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What I’m Reading

I just received copies of two books my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Gay Mason published on the History of Chicago and Illinois. Unfortunately, he died before completing what he expected to be a three volume history of Illinois. I’m just beginning to learn more about this history on my mother’s side and I hope to learn more about my father’s family history. Both sides are inextricably tied to Chicago.

I suppose many people have a sense of the way they move through this world comes from what the behavior and events our ancestor’s faced. Although I have always been secured in my own practice as an artist, this often entailed going off into other disciplines and discovering more about myself and the things I cling to.

Early Chicago and Illinois (1890) by Edward Gay Mason

Chapters From Illinois History (1901) by Edward Gay Mason

Edward Gay Mason was the eldest son of Roswell B. Mason, who I am beginning to understand to have been an important civil engineer in America’s expansion west into the “Hinterlands” and who was Mayor of Chicago during the Chicago Fire of 1871.


“MASON, Edward Gay, historian, was born in Bridgeport, Conn., Aug. 23, 1839; son of Roswell B. and Harriet L. Mason. Roswell B. Mason removed from Connecticut to Chicago, Ill., when that place was a village; was a civil engineer, mayor of the city, and was influential in encouraging business enterprises. Edward Gay Mason was prepared for college in Chicago and was graduated at Yale in 1860. He was admitted to the bar in 1863 and in March, 1865, formed a law partnership under the firm name of Mattocks & Mason. He subsequently practised in partnership with his brothers Alfred and Henry, under the firm name of Mason Brothers. He was married, Dec. 25, 1867, to Julia M. STARKWEATHER of Chicago, Ill. He was president of the Chicago Bar association, the Chicago Literary club, the University Club of Chicago, and the Chicago Historical society, 1887-98, and was a member of various historical societies; a fellow of Yale, 1891-98, and was named successor to President Timothy Dwight of Yale in 1898.

He contributed historical articles to magazines and is the author of numerous papers on the early history of Illinois collected and published as Chapters from Illinois History (1901). He died in Chicago, Ill., Dec. 18, 1898″ [The 20th Century Biographical Dictionary of Notable Americans, Vol.7, p.284].


Just a year ago you couldn’t find books like these, but today with on-demand printing and Google Books posting more esoteric and old books, I’m suddenly able to find things I never knew existed. This is changing what we know the about the past.

Categories: Reading List
  1. Deborah Kindel (nee Mason)
    July 26th, 2010 at 05:04 | #1

    Hello. My name is Deborah Kindel (nee Mason). Edward Gay Mason was my great-grandfather, through his youngest son Frederic Ogden Mason. I just visited my Aunt Lois, who filled me in on a lot of family lore. Which of Edward’s children was your great-grandfather?

  2. November 8th, 2010 at 16:34 | #2

    Somewhere I read that Mayor Mason had a Scottish heritage. Does anyone know? I did note that one of his childrfen, Mrfs. Harriet H. Anderson was living in Glasgow, Scotland, at the time of his death. I have been trying to understand what happened immediately after the Great Fire in 1871. I just did a presentation on the Fire and Mr. Mason’s proclamation asking the people observe Oct. 29, 1871, as a day of prayer. Paper says he was an acitve member of the Fourth Prfesbyterian church. Thanks for any help.

  3. Ellen McPherson
    August 7th, 2013 at 17:09 | #3

    Edward Gay Mason was my great grandfather through his daughter Edith Mason Armstrong and her daughter Rozanne Armstrong McPherson. Edith Mason Armstrong wrote the book “The Mason Children” in 1932 about the family and their exploits particularly at the family retreat “Delaven” in Virginia.

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