Herma Clark papers, ca. 1930-1947.


Descriptive Inventory for the Collection at Chicago History Museum, Research Center

By Patricia Breed, 1965; rev. 2010.



Please address questions to:

Chicago History Museum, Research Center

1601 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60614-6038

Web-site: http://www.chicagohistory.org/research



© Copyright 2010, Chicago Historical Society



Title: Herma Clark papers, ca. 1930-1947. (1899-1959?)

Main entry: Clark, Herma Naomi, 1871-1959.

Inclusive dates: ca. 1930-1947.


5 linear ft. (ca. 6,400 items in 12 boxes)


Accession number: 1965.0528.

Provenance statement: Gift of Mrs. Anne Clark Fischer (1965.0528).

Terms governing use: Copyright may be retained by the creators of items, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law, unless otherwise noted.

Please cite this collection as: Herma Clark papers (Chicago History Museum) plus a detailed description, date, and box/folder number of a specific item.


This descriptive inventory contains the following sections:

Biographical/historical note,

Summary description of the collection,

Description of some material related to the collection,

List of online catalog headings about the collection,

Arrangement of the collection,

Detailed description of archival series in the collection and list of folders,

List of old card catalog headings for the collection.


Biographical/historical note:

Herma Naomi Clark, daughter of Atherton and Jerusha (Whitmarsh) Clark, was born on a farm in Bureau County, Illinois on October 25, 1871. When she was ten years old, her family moved to Princeton, Illinois. She attended pubic school there and graduated from the Princeton High School. She attended college for one year at Oberlin, Ohio, and tried teaching for one year, an occupation for which she did not care.


Miss Clark came to Chicago in 1897 to try her hand at freelance writing. When her writing failed to provide sufficient income, she obtained a position as reader to a prominent, retired Chicago merchant, Mr. William Blair. When Mr. Blair died a few months later, she remained with the family as secretary and companion to his widow. Miss Clark served in this capacity until Mrs. Blair’s death in 1923. Between 1917 and 1925 she also was employed as the Chicago correspondent for the periodical, Town and Country (New York). After her years with Town and Country, Miss Clark went into the real estate business in Chicago and later in Florida. While conducting her realty business in Florida, she wrote the society news for the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune, about Chicagoans living in Miami.


Returning to Chicago in 1929, Miss Clark began writing a column for the Chicago Tribune Sunday edition. The column, "When Chicago Was Young," consisted of fictitious letters written by Martha Freeman Esmond to he school friend, Julia Boyd. The column remained a regular weekly feature of the Tribune for thirty years. Martha’s letters dealt with events occurring in Chicago and with socially prominent people whom Miss Clark had met while working for the Blairs. The column was noted for its accuracy and described a period from 1854-1911. "When Chicago Was Young" appeared continuously from September 15, 1929 until December 6, 1959, the only column to run consecutively for thirty years without missing a deadline. Miss Clark's interest in, and knowledge of, prominent Chicagoans made her an authority in the field.


Many of Miss Clark’s earlier columns were collected and published in book form as Dear Julia and Elegant Eighties. She co-authored two plays with Alice Gerstenberg that were later produced: Port of Chicago and When Chicago Was Young. Miss Clark’s playlet, America Versus Mary Q. Public, was written for the Republican Party during the 1952 campaign and was designed to encourage voter participation in the November election. Booklets by Miss Clark include: Keys for Happiness, Let’s Walk Along Rush Street, and Victorian Keepsake. She wrote several minor stories and articles under the pen names Jane Hathaway and Irene Cowley.


Miss Clark also wrote script for the radio series "Dot and Dan Discover America." She delivered monologues depicting the 1880s and the 1890s. These monologues were always given in the costumes of the time depicted. She collected pictures of old Chicago homes and prominent Chicagoans and showed them during her monologues.


Miss Clark received the "outstanding contribution to literature" award from the Friends of Literature in 1946, and was feted by the Society of Midland Authors in 1954 upon the silver anniversary of her column. Miss Clark was a member of the Cordon Club and the Society of Midland Authors. Her religious affiliation was with the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. She died, unmarried, on November 26, 1959, in Chicago, shortly after the thirtieth anniversary of "When Chicago Was Young."


--Information from her obituary in the Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1959, and "A Tribute to When Chicago Was Young." in Chicago Tribune, December 13, 1959.


Summary description of the collection:

Personal and business correspondence relating to Chicago journalist Herma Clark's writings, family matters, and realty business in Chicago and Florida. Includes letters and notes; fan mail; play scripts, texts of speeches, manuscripts of books and columns; songs, poetry, sayings, epitaphs, and recipes; and reminiscences sent by readers of her popular historical newspaper column that ran in the Chicago Tribune for 30 years (1929-1959), named "When Chicago Was Young," about high society, major events, and daily life in the city from about 1854 to 1911. The collection includes materials about several prominent Chicago families, including the McCormick family, Blair family, and Mandel family; reminiscences about Abraham Lincoln; the Great Chicago Fire of 1871; Chicago architecture, buildings, and streets; James A. Garfield and the 1880 Republican Convention; Miss Clark's European travels in 1907 and 1934; and letters from Robert R. McCormick, 1940-1953.


List of online catalog headings about the collection:

The following headings were placed in the online catalog:

Clark, Herma Naomi, 1871-1959--Archives.

Clark, Herma Naomi, 1871-1959. When Chicago was young.

Garfield, James A. (James Abram), 1831-1881.

Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

McCormick, Robert Rutherford, 1880-1955.

Blair family

Mandel family

McCormick family

Chicago Tribune (Firm)--Employees.

Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- )

Republican National Convention (7th : 1880 : Chicago, Ill.)--History.

Republican National Convention (25th : 1952 : Chicago, Ill.)

Chicago tribune

American newspapers--Illinois--Chicago--Sections, columns, etc.--20th century.

Aphorisms and apothegms.

Architecture--Illinois--19th century.

Boyd, Julia (Fictitious character)

Esmond, Martha  Freeman (Fictitious character)

Fires--Illinois--Chicago--19th century. Folder 57.

Great Fire, Chicago, Ill., 1871.

Historic buildings--Illinois--Chicago--19th century.

Historical reenactments--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Real estate investment--Florida--Miami Region--20th century.

Real estate investment--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Streets--Illinois--Chicago--19th century.

Voyages and travels--20th century.

Women authors--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Women journalists--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Women journalists--Illinois--Chicago--20th century.

Chicago (Ill.)--History.

Chicago (Ill.)--Intellectual life.

Chicago (Ill.)--Social life and customs--20th century.

Europe--Description and travel--20th century.

Christmas cards.



Greeting cards.

Manuscripts (for publication).





Short stories.



Clark, Herma Naomi, 1871-1959. When Chicago was young.

McCormick, Robert Rutherford, 1880-1955.

Tribune Company

Chicago tribune

United States--Illinois--Cook County--Chicago.


Arrangement of the collection:

The papers have been divided into six series:

Series 1. Personal papers (folder 1-16)

Series 2. Business papers (folder 17-23)

Series 3. Book publication and texts (folder 24-38)

Series 4. Play scripts and correspondence (folder 39-40)

Series 5. Personal appearance data and speeches (folder 41-51)

Series 6. Chicago Tribune column, letters and data (folders 52-82)


Detailed description of archival series in the collection with folder lists of the contents:

Series 1. Personal papers (folder 1-16)

This section is chiefly comprised of letters between Miss Clark and her family and friends. Correspondence with members of the Blair family, McCormick family, and Mandel family are present throughout these papers. Materials on Miss Clark’s trips to Europe in 1907 and 1934, and her activities with the Republican Party in 1952 are included here as well.



1-10     Correspondence, 1907-1959: Letters from prominent Chicago families, such as the Blairs, the McCormicks, and the Mandels (700 items)


11        European trip, 1907: Letters from Miss Clark to her family and to Mrs. Blair, as well as a diary of the trip kept by Miss Clark (30 items).


12        European trip, 1934: Preliminary plans only; letters of introduction and itinerary (30 items)


13        Political activities, 1952: Script for the playlet, America Versus Mary Q. Public, which was designed to encourage voter participation in the November, 1952 election. Correspondence relative to the presentation of the playlet at various women’s clubs and Republican clubs throughout the country (85 items)


14-16   Christmas and greeting cards (120 items)


Series 2. Business papers (folder 17-23)

Letters, financial statements, bills and receipts relative to Miss Clark’s general business affairs are included in this section. Business correspondence dealing with the newspaper column and other forms of writing also is found in each of the following series in this collection.



17-19   Correspondence, 1903-1959 (240 items)

20-21   Financial statements, 1923-1959 (200 items)

22        Florida real estate correspondence, 1928-1950 (120 items)

23        Florida real estate financial statements, 1928-1951 (45 items)


Series 3. Book publication and texts (folder 24-38)

Business correspondence dealing with the publication of her books and booklets, fan mail, and carbon copies of manuscripts for her books, short stories, and articles constitute the papers in this section.



24        Fan mail, 1933-1955 (100 items)

25-26   Business correspondence, 1899-1959 (170 items)

27        Correspondence and data on the Mandel family (35 items)

28        Manuscript (incomplete), Aunt Babette’s Chicago (8 items)

29        Manuscript (incomplete), The Chateleine Course (11 items)

30        Manuscript (incomplete), Inside Early Chicago Homes (19 items)

31        Manuscript (complete), Inside Early Chicago Homes (9 items)

32        Manuscript (incomplete), Our Folks or Home Folks (16 items)

33-38   Manuscripts, minor works (155 items)


Series 4. Play scripts and correspondence (folder 39-40)

Business papers regarding the production of the plays, fan mail, and the manuscripts of the three plays.



39        Correspondence, 1930-1953 (110 items)

40        Manuscripts: Bustles and Bangs, How to Make a Woman Love You, and Shall Women Vote?


Series 5. Personal appearance data and speeches (folder 41-51)

Business correspondence relating to appointments for personal appearances, fan mail, and the texts of speeches (including the tape recording of an address given at the McCormick Theological Seminary) given at various clubs throughout the Midwest. Most of the topics used in Miss Clark’s speeches were developed from themes used in her column.



41-44   Correspondence, 1930-1959 (400 items)

45-50   Texts of speeches (140 items)

51        "Yesterday’s Laughter," Text of speech prepared for delivery during December 1959 (22 items)


Series 6. Chicago Tribune column, letters and data (folders 52-82)

Letters to Miss Clark are present along with carbon copies of her replies, manuscript column drafts, and letters pertinent to the column’s publication. In a footnote section to "When Chicago Was Young," Miss Clark requested her readers to send in contributions on various people, places, events, and social customs. Many reader contributions are in this section of the Clark papers. They have been divided into the topical categories.



52-54   Fan mail, 1930-1959 (460 items)

55        Business correspondence, 1929-1959. (85 items)

56        Column drafts (35 items)

57        Great Chicago Fire of 1871: materials 1930-1947 (30 items)

58-58a Chicago houses and buildings, 1933-1951 (180 items)

58b      Chicago streets, 1937-1950 (17 items)

59-60   Recipes, 1932-1959 (120 items)

61        Sayings, 1931-1949 (120 items)

62        Epitaphs, 1931-1935 (60 items)

63        Abraham Lincoln materials (25 items)

64-70   Songs and poems: materials, 1931-1956. (750 items)

70a      James A. Garfield & 1880 Republican Convention

71-82   Miscellaneous items (chiefly of a biographical or historical nature), 1929-1959 (1,700 items)

78a      Robert R. McCormick correspondence, 1940-1953. (45 items)


Lists of old card catalog headings for the collection:

The following headings were placed in the Manuscripts Card Catalog for this collection:

1. Blair family.

2. Chicago. Authors.

3. Chicago. Biography.

4. Chicago. Description.

5. Chicago. History.

6. McCormick family.

7. Newspapers. Chicago. Chicago Tribune.

8. Pioneers. Chicago.

9. Publishers and Publishing. Chicago.

10. Social Life and Customs. Chicago.

I. "When Chicago Was Young"


The following headings were placed in the Manuscripts Card Catalog for sections of the collection:

1. Aphorisms and apothegms

2. Buildings. Chicago.

3. Chicago. Fire, 1871.

4. Chicago. Streets.

5. Christmas cards.

6. Cookery

7. Epitaphs.

8. Europe. Description and travel. 1907.

9. Europe. Description and travel. 1934.

10. Historic houses, Etc. Chicago.

11. Lincoln, Abraham, Pres. U.S., 1809-1854. Anecdotes.

12. Lincoln, Abraham, Pres. U. S., 1809-1865. As a lawyer.

13. Mandel family.

14. Poems.

15. Real property. Florida.

16. Republican Party. National Convention. 7th, Chicago, 1880.

17. Republican Party. National Convention. 9th, Chicago, 1888.

18. Songs.

19. Swett, Leonard, 1825-1899.

20. Swett, (Mrs.) Leonard, d. 1886


Added entries for letters by the following:

1. Aldrich, Bess Streeter, 1881-1954.

2. Aldrich, James Franklin, 1853-1933.

3. Barnes, Mrs. Margaret (Ayer), 1886-

4. Beck, Edward Scott, 1868-1942.

4a. Bowen, Louise Haddock de Koven, 1959-19?

5. Bradley, Preston, 1888-

6. Butcher, Fannie, 1888-

7. Cerf, Bennett, 1898-

8. Dirksen, Everett McKinley, 1896-

9. Drury, John, 1898-

10. Ferber, Edna, 1887-

11. Fergus, Robert Collyer, 1868-1952.

12. Garfield, James Rudolph, 1865-1952.

13. Gerstenberg, Alice

14. Hemingway, Grace Hall, -1951

15. Horner, Henry, 1879-1940.

16. Hoyne, Thomas McClay, 1843-1941.

17. Kelly, Edward Joseph, 1876-1950.

18. Lowden, Florence Pullman, 1868-1937.

19. Lowden, Frank Orren, 1861-1943.

20. Lyon, Leverett Samuel, 1885-1959.

21. McCormick, Cyrus Hall, 1859-1936.

22. McCormick, Harold Fowler, 1872-1941.

23. McCormick, Robert Hall, 1878-1963.

24. McCormick, Robert Rutherford, 1880-1955.

25. McCutcheon, John Tinney, 1870-1949.

26. Pierce, Bessie Louise, 1890-`

27. Pike, Charles Burall, 1891-1941

28. Rich, Daniel Catton, 1904-

29. Ross, Norman Alexander, 1922-

30. Schmidt, Mrs. Anna (Moscherosch), 1866-1961

31. Skinner, Cornelia Otis, 1901-

32. Stratton, William Grant, 1914-

33. Taft, Helen Herron, 1861-1943

34. Wiggin, Kate Douglas, 1856-1923