetings and art classes were held on the top floor of the newly constructed Crosby’s Opera House on Washington Street.8 The CAD prospered under its president, acclaimed sculptor Leonard Wells Volk (1828–1895), who was well known for executing a bronze life mask of Abraham Lincoln.9 Members were assessed one dollar per month (equivalent to about twenty dollars today) and four classes of membership were established: academician and associate for artists and honorary academician and fellow for lay people.10 If an artist was elected to the rank of academician, he was required to submit a self-portrait for the permanent collection. This practice was patterned after the National Academy of Design.11


The first CAD reception and exhibition was held on December 22, 1867. Many of “the culture and wealth of Chicago” packed the opera house galleries, making close examination of the artwork “impossible.”12 By early 1868, sixty “prominent” artists were members and regular classes were offered.13


Capitalizing on their first successful event, the CAD held a second exhibition in March 1868, which was attended by a large crowd of “Gentlemen and Ladies.”14 Many noted American artists, several of whom were members of the National Academy of Design, lent their works to the exhibition. While there was no formal affiliation between the New York and Chicago academies, eastern artists saw the burgeoning Chicago market as a new outlet for their works. “The unanimous verdict was that it was a grand success in every particular and that the artists did them- selves great credit. The attendance was very large, very appreciative and very enthusiastic, and the spectators were richly rewarded for their visit.”15 News of the success was reported in New York, which must have given the organizers a sense of accomplishment and pride.16 Net income from this second exhibit stabilized CAD finances.17

A third show opened on December 18, 1868, and over a thousand of Chicago’s gentry attended. Eastern artists again contributed works, and the CAD commingled these with their own.18 The successful event netted almost $25,000 in today’s value, from both admission fees and commissions on art sales.19 CAD artists sold works at a brisk pace—apace with the demand to fill the ever-increasing number of mansions in the city with art—and the school was full with students.20

In March 1869, the CAD was incorporated.21 The articles of incorporation stated: “Its main object shall be the encouragement of the true and beautiful in the Arts of Design; and its duties shall be to extend all possible encouragement and protection to the interests of the Artists, the Fine Arts, and its votaries.”22 An especially valuable provision in its charter, signed by the governor, was an exemption from taxes on its property.23 This exemption proved valuable because in 1870, the Illinois Constitution was amended, and thereafter taxes were levied on artwork as assets and on sales of artwork. Therefore, the CAD tax status, as related to the fine arts, was unique, and would not be duplicated again.

After three prosperous public exhibitions and incorporation, the CAD sought permanent quarters. One Tribune critic stated: “The Academy has done and is doing great work.    It could, however, accomplish a great deal more and give to Chicago an art reputation which would be unmistakably metropolitan, and perhaps national, if its resources were increased. The Academy needs a building of its own.”24 Time was essential because the owners of Crosby’s Opera House decided to use their building gallery for their own exhibitions and refused future gallery space to the CAD.25

In May 1870, the CAD secured a twenty-year lease for the second through fifth floors of a new building on Adams Street. Located directly behind the new Palmer House Hotel, there was enough space for large exhibitions, entertainments, lectures, classes, and artist studios.26 Con- currently, businessman Jonathan Y. Scammon donated over 200 plaster casts for use in the art school.27 By September, owing to the success in leasing studio space to member artists, the CAD rented the entire build- ing.28 Occupancy was set for October 1.29 The new art center was heralded in the Tribune: “The Chicago Academy of Design is an institution whose good influences in local art matters has long been felt in this city, and whose growing prosperity should be a matter of pride and congratulation with all our citizens.”30 Just days later, however, as if to predict the future, another Tribune article criticized the new structure, and those nearby, as unsafe and vulnerable to destruction by fire.31

In anticipation of moving to the new building, lay membership in the CAD was sold aggressively to wealthy Chicagoans.32 To prepare for the opening reception, CAD representatives went to New York and selected paintings to hang alongside those of CAD member artists.33 The country’s most renowned artists lent their works. For example, Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902) sent several, including his well-known Emerald Pool (Chrysler Museum of Art). November 22, the first of three opening evenings, was an unqualified success.34 “Every part of the building was crowded with the elite of the city in art, taste and culture and the artists were out in force ‘at home’ at last, full of hope.”35 The Tribune featured lengthy columns on the nationally famous artists as well as extensive descriptions of the “home artists.”36 After this exhibition, CAD finances were significantly more secure.37 The CAD, only five years after its founding, was firmly established as Chicago’s art center.

In February 1871, the CAD opened its permanent exhibition. An extensive catalog set forth its objectives and specified membership classes. Toward the back of the catalog was a membership solicitation form followed by a detailed list of artworks on display, including several by prominent eastern artists.38 This was the first art museum in Chicago.

Just two months later, the fifth annual exhibition opened, which was the first exhibit in Chicago where a jury rejected artwork for lack of quality, a practice similar to that of the National Academy of Design.39 Reviews were mixed. The Tribune offered praise, but the Art Review had a contrary view.40 The Trial of Red Jacket (National Museum of American Art), by John Mix Stanley (1814–1872), bolstered admission revenues.41

Later that year, the monumental painting Battle of Gettysburg, by Peter Frederick Rothermel (1817–1895), was exhibited in the permanent CAD gallery. During its exhibition, daily paid attendance exceeded a thousand people, many of whom were staying at the Palmer House Hotel.42 By this point, CAD revenues came from school tuition, studio rent, annual subscriptions, admission fees, and art sales.43 In today’s value, the CAD was generating about a million dollars a year in revenue.

As recounted in a Tribune article: "Within three years from the time when it had but twenty members and $100 in its treasury the Academy was established in a handsome building . . . containing ample galleries, school rooms, studios, offices, and reception rooms, and a fine little music hall Besides this there were other sources of income from life and fellowship memberships, from commissions on sales, etc., and the total revenue was already at so handsome a figure and so rapidly increasing that the time was confidently thought to be near when the Academy would be able to purchase and own entirely the building and the ground on which it stood."44

On October 8, 1871, tragedy struck. Downtown Chicago was destroyed by the Great Conflagration.45 "Before the great fire of 1871 the Academy was in promising condition. It had a building of its own on Adams St. and the catalogue issued in the year of the fire enumerated 38 Academicians, 33 Associates, 5 Honorary Academicians, and 26 Fellow Members. Besides these, there were also annual members. The schools were reported to be prosperous and amply equipped. The fire, however, swept away every vestige of the property, and the insurance proved worthless. 46

The achievements of this young but vigorous institution before the great fire were of a kind that any citizen of Chicago might well recall with pride."47

The CAD building was destroyed, decimating everything in the artists’ studios. Leonard Volk recounted: “The Academy of Design was 

wiped out except [for] a good name and a small debt, and the outlook for art was extremely disheartening      Fine art—Oh! It was not considered in the rush of rebuilding, except cheap stuff made of zinc and terra- cotta. Phoenix rising from the ashes!”48 Many artists moved to other

cities, while some of those who remained were facing starvation.49

Rufus Moore, a founding CAD member, was in New York City at the time of the fire. He gathered support from New York artists who donated 150 paintings that were then sold in November for the benefit of the Chicago artists.50 Some of America’s best-known painters—including Winslow Homer (1836–1910), Louis Comfort Tiffany (1847–1933), and Albert Bierstadt—contributed works. Moore’s efforts raised an amount equivalent today to almost $200,000.51 These funds were dispersed among the “indigent” Chicago artists, but no money was retained to help reestablish the CAD.52

That same month, the remaining CAD artists agreed to keep the organization alive. Leonard Volk, who had been so instrumental in their success, was out of the country on an extended trip, so the artists elected Henry Chapman Ford (1828–1894) as their new president.53 However, a meeting planned for March 1872 was attended by only one artist.54 In fall 1872, although enough artists gathered for a quorum, they discovered that there was no money in the treasury. Fund-raising efforts were unsuccessful likely because the entire city was busy rebuilding.55 Given the dire financial condition of the CAD, the artists planned to have “the money and property of the Academy” managed by local businessmen, or “trustees.” But none of these proposed trustees had been previously contacted. The artists had only hope: “Their acceptance or declination [was] yet a matter of doubt.”56 The concept proved unsuccessful as no new trustees joined.

When Volk returned in early 1873, he and his partners formed a company to construct a three-story building at the southwest corner of Michigan and Van Buren.57 With the CAD inactive, Volk “induced” J. F. Aitken, the former proprietor of the art gallery in Crosby’s Opera House, to open studios and exhibition space in his new building.58 Aitken called his new corporation the “Art Institute,” the first post-fire art venue.59 It quickly became Chicago’s new art center. For example, when the city was given a large painting depicting the Great Chicago Fire by renowned English artist Edward Armitage (1817–1896), it was exhibited at the Art Institute.60 But after a promising start, and only a year of “desperate struggle to pay expenses,” the Art Institute closed.61

The city’s art activities then shifted to a new locale.62 Wealthy local businessmen funded a massive 230,000 square-foot steel structure, on downtown lake front property, where the first Inter-State Industrial Exposition was held in the fall of 1873.63 This trade fair included a sizeable art gallery. Because the burnt-out CAD no longer had a building, its artists gravitated to the exposition, contributing a significant portion of the 170 art- works shown.64 The enormous building was also used between annual events for an art gallery and other displays of industrial goods.65 By the next exposition in 1874, the art section contained over 700 works. A Tribune review expressed hope that the quality of art would “inspire our own artists to renewed exertions, and to do great work.”66

Earlier, in 1874, Volk, who had resumed the presidency, moved the CAD into his new building at a “moderate rental and without security for payment of rent.”67 The first post-fire CAD exhibition and social was held there. Once again, artwork by several noted eastern artists was dis- played.68 Well-known landscape artist Albert Bierstadt not only sent paintings for the exhibition but donated a valuable work for sale, with the proceeds to benefit the CAD. For his years of support, he was voted an honorary academician.69

The exhibit was a success; it was so crowded that one could barely move.70 Three years after the Chicago fire, the CAD began to reemerge, with some 300 members and annual supporters.71 The school was reopened and many artists leased studios in the new building.72 Noted architect William LeBaron Jenney (1832–1907) gave courses on architecture, and two senior CAD members taught life drawing and painting.73

To bolster revenues between periods of regular exhibitions, Volk looked to the East again for art that he could display to attract paying customers.74 Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900) lent his monumental painting of Petra, entitled El Khasne (Olana State Historic Site).75 It was shown to much acclaim at the CAD in March 1875. The Tribune stated: “Those who fail to see it will surely regret it.”76 The exhibition of El Khasne was followed by a spring show of works by noted American and local artists and included an auction. Exhibiting and selling artwork was an important step in redeveloping patronage and generating revenue from sales commissions.77 Only one month later, another exhibition was held that attracted many wealthy patrons.78 In a letter to the editor of the Chicago Times, a local artist stated that the exhibition “was acknowledged, by those most competent of judging, to be . . . the best exhibition since the fire.”79

Despite recent post-fire success, the CAD was still recovering. A Tribune article stated: “The Academy of Design has experienced some recent vicissitudes, but it stands, and no doubt will continue to stand, as the most conspicuous art institution in the city    After [the fire] the Academy had a struggle, like other people, and, like other people, it is having a struggle now.”80 A CAD officer conceded to the Times: “It is true the Academy of Design is not in as flourishing condition as it ought to be, considering the wealth and magnitude of the city of Chicago. But it has been a year of great financial difficulty and as much has been done as could be expected under the circumstances.”81 A Chicago Times writer thought that new quarters would help their progress: “The building in which it is now located is too small, the studios too circumscribed, the passage ways too narrow, the school-room inadequate. The exhibition room is too small, and possesses no comforts or conveniences for the viewing of pictures. What the Academy needs is more money. That is the primal want. Next, it ought to be located in a more convenient building.”82


Heeding the Times, and having experienced exceptionally crowded conditions at the most recent opening, CAD artists planned a move to the Eugene Pike building at State and Monroe.83 Pike was a wealthy real estate investor who lived on Prairie Avenue, among the most prominent families in the city. His involvement with the CAD would become a key part of their unfortunate future.

CAD president Volk was strongly against moving out of his building. While he was conflicted as landlord, he thought that quadrupling the rent was absurd. In addition, the new building required guarantors to secure the rent, whereas no such condition existed at his building. His memoirs, written in hindsight, stated that “a large indebtedness was made necessary in fitting up the new quarters with suitable furnishings.” He also wrote that the move was “the fatal mistake.”84 But several newspapers were supportive: “Its old location was out of the way, and its galleries and accommodations not nearly as commodious as they now are. At present it has become by location a nerve of the commercial life of the city, and it is so accessible that anyone can reach it. The conveniences of the present quarters will have a great deal to do with its new term of success. The gallery is not surpassed by any in the country.”85

On May 4, 1876, “It was decided to create a [non-artist] Board of ten trustees.”86 Sources contemporary to the period do not list the names of these ten men. However, we can surmise that they were the same ten businessmen listed a year earlier on the cover of The Spring Exhibition and Sale catalog under “Managing Committee of Sale.”87 Among them were such successful entrepreneurs as James Henry Dole, a major grain elevator owner, George Hinman Laflin, head of Chicago’s first waterworks, and Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, a real estate investor and one of the country’s largest soap manufacturers. While the artists maintained control of the school and regular exhibitions, they handed over the finances and business operations to the trustees, feeling that perhaps these reputable businessmen would be better equipped to deal with the financial challenges at hand. Cooperation with the businessmen would later prove to be a naïve attempt at forming an alliance.

The eighth annual exhibition opened in June 1876 and was so successful that it was held open on Sundays, free of charge.88 The Tribune noted, “The collection of last evening, taken as a whole, surpasses that of any previous Academy exhibition.”89 The Inter-Ocean critic added, “We cannot call to mind any previous affair given under the academy auspices where so many fine pictures were hung upon the walls.”90

Despite the successful exhibition, financial matters were bleak. The country was in the midst of an economic depression. Frustrated, Volk resigned as president.91 The decision to move from Volk’s building into new quarters exacerbated monetary problems.92 To make matters worse, profits from the school had been used to defray the costs of running the public gallery, which was losing money.93 Notwithstanding the loss of Volk, who had guided the CAD throughout most of its existence, the remaining artists must have been satisfied with the existing arrangement between them and the trustees as on December 7, 1876, the same ten men were reelected.94

By 1877, the Long Depression, which had begun in 1873, reached extreme proportions. Thousands of businesses failed and unemployment in many cities reached as high as 25 percent.95 In Chicago, countless real estate developers, who had borrowed heavily after the fire to finance new buildings, declared bankruptcy.96 The large gallery in Pike’s building that had functioned as a sort of museum, and was used for regular exhibitions, was closed less than a year after it had been opened. It was converted to classrooms, while other rooms in the “commodious quarters” were sub- let to defray expenses.97 The once popular and attractive exhibitions and sales gave way to small shows and entertainments that featured the artists themselves as performers.98 The CAD was now in “urgent” financial condition.99

On November 13, 1877, amendments to the constitution were adopted that gave the trustees complete control of the organization: "In accordance with the amendments offered it is proposed that the Academy shall be composed of corporate memberships and academicians, and that the corporate members shall consist of subscribers to the capital stock.   Further amendments provide that all the money, property, and effects of the Academy shall be held and managed by a Board of Trustees, to consist of thirty persons, chosen from the corporate members and that the title to all the money, property, effects, and real estate owned by the Academy shall be vested in this Board; that it shall have entire management of the financial affairs of the Academy."100

William Merchant Richardson French (1843–1914) was head of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition’s art committee from its inception in 1873 and would later become the first director of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1877, he virtually excluded CAD members from the expo- sition.101 Of the over 600 works exhibited, only a little more than thirty were accepted from CAD artists, who were also prohibited from exhibiting portraits. Portrait commissions were a key source of income for local artists, and exhibiting them was a form of advertising, an opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency to potential patrons.102 The exclusion of CAD artists from exhibiting portraits caused an uproar in the press. The Tribune, for example, came to the artists’ defense, stating there was “wide- spread dissatisfaction with the decision.”103 French’s refusal to cooperate with the artists portended an ominous future for the CAD; indeed, he would be instrumental in its demise. One writer predicted that “it is a mere question of time when our Art Department of the annual Exposition will go where the Academy of Design has gone.” The writer continued, “The Academy of Design met its death at the hands of one or two who were bound to rule or ruin.”104 The CAD had not yet met its death, but it was coming soon. As French applied this pressure, it was reasonable to surmise that the businessmen who controlled the exposition wanted to put an end to the CAD.

In December 1877, the Tribune announced that fifteen trustees were elected, including all five of the men who managed the exposition’s art committee.105 The role of chairman was filled by an attorney, not a businessman, which signaled that future events might be contentious.106 In January 1878, the newly elected trustees announced their intention to either reorganize the CAD or to create a new entity.107 One trustee stated that they “had been elected trustees of something, and they wanted to find out whether they were trustees of a corpse or something which had life.”108

Since many of the trustees were guarantors for the lease in Pike’s building, they formed a committee to look into the CAD’s indebtedness.109 It was not obvious to the artists what the trustees were planning. The Tribune reported that the trustees intended to vacate the building, hoping to move into a new facility. The journalist pointed out a key motive: “The Academy of Design possesses a most liberal special [tax-free] charter, and the new Board proposes to place the institution upon a permanent and sound financial foundation.”110

At a meeting in late January, the amount of debt was reported. Also of note was that the assets had previously been mortgaged to two of the founders; bankruptcy was contemplated. While some creditors generously forgave their debt, curiously, the trustees sought no action from others who were owed money.111 When the school reopened in May 1878, William French was named secretary and took charge of all CAD operations. The only names that appeared on the new school circular cover were those of the trustees. The circular stated: “A re-organization of the Academy of Design has recently been effected under a Board of Trustees. The Trustees, together with the Artists composing the former membership, constitute the new Academy.”112 While the organization began to prosper once again and the artists were hopeful, this hope would prove to be fleeting.113

The first public reception under the new constitution and management was in June 1878.114 One artist, however, in a letter to the Tribune editor, voiced his displeasure, and derisively called the CAD a “Trustee Academy,” a sure sign of tension within the organization.115 Several dissenting artists now supported the competing Lydian Art Gallery, owned by Lydia J. Cadwell.116 It was advertised as “The only place in the city where Pictures are constantly on exhibition free by The Artists [sic] of Chicago.”117 The Lydian space also contained meeting rooms and was home to the recently formed Society of Decorative Art.118

By the fall of 1878, school enrollment expanded to 100 students.119 The Tribune noted, “The month just closed has been the most prosperous since the Academy was reorganized in the spring.”120 The Inter-State Industrial Exposition art gallery that year contained works by sixty local artists.121 It seems the trustees had made their point in the previous year— they were in control of the most important exhibition venue, and the artists were best served by cooperating with them. Thriving under the leadership of the trustees, the CAD surpassed 100 paying members.122 In December, the holiday exhibition, demonstrating a preference for quality over quantity, was held. Selected by a committee of CAD artists, about 100 artworks were shown from both local and eastern artists.123

At the CAD exhibition in March 1879, the artists were granted their own show of paintings by Chicago artists, which was followed by an auction of the works. The Tribune commented: “From a social point of view the reception was a genuine success. The attendance was a large and cultivated one, embracing the elite of our society.”124 Around this time, the Inter-State Industrial Exposition’s art committee opened its marble and plaster cast statuary rooms for use by students in CAD drawing classes.125 Cooperation that season was such that a separate gallery for Chicago artists, juried by CAD members, was planned for the 1879 annual expo- sition.126 At this point, relations between the trustees and artists appeared warm. However, the amity soon came to an abrupt halt.

There was significant disagreement between the trustees and artists on how to operate the school.127 It was claimed in the Times “that when the present Directors had come into office they had found the Academy rotten to the core. The former officers [artists] . . . had voted themselves salaries for work they did not perform, had mortgaged the property of the Academy to themselves, and had spent the money of the school to a reckless and hasty manner.”128 (This statement in the press was diversionary, however, as for several years CAD finances were controlled by the trustees.) The trustees then resigned and convened a meeting to plan for a wholly new organization. Among that group were the wealthiest men in Chicago.129

Eugene Pike, the current landlord, working behind the scenes with the former trustees, had obtained a creditor judgment. The Tribune reported: “The Academy of Design was placed in the hands of Deputy-Sheriff Burke yesterday by Eugene S. Pike   The Academy of late has been doing a fair

business, the school being well supplied with pupils.   It is said that Mr. Pike is not hostile to the institution, but that he made this move to fore- stall the other parties [creditors], and protect the Academy    [T]he only result of a sale would be to destroy the Academy, a most useful institution.”130 The article stated that of the $13,000 in old debt, $3,000 remained. However, the minutes of the CAD recorded the outstanding debt as only $725.131 No matter the amount, it remained unpaid.

The Tribune’s account of events is troubling. If the CAD was thriving, then why would the trustees, most of whom were multimillionaires, have paid most but not all the old debt? On May 22, the county sheriff sold the CAD assets for a mere $250.132 CAD president John Crombie Cochrane (1835–1887) claimed that the judgment and sale were exploitive transactions; pointing out that the former trustees had refused to pay the remaining debt, he said: “ It is evident that the majority of the gentle- man  were ignorant of the exact condition of the academy or they would not have permitted such a sacrifice of its effects, but that (for a certain purpose which is plainly to be seen) certain parties have manipulated the transaction.” He went on to say, “The indebtedness of the Academy is of such insignificant proportions that it was no excuse for the acts of the Board.”133 Only two days after the asset sale, a new organization called the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts filed for incorporation.134 Surely this was the plan all along and the reason why a small debt was left unpaid. The trustees’ motive was to seize the assets, assume control of what the artists had built, and create their own organization.

Volk recounted the same, stating: "[The trustees] saw the chance as shrewd Board of Trade men . . . , and the Academy was to be treated the same as buying “long” or “short” on wheat, hog or housing    Of course they had an object for leaving it [debt] unpaid—it was to let the Sheriff in to sell out the things— school furniture, casts, gifts of pictures and marbles presented to and purchased by the Academy. These very “honorable men” had previously obtained a certificate of incorporation  [for] the “Chicago Academy of Fine Arts” under the exclusive control of business men.   The sheriff was then called in and the said things and furnishings sold at a trifling sum to the new ‘Corporation.’"135

By May 30, the new Chicago Academy of Fine Arts had established bylaws, voted in the wealthy grain elevator, railroad, and banking magnate George Armour as its president, and taken memberships from over 250 of the most prominent men in Chicago.136 Armour was a neighbor of Eugene Pike on Prairie Avenue. On June 5, the new academy purchased the assets of the CAD from the friend who had bought them at the Sheriff ’s auction. Concurrently, they leased the exact same premises in the Pike Building where the CAD had previously operated, using the same plaster casts, furniture, and art equipment.137 The Tribune reported: “The movement on behalf of a new institution which resulted some weeks ago in the organization and incorporation of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts is going steadily forward It has not been closed for a single day. The new institution bought the school furniture and appliances, and carried the school through the uncompleted term, which ended yesterday.”138 Volk summarized his view of the events as follows: “The annals of art contain no record of such disgraceful betrayal of trust—such sneaking treachery and deliberate conspiracy.”139

In hindsight, the CAD could have continued its operations with its debts settled, but not without the financial assistance of wealthy patrons. In 1879, the country was coming out of an economic depression that had begun in 1873, which corresponds almost exactly to the post-fire period through which the CAD had regained its strength and then struggled anew. The trustees were savvy businessmen, schooled in the art of forming business trusts and monopolies. The artists had no such business skills. The artists had created a history of successful exhibitions, the school, the artist studios, and public interest. From these efforts, the trustees stood to gain significantly by full control of the CAD. It was only the tax-free charter that would remain elusive, out of their grasp for another twenty- odd years because, as The Tribune reported, the artists refused to let their old academy die: “Some months ago the Chicago Academy of Design, by reason of misfortunes, financial and otherwise, passed, or rather was sup- posed to have passed, out of existence. It was succeeded, as many thought, by the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, a society which is still in existence. Yesterday afternoon a number of the members of the Association whose death had been lamented months ago met together at the offices of the Academy of Arts and held their annual meeting, thereby intimating that they were anything but a defunct corporation.”140 In retaliation, only artists who affiliated with the new academy were accepted for the 1879 Exposition, which was a reversal of the plans made earlier in the year whereby CAD and other Chicago artists were to have their own gallery space.141

With the support of the wealthiest Chicagoans and the guidance of the trustees, the new academy thrived. The profitable school continued to expand, and by the end of 1880 it had taken in so many pupils that it needed additional space.142 The Long Depression had ended; the timing was fortuitous.143

Despite losing everything, the remaining CAD members carried on. In June 1879, they opened an exhibition and reception in the Lydian Gallery that was attended by a thousand people.144 By continuing their activities, the tax-free charter remained in force. Lydia Cadwell not only made her gallery available to artists but also offered them free meeting rooms in her building.145 An exhibition was held in December 1879 to coincide with the Chicago visit of General Grant.146 The CAD artists, not those of the new academy, secured the honor of decorating the war hero’s rail car and were pleased to see that he attended their successful opening.147

At a CAD meeting on December 12, 1879, former secretary William French, who had now assumed the role of secretary at the Academy of Fine Arts, was accused of falsifying CAD financial accounts. Rather than a deficit, the artists had proven the accounts were at a surplus, and the forced bankruptcy should not have occurred. French hid this reality by misreporting funds, especially those owed to Pike, who, with his attorney, stated that French’s accounts were a fabrication. French admitted that the bankruptcy was avoidable and that the debts probably could have been settled for a small fraction of their face value. But, he noted, the trustees were set on forming their own, new organization.148 The furious artists rescinded the proclamation of thanks to French for his service and unceremoniously expelled him from the CAD—which by now was a meaning- less gesture—because of his false reporting.149

A CAD school was reopened in early 1880, but by late March there was not enough money to pay teacher salaries, and by June the school was closed.150 The last exhibition the CAD ever held was on June 9, 1880. However, it was open for only two days and only to paid subscribers.151 Their catalog listed a mere ninety-one artworks; hardly much of an out- put from some fifty academicians.152 In his annual address, CAD president Cochrane conceded, “It is thought best to form ourselves into a social club during the interim, until permanent quarters are secured and that the monthly meetings be set apart for that purpose in addition to the regular business.”153 Meanwhile, the Academy of Fine Arts was thriving: awarding gold and silver medals in student competitions, offering evening classes, and amassing a large art library.154 As their fall term opened, Daniel Folger Bigelow (1823–1910), a founder of the CAD and a highly respected Chicago landscape painter, joined as an instructor.155

While another school was opened in the name of the CAD, it was a private enterprise, with profits benefitting the two organizers.156 It was reported in the press that the CAD was now defunct, which, while true in practice, was not exactly the case, as would be evident from subsequent events.157 In November 1881, a new plan was presented to save the CAD and its valuable tax-free charter.158 Incoming president artist Enoch Root (1839– 1915) announced his intention to influence the United States Congress, through well-connected friends, to split Dearborn Park between them- selves and the Chicago Public Library. The park was a valuable remnant of land from the old Fort Dearborn, on North Michigan Avenue, and the federal government was making it available to the city. Root claimed that there was more than double the space needed for a proposed library.159 CAD secretary John F. Stafford traveled to Washington, DC, to present their case to a congressional subcommittee. The Tribune accurately predicted that “it may confidently be said that the Academy of Design project will be promptly knocked on the head when the time comes.”160 Stafford returned to Chicago with bad news: It had been “represented to the Washington Committee that the CAD was bankrupt.”161 In fact, the last treasurer’s report showed a balance of only $1.93.162 Details of the Washington meeting were summarized in the press: “A few questions elicited the fact that the library was public and free; that it was supported by taxation and had considerable property, while the Academy of Design had little more than a corporate existence, was without tangible assets, and [was] controlled by private individuals.”163

The Tribune attacked the CAD as dead, existing only in the mind of Stafford, and thus contended that a private claim upon public lands was preposterous.164 Finally, the CAD withdrew its proposition.165

Meanwhile, the ever-prospering Academy of Fine Arts had raised $60,000 and purchased land at the corner of Michigan and Van Buren, which “had been so much depreciated as an unfit location when occupied by the Academy of Design,” to erect a permanent home designed by architects Burnham and Root.166 Shortly thereafter, a significant change was made: “The Trustees of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts have dis- carded that title and adopted ‘The Art Institute of Chicago’ instead, under which name they announce their intention of establishing a permanent Museum of Art.”167

Volk claimed the change was made because the name “Academy of Fine Arts” was too similar to that of their “victims.”168 The new name was clearly appropriated from the “Art Institute” that had shuttered eight years earlier.169 The trustees had succeeded. They controlled their own organization, with no interference from the artists, and could begin shaping the new Art Institute in their own image. However, control of the valuable tax-free charter still eluded them. For the next four years, between 1882 and 1886, a few artists kept the CAD alive by meeting irregularly.

But then, remarkably so, a US Senate bill, sponsored by Illinois senator General John A. Logan, was passed in June 1886. It called for a split of Dearborn Park—one-third each to the Library, the CAD, and the Soldier’s Home, which proposed to erect a building honoring Civil War vet- erans.170 After some lengthy negotiations, Stafford presented a proposal to the US House of Representatives subcommittee on the matter.171 However, a member of the subcommittee voiced concern that “he had not been convinced that there was any good reason for giving the Academy of Design a share of Dearborn Park.”172

When Senator Logan died in December 1886, the strongest proponent for the Soldier’s Home was gone.173 The Tribune noted: “The sub- committee . . . has finally frozen out the one-man Academy of Design, and it is understood that the mythical institution will no longer figure as a partner with the Public Library in sharing space which belongs to the public and not to individuals.”174 Another article stated: “There is no such institution known today in Chicago as the Academy of Design except in the brain and person of John F. Stafford [T]he idea of asking Congress for one-third part of Dearborn Park for an institution that does not exist is cheeky, to say the least.”175 The matter was put to an end by the subcommittee and a contrary bill was passed that gave three-quarters of the land to the library and one quarter to the Soldier’s Home.176

From 1886 until the CAD annual meeting in 1891, the group was inactive, meeting only annually.177 Following this, the next entry in the minute book was nine years later, in November 1900, at which time New- ton H. Carpenter, secretary of the Art Institute of Chicago, and other Art Institute trustees were named trustees of the CAD.178 The president of the CAD, artist Frank Marion Pebbles (1839–1928), wrote to Carpenter, “The members of the Chicago Academy of Design feeling that their charter which was granted by a special act of the State Legislature, March 10, 1869 is valuable, have voluntarily placed this charter in the hands of a Board of Trustees, a majority of whom are members of the Art Institute.”179

In a letter to Carpenter, Art Institute legal advisor Wallace Heckman wrote: “I congratulate you on securing control of the charter of the Academy of Design. It is a special charter . . . possessing considerable value . . .exempting as it does all of the personal property of the museum from taxation.”180


This was followed by another letter of assurance from Heckman stating that any obligations of the CAD were outside the statute of limitations and that the directors of the Art Institute would have no liability by accepting the charter.181

Charles L. Hutchinson, one of the Art Institute founders and its guiding force for decades, wrote a fitting accolade to the founders of the Chicago Academy of Design and an appropriate summary of all that preceded when he said: “Chicago was not without earlier art movements, which were sustained by old citizens with a public spirit which ought not to be forgotten, and which were perhaps only prevented from permanent success by the catastrophe of the great fire. To these movements the Art institute is in some sense a successor.”182



  1. “Art in Chicago,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 8, 1876, 3.

  2. Roger Gilmore, Over a Century: A History of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago 1866–1981 (Chicago: The School of the Art Institute, 1982); Thomas C. Buechele and Nicholas C. Lowe, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2017); and “Building History,” School of the Art Institute of Chicago (website), accessed January 1, 2019,

  3. “The Fine Arts in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, February 21, 1855, 2.

  4. Joel S. Dryer, “The First Art Exhibition in Chicago,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 99, no. 1 (2006), 28–45. The Chicago Mechanics’ Institute held annual fairs with fine arts forming a very small part of the events. See, for example, “Chicago Mechanics’ Institute,” Chicago Tribune, September 14, 1858, 1.

  5. Exhibits included one at Hessler’s photography studio in 1860. For two exhibits to benefit Union soldiers, see “The Great Northwestern Sanitary Fair: Gallery of Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1863, 4; and “The Sanitary Fair: Art Department,” Chicago Tribune, May 22, 1865, 4.

  6. “Chicago Art Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1865, 1; “Chicago Art Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, November 21, 1865, 2; “Art Notes: Bierstadt’s ‘Mount Hood,’ Mayer’s ‘Consolation,’ and other Works of Art,” Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1865, 4; “The New Art Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1865, 4; “Chicago Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1867, 4; “The Artists’ Reception,” Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1868, 4; Rufus E. Moore, foreword to Chicago Academy of Design Catalogue of the Third Annual Exhibition (Chicago: Chicago Academy of Design, 1868; “The Chicago Academy of Design,” The American Builder and Journal of Art, November 1870, 244; George B. Carpenter, “The Chicago Academy of Design,” The Art Review 1, no. 3 (1871): 14; Mary E. Nixon, “The First Art Movement In Chicago,” Brush and Pencil 2, no. 5 (1898): 199. See also “Records of the Chicago Academy of Design commencing Dec. 12, 1879,” June 3, 1880, p. 95, handwritten minutes book, Ryerson and Burnham Archives, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL. This book comprises a transcription of minutes of meetings and events as they occurred through 1879 (hereafter CAD Minutes, page number”) and a record of minutes and events as they occurred post-1879 (hereafter “CAD Minutes, date, page number”).

  7. CAD Minutes, June 3, 1880, 96; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1867, 4.

  8. Carpenter, “Chicago Academy of Design,” 14; “Chicago Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1867, 4. “Academy of Design,” classified ads, Chicago Tribune, June 1, 1867, 1. The opera house had seating for over 3,000 people and was an imposing downtown structure. For more details, see “Crosby Opera House,” Chicagology (website), accessed October 28, 2018, https://chicagology

  9. .com/prefire/prefire083/.

  10. “Chicago Academy of Design,” American Builder and Journal of Art, November 1870, 244; CAD Minutes, June 3, 1880, 96; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, October 29, 1867, 4. On Volk, see “Abraham Lincoln Life Masks,” Abraham Lincoln Online, accessed December 28, 2018, http://www.abrahamlincolnonline .org/lincoln/resource/masks.htm. Volk was one of two men to complete a Lincoln life mask. He finished the mask in 1860.

  11. Honorary academicians donated a lifetime fee of $500 and could nominate a student for free tuition once each year. “The Chicago Academy of Design,” The Western Home, November 1870, 130. See also Moore, foreword to Chicago Academy of Design Catalogue; and Peregrine Pickle, “The World of Amusement,” Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1868, 2.

  12. CAD Minutes, February 5, 1880, 77.

  13. “The Artist’s Reception,” Chicago Journal, December 23, 1867, 4.

  14. Pickle, Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1868, 2; “Chicago Academy of Design: First of a Series of Lectures by Professor Antrobus,” Chicago Tribune, February 11, 1868, 4.

  15. Pickle, Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1868, 2; “The Chicago Academy of Design. Artists’ Reception,” The Art Journal, April 1868, 77–78.

  16. “The Artists’ Reception,” Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1868, 4.

  17. The New York Herald added praise, as quoted in “The Fine Arts in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, March 14, 1868, 2. See also “Chicago Academy of Design: Resolutions of Acknowledgements,” Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1868, 1.

  18. “Chicago Academy of Design,” American Builder and Journal of Art, November 1870, 244.

  19. “Art in Chicago,” The Art Journal, January 1869, 44–46; “The Fine Arts: Third Exhibition of the Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 18, 1868, 4; “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, January 10, 1869, 2.

  20. “Chicago Academy of Design,” American Builder and Journal of Art, November 1870, 245.

  21. “The Studios,” Chicago Tribune, February 11, 1870, 4, stated that “nearly all the artists have met with a streak of good luck this season, and have sold their pictures as fast as they could paint them.” Tribune, November 23, 1870, 4, the academy’s history is recounted and includes the following statement: “The personal property of the academy is exempt from taxation.” See also, “The Fine Arts: Origin and Work of the Academy of Design . . . Its History and Present Condition,” Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1875, 5.

  22. “Art in Chicago,” Western Monthly, December 1870, 406.

  23. CAD Minutes, November 18, 1880, 123; Dennis, “Our Chicago Letter,” Woodstock (IL) Sentinel, November 24, 1870, 2. For details on the tax-free status of academies, see The Statutes of Illinois: An Analytical Digest of all the General Laws of the State 1818 to 1868 (Chicago: E. B. Myers and Company, 1868), 125–26, [R. S. sec. 1, p. 615 12].

  24. “The Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1868, 2.

  25. “Chicago Academy of Design,” Chicago Journal, June 25, 1869, 4; “Chicago Academy of Design,” American Builder and Journal of Art, November 1870, 245. “The Chicago Academy of Design,” The Art Journal, September 1870, 7; “The Fine Arts: Opera House Art Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1869, 4; “The Fine Arts: Reception Night at the Opera House Art Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1870, 3; “The Fine Arts: The Opera House Annual Reception,” Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1870, 4; “Chicago,” The Art Journal, January 1871, 10.

  26. A thorough accounting of the artists and their studios is found in Carpenter, “Chicago Academy of Design,” 15. All of the artist studios were preleased prior to the opening of the building.

  27. Scammon would later donate funds to perpetuate a lecture series at the Art Institute of Chicago known as the Scammon Lectures.

  28. “The Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1870, 3; “The Chicago Academy of Design,” The Art Journal, September 1870, 6.

  29. “Art Matters,” Chicago Tribune, May 29, 1870, 1. An image of the building may be found in “Chicago Academy of Design,” American Builder and Journal of Art, November 1870, 243.

  30. “The Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, September 17, 1870, 3.

  31. “Unsafe Buildings,” Chicago Tribune, September 19, 1870, 4.

  32. “Academy of Design Reception,” Chicago Tribune, October 16, 1870, 3.

  33. “The Academy of Design: A Splendid Outlook for the Exhibition,” Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1870, 2.

  34. “The Academy of Design: A Splendid Outlook for the Exhibition,” Chicago Tribune, October 22, 1870, 2. The New York Herald and New York Times listed those New York artists who were participating, as quoted in “The Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1870, 1.

  35. Handwritten manuscript, Leonard Wells Volk Memoirs, box 11, folder 51, p. 52, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC (hereafter Volk Memoirs).

  36. “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, November 23, 1870, 4. The exhibit was also thoroughly reviewed in Carpenter, “Chicago Academy of Design,” 15.

  37. Officers included: Leonard W. Volk, president; Henry C. Ford, vice president; Charles Knickerbocker, secretary; Rufus E. Moore, recording secretary; and Belden F. Culver, treasurer. See “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, November 23, 1870, 4. The opera house gallery was a second competing location. A call for membership and attention to its permanent art gallery was made in “Opera House Art Gallery,” The Art Review, September 1870, 7. A week after the academy opening, the opera house gallery had their own opening. “The Academy of Design Exhibition,” Chicago Tribune, November 24, 1870, 2. For more commentary, see “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, February 21, 1871, 3. The opera house gallery opened another show on February 20, 1871. G. M. Gomez, “Chicago,” The Art Review, March 1871, 10–12; G. M. Gomez, “Chicago,” The Art Review, May 1871, 11–12.

  38. Chicago Academy of Design Permanent Exhibition (Chicago: Chicago Academy of Design, 1871).

  39. “Chicago Academy of Design,” advertisement, Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1871, 4; “The Fine Arts: The Academy Exhibition—A Long Catalogue of New Pictures,” Chicago Tribune, April 28, 1871, 2.

  40. G. M. Gomez, The Art Review, July 1871, 14–15.

  41. Stanley’s painting was given a half-page description in the exhibition catalogue: Chicago Academy of Design. Fifth Annual Exhibition (Chicago: Chicago Academy of Design, 1871), 12.

  42. The painting was on view when the Chicago fire broke out. It was cut from its frame and saved by a group of artists who carted it four miles south to safety. It now hangs in the Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg, somewhat diminished in size at sixteen by thirty-two feet. Alvah Bradish, “The Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 16, 1871, 4.

  43. “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1875, 5.

  44. “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1875, 5.

  45. “Fire! Destruction of Chicago! 2,600 Acres of Buildings Destroyed,” Chicago Tribune, October 11, 1871, 1.

  46. S. R. Koehler, The United States Art Directory and Year-Book (New York: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1882), 27.

  47. “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1875, 5.

  48. Volk Memoirs, 42–43.

  49. Rufus E. Moore, “Art Matters: Aid for Chicago Artists,” Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1871, 1. Interview with J. W. Dodge in “The Lazy Artists,” Chicago Tribune, March 9, 1872, 5. The article “Art and Artists: What Chicago Lost in Art by the Great Fire,” Chicago Tribune, December 4, 1871, 3, provides a complete list of works recovered as well as the whereabouts of artists who were scattered by the fire. F. L. Rockwell, “The Saving of Pictures in the Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 12, 1871, 6.

  50. Moore, “Art Matters,” 1; “Art: The Contributions to the Chicago Relief Fund,” Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1871, 3.

  51. “Art Matters: Losses of A Connoisseur,” Chicago Tribune, October 26, 1871, 1; “Relief of Our Artists,” Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1871, 4; Editorial, Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1871, 4.

  52. “Art Matters: Seven Thousand Dollars Sent by the New York Artists for the Relief of Their Brethren in This City,” Chicago Tribune, December 17, 1871, 1; “The Lazy Artists,” Chicago Tribune, March 9, 1872, 5. A description of the process of distribution appeared in “The New York Art Relief Fund,” Chicago Tribune, December 21, 1871, 3. About thirty artists were known to be professionally dependent upon income from their art. See Editorial, Chicago Tribune, December 4, 1871, 4.

  53. CAD Minutes, 5; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1871, 2.

  54. “The Lazy Artists,” Chicago Tribune, March 9, 1872, 5.

  55. “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, October 18, 1872, 8; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 8, 1872, 7; “Academy of Design: Annual Meeting—Adoption of a Constitution,” Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1872, 4; Enoch Root, “The Late Art Reception,” Chicago Times, June 27, 1875, 5.

  56. “The Studios,” Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1872, 5; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1872, 4.

  57. Volk Memoirs, 49.

  58. Volk Memoirs, 49–50. “Induced” was Volk’s description.

  59. “The Artist’s Home: Description of the New Fine Art Institute,” Chicago Tribune, February 16, 1873, 9; “Art Matters: Public Reception at the Art Institute,” Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1873, 5; T. Vernette Morse, “Looking Backward,” The Arts, August 1895, 40.

  60. “The Armitage Picture,” Chicago Tribune, August 10, 1873, 6; “The Armitage Picture: Shall It Be Hung in the Exposition, or Be Shut Up in a Private Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, August 25, 1873, 7.

  61. Volk Memoirs, 50.

  62. The Armitage painting was later moved to the exposition building. “The Fine-Art Exhibition,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1874, 8.

  63. “The Show of 1873,” Chicago Tribune, July 13, 1873, 1; “The Exposition: Progress of the Palace of Art and Industry,” Chicago Tribune, August 31, 1873, 4. A thorough review of the stages of the formulation and execution of the exposition, with several images and plans, can be found in “Exposition,” Chicago Tribune, September 25, 1873, 5.

  64. A general review of the exposition’s history is found in Stefan Germer, “Pictures at an Exhibition,” Chicago History 16, no.1 (1987): 5–21; “Department ‘A.’ Fine and Liberal Arts. Section I,” Inter-State Industrial Exposition. Exposition Souvenir (Chicago: Inter-State Industrial Exposition Board, 1873).

  65. “Art Matters,” Chicago Tribune, January 25, 1874, 4.

  66. “The Exposition Art-Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, September 6, 1874, 8.

  67. Volk Memoirs, 52.

  68. “Beauty and Art,” Chicago Times, December 23, 1874, 5; “Art Reception: Fashionable Gathering at the Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 23, 1874, 3; CAD Minutes, 6–7; “The Academy of Design,” Chicago Times, December 22, 1874, found in the Leonard Volk Scrapbooks, Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL.

  69. CAD Minutes, 7.

  70. “Academy of Design,” The Daily Inter Ocean, December 23, 1874, 8; “Beauty and Art,” Chicago Times, December 23, 1874, 5; “Art: Beautiful Pictures from East- ern Artists in the Academy Exhibition,” Chicago Tribune, December 27, 1874, 2; “New Paintings. Prominent Landscapes at the Academy of Design and at the ‘Shasta’ Gallery,” Chicago Evening Journal, December 28, 1874, 4; “Artistic Chicago: Some of the Recent Additions to the Paintings at the Academy of Design,” Chicago Times, January 2, 1875, 7.

  71. “Academy of Design: Preparations for the Sixth Annual Reception and Exhibition,” Chicago Evening Journal, December 19, 1874, 6.

  72. “Academy of Design,” Chicago Evening Journal, December 19, 1874, 6; “Chicago Academy of Design,” advertisement, Chicago Tribune, October 7, 1874, 7.

  73. Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1875, 5; “Educational: Chicago Academy of Design,” advertisement, Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1875, 7; “Odds and Ends,” Chicago Tribune, October 31, 1875, 8. Volk mentions J. Roy Robertson (?—after 1891) and Enoch Root (1839–1915) as the teachers. Volk Memoirs, 53.

  74. “The Academy of Design: Letters From Prominent Artists,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1875, 8.

  75. Gerald L. Carr, Frederic Edwin Church: Catalogue Raisonné of Works of Art at Olana State Historic Site (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 393–94. Carr footnotes this entry with two articles: “Art Notes,” New York Evening Post, February 16, 1875, 2; and “Academy of Design,” Chicago Evening Journal, March 6, 1875, 6. Information courtesy of Ida Brier, Olana State Historic Site, New York.

  76. “Art: The Latest Attraction at the Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1875, 3. One of Church’s most prized paintings, it hangs today at his former home, Olana, in upstate New York.

  77. Chicago Academy of Design, Exhibition and Annual Sale of Choice Original Paintings, New from the Easels of the Best American Artists (Chicago: Elison, Pomeroy & Co., Auctioneers, 1875) (hereafter CAD, Exhibition and Annual Sale, 1875); “Art Sales,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, April 24, 1875, 1. Another sale was held in July; see “Art Sale,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 2, 1875, 1.

  78. “Academy of Design,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, June 23, 1875, 5; “Art and Society,” Chicago Times, June 20, 1875, 4; “Art Lovers,” Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1875, 5; “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, June 27, 1875, 5.

  79. Enoch Root, “The Late Art Reception,” Chicago Times, June 27, 1875, 5.

  80. “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, June 13, 1875, 5.

  81. Root, “Late Art Reception,” 5.

  82. “The Summer Exhibition,” Chicago Times, June 27, 1875, 6.

  83. CAD Minutes, 7–8; “Annual Meeting of the Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1875, 2; “The Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, February 27, 1876, 3; “Among the Studios,” Chicago Tribune, March 19, 1876, 5; “The Academy of Design—The Late William E. Doggett,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, April 8, 1876, 8; “Art Notes: The New Academy Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, May 21, 1876, 3. Pike was among Chicago’s wealthiest men and lived among the elite on Prairie Avenue. There are multiple sources for his biography available on the Internet.

  84. Volk Memoirs, 57–59.

  85. “Art in Chicago. The Future of the Academy of Design—Its Relation to the Community,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 8, 1876, 3.

  86. CAD Minutes, 8.

  87. CAD, Exhibition and Annual Sale, 1875.

  88. “Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, June 11, 1876, 8; “Brush and Palette,” Chicago Tribune, June 25, 1876, 2; “The Opening of the Academy of Design to Take Place on the 25th,” Chicago Times, June 11, 1876, 10; “Art Pencilings,” The Daily Inter- Ocean, June 24, 1876, 6; “Art In Chicago,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 8, 1876, 3. One church brought their Sunday school children as a means of education. “The City,” Chicago Tribune, July 14, 1876, 8; “The City,” Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1876, 8; “Announcements,” Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1876, 8; “Art in Chicago,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 22, 1876, 6.

  89. “The Academy of Design: It Gives Its First Summer Reception This Sea- son,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1876, 2.

  90. “Art in Chicago. The Future of the Academy of Design—Its Relation to the Community,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 8, 1876, 3.

  91. “Local Art Gossip,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, September 30, 1876, 10. Volk confirms his resignation in Volk Memoirs, 63. See also “Local Art Gossip,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, November 4, 1876, 3. Rumors of the poor financial condition were combated in “Art Gossip,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, October 14, 1876, 8.

  92. Volk Memoirs, 58–59. Volk also recorded that their most recent exhibition failed to cover expenses.

  93. “Pallet [sic] and Brush,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1877, 8.

  94. CAD Minutes, 9.

  95. Wikipedia, s.v. “Long Depression,” accessed January 3, 2019, https://

  96. Volk Memoirs, 55.

  97. The closure date is recorded as February 24, 1877. CAD Minutes, 9; “Art Notes,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, March 10, 1877, 8.

  98. “Announcements,” Chicago Tribune, March 2, 1877, 8.

  99. “Pallet [sic] and Brush,” Chicago Tribune, January 21, 1877, 8; Volk Memoirs, 58–59. 

  100. “The City: Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, August 5, 1877, 8.

  101. “The Exposition,” Chicago Tribune, July 27, 1876, 8.

  102. “The Exposition Art-Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, August 14, 1877, 5; Catalogue of the Paintings in the Art Gallery of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition of Chicago (Chicago: Inter-State Industrial Exposition Board, 1877).

  103. Editorial, Chicago Tribune, August 11, 1877, 4.

  104. Chicago Tribune, August 14, 1877, 5.

  105. “Minor Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1877, 3; CAD Minutes, 10; Volk Memoirs, 62–63. The Daily Inter-Ocean had earlier announced, incorrectly, that thirty businessmen were to be elected: “Art Gossip,” Daily Inter- Ocean, August 4, 1877, 6.

  106. “Academy of Design: The Trustees-Elect,” Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1878, 8. The lawyer was E. G. Asay, who came to Chicago in 1856. “E. G. Asay,” Sketches and Notices of the Chicago Bar (Chicago: The Western News Company, 1872), 47–48.

  107. CAD Minutes, 10; “Academy of Design: Discussing the Situation,” Chicago Tribune, January 25, 1878, 8.

  108. “Academy of Design: Discussing the Situation,” Chicago Tribune, January 25, 1878, 8.

  109. Indebtedness was reported to be some $6,000. “The Academy of Design,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, February 2, 1878, 8; CAD Minutes, 10. It was later claimed to be $20,000. Counsel for the Academy of Fine Arts recounted his calculus in “Academy Vs. Public Library,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, February 24, 1882, 8.

  110. “Academy of Design: Discussing the Situation,” Chicago Tribune, 1878, 8.

  111. “Academy of Design: The Trustees-Elect,” Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1878, 8; CAD Minutes, 11; “Academy of Design: Its Reorganization,” Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1878, 8; Volk Memoirs, 62–63.

  112. Art Schools. The Chicago Academy of Design, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, S. W. cor. State & Monroe Sts. Chicago, Ill (Chicago: Chicago Academy of Design, 1878).

  113. “Art Notes: A Better Prospect for the Limners,” Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1878, 8; “Academy of Design: Its Reorganization,” Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1878, About six weeks later, their numbers had increased to fifty. “The City,” Chicago Tribune, June 9, 1878, 8; “The City: Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, June 30, 1878, 8; “Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1878, 12; “Academy of Design: Its Reorganization,” Chicago Tribune, May 12, 1878, 8.

  114. “Academy of Design: First Reception Under the Auspices of the New Management,” Chicago Tribune, June 19, 1878, 5; “The Academy of Design,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, June 19, 1878, 2.

  115. “The Academy Reception: To the Editor of the Tribune,” Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1878, 8.

  116. According to Autumn Stanley, Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History of Technology (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995), 65, she appeared in Chicago city directories from 1876–1893. She was a photographer, proprietor of the Lydian Art Gallery, and of the Gentile Photo Studies (same address), secretary and then manager of the Mexican Ricolite Company (or Mexican Ricolite & Green Onyx Quarries).

  117. “Art Gallery,” display ad, Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1878, 1.

  118. “Decorative Art,” Chicago Tribune, June 24, 1877, 11; “Lydian Art Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, June 28, 1878, 8; “Decorative Art,” Chicago Tribune, September 23, 1877, 8. The gallery building also housed the Chicago Exchange for Woman’s Work; see “Feminine Meeting: Exchange For Woman’s Work,” Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1879, 8.

  119. Progress of the art school is noted in multiple articles, including “Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, July 7, 1878, 12; July 14, 1878, 8; and September 15, 1878, 5; “The City,” Chicago Tribune, August 4, 1878, 8; September 22, 1878, 8; October 6, 1878, 8; and October 20, 1878, 12; “Art,” Chicago Tribune, November 3, 1878, 8; and “Art Notes: Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 17, 1878, 8.

  120. “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1878, 11.

  121. Catalogue of the Paintings in the Art Gallery of the Inter-State Industrial Exposition of Chicago (Chicago: Inter-State Industrial Exposition Board, 1878). Over 400 works of art were shown.

  122. William LeBaron Jenney, “Decorative Design,” Chicago Tribune, March 16, 1879, 7; “The City,” Chicago Tribune, April 13, 1879, 8; “General News: Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1879, 8.

  123. “Art Notes: Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 8, 1878, 13; “Minor Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1878, 10; “Art Notes: The Academy Reception To-Morrow,” Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1878, 7; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1878, 8; “The Fine Arts,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, December 26, 1878, 8; The Chicago Academy of Design. Reception & Exhibition, Dec. 1878 (Chicago: Chicago Academy of Design, 1878). William M. R. French participated by giving a lecture; see “Art: Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1878, 7.

  124. “The City,” Chicago Tribune, March 5, 1879, 8; “Auction Sales,” advertisement, Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1879, 8.

  125. “Art: Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 29, 1878, 7; “The City,” Chicago Tribune, January 5, 1879, 8.

  126. “Next Fall’s Exposition,” Chicago Tribune, March 23, 1879, 8.

  127. Alfred Theodore Andreas, “Art: Academy of Design,” History of Chicago (Chicago: A. T. Andreas, 1886), 3:420.

  128. “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1879, 8.

  129. “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1879, 8; Volk Memoirs, 64.

  130. “Academy of Design: Its Financial Troubles,” Chicago Tribune, May 8, 1879, 8. Bryan had earlier received a court judgment of $615. “Law-Judge Booth,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, February 20, 1879, 6.

  131. CAD Minutes, 11.

  132. Minutes of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, May 22, 1879, pp. 5–6, Ryerson and Burnham Archives (hereafter CAFA Minutes, date, page number).

  133. CAD Minutes, 16–17, 36–37. Cochrane was a noted architect who had designed, among other buildings, the Illinois State Capitol. See “History of the Illinois State Capitol,” Office of the Architect of the Capitol (website), accessed January 7, 2019,

  134. “Application for Organization of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts,” May 24, 1879, Ryerson and Burnham Archives. Details of the May 22 meeting and the decision to name a new organization as well as to incorporate it are found in “Fine Arts: Organizing the New Academy,” Chicago Tribune, May 23, 1879, 8. Organizing members and a new board were detailed in “Fine Arts: The Board of Trustees,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1879, 8. In an earlier letter to the Tribune editor, Francis LeBaron [Jenney], the son of William Le Baron Jenney, had called for the city’s businessmen to found a new museum with a school attached. See “To the Editor: Museum of Art,” Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1879, 7.

  135. Volk Memoirs, 69–71.

  136. A list of these supporters may be found in CAFA Minutes, May 30, 1879, 17–20.

  137. CAFA Minutes, June 5, 1879, 23; “Art Notes: The Academy,” Chicago Tribune, June 8, 1879, 8; and “Art Notes: The New Academy,” Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1879, 8. Announcement of reopening the schools was made in “Art Academy,” Chicago Tribune, September 21, 1879, 8; “Art: The Fall Term of the Art School,” Chicago Tribune, September 28, 1879, 7; and “Fine Art Academy,” Chicago Tribune, October 5, 1879, 8. See also Volk Memoirs, 68–72.

  138. “Art Notes: The New Academy,” Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1879, 8.

  139. Volk Memoirs, 73.

  140. “Academy of Design: The Annual Meeting,” Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1879, 8.

  141. “Next Fall’s Exposition,” Chicago Tribune, March 23, 1879, 8. “The Chicago Artists and the Exposition,” Chicago Tribune, August 24, 1879, 12. A review of the catalogs, many available at the Newberry Library or Chicago History Museum library, shows that the artists who were teaching at the new Academy of Fine Arts, such as Lawrence Carmichael Earle (1845–1921), Henry Fenton Spread (1844–1890), J. Roy Robertson (unknown–after 1891), and John Henry Vanderpoel (1857–1911), were juried into the show, while those closely affiliated with the old academy, were not.

  142. “Academy of Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, November 23, 1879, 8; December 7, 1879, 10; and January 4, 1880, 8; “Academy of Fine Art,” Chicago Tribune, December 26, 1880, 8. The article “Academy of Fine Arts: The Students and Teachers,” Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1879, 8, provides a list of many of the pupils.

  143. Wikipedia, s.v. “Panic of 1873,” accessed February 13, 2019, https:// “The Panic of 1873 was a financial crisis that triggered a depression in Europe and North America that lasted from 1873 until 1879. In the United States the Panic was known as the ‘Great Depression’ until the events of the early 1930s set a new standard.” For a deeper discussion on the topic, see Rendigs Fels, “The Long-Wave Depression 1873–97,” Review of Economics and Statistics 31, no. 1 (1949): 69–73.

  144. “Pencil and Needle,” Chicago Tribune, June 18, 1879, 6.

  145. “Academy of Design,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, November 19, 1879, 8; “Academy of Design: Free Quarters Offered,” Chicago Tribune, November 19, 1879, 8; CAD Minutes, 24–26.

  146. CAD Minutes, 28–29. “Fine Arts: The Chicago Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1879, 8.

  147. “The Artists: Decorating His Car,” Chicago Tribune, November 22, 1879, 5; “General Grant’s Car,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, November 22, 1879, 7; “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1879, 8; “Other Visitors: The Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1879, 6; “Gen. Grant. A Visit to the Academy of Design Reception,” Chicago Tribune, December 6, 1879, 6; “The Academy of Design,” The Daily Inter Ocean, December 6, 1879, 2; “Art Notes: Academy of Design Notes,” Chicago Tribune, December 7, 1879, 10.

  148. For an account of these discussions, see CAD Minutes, 35–49. See also “Academy of Design: The President’s Address,” Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1879, 8.

  149. “Academy of Design,” Chicago Tribune, December 19, 1879, 8; CAD Minutes, 59.

  150. 150. CAD Minutes, March 24, 1880, 85, and November 18, 1880, 117–20.

  151. CAD Minutes, November 18, 1880, 128.

  152. Catalogue of the Chicago Academy of Design (Chicago: Knight & Leonard, Printers, 1880).

  153. CAD Minutes, November 18, 1880, 125.

  154. “Art Notes,” Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1881, 8.

  155. CAD Minutes, January 3, 1880, 66.

  156. CAD Minutes, October 6, 1881, 168–70, and November 3, 1881, 174. See also “Gallery and Studio,” Chicago Tribune, October 23, 1881, 11; Chicago Academy of Design: Art Schools, (Chicago: John F. Stafford, James Farrington Gook- ins, Director of Schools and Business Manager, 1881), found in: Art Institute of Chicago Scrapbooks, 3, Ryerson and Burnham Archives; and “Notes from the Galleries and Studios,” Chicago Tribune, March 12, 1882, 16. James Farrington Gookins (1840–1904) was the instructor and John F. Stafford was his business partner. The school continued until about 1885. For more information on Gook- ins, see William H. Gerdts, “James Farrington Gookins (1840–1904),” Illinois Historical Art Project, accessed September 15, 2020,

  157. “Studio and Gallery,” Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1881, 5. The article also noted that Lydia Cadwell housed a collection of American paintings in her Lydian gallery.

  158. The plan had been published in an editorial: “Academy of Design on Dearborn Park,” Chicago Tribune, November 20, 1881, 10. Also in “Dearborn Park,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, November 19, 1881, 4.

  159. CAD Minutes, January 5, 1882, 186–87. His address was published in “Art in Chicago: The Proposed School of Design and Art,” Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1882, 12. See also “Art in Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, January 15, 1882, 10.

  160. “The Lake-Front in Congress,” Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1882, 4.

  161. CAD Minutes, February 26, 1882, 194.

  162. CAD Minutes, November 18, 1881, 176.

  163. Chicago Tribune, February 24, 1882, 4.

  164. James Lane Allen, “The Public Library,” Chicago Tribune, February 25, 1882, 16.

  165. “Our Public Library,” The Daily Inter-Ocean, July 24, 1882, 3.

  166. “Art in Chicago: Plans for a New Building for the Academy of Fine Arts,” Chicago Tribune, July 9, 1882, 9. The quote is taken from Volk Memoirs, 74–75.

  167. “Art Matters: Establishment of the Art Institute of Chicago under Most Favorable Auspices,” Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1882, 12. The trustees of the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts had earlier voted on April 27, 1882, to change their name. On December 21, 1882, this change went into effect. CAFA Minutes, April 27, 1882, 52.

  168. Volk Memoirs, 74

  169. The names are identical. Volk states this as well. Volk Memoirs, 74.

  170. “The Lake Front Question,” Chicago Tribune, January 23, 1887, 9; “A Great Art Project,” Chicago Tribune, February 16, 1886, 5; John F. Stafford, “Fight For Dearborn Park,” Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1886, 6. “As To Dearborn Park,” Chicago Tribune, June 23, 1886, 4.

  171. CAD Minutes, December 8, 1886, 222–28; “Dearborn Park Memorial Hall: What the Soldiers’ House Scheme Includes,” Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1887, 6. “The Resolution Adopted . . . ,” Chicago Tribune, December 22, 1886, The Trades Assembly came out publicly against the plan. “The Library and Dearborn Park,” Chicago Tribune, January 18, 1887, 4; “The Lake-Front Question,” Chicago Tribune, January 23, 1887, 9; “The Dearborn Park Bill,” Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1887, 7.

  172. “They All Want a Share,” Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1887, 3.

  173. “Dearborn Park Memorial Hall,” Chicago Tribune, December 15, 1887, 6. The president of the Cook County Commissioners, Charles C. Holden, weighed in as well; see “Dearborn Park,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1887, 9.

  174. “The Dearborn Park Bill,” Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1887, 4; “The Dearborn Park Bill,” Chicago Tribune, February 13, 1887, 8. In its final form, the bill provided one quarter of the land to the Soldier’s Home, but under the stipulation that they had to erect a building within five years; see “The Dearborn Park Bill: An Agreement Finally Reached at Washington,” Chicago Tribune, February 19, 1887, 7; and “Dearborn Park Bill,” Chicago Tribune, December 14, 1887, 2. See also “The Public Library Bill,” Chicago Tribune, January 31, 1888, 4.

  175. Charles C. P. Holden, “Dearborn Park,” letter to the editor, Chicago Tribune, February 9, 1887, 9.

  176. The bill passed on July 1, 1889. “Corner-Stone Laid,” Chicago Tribune, May 31, 1893, 11. The library board had attempted to exclude the Soldier’s Home’s interests; see “For a Library Building,” Chicago Tribune, December 5, 1889, 3; and “Quarreling over Dearborn Park,” Chicago Tribune, January 11, 1890, 3. The matter was settled when the city council passed an ordinance authorizing construction of the library, as long as it included space for a memorial hall and meeting rooms for the soldiers; see “Dearborn Park Chosen,” Chicago Tribune, April 29, 1890, 1. This memorial room still exists today in what is now the Chicago Cultural Center.

  177. For instance, see CAD Minutes, November 8, 1888, 236.

  178. 178. CAD Minutes, May 3, 1900, n.p., August 2, 1900, 242, November 23, 1900, n.p; “By-Laws of the Chicago Academy of Design,” printed pamphlet, 1900, unpaginated, Ryerson and Burnham Archives. It was noted in the minute book that, from time to time, meetings were held but that the minutes had been lost and not recorded.

  179. CAD Minutes, November 1, 1900, 243–53. Letter to N. H. Carpenter from Frank M. Pebbles, 11/13/1900, Archives of the Art Institute of Chicago.

  180. Wallace Heckman to Newton H. Carpenter, December 29, 1900, Ryerson and Burnham Archives.

  181. Wallace Heckman to Newton H. Carpenter, January 14, 1901, Ryerson and Burnham Archives.

  182. As quoted in Allan McNab, “The School of the Art Institute: A Brief His- tory,” The Art Institute of Chicago Quarterly 55, no. 2 (1961): 25. See also Nixon, “First Art Movement in Chicago,” 200.

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