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Farwell, Charles Benjamin (1823-1903) | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Farwell, Charles Benjamin (1823-1903)
Variant Name: Farwell, C. B.; Farwell, Charles B.; Farwell, Charlie


Historical Note:

When new U.S. Senator Mark Kirk left Charles B. Farwell (1823-1903) off a list of his notable Senate predecessors from Illinois in his maiden Senate speech December 15, 2010, he reflected a well-established traditional view of Farwell as a "corrupt political boss."  Thus Farwell had been described as recently as October 24, 2010 by Mark Jacobs in a Chicago Tribune retrospective of senators from Illinois.  But this low opinion also had been the 20th C.'s prevailing scholarly view, as found in both the multi-volume 1933 Dictionary of American Biography and as late as the successor standard also multi-volume 1999 American National Biography.  These two articles though focus on Farwell's methods rather than on the ends of his efforts.  From 1871 to 1891 Farwell served twelve of twenty years in the Congress (eight years, 1871-77 and 1881-83) and the Senate (four years, 1887-91) working for measures to enhance growth of the Chicago region and the state and a strong economy to foster that expansion. In these twenty years, between the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and Chicago's securing of the site for 1892-93 World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago's population more than tripled to over a million while its development as a manufacturing and distribution center was just as phenomenal.  This success was due in no small part to C. B. Farwell's Washington efforts.  For this accomplishment he deserves to be considered among Illinois' most influential senators and among those most effective in aiding the state, largely through banking, currency and tariff measures.  As C. B. Farwell's brother, John V. (1825-1908), stated in discussing Chicago banker George Smith in 1905, "results... are the best commentators on human actions."         

C. B. Farwell was a New England-descendant Chicago family man, businessman, political leader, and philanthropist who helped to found the town of Lake Forest in 1856-57 and then to relaunch the Collegiate Department of Lake Forest University in the 1870s. He was the institution's largest benefactor in the 19th C., contributing ca. $300,000 (in the era when Rockefeller initially founded the University of Chicago with $1 million).

Farwell's Public-Service Legacy Contrasted With His Reputation

Farwell is best-known for his role in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois and national government. As John J. Halsey of Lake Forest University wrote in 1903, Farwell's position "as a statesman is a part of our national history and is there written large...." (Stentor, Oct. 1, 1903, 14).  As a Senator Farwell championed federal initiatives that promoted the development of Chicago area and Illinois commodities and manufacturing--such as barley and other agricultural products, steel, farm implements, rail passenger cars, plumbing supplies, clothing, shoes, meatpacking, publishing, printing/book production and much more. These Senate measures included the McKinley Tariff of 1890 and international copyright legislation.

But his political reputation remains mired in the details and minutiae of his political organizing and deal-making, to which the Chicago Tribune took editorial exception. Joseph Medill's paper also focussed on the 1890 tariff-caused increase in prices for foreign goods that was unpopular with consumers rather than fundamental support of national and local economic growth. This economic expansion made the Chicago region the 20th C. transportation and manufacturing center of the nation, and it was this end that Farwell sought in his Washington stints in Congress and the Senate between 1871 and 1891.

The tariff contributed to the defeat of President Benjamin Harrison and of Farwell in the 1890 election, leading to its repeal in the new administration of Democratic president Grover Cleveland. But later this manufacturing protection roll-back was blamed for the significant economic depression that began in 1893.  It was restored after the Republican William McKinley himself was elected president in 1896. 

Farwell's Chicago, 1844-70

From the time of his arrival in Chicago in the mid 1840s Farwell was interested both in business and in government. In 1844 C. B. Farwell came to Chicago from rural Mount Morris, Illinois; born in Painted Post, Steuben Co., NY, he attended Elmira Academy, studying surveying in particular.  In 1838 he came with his family to Ogle Co., IL, and worked there as a surveyor.  According to Andreas (II, 694), "from this out-door life during his youth, he acquired a robust constitution...."  Arriving in Chicago at thew age of twenty, he at once entered the dry-goods trade as a clerk and book-keeper. Before long he was engaged as Deputy Cook County Clerk. When the regular Clerk immediately became seriously ill, Farwell  on his first day on the job, at the age of twenty-one, ably took over the meeting in his stead. He then filled the absent Clerk's post for four months, learning by doing and gaining cooperation of others.

His earliest earnings had been invested in local real estate, eighty-five dollars. After leaving the Clerk's office in 1846, he went into the real estate office of pioneer Chicagoan Col. (Ft. Dearborn) J.B.F. Russel, continuing to invest his earnings in real estate and then in Mexican War land warrants, etc. In 1849 he entered visionary Scots entrepreneur George Smith's bank, but also ran for County Clerk; losing, he ran again in 1853 and won, leaving Smith's bank then. He served two terms as Clerk, eight years, until 1861 when he retired from the office. Farwell is credited as being Chicago's first political boss in those eight years as County Clerk, his term ending in 1861.

In the 1860s he devoted himself to his investments, with regular part-time service on local and state boards. He served on the state-level Board of Equalization and in 1868 he was chair of the Cook County Board of Supervisors.  In 1864 he purchased an interest in his younger brother's John V. Farwell & Co. booming whole-sale dry-goods concern, according to Andreas (II, 694) taking over management as John left the business for Sanitary Commission war-related work. 

Farwell of Illinois in Washington, DC, 1871-91

Farwell's national political role began in 1870 when he was elected to Congress representing Cook County, serving three terms from 1871 to 1877. In this period he was a member of the House committee on banking and currency and he was the chair of the committee on manufactures. One of his earliest measures introduced was an amendment to the banking law facilitating opening more new banks (National Cyclopedia of American Biography, v. 6, 394). Scholar Thomas R. Pegram reports that Farwell in 1876 "used his influence and spent some of his personal fortune to reverse the outcome of the election" in Louisiana, when he was one of the "'visiting statesmen'" investigating returns following the Hayes-Tilden presidential vote that fall. Farwell's Louisiana boost helped elevate Ohio's Rutherford B. Hayes to the presidency; Mr. and Mrs. Hayes then visited Lake Forest in September of 1878, staying at William Henry Smith's house immediately south of Farwell's Fairlawn (Arpee, p. 101).  This was the only presidential race where the winner did not receive the plurality of the popular vote, prior to 2000. 

And as in 2000, the question involved concerns about dis-enfranchisement of African-Americans.  In both elections Florida was a key state, though in 1876 the main drama played out in Louisiana.  Farwell was one of three "visiting statesmen" there, with John Sherman and James Garfield, to monitor count developments where African-Americans were thought to have been kept from the polls or coerced into voting for the Democratic candidate.  Even though the Republicans controlled the count process, the chair J. Madison Wells appears to have seen the moment as a "golden" one, to recall a recent Illinois scandal, "auctioning off the presidency" (Hoogenboom).  Lake Forest's W. H. Smith, a close Hayes friend and supporter as well as Hayes' host in Lake Forest in 1878, reminded Hayes that Farwells' "wealth ... supplied all means when no other could be reached" (Hoogenboom).  But it is clear, according to Ari Hoogenboom, that Hayes, Smith, Farwell, and the Republicans thought they were righting a grievous wrong, the denial of voting rights to Louisiana African-Americans.       

Farwell was elected once more to Congress for one term, from 1881 to 1883. Farwell then returned to Chicago, where he and his brother John built a state capitol building for Texas in Austin in exchange for the 3 million-acre XIT Ranch in the Texas panhandle region, several counties.  This unique barter transaction also highlighted the West's lack of proper access to credit for expansion.   

After a four-year hiatus in his Washington service, in 1887 he was elected to the U.S. Senate to complete the term of the deceased General John A. Logan.  Farwell retired after that four-year shortened term in 1891, becoming then president of the John V. Farwell & Co. firm.

Farwell's service in the Senate, 1887-91, was preceded by Chicago's May 1886 Haymarket Affair, when a bomb was thrown into a police battalion at an unruly labor meeting.  After this event, General Philip Sheridan with his troops returned from the West to restore order, as he had in 1871 (anarchy followed the Fire) and 1877 (a violent labor strike).  He suggested an army installation near the city for such emergenies, and in 1887 C. B. Farwell "pressed the issue in Washington" (Arpee, p. 121). The government bought for $10.00 from Chicago's Commercial Club the over 600-acre Fort Sheridan parcel on Lake Michigan immediately south of Lake Forest (!).  By early 1888 this was formally named for the General who had suggested its creation.  This location also led to Lake Forest's second period of growth, the 1890s to the early 1930s.

Farwell played a key role in capturing for Chicago--over New York, Washington, and St. Louis--the site of the 1892-93 World's Columbian Exposition.  According to a contemporary account by David Ward Wood (1895), "[n]o man did so much as Senator Farwell to secure" the event for Chicago: "He managed the bill in the Senate and secured its passage by his own energy" (p. 85).  The site selection drama took place in Washington from late 1889 to December 24, 1890, when after a Presidential Proclamation the fair officially belonged to Chicago (Rose). 

The recent Tribune and Senator Kirk listings of Illinois' U.S. Senators have not rated Farwell highly, largely due to a body of articles in the Chicago Tribune reflecting Joseph Medill's Tribune's opposition to Farwell, his methods and his policies. Indeed, the 1933 Dictionary of American Biography biographical article on Farwell relied heavily on the articles from the Chicago Tribune (v. 3, 294-5).  Wyatt Rushton, in his 1916 U. of Wisconsin thesis on Joseph Medill and his principles found that Medill's politics were loyally Republican, except on one point; the tariff, which he opposed vehemently.  This party "heresy" was articulated in an 1882 speech to a farm group in Chicago: he declared that midwestern and southern farmers were paying a half billion dollars a year to protect "eastern manufacturers" (Rushton, pp. 39-40).  Already at odds by then, Farwell's pro-tariff organizing, 1887-90, would have aroused Medill's opposition, especially since Farwell was known to manage effectively campaigns such as this one.  It could be argued that Medill's tariff position did not match up very well with his growing constituency of Chicago manufacturers such as the Armours, Donnelleys, McCormicks, Pullmans, Swifts, and Ryersons.     

Farwell at the age of sixty-seven in 1890 was not re-elected, or by him he was deemed not re-elect-able, to the Senate in 1891 because of his support for the landmark McKinley Tariff. From this measure too was derived the marking of products from abroad with their place of origin. Raising prices for consumers but doing little to help farmers (grain prices were static while farm implement costs rose), the tariff--almost 50% on some foreign goods--was unpopular and led to the reelection defeat of President Benjamin Harrison, and along with him Farwell, with farmers leading the reaction. The tariff was soon repealed, but then later this was blamed for the 1893 Depression. The tariff was a trade-off for supporting the Silver Purchase Act, which by 1896 also led to midwestern calls for "free silver" (William Jennings Bryan's "cross of gold" Chicago Democratic Convention speech), but led to the election of McKinley to the presidency. Tariffs were reinstated. Farwell also fought to allow federal funds to be deposited in private banks, in order to facilitate trade and fuel manufacturing growth (National Cyclopedia).

Generally, Farwell's business and government balance of experience led him to favor producers and manufacturers in the tariff and other related measures as being in Illinois's best interests.  As a political organizer with rare skill that also translated into successful business, he was opposed by the Chicago Tribune for his independent, pro-business stance or focus in favor economic growth, but with the short-term discomfort for consumers and farmers.

Farwell's policy positions would be controversial as well in today's complex economic, social and global climate. Still, nothing seems more current than his alleged Chicago-style, smash-grab methods in this era of hanging chads, corruption charges, blind special interest political action funds, and residency disputes. Still, Farwell's balanced view of government and business working to advance the Chicago and Illinois region is not unlike that avowed by current U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, who left him off his December 15, 2010 Senate maiden speech list of notable Illinois Senators that included too Kirk's immediate predecessor Roland Burris.  Burris was also was enmeshed in corruption allegations over his appointment by the Chicago Tribune and others.

Farwell's Family and Lake Forest

In 1852 Charles married Mary E. Farwell, and they had four children, daughters Anna (De Koven), Rose (Chatfield-Taylor), and Grace (Winston, McGann) and one son, Walter.  All attended Lake Forest College (General Register, p. 163).  Anna and Walter eventually settled in the New York city area while Rose and Grace stayed in Chicago and Lake Forest. The Senator's 1870 Lake Forest home was Fairlawn (burned 1920; replaced 1923), 965 E. Deerpath, just east of the College campus.

In the interval between his last Congressional term that ended in 1883 and his election to the Senate, Farwell and his family built a large town house (now demolished) on Pearson Street on the north side of Water Tower Square, and just west of his brother, John V. Farwell's similar mansion.  After this Fairlawn in Lake Forest became a summer residence; the family owned this property until the mid 1950s. 

While working in George Smith's innovative and expansionist bank, rising to teller before leaving in 1853, he made friends with fellow bank employee Scots-born Sylvester Lind, who with Farwell was a founder of Lake Forest. By the 1860s, after Lind had sponsored the beginning of Lind U. now Lake Forest College, and also lost his fortune by 1863, the C. B. Farwells were summering in Lake Forest and staying with the Linds as boarders, at 550 E. Deerpath.

In support of Lake Forest University, until 1865 Lind University, Charles and Mary Farwell donated much of the funds for early College buildings (Young, North, Hotchkiss, etc.) and operations.  His last two buildings donated, an 1891-opened Gymnasium and the early 1900s Farwell Field athletic space reflected his support for the late 19th C. Strenuous Life movement, wishing to graduate "fit" alumni capable of holding their own in a competitive world.  This offers insight, perhaps, into the Senator's combative perspective on partisan and group conflicts of that era. 

Only his early 1900s donation of the current College athletic field, Farwell Field, bears the name of his family, the institution's first great benefactors. Forgotten perhaps by the city, county and state he served honorably and with great success, he is recognized for his work at Lake Forest College and his name lives on in the athletic field he gave. Here the great football coach Ralph Jones had undefeated teams in the late 1930s and here the Chicago Bears based their practice facilities, in 1985 the site for preparation for their winning of Superbowl XX, 1986. Halas Hall on the east end of Farwell Field, now used by the College's own athletic program, is a memento too of the Bears' founder George Halas who worked with the College to build it, with a twenty-year lease. Farwell would be pleased by this successful Chicago regional enterprise and its partnering with his College.

Farwell's Support of Culture

Not always willingly but at the behest of his spouse, Mary, daughters, and their spouses, Farwell employed some of his fortune to contribute to the early stages of what later was called the Chicago Literary Renaissance. Its first recognized phase in the 1890s (Duffy) was preceded though by 1880s periodicals funded by Farwell for his daughter Anna, her spouse Reginald De Koven, and Rose's spouse, Hobart C. Chatfield-Taylor.  For Anna as its first editor he funded the Lake Forest University Review, 1880-83; then the Rambler, Chicago, in the mid 1880s; and most significantly the weekly America, 1887-91 (his Senate period), both for politics but also for literary and critical contributions by De Koven (calling for a Chicago Symphony, for example) and co-editor Chatfield-Taylor, among others (Schulze, 30 Miles North, p. 303n33). He also backed, at Anna's urging, Reginald's late 1880s "retirement" from the XIT Ranch's Chicago office to go to Vienna to study muscial composition, leading to his early 1890s hit light opera, "Robin Hood" (Mrs. Reginald De Koven, Musician and his Wife), with its best-known song, "Oh, Promise Me."  De Koven later also launched the Washington Philharmonic in the Farwells' second city.  In the early 1890s, also, this second generation, was also contributing to the fortunes of the innovative elite Chicago publishing house of Stone & Kimball, for which Anna, Reginald, and Hobart all wrote. This morphed into H.S. Stone & Co., moved to New York, then merged into Duffield & Co. there, and continued to publish fiction, criticism, biography and history by Hobart and other elite Lake Forest residents. 

By the pre-World-War-I period the De Kovens were living in a John Russell Pope-designed Park Avenue, New York, townhouse; Walter lived in an Oyster Bay, Long Island, country place. Rose died early in 1918, and Chatfield-Taylor retired to Santa Barbara, CA.  Son Wayne Chatfield-Taylor built a 1925 country place south of Fairlawn on family property, but by the 1930s had moved to Washington.  Farwell Winston, Grace's son and the Senator's grandson, in the 1920s remodeled a stable block as a house also just south of Fairlawn, as well.  Here Lucia Winston spent her childhood across Spring Lane from Fairlawn and her grandmother, Grace (Mrs. Robert) McGann.         

Sources:

Andreas, Alfred Theodore. History of Chicago..., 3 vols. Chicago: Andreas, 1884-86, I, 180, 534; II, 694.

Biographical Dictionary of the Leading Men of Chicago. Chicago: Wilson, Peirce & Co., 1876.

Coventry, Kim, Daniel Meyer, and Arthur H. Miller.  Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest, Architecture and Landscape Design: 1856-1940.

New YOrk: W. W. Norton, 2003.   

De Koven, Mr. Reginald.  A Musician and His Wife. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926.

Duffey, Bernard.  Chicago Renaissance in American Letters: a Critical History.  East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1954.   

Farwell, Charles B. Archives reference file--"Trustees--Farwell, Charles B."

Farwell, John V.  "George Smith's Bank," Journal of Political Economy, v. 13, no. 4 (Sep. 1905), 590-93.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1817847

General Register of Lake Forest College, 1865-1931.  Lake Forest: the College, 1931. 

Halsey, John J. "A Noble Benefactor," The Stentor [Lake Forest College weekly newspaper], v. 18, no. 2 (October 1, 1903), 14-15.

Hoogenboom, Ari.  "Disputed Election of 1876," from Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center site: http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/president/display.asp?id=511&subj=president  This is the text (lacking notes) of Chapter 17 of Hoggenboom's 1995 U. Kansas Press book, Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President. 

Jacobs, Mark. "The Strange Story of a Senate Seat," Chicago Tribune (October 24, 2010).

Kirk, Mark. Speech in the Senate, December 15, 2010.

McClure, the Rev. James G. K. Address at the Funeral of Hon. Charles B. Farwell ... Sept. 25, 1903. Lake Forest: 1903.

National Cyclopedia of American Biography. v. 6. New York: James T. White & Company, 1929, 394.

Pease, Theodore C.  "Charles B. Farwell," Dictionary of American Biography. Ed. Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone.  Rev. ed. 11 vols.  New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964; v. 3, pt. 2, pp. 294-95.

Pegram, Thomas. "Charles Benjamin Farwell," American National Biography, ed. John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, v. 7, 751.

Rose, Julie K. "A History of the Fair."  3 pp. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/history.html  (Copy in Farwell file.)

Rushton, Wyatt.  Joseph Medill and the Chicago Tribune.  Thesis.  U. Wisconsin, 1916.  (see Google Books)

"Russel, J. B. F. [obituary of]."  New York Times, January 15, 1861.

Schulze, Franz, Rosemary Cowler, and Arthur H. Miller. 30 Miles North: A History of Lake Forest College, Its Town, and Its city of Chicago. Lake Forest: 2000.

Wood, David Ward, ed.  History of the Republican Party and Biographies of Its Supporters.  Illinois Volume.  Chicago: Lincoln Engraving and Publishing, 1895.  (Farwell article pp. 84-86.) 

Arthur H. Miller

December 29, 2010

Sources:

Andreas, Alfred Theodore. History of Chicago..., 3 vols. Chicago: Andreas, 1884-86, I, 180, 534; II, 694.

Arpee, Edward.  Lake Forest, Illinois: History and Reminiscences, 1861-1961.  Lake Forest: Rotary Club, 1964. 

Biographical Dictionary of the Leading Men of Chicago. Chicago: Wilson, Peirce & Co., 1876.

Coventry, Kim, Daniel Meyer, and Arthur H. Miller.  Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest, Architecture and Landscape Design: 1856-1940.

New YOrk: W. W. Norton, 2003.   

De Koven, Mr. Reginald.  A Musician and His Wife. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1926.

Duffey, Bernard.  Chicago Renaissance in American Letters: a Critical History.  East Lansing: Michigan State College Press, 1954.

Farwell, Charles B. Archives reference file--"Trustees--Farwell, Charles B."

Farwell, John V.  "George Smith's Bank," Journal of Political Economy, v. 13, no. 4 (Sep. 1905), 590-93.  http://www.jstor.org/stable/1817847

General Register of Lake Forest College, 1865-1931.  Lake Forest: the College, 1931.

Halsey, John J. "A Noble Benefactor," The Stentor [Lake Forest College weekly newspaper], v. 18, no. 2 (October 1, 1903), 14-15.

Hoogenboom, Ari.  "Disputed Election of 1876," from Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center site: http://www.rbhayes.org/hayes/president/display.asp?id=511&subj=president  This is the text (lacking notes) of Chapter 17 of Hoggenboom's 1995 U. Kansas Press book, Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President.

Jacobs, Mark. "The Strange Story of a Senate Seat," Chicago Tribune (October 24, 2010).

Kirk, Mark. Speech in the Senate, December 15, 2010.

McClure, the Rev. James G. K. Address at the Funeral of Hon. Charles B. Farwell ... Sept. 25, 1903. Lake Forest: 1903.

National Cyclopedia of American Biography. v. 6. New York: James T. White & Company, 1929, 394.

Pease, Theodore C.  "Charles B. Farwell," Dictionary of American Biography. Ed. Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone.  Rev. ed. 11 vols.  New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1964; v. 3, pt. 2, pp. 294-95.   

Pegram, Thomas. "Charles Benjamin Farwell," American National Biography, ed. John a. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, v. 7, 751.

Rose, Julie K. "A History of the Fair."  3 pp. http://xroads.virginia.edu/~ma96/wce/history.html  (copy in Farwell file.)

Rushton, Wyatt.  Joseph Medill and the Chicago Tribune.  Thesis.  U. Wisconsin, 1916.  (see Google Books)

"Russel, J. B. F. [obituary of]."  New York Times, January 15, 1861.     

Schulze, Franz, Rosemary Cowler, and Arthur H. Miller. 30 Miles North: A History of Lake Forest College, Its Town, and Its city of Chicago. Lake Forest: 2000.

Wood, David Ward, ed.  History of the Republican Party and Biographies of Its Supporters.  Illinois Volume.  Chicago: Lincoln Engraving and Publishing, 1895.  (Farwell article pp. 84-86.)

Note Author: Arthur H. Miller, Archivist and Librarian for Special Collections, amiller@lakeforest.edu



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