Meet Edith Rockefeller McCormick
This 1910 painting is typical of a highly idealized image of Edith Rockefeller McCormick created by a succession of well-compensated artists.
How about this one?
The real Edith, captured by an ordinary camera search.aol.com
By Megan McKinney
Eons before the heavens sent us Elon Musk, the richest man in the world—and arguably the richest of all time—was John D. Rockefeller. When a daughter of John D.’s married Harold Fowler McCormick, son of International Harvester Founder Cyrus McCormick, the appropriate street address for the golden pair was a mansion that sat on spacious grounds diagonally opposite The Drake at 1000 North Lake Shore Drive.
Honeymoon heaven stretching between Oak Street and Bellevue Place at 1000 LSD
A view of 1000 from its Bellevue Place front
The couple divorced in 1921 for Harold to marry Polish opera diva Ganna Walska. That didn’t last long. Like the fictional second Mrs. Charles Foster Kane— whose creation she inspired—Ganna had no voice.
But Ganna did have a look—and an attitude. Her motto was “Enemy of the average.”
As for Edith, she began traveling abroad, spending months, maybe years, away from Chicago, living mainly in Zurich, where she was an enthusiastic pupil of Carl Jung, becoming a psychotherapist herself and taking on 100 patients. She was her own star patient, claiming to have thrice cured herself of tuberculosis.
In Chicago, her style became increasingly grand and antediluvian. The household was staffed with an array of plum-liveried servants in knee breeches and Madam required two chauffeurs, each with a plum-colored Rolls Royce. Although she was driven across Bellevue Place to attend meetings at Fortnightly, Edith walked the length of Lake Shore Drive each day, followed at 10 paces by a detective, one of six such protectors on her staff.
Fortnightly Photo credit:Tom Rossiter
Following the walk, mornings were spent reading books in various foreign languages, writing poetry, or studying philosophy and psychiatry.
In the afternoons and evenings, Edith was joined by a paid companion, Edwin Krenn, who lived across the Drive at The Drake Hotel in a suite of rooms surrounded by a treasured collection of Buddhas. He would arrive each afternoon at 1 p.m., and they would ride in one of the Rolls-Royces, escorted by detectives, to the cinema where they viewed as many as three films a day.
Until it was pulled down to create space for two immense apartment buildings, the grand stately home sat on possibly the city’s most conspicuous residential site, with the fortune of the great heiress and her lifestyle exciting the imagination of other Chicagoans of the time. Everyone knew who she was.
Credit: Chicago American
Following Edith’s death on April 25,1932, more than five thousand people gathered outside the great house at Lake Shore Drive and Bellevue Place to watch the start of her funeral procession.
Author Photo: Robert F. Carl