Shaws & McCutcheons–From Fame to Near Myth

megan-mosaics-picture    By Megan McKinney



A Shaw trophy on Astor Street: the William O. Goodman mansion.


A residence designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw was as desirable a trophy for affluent Chicagoans as it was for fashionable suburbanites. In the early 1920s, William Owen Goodman spent $250,000–a portion of the lumber fortune he had begun assembling during the latter third of the 19th century–to endow Chicago’s original Goodman Theatre. The gift was made to memorialize his son, playwright Kenneth Sawyer Goodman, who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. 

The theater, like the family mausoleum in Graceland Cemetery was designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw, who was also architect for the Goodman mansion at 1359 Astor St., one of the most superb residences on a street of splendid houses. The mansion, with its restrained Adam style and black Belgian marble entry, could be located in Grosvenor Square in London. As cultural historian David Garrard Lowe has pointed out, it is not uncommon for a Chicago family—the Balabans, for example—to commission the same architect to design their houses, theaters and their tombs. 



Shaw’s mausoleum for the Goodman family in Graceland Cemetery.


One of Chicago’s most enviable apartment addresses is the Shaw-designed 2450 N. Lakeview, where each of the building’s cooperative units stretches across an entire floor of a building on every “Chicago’s Ten Best” list of prestigious coops. The Shaws themselves owned one of the floors, and other owners included philanthropist Kate Buckingham, Art Institute President Charles Hutchinson and the Chauncey McCormicks, Chicago’s “It Couple” of their day.



2450 N. Lakeview, an extraordinary North Side cooperative building designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw.


The great tragedy in the apparently perfect life of the Howard Van Doren Shaws is Howard’s early death in 1926, 10 years after completing Market Square. He developed pernicious anemia and was hospitalized just shortly before a cure was found for the disease.

At 56, he left quite a personal legacy in addition to his designs. He and Frances had raised three daughters, Evelyn, Sylvia and Theodora, in the pervasive artistic environment of their Lake Forest country house, where the girls’ grandmother often stood at her easel in a nearby field, painting landscapes, while their father worked happily over his drafting board in a living room alcove and their mother wrote in her studio on the grounds north of the house.


Sarah Van Doren Shaw, mother of Howard Van Doren Shaw, painting in the meadow.

Grandma Shaw.

It’s not surprising the Shaw sisters continued to surround themselves with art and creativity. Theo married John Lord King, an architect, moving with him to California, and Sylvia became a sculptor whose works include Savannah’s “Bird Girl,” made world famous by its haunting presence on the book cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Her husband was Kentucky native Clay Judson.



John T. McCutcheon.

But it was the Shaw’s eldest daughter, Evelyn, who entered into the most intriguing marriage when she wed the celebrated Chicago Tribune political cartoonist and foreign correspondent John T. McCutcheon in 1917. Indiana native and Purdue graduate McCutcheon, who was known as the “Dean of American Cartoonists” and awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1932, began his Chicago life in a rundown rooming house, cheerfully sharing these humble quarters with his best friend and Sigma Chi Fraternity brother George Ade.



George Ade.

Together, and then separately, McCutcheon and Ade became two of the most famous journalists in a city and era of legendary newspapermen. For several years, their Chicago Record column, “Stories of the Streets and of the Town,” written by Ade and illustrated by McCutcheon, was a “must” for the city’s morning newspaper readers.



McCutcheon’s comment about the above caricature he sketched of his young friend was, “George Ade has apparently heard the dinner bell at the boarding hall.”

Then, in 1903, McCutcheon was recruited by the Chicago Tribune and remained there until his retirement in 1946. His studio in the early days was the space shown below in the Fine Arts Building.



McCutcheon in his Fine Arts Building studio.

Later, Colonel McCormick wanted him to have a studio closer to his own office in the Tribune Tower so they could confer about the morning cartoon every day. It wasn’t as colorful as the Fine Arts studio—but it was close.



The McCutcheon studio in the Tribune Tower.

John T. McCutcheon’s most famous cartoon, the two-panel “Injun Summer,” was drawn in 1907 and continued to appear in the newspaper annually until 1992. As well-known as Ade and McCutcheon were for their journalistic output, they were also worldly men about town. Both participated in the heady world of Hobart Chatfield-Taylor, with memberships that ranged from the intellectual Little Room to the notorious Whitechapel Club—and beyond.



For decades, “Injun Summer” was an annual autumn tradition in the Chicago Tribune.


McCutcheon soon became a great world traveler, with adventures that took him throughout Western Europe and much of the rest of the world including India, Burma, Siam, China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Caucasus, Persia, Turkestan, Saloniki and the Balkans. He engaged in boating on the Amazon and big game hunting with Teddy Roosevelt in Africa and covered the Battle of Manila Bay, the Boer War and World War I for the Tribune. And he was a catalyst for the founding of the New York Daily News during a long stay with his editor, Joseph Medill Patterson, in Paris in 1914.



Birth of the newspaper soon to be retitled the New York Daily News on June 26, 1919.


While they were lodging together at the Hôtel de Crillon for several months, McCutcheon picked up a copy of the London Mirror each day for its William Haselden cartoons and brought it back to their room. It was this groundbreaking photo-laden tabloid established by Lord Northcliffe in 1903 that captured Joe Patterson’s imagination and led to the 1919 founding of America’s most successful newspaper.



The New York Daily News, was inspired through McCutcheon’s friendship with its founder, Joseph Medill Patterson.

But he was not the only notable McCutcheon of the era; John’s brother, writer George Barr McCutcheon, was author of a series of best-selling novels set in Graustark, a fictional country in Eastern Europe; he was also author of the extraordinary novel Brewster’s Millions, which was made into a play and several films.

The two families, Shaws and McCutcheons, graduated from artistic fame to near myth in 1917 when the middle-aged bachelor married the Shaw’s 22-year-old daughter, Evelyn. According to legend, the 46-year-old John T. had become enchanted with his future wife during visits to Ragdale, when she was still a child, and remained a bachelor while he waited for her to reach marriageable age.  A more moderate version is that it was little Evelyn who fell in love with McCutcheon but was ignored by him. According to Susan Dart, wife of the McCutcheon’s oldest son, John T. Jr., her mother-in-law told her that “the whole time she was growing up she vowed to herself that she would never marry because the only man she could love was John McCutcheon.  He had been a friend of her parents since before her birth and she had fallen in love with him when she was about 10 years old. ‘I used to sit on the steps and watch him when he came for dinner, and he never even noticed me.'”

Megan McKinney’s articles on the Howard Van Doren Shaws and John T. McCutcheons will continue in Classic Chicago next week with The Wedding Gift.


Author Photo:

Robert F. Carl