You may not have realized it, but Alfred Bannister was not Chester and Clara’s son. His mother died during childbirth, and his father (Clara’s brother) died a few years after that. The Congdons brought him in and raised them as one of their own. They never formally adopted him, so he could keep his last name, which was Clara’s maiden name.
Unlike the Congdon boys who went to Yale, Alfred went to Cornell University. In this historic photo, you can see his Cornell banner above the closet door:
Here is his room today, mostly the same. I have been continually struck at how much the Congdons kept, and how relatively little has changed over the course of a century:
In this photo, behind the wicker chair (with a nice book or magazine slot on the left arm) is one of the few pairs of cross country skis that we found in the mansion:
You can see the sink in the corner of this next photo. Alfred was living with the Congdons when Glensheen was being designed, and he was given the choice of having a fireplace or a sink in his room, and he decided that he wanted a sink:
Which would you choose?
As has happened in so much of Glensheen mansion, the walls were painted over, covering up the fine stenciling with hand-painted flourishes:
Fortunately, the paint was latex-based, and as you can see, it’s in the process of being removed.
It’s pretty well known that Alfred was a tinkerer, and this little homemade steam engine of his is usually mentioned during most tours:
It’s cute, but it really is the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to his tinkering. He had a full workshop out in the Carriage House, including milling machines, lathes and more.
Alfred is the one who brought the ill-fated “Hesperia” (the Congdon’s yacht) back from New York, so it makes some sense that yachting paraphernalia would be in his room. Apparently, the Hepseria caught fire during refueling, and burned down to the water. This is a glass with the Congdon flag (which the Hesperia flew). Presumably, this would have been used when you were aboard the Hesperia:
Here is Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts from 1910. The Hesperia yacht may have been in the family in 1910, but the 1910 Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts hadn’t been updated yet to show it. It’s still a good prop, though:
This was interesting. This “map” was on the desk, but it turned out to be nothing more than a color scan of the original map. Interestingly, the ‘Minnesota Arrowhead Association’ is still an active organization!
In one of the drawers in the room, we found an old tile made my the J & J.G. Low Art Tile Works:
Here’s the front of the tile.
Similar tiles from the J & J.G. Low Art Tile Works are selling at auction for over $200 each.
There are a few drawers in Alfred’s room that are full of photos, memorabilia, and other various artifacts from the Congdon’s lives. The things in the drawers are not all Alfred’s (most aren’t), and we sifted through thousands of items to cull these few interesting bits.
This is a map of places to eat in the Twin Ports area. We didn’t find a year, but based on what’s show, I’m guessing this would have been in the 60s or 70s. I didn’t realize the old Perkins on London Rd (next door to the Amory) used to be called “Perkins’ Cake & Steak House.”
And this is a fun map of Duluth, of a project that was called “Tour du Lhut,” and was part of an NEA grant that was awarded in 1977:
This is a nice little cheat sheet of a few of highlights of the European history of Duluth:
We found this genealogical table, which is really a genealogy of English and Scottish royalty. On the one hand, perhaps the Congdons saved this because they were aware of some familial connection. OR, it could have been something that was included in a National Geographic (or similar) that they thought was interesting:
This is a very luxurious piece of fabric that was rolled up and in the back of a drawer. I wonder if it’s the same piece of fabric that we found a receipt for over in Robert’s room? Also – more birds:
I’m not familiar with the entire catalog of Robert Louis Stevenson, but this story about a 13th century poet and roustabout was completely new to me:
There were several manila folders full of random little things. Not only did we find more book plates:
We also found a book plate collection!
If you recall my enthusiastic description of J.C. Leyendecker, you might also recall that I said it was the only such piece of his in the mansion. I was wrong. This tiny little picture looks like it was used as a kind of funny place setting marker for Clara:
And on the back, someone had written down the menu:
It looks pretty tasty! I had never heard of ‘cheese dreams’ before, but every recipe I looked at described them as a treat that disappears quickly!
This is positively charming – we found a wide range of hand made name cards that the Congdons had collected over the years:
One of the things that we’ve seen with both Clara and Elisabeth is a tendency to record a significant amount of detail. This ledger – probably kept by Clara – from late 1928 and early 1929 continues that tradition. What’s interesting about this ledger is that it looks like most of the money is in the ‘Income’ column, but the entries seem like they would be ‘Expenditures.’
Chester was a republican, and there were a few mementos that were saved over the years, including this ticket to the 1892 Republican National Convention, which was being held in Minneapolis:
Republican Warren G. Harding was elected as president in 1920, so the fact that this flyer was saved indicates that even though Chester had died at this point, the rest of the family was probably also following the same political path.
The cover of this book is worth the price of admission alone! “Warren’s Physcial Geography” has one of the most interesting covers around!
Less intricate, but still interesting was this Scrap Book, which had lots of little mementos in it:
Back in 1836, you just folded a piece of paper around your letter, and that was your envelope. This was addressed to ‘Miss Mannering,’ which I think would have been Clara’s… mother I think. Clara was born in 1854, so this letter to ‘Miss Mannering’ would have been mailed 18 years before Clara’s birth:
Here’s a snippet from the letter from D. Mannering:
And here’s another letter, two years after Clara was born, from Alfred Bannister (Clara’s brother, I believe) to a Mr. and Mrs. ??:
Here, after he closes the letter, you can see to whom it is addressed:
I can’t read it either.
Here’s a letter from Chester to Clara (“My own little girl”), as he is writing while waiting for his “…coffee pot to boil!”
And a year later, they were married:
And this is oddly charming in its formality: a note included in a gift “To My Wife Clara Bannister Congdon” on the occasion of their 31st anniversary:
Clara also kept little snips of hair from each of her children when they were babies:
It seems a strange thing to keep around, but once you have it, it feels wrong to throw it away. And yet, here were are a century later, and it certainly won’t be thrown away now!
Elisabeth Congdon was trained by the Red Cross and helped serve the war effort during World War I. Note the signature by Woodrow Wilson:
There were other items of interest, including this, “The Book of the Pearl,” with a portrait of the Czarina of Russia showing of her many pearls:
The Queen of Gems:
I included this one because of the mention of Dana Hall, which is a boarding school for girls on the East Coast. I had not heard of the boarding school before, and I have a cousin whose name is ‘Dana Hall,’ and so when I saw this, I was confused!
Now we’re coming up on the ‘family (maybe) picture’ section.
Zweifel Duluth was a photography studio in Duluth:
And you may remember seeing a similar poster back in Edward’s Room, for Zimmerman Brothers Camera and Supplies:
There are not a lot of photos of the Congdon family, and especially when they are younger, I don’t recognize them all. So I’ll just share:
We found an envelope full of photos from a moose hunt:
None of these guys looks familiar to me, but it’s a great photo:
This is right outside Glensheen, on the lawn nearest Lake Superior:
Here’s a photo from someone’s summer camp experience. This is a very staged photo – all the boys (okay, most of them) are staring eyes front. This is clearly before they’ve started eating, so the photographer is having them wait to eat. There are 48 stars on the flag, so this would have been taken between 1912 and 1959.
The boy in the white shirt in the bottom center appears to have dropped his wallet.
This could be Duluth, but it could also be any number of other communities:
Definitely some family members here:
This is fun – he’s jumping rope:
Photo of a young woman:
The inscription looks like it says ‘Nealia Higgins – San Francisco (with love)’:
The inscription at the bottom of this photo says ‘unknown’ for both:
I love this photo:
This is an old enough photo that these young men would have had to be still for several seconds. The dog probably didn’t understand that:
It looks like there’s a boathouse in the background, but I’m not willing to say that it’s the Glensheen boathouse:
These women are preparing to head out for a canoe ride:
I’m not sure who the woman is, but that’s Chester on the right:
This is a photo taken from inside the Duluth harbor. You can see Duluth’s iconic bridge behind the women, before it was a lift bridge. The woman on the left is the same as in the above photo, and I’m guessing that the woman in the middle was Clara. And in the background to their right you can see part of the old Duluth Boat Club clubhouse:
Isn’t it nice to know that people have always been a little silly, when it comes to taking pictures?
I don’t know on this one. I think it’s a young man wearing a dress pitching out dirty water:
Lone man paddling a long canoe:
Now, we’ll turn to a few photos from one of Chester’s trips to the Far East. This first photo is ‘Mongolian Refugees’:
A barber in Peking, China:
Some photos from the Great Wall of China:
Here is Chester’s guide and the guide’s son during their time in Seoul, Korea:
Now we’ll turn to the newspaper clippings. I love how things are coming back around. Today in Duluth, we are refurbishing this very theater, except, for whatever reason, the name has now been shortened to ‘Norshor’ instead of the original ‘Norshore.’
Chester served two terms in the Minnesota Senate, from 1909 through the end of 1912. Here’s a story in The Duluth Herald, probably from February 1912, about how he decided not to run for office again:
Wendell Willkie was a presidential candidate in 1940. Willkie as a lifelong Democratic activist, until he switched party affiliation in 1939 and ran as an alternate to the Republican nominee. He ran against democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who of course won that election, but he Willkie popular with non-isolationist republicans. What I also found interesting about this article was the final byline: “Prepared and inserted by Duluth N0-Third-Term Committee,” referring of course, to Roosevelt.
This March, 1915 Duluth News Tribune article covered an apparently important wedding in the area. Seeing that the article was saved, it’s likely that the Congdons at least knew, and were possibly friends with, the happy couple:
This is an interesting article about early homes on the St. Louis River, in the region between Spirit Lake and Fon du Lac. One of the photos shows the first schoolhouse in Duluth!
This is just an amusing comic from 1942, about the problems of getting enough sun:
Here was an advertisement for the biography of Jay Cooke, a prominent booster of Duluth:
If you’d like to read “Jay Cooke, Financier of the Civil War,” it’s available online for free HERE.
This is a fun article about Jay Cooke’s early days in Duluth, and includes the story of how citizens of Duluth dug the now-famous canal, despite the strong objections of Superior residents:
Again – this article is just a sweet story, and an amusing read (if the title alone weren’t good enough!):
The Sunday News Tribune from August, 1912 took the entire front page of Part Three to describe and illustrate the major swimming strokes:
“What would you do with Duluth if you owned it?”
This question (well, perhaps not exactly this question) is being asked by city employees even today, as they make plans for Duluth’s future growth. What I found interesting is that the responses in 1912 weren’t too far different from what we might hear today!
This next section is near and dear to my heart – Elisabeth collected a very large number of samples of flowers and plants, and cut little holders for each plant on each page. She really did a marvelous job!
“A beautiful little lily resembling the tulip”:
“A beautiful, branching, shrubby plant”:
“The Californians call all varieties of this flower ???? [perhaps ‘trucke’?]”:
“An elegant little creeper”:
“The flowers on the inside of the fleshy turbinate receptacle”:
“The first flower in spring [peppergrass]”:
“Floral specimens from Alameda California.”
To Sarah, From Elisabeth.
And finally, we come to Chester’s Drawing Book:
Yes indeed, Chester was trained in art, even if his profession didn’t carry him in that direction.
Below the picture of the cat and the rat is the caption: “Begin nothing of which thou has not well considered the end.”
Not bad, eh?
If you recall the oak theme in the Breakfast Room, perhaps Chester’s love of oak started early in life:
What a lovely final page, from November, 1874:
Whew. There was a lot in Alfred’s room. I don’t think we’ll have too many rooms that are as packed as Alfred’s Room.