The Tale of a Trinket Box, or How We Lost the Battle of Fort Dearborn

Fort Dearborn was an important symbol for early Chicagoans.  The fort was something like the statue of Romulus and Remus in the ancient Roman Forum.  That's why it was decided to build a replica of the fort at the 1933 Century of Progress exposition in Chicago.

The 120th anniversary of the Fort Dearborn Massacre was held at the rebuilt fort.  A photograph shows that a fifteen-star American flag was raised in the fort as a smoking locomotive hauled freight on the Illinois Central railroad tracks not far from the fairgrounds.

A few years later, in 1939, the first star on the municipal flag of Chicago was added.  It is meant to represent Fort Dearborn.  The six points of the star symbolize transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.

1933 Century of Progress Postcard with an Image of the Reconstructed Fort Dearborn

For some time after the Century of Progress, images of Fort Dearborn were on stamps and were printed on postcards, matchbook covers, spoons, Carson Pirie Scott and Marshal Field plates, and trinket boxes.  In the 1930s, Fort Dearborn became synonymous with the City of Chicago.  There was a fort Dearborn Hotel and, even during Prohibition, a Fort Dearborn Beer.

A Trinket Box

Below is an image of a souvenir from the 1933 Century of Progress.  It is a small trinket box measuring 3.25 inches by 2.5 inches.  On the bottom of the box, giving no indication of what would happen on December 7 eight years later, are stamped the words "Made in Japan."

1933 Trinket Box from the Chicago's Century of Progress

The cover of the box shows a representation of the Chicago skyline at the time.  Below the skyline is an image of Fort Dearborn, first built in 1803 on the bank of the Chicago River, where the river flowed into Lake Michigan.

Look closely at the upper left-hand corner.  There you see a dirigible or airship.  There are dirigibles on many artifacts from the 1930s.  These great airships hang in the sky like a technology never fully realized, a machine that never made it into the twenty-first century.

No More Republicans

The last Republican mayor of Chicago was William Hale Thompson.  Thompson was mayor twice, from 1915-23 and 1927-31.  "He was elected on a novel promise to clean up corruption. From a wealthy family with deep Chicago roots, Thompson is widely regarded as one of Chicago's most corrupt and bizarre political figures."

Once mayor Thompson left office, all of Chicago's succeeding mayors were Democrats.  Chicago's most famous mayor, Richard J. Daley, was first elected in 1955.  After that election, images of Fort Dearborn gradually disappeared from Chicago's collective memory.

The statue that commemorated the Fort Dearborn Massacre was moved to the lobby of the Chicago Historical Society, absent its marble base.  Yet even then, the dramatic violence depicted in the sculpture did not deter children from seeing it.  Nor was protecting children from violence used as an excuse to rewrite history, as the staged 1957 photograph below offered for sale on Ebay demonstrates.

"Play Acting in 1957 at the Chicago Historical Society"

Sometime after 1945, the United States Daughter of 1812 stopped laying wreaths at the site of Fort Dearborn to commemorate the War of 1812 and the Fort Dearborn Massacre.  In 1947, the tanker SS Fort Dearborn, steaming from San Francisco to Shanghai, broke in two during a gale and sank.  Thirty-two of the 44 crewmen were rescued, but 12 who set out in lifeboats were never found.  Since that sinking, no other ship in the U.S. Navy has been named after Fort Dearborn

Fort Dearborn was remembered not only in Chicago.  The Marx Toy Company produced a Fort Dearborn Play Set for boys in 1952 that sold well nationally.  The set had many detailed miniature figures and was once described as a dollhouse for boys.  By 1957 Marx stopped making the Fort Dearborn Play Set.  It is now a collector's item found on eBay.

Box for Fort Dearborn Play Set, c. 1952

After 1957, demographic changes, the social upheaval of the '60s, and the Civil Rights movement transformed public education in Chicago.  Instead of educating immigrant and minority children to become American citizens, the public school system kept students in segregated schools that emphasized identity politics.

In the 1970s, controversy erupted in Chicago about the Fort Dearborn Massacre statue and the interpretation of events in early Chicago.  Forgetting these events became more politically correct than remembering them.

Amid the social unrest of changing neighborhoods and ideologies, the peace tomahawk buried at the Century of Progress by John Manson -- a descendent of Captain John Whistler, who built the original fort, and Chief Red Sun of the Pottawatomie -- was ignored.  The memory of Fort Dearborn had become a politically dangerous memory.

Now, many Chicagoans don't know about the role of the fort in Chicago's early history.  Although some Illinois National Guard units still have an image of Fort Dearborn included in their unit insignia crest, many living in Chicago today could not tell you where the original fort was built. 

Unassimilated minorities and recent immigrants to the city feel no connection to the history of Fort Dearborn.  For other contemporary Chicagoans, who see the United States as an exploitive empire of white supremacists, Fort Dearborn might as well have been built on the moon.

Education Is Revolution

There is a Fort Dearborn Elementary School in Chicago's Ashburn-Gresham neighborhood, at 9025 S Throop Street.  Go to their webpage, and you'll notice no mention of the fort for which the school is named, or how incidents at the fort affected Chicago history.

Mention is made, however, of character education.  "The traits stressed are: Kindness, Respect for others, Self Control, Health, Safety, Courtesy, Good Workmanship, Loyalty, Honesty, Thrift."  There is no reference to salubrity being taught, or why character traits have to be taught at school when they should be taught at home.

In 1900, teachers and students had a firsthand experience of Chicago history.  Not so today.  At that time, one teacher described her field trip.  It stressed Chicago history and the importance of Fort Dearborn.  "To understand the massacre at Fort Dearborn in 1812 it was necessary to tell of the war between England and the United States at that time, and the fact that the Indians sided with the English.

"The children were taken to see the monument of the massacre at Eighteenth Street, and were able to interpret the pictures in bas-relief on the sides. They were able to pick out the figures of Mrs. Helm, Captain Wells and Black Partridge from the stories they had had of the part each played in that great event."

Evolving Views of History

Over a hundred years later, if a teacher wanted to repeat such a field trip, she couldn't.  The statue the students once visited on Eighteenth Street has been removed.  Carl Rohl-Smith's masterpiece is considered politically incorrect now.

The Democratic politicians who guide Chicago into a progressive twenty-first century future keep the statue hidden from public view and stored in a dark Chicago warehouse.  The Fort Dearborn Massacre has been sanitized to become the neutral Battle of Fort Dearborn.

The Democratic alderman of Chicago's 2nd Ward, Bob Fioretti, said the statute that commemorates the Fort Dearborn Massacre "doesn't symbolize how people can come together," and that it "portrays Native Americans in the wrong light."  Alderman Fioretti seems to conveniently overlook the fact that over 500 Native Americans did come together.  They came together to commit an ambush and massacre in broad daylight, after an agreement was reached allowing for safe passage to Fort Wayne.

Beyond that, Miriam Y. Cintrón writes, "The switch from calling the event a 'massacre' to a 'battle' likely will stir controversy...but evolving views of history often meet opposition before being accepted."  In other words, it takes time for a distortion of the historical record to happen so that events appear in a more favorable light to Chicago's Democrats.

The motive for why the original record of Fort Dearborn should be preserved -- because it points to a time when pioneer men and women were living the ideals of freedom furthered by the American Revolution -- has been submerged by the one-party progressive government that dominates Chicago.  

That's why for many students in Chicago, today, a souvenir from the Century of Progress is just an old box that should have been thrown away by now.  The new Chicagoans feel no kinship with this token of their city's past.  The meaning of Fort Dearborn and the events that happened there never made it past an evolving view of history and the cultural revolution of the twentieth century.

Look again at the cover on the Century of Progress trinket box.  Like a dirigible stamped in scrap metal, the history of Fort Dearborn stays suspended above Chicago, trapped in the 1930s.  Below the dirigible, the vapors of multiculturalism, political correctness, and Democratic Party politics boil over the skyline.

Fort Dearborn was an important symbol for early Chicagoans.  The fort was something like the statue of Romulus and Remus in the ancient Roman Forum.  That's why it was decided to build a replica of the fort at the 1933 Century of Progress exposition in Chicago.

The 120th anniversary of the Fort Dearborn Massacre was held at the rebuilt fort.  A photograph shows that a fifteen-star American flag was raised in the fort as a smoking locomotive hauled freight on the Illinois Central railroad tracks not far from the fairgrounds.

A few years later, in 1939, the first star on the municipal flag of Chicago was added.  It is meant to represent Fort Dearborn.  The six points of the star symbolize transportation, labor, commerce, finance, populousness, and salubrity.

1933 Century of Progress Postcard with an Image of the Reconstructed Fort Dearborn

For some time after the Century of Progress, images of Fort Dearborn were on stamps and were printed on postcards, matchbook covers, spoons, Carson Pirie Scott and Marshal Field plates, and trinket boxes.  In the 1930s, Fort Dearborn became synonymous with the City of Chicago.  There was a fort Dearborn Hotel and, even during Prohibition, a Fort Dearborn Beer.

A Trinket Box

Below is an image of a souvenir from the 1933 Century of Progress.  It is a small trinket box measuring 3.25 inches by 2.5 inches.  On the bottom of the box, giving no indication of what would happen on December 7 eight years later, are stamped the words "Made in Japan."

1933 Trinket Box from the Chicago's Century of Progress

The cover of the box shows a representation of the Chicago skyline at the time.  Below the skyline is an image of Fort Dearborn, first built in 1803 on the bank of the Chicago River, where the river flowed into Lake Michigan.

Look closely at the upper left-hand corner.  There you see a dirigible or airship.  There are dirigibles on many artifacts from the 1930s.  These great airships hang in the sky like a technology never fully realized, a machine that never made it into the twenty-first century.

No More Republicans

The last Republican mayor of Chicago was William Hale Thompson.  Thompson was mayor twice, from 1915-23 and 1927-31.  "He was elected on a novel promise to clean up corruption. From a wealthy family with deep Chicago roots, Thompson is widely regarded as one of Chicago's most corrupt and bizarre political figures."

Once mayor Thompson left office, all of Chicago's succeeding mayors were Democrats.  Chicago's most famous mayor, Richard J. Daley, was first elected in 1955.  After that election, images of Fort Dearborn gradually disappeared from Chicago's collective memory.

The statue that commemorated the Fort Dearborn Massacre was moved to the lobby of the Chicago Historical Society, absent its marble base.  Yet even then, the dramatic violence depicted in the sculpture did not deter children from seeing it.  Nor was protecting children from violence used as an excuse to rewrite history, as the staged 1957 photograph below offered for sale on Ebay demonstrates.

"Play Acting in 1957 at the Chicago Historical Society"

Sometime after 1945, the United States Daughter of 1812 stopped laying wreaths at the site of Fort Dearborn to commemorate the War of 1812 and the Fort Dearborn Massacre.  In 1947, the tanker SS Fort Dearborn, steaming from San Francisco to Shanghai, broke in two during a gale and sank.  Thirty-two of the 44 crewmen were rescued, but 12 who set out in lifeboats were never found.  Since that sinking, no other ship in the U.S. Navy has been named after Fort Dearborn

Fort Dearborn was remembered not only in Chicago.  The Marx Toy Company produced a Fort Dearborn Play Set for boys in 1952 that sold well nationally.  The set had many detailed miniature figures and was once described as a dollhouse for boys.  By 1957 Marx stopped making the Fort Dearborn Play Set.  It is now a collector's item found on eBay.

Box for Fort Dearborn Play Set, c. 1952

After 1957, demographic changes, the social upheaval of the '60s, and the Civil Rights movement transformed public education in Chicago.  Instead of educating immigrant and minority children to become American citizens, the public school system kept students in segregated schools that emphasized identity politics.

In the 1970s, controversy erupted in Chicago about the Fort Dearborn Massacre statue and the interpretation of events in early Chicago.  Forgetting these events became more politically correct than remembering them.

Amid the social unrest of changing neighborhoods and ideologies, the peace tomahawk buried at the Century of Progress by John Manson -- a descendent of Captain John Whistler, who built the original fort, and Chief Red Sun of the Pottawatomie -- was ignored.  The memory of Fort Dearborn had become a politically dangerous memory.

Now, many Chicagoans don't know about the role of the fort in Chicago's early history.  Although some Illinois National Guard units still have an image of Fort Dearborn included in their unit insignia crest, many living in Chicago today could not tell you where the original fort was built. 

Unassimilated minorities and recent immigrants to the city feel no connection to the history of Fort Dearborn.  For other contemporary Chicagoans, who see the United States as an exploitive empire of white supremacists, Fort Dearborn might as well have been built on the moon.

Education Is Revolution

There is a Fort Dearborn Elementary School in Chicago's Ashburn-Gresham neighborhood, at 9025 S Throop Street.  Go to their webpage, and you'll notice no mention of the fort for which the school is named, or how incidents at the fort affected Chicago history.

Mention is made, however, of character education.  "The traits stressed are: Kindness, Respect for others, Self Control, Health, Safety, Courtesy, Good Workmanship, Loyalty, Honesty, Thrift."  There is no reference to salubrity being taught, or why character traits have to be taught at school when they should be taught at home.

In 1900, teachers and students had a firsthand experience of Chicago history.  Not so today.  At that time, one teacher described her field trip.  It stressed Chicago history and the importance of Fort Dearborn.  "To understand the massacre at Fort Dearborn in 1812 it was necessary to tell of the war between England and the United States at that time, and the fact that the Indians sided with the English.

"The children were taken to see the monument of the massacre at Eighteenth Street, and were able to interpret the pictures in bas-relief on the sides. They were able to pick out the figures of Mrs. Helm, Captain Wells and Black Partridge from the stories they had had of the part each played in that great event."

Evolving Views of History

Over a hundred years later, if a teacher wanted to repeat such a field trip, she couldn't.  The statue the students once visited on Eighteenth Street has been removed.  Carl Rohl-Smith's masterpiece is considered politically incorrect now.

The Democratic politicians who guide Chicago into a progressive twenty-first century future keep the statue hidden from public view and stored in a dark Chicago warehouse.  The Fort Dearborn Massacre has been sanitized to become the neutral Battle of Fort Dearborn.

The Democratic alderman of Chicago's 2nd Ward, Bob Fioretti, said the statute that commemorates the Fort Dearborn Massacre "doesn't symbolize how people can come together," and that it "portrays Native Americans in the wrong light."  Alderman Fioretti seems to conveniently overlook the fact that over 500 Native Americans did come together.  They came together to commit an ambush and massacre in broad daylight, after an agreement was reached allowing for safe passage to Fort Wayne.

Beyond that, Miriam Y. Cintrón writes, "The switch from calling the event a 'massacre' to a 'battle' likely will stir controversy...but evolving views of history often meet opposition before being accepted."  In other words, it takes time for a distortion of the historical record to happen so that events appear in a more favorable light to Chicago's Democrats.

The motive for why the original record of Fort Dearborn should be preserved -- because it points to a time when pioneer men and women were living the ideals of freedom furthered by the American Revolution -- has been submerged by the one-party progressive government that dominates Chicago.  

That's why for many students in Chicago, today, a souvenir from the Century of Progress is just an old box that should have been thrown away by now.  The new Chicagoans feel no kinship with this token of their city's past.  The meaning of Fort Dearborn and the events that happened there never made it past an evolving view of history and the cultural revolution of the twentieth century.

Look again at the cover on the Century of Progress trinket box.  Like a dirigible stamped in scrap metal, the history of Fort Dearborn stays suspended above Chicago, trapped in the 1930s.  Below the dirigible, the vapors of multiculturalism, political correctness, and Democratic Party politics boil over the skyline.

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