A Rockefeller you likely did not know

John D. of Standard Oil Co. fame and son, John D. “Junior” of Rockefeller Center note, are the philanthropists and personages who often come to mind when the name Rockefeller is said.

Edith: The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick (Southern Illinois University Press photo)
Edith: The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick (Southern Illinois University Press photo)

But mention Edith, daughter of John D. Senior, and the reaction is likely to elicit a blank. However, Edith who grew up in a household that only favored the male side in education and business, is worth knowing.

In her recently published book, Edith: The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick, Andrea Friederici Ross uncovers a woman who in spite of lack of family support and appreciation, learned several languages so she could study philosophy and psychiatry as originally written. She passed along the teachings of Carl Jung.

Edith became a patron of the arts  with husband Harold McCormick (son of Cyrus McCormick) that included the Chicago Grand Opera, a company that predated the Lyric. She was also instrumental in forming the Krenn & Dato real estate company and founding Brookfield Zoo.

It was the Brookfield property that started Ross on her “Edith” journey about 10 years ago.

“I became interested in Edith when I wrote Brookfield Zoo’s history book Let the Lions Roar, because she donated the land that started the zoo. In fact, the first line of that book is “An unusual woman made Brookfield Zoo possible,” Ross said during an email-interview.

Andrea Friederici Ross (Photo courtesy of Ross)
Andrea Friederici Ross (Photo courtesy of Ross)

“Unusual woman” is only a hint to whom readers will meet in the book. It is filled with family members and recipients of her patronage who have their own views of Edith and her spending. She acquired costly jewels and antiques but was also interested in affordable housing for young, first-time home buyers.

Readers may well believe some of her actions are the result of what is considered expected of a wealthy woman. The book reveals Edith’s and her family’s ideas on women’s and men’s places in society that may explain the neuroses that plagued her and other family members.

When asked about indications of Edith’s inner feelings when researching her subject’s life and times, Ross said, “For Edith, duty was front and foremost. Whereas in her childhood it was duty to God and parents, Edith later internalized that to be duty to society (entertaining, spending, employing, underwriting). I, personally, do not believe she ever allowed herself to fully experience her emotions.”

The book mentions that Edith believed  she was part of King Tut’s life in an earlier incarnation. After reading Edith: The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick, I wonder what or whom she would like to be if she could come back during the 2020s when women appear to be doing better in the gender-discrimination battle.


Some Chicago Edith connections

North of Chicago lies an upscale Lake Forest, IL subdivision  known as Villa Turicum. The entry street off Sheridan Road is McCormick Drive. A short way in is Rockefeller Road. Villa Turicum was the 300-acre Italianate summer estate of Edith Rockefeller McCormick.

Nearby is an approximately 200 acre Highland Park, IL neighborhood north of IL Rte 22  known as the Highlands where there are Krenn and Dato Avenues.   Edith’s longtime friend, Edwin Krenn, and Edward Dato,  formed Krenn & Dato, a highly successful, nationally known real estate business backed by Edith until it over expanded.

Edith: The Rogue Rockefeller McCormick by Andrea Friederici Ross, (Southern Illinois University Press, 2020, $29.95).

Jodie Jacobs



More holiday gift ideas

Art Institute of Chicago (Photo by J. Jacobs)
Art Institute of Chicago
(Photo by J. Jacobs)

We may yearn to get out of our abodes but given the increase in Covid cases virtual has become a password. To stay safe more holiday shoppers have been looking online for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and soon, Cyber Monday, deals (which have moved back to Friday and Saturday. But not all gift ideas are through computer and print ads. Shopping online is a chance to be creative.


One of a Kind show online

Meet artists during virtual programs. Tour their studios. Find the perfect stocking stuffers. The One of a Kind Show that usually is in theMart (formerly the Merchandise Mart) makes holiday shopping safe and fun this year.

The show is available through Dec. 6, 2020.You can also follow the artists on  Instagram and Facebook and view a daily series of IGTV videos with more artist talks, demos and studio tours.


Art Institute of Chicago Shop

The world-famous art museum carries treasures you may not have considered. Just as important, its online museum shop has items for different price ranges.

Check out the Frank Lloyd Wright designs. Look for the Bisa Butler prints and Claude Monet items from the current exhibits. Gifts are categorized from Under $100 to Under $25 and from Best Sellers to Artist and Style.


Buy at Buddy

Consider supporting small Chicago businesses through Buddy, a new store founded by the Public Media Institute so that Chicago artists and small businesses can show and sell their wares. It is currently online but will be in the Chicago Cultural Center when Covid restrictions are lifted . Among items found at Buddy are toys, jewelry, wearables, music and publications. For sales, goods and other information visit Buddy/about.

Related: Three Holiday Shopping Ideas

Three holiday shopping ideas

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone (expect the leftovers) just about every store and business is advertising Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. But sometimes the deals and gifts get lost in the over abundance of ad noise. So, here are a few places to check out this weekend. (More ideas next week).

The Olive Tap founder Rick Petrocelly (Photo by J Jacobs)
he Olive Tap founder Rick Petrocelly (Photo by J Jacobs)


Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

The Olive Tap in Illinois and Colorado has 15% off most oils and vinegars and 10% off some gift baskets  on Nov. 27-28. The owner and staff are very knowledgeable about flavors, shelf life and go-with foods.

Locations are Long Grove IL, Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, Co. Covid protocols are observed. Curbside delivery is available. For information visit The Olive Tap.





Cyber Monday

Macy's Chicago (Daniel Boczarski/Getty images photo)
Macy’s Chicago (Daniel Boczarski/Getty images photo)

Maybe you watched  Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday. No, it wasn’t canceled but the crowds had to watch from blocks away or on TV.

If the program’s wonderful floats and entertainment (included a number from “Hamilton” put you in the holiday shopping mood then go to the department store’s cyber Monday deals. They range  from clothes and shoes to stuff for the home. Find them at CyberMondayMacy’sSales.







RBG items at the Illinois Holocaust Museum (JJacobs and IL Holocaust photo)
RBG items at the Illinois Holocaust Museum (JJacobs and IL Holocaust photo)

Hanukah Holiday Gifts

Before Christmas, Dec. 25, and Kwanzaa, Dec. 26, is Hanukah which begins at sunset Dec. 10, 2020. The Illinois Holocaust Museum carries several gift items ranging from RBG stuff to menorahs and books. Visit the museum’s gift shop at IllinoisHolocaustshop.



Jodie Jacobs


Around Town: Filling December with joy


Larry Yando as Scrooge in Goodman theatre's audio version of 'A Christmas Carol' (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre
Larry Yando as Scrooge in Goodman theatre’s audio version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ (Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre


 Marley as undead as a 1940s-50’s radio program

It’s OK not to reveal your age but does anyone remember sitting by the radio to hear the weekly broadcast of a favorite program? The “spirits” of good old family entertainment are back thanks to Goodman Theatre.

With renown Chicago actor Larry Yando once again portraying Scrooge, Goodman will put on its annual holiday treat, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens as a free, audio broadcast beginning 7 p.m. Dec. 1.  The story line is adapted by Tom Creamer and directed by Jessica Thebus. It is  adapted for audio by Neena Arndt, Jessica Thebus and Richard Woodbury.

Visit Carol/goodmantheatre for more information. You can also tune in to WBEZ 91.5 FM and Vocalo 91.1 F.M. Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 11 a.m. The program will also be available through On Demand.


Joffrey Ballet's The Nutcracker (Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet)
Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker (Photo courtesy of Joffrey Ballet)

A Joffrey “Nutcracker’ dance class

Remember when short, Nutcracker dance classes were available for youngsters at the Chicago Cultural Center? The Joffrey Academy of Dance is offering “Virtual enchanted Evening: The Nutcracker” in two sessions: ages 4-6, Dec. 4 and ages 7-9 Dec. 11. Hours are 6:30-7”30 p.m. CT. The fee is $15. To find out what is needed and for more information or to register visit Virtual enchantged evening/Evenbrite.


Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure (Photo courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)
Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure (Photo courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater)

Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure

It’s time after months of the pandemic for some faith and maybe,  a little pixie dust. You can visit Neverland via Chicago Shakespeare Theater, free, from noon Dec. 19, 2020 to 11:59 Jan. 1, 2021.

The production is a newly re-mastered, 80-minute feature film that was shot live of the 2018 production. Music is by the award-winning duo of Broadway’s “Mary Poppins” with a score by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewer.

Adapted from the play by J.M. Barrie with permission from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children the production is presented by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.

For more information and to get the stream visit ChicaoShakespeareTheatre/PeterPan.


Windows and Walnut Room say ‘Thanks’


Macy's State Street windows send messages of Thanks, Love and Believe. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)
Macy’s State Street windows send messages of Thanks, Love and Believe. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)

Macy’s State Street windows are packed with presents but the main messages they deliver to Chicago and to its front-line workers are Thanks and Love.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the Walnut Room, Macy’s employee put together thank-you food packages from the famed restaurant to be delivered to Chicago Police Department 001st District officers who are unable to spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones and to Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 Unit.

Walnut Room Manager Gino Tarallo loads up with food packages for front-line works. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)
Walnut Room Manager Gino Tarallo loads up with food packages for front-line works. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)

The window decorations and the Walnut Room’s Great Tree can be seen and photographed through Jan. 3, 2021.

The store currently remains open. Check protocols at Macy’s State Street.

Behind the scenes at Comedy Central


At Bell (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)
At Bell (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)

Working on anything that has the word “comedy” in the job description should be fun and a laugh a minute or at least every 15 minutes.

But unless you are in the cable television business or part of the SNL group (I don’t really have to say what that stands for, right?), you learn by reading Art Bell’s memoir that working on a show or channel devoted to making people laugh is akin to falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. You don’t know what’s behind an innocent-sounding “eat me” lunch invitation sign or an executive’s Cheshire Cat grin.

Having grown up in my dad’s “Mad Men” world of advertising where clients are fickle and public trends change with each phase of the moon, I thought I knew what to expect when picking up Bell’s memoir.

The book was a surprise.

It read like one of the well-plotted mysteries I’ve been enjoying during the Covid crises that has kept me from reviewing shows in person.

A former cable television channel executive who had done everything from finance and marketing to creating and managing shows and channels, Bell takes readers behind the scenes of the tumultuous world he navigated while creating the 24-hour comedy network that became Comedy Central. (*He later joined and became President of Court TV.)

Each turn of his navigation that seemed promising in the beginning of a chapter turned so problematic that you wonder what will happen next. Will the hero find a new route?

Usually, reading a non-fiction book takes me at least a drawn-out week. And I’m a speed reader. Instead, Bell’s memoir was in my “can’t-put-this-down,” can’t-dinner-wait category.

Art Bell Memoir (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)
Art Bell Memoir (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)

Constant Comedy:  A Memoir by Art Bell. Subtitle: How I started Comedy Central and Lost My Sense of Humor. (Ulysses Press Berkeley CA, September 2020.)

Jodie Jacobs

Live holiday fun not canceled


City of Chicago holiday tree (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
City of Chicago holiday tree (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

Although indoor holiday events such as the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” has gone virtual, there are still outdoor places to visit. Three of them open this Friday, Nov. 20.

Chicago Tree

Drive or walk past Chicago’s holiday tree in Millennium Park. The lights officially go on Nov. 20. But the annual holiday ceremony goes virtual at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 on the city’s YouTube channel. For more information visit DCASE .

The program includes Chicago Children’s Choir, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Percy Bady and Friends and a tribute to Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas.

Ice Skating

Maggie Daley Park’s Ice Skating Ribbon next to Millennium Park opens in time to see the Christmas Tree. Reservations needed to comply with Covid protocols. Visit  maggiedaleypark/skating.

Illumination at Morton Arboretum

The arboretum’s holiday light festival will be a half-hour drive through experience starting Friday as earlier announced, but bring your own refreshments because the concessions have been canceled and buildings will be closed.  Tickets are timed so visit Illumination for your time and date ticket.


Chicago museums close

Shedd Aquarium photo
Shedd Aquarium photo

Following Gov. Pritzker’s Covid-19 case mitigation orders on Nov. 17, 2020, Chicago’s museums will close this week. Several of them will shutter late afternoon Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd plans to close at 5 p.m. Wednesday and hopes to reopen Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. Its website has some fee-based videos, animal encounters and education programs to offset the loss of revenue it needs for animal care and conservation. For more information visit sheddaquarium.


Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat, (Art Institute of Chicago photo)
Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat, (Art Institute of Chicago photo)


Art Institute of Chicago

The museum closed Nov. 17. However, some of the exhibits and interesting information about them can be found online. Check Beyond the Surface for painting background on Monet at YoutTube/Watch and other information at articedu closure.


Museum of Science and Industry

MSI will close Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. The museum has digital programs and resources. Visit MSIChicago for more information. See some of the tree decorations that are part of the museum’s annual Christmas Around the world exhibit at Trees and Traditions. To see how the exhibit was build and what it looks like now visit Christmasaroundtheworld.


Adler Planetarium on the eastern edge of Chicago's Museum campus. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Adler Planetarium on the eastern edge of Chicago’s Museum campus. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Adler Planetarium

The museum closed back in March 2020 and has remained closed but it has  an online presence for star gazers and folks who want to stay current on sky events.  Visit astronomy live but also check the events that occur every week and every other week such as Skywatch Weekly. Click on the arrow to see what is available free such as NASA LIVE for the latest operations at the International Space Station.




Remarkable exhibition and art space come to Chicago


Immersive Van Gogh (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)
Immersive Van Gogh (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)


Imagine being surrounded by the art of Vincent van Gogh translated into movement, color and sound.

If you deliberately drive or walk past theMart to see what pictures are currently shown on the huge Wacker Drive side of the building as Art on theMart or it you tried getting tickets for last year’s sold-out last year and this year’s almost sold out Lightscape, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s stroll through immersive light and sound, you are likely to want to get to tickets when they go on sale this month to “Immersive Van Gogh.”

Tickets go on sale 11 a.m. CST Nov. 23, 2020 at VanGoghChicago and (844) 307-4644. Prices start at $39.99, adults and $24.99 for youth age 16 and younger. Tickets and space conform to pandemic protocols of social distancing and hand sanitizing.

The exhibition deconstructs Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh and several of his works including “The Starry Night” and some of the “Sunflowers” series during an hour-long, 360 degree experience among changing projections and music in a 500,000 cubic foot space.


Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)


The creative team responsible for the Parisian Atelier des Lumières Exhibition in Paris is getting the Chicago edition of “Immersive Van Gogh” ready to open Feb. 11, 2021, according to Chicago Commissioner of Culture Mark Kelly during an introductory conference Nov. 16.

However, as remarkable as the Immersive van Gogh exhibition will be, Kelly also considered the space as equally important. The exhibition which leaves early May is going up in the formerly dormant, now remodeled, historic Germania Club in Old Town. The building will be known as Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, a new venue for immersive art.

After noting that the Paris exhibition drew more than 2 million visitors, Kelly pointed out that Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago would, from a global view, become a new “art destination.”  He added that Chicago, already known for its art institutions, would be an “art powerhouse.”

Jodie Jacobs

How The Loop got its name

Patrick Reardon, author of 'The Loop' (Photo courtesy of Reardon and Southern Illinois University Press)
Patrick Reardon, author of ‘The Loop’ (Photo courtesy of Reardon and Southern Illinois University Press)

Readers who pick up “The Loop: The ‘L’ tracks that shaped and saved Chicago” by Patrick T. Reardon, today, should picture the constant stream of office workers, lawyers, financers, shoppers and theater goers who filled Chicago’s downtown business district before the COVID-19 pandemic forced pretty much everyone to work and shop from home.

Reardon makes the case that unlike some big cities’ downtowns such as Detroit which faced difficult times until it recently started a comeback, Chicago’s business district flourished because its heart was encompassed by the approximately two miles of elevated tracks known as The Loop.

Ask many Chicagoans about The Loop and they are likely to say it is the downtown business district. The Loop’s elevated tracks follow Wabash Avenue on the east, Lake Street on the north, Wells Street on the west and Van Buren Street on the south.

Indeed, The Loop is usually considered so important as a Chicago neighborhood that business, restaurants and residences that have developed south and west of it are now known as in the West Loop and South Loop neighborhoods.

However, the author doesn’t start with the building of what is actually a rectangle of tracks.

Readers interested in that beginning should start on page 97 in the chapter called “The Birth of the Union Loop” which chronicles some of the shenanigans by city and real estate movers and shakers that entrepreneur Charles T. Yerkes wallowed through to make the Union Elevated Railroad Company (Union Loop Company) a downtown elevated track reality beginning in 1895 and completed in 1897.

Starting with the later chapter and then going back is a good idea because Reardon often refers to The Loop early on as the Union Loop but the word Union doesn’t mean much until the birth of his company.

The Loop (Southern Illinois University Press photo)
The Loop (Southern Illinois University Press photo)

What Reardon, a long time Chicago Tribune writer, columnist, editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, does do early in the book is convincingly dispute claims that The Loop really was an evolutionary name that grew from the many small loops made by cable cars.

And even though Chicagoans have lovingly adopted The Loop name for downtown Chicago, the book also describes efforts to tear down the elevated tracks because they pass second-story business windows, shadow the businesses on their streets below and make a racket.

The book contends that the “L” tracks still exist today partially as a result of their landmark status, their universal identity with Chicago similar to San Francisco’s cable cars and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the efforts to save them by a former mayor, the late Jane Byrne, after Mayor Richard J. Daley wanted them gone.

As evident by the bibliography, notes and 230 pages of historic references, Reardon has definitely done his research. Translated, that means there is extraneous information including bits about skyscrapers and Potawatomi Indians, but readers will come away with a better understanding of Chicago and its core.

The Loop: The “L” Tracks that Shaped and Saved Chicago (Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2020)

Jodie Jacobs