By far, my favorite relative that I’ve never met is my great-grandfather, Arthur.
(Though my third great-grandfather, Jacob Castor Brautigam, is not too far behind. He opened the second-ever book shop in Chicago which, among other clientele, catered to women. Here’s a quote about the bookstore:
“As early as 1844, Brautigam & Keen, wholesale and retail booksellers and stationers, of 146 Lake Street, had issued a Catalogue of School, Classical, Theological, Law, Medical, And Miscellaneous Books. They had sold, “on the most accommodating terms” an assortment of spellers, readers, arithmetics, grammars, geographies, and histories, for the need for school texts was paramount as education followed in the wake of new settlements. Lawbooks, too, had been needed for men setting up new businesses, making new contracts, joining new partnerships, and the firm of Brautigam & Keen supplied to its patrons a variety of works on conveyancing, nisi prius, partnership, executors, and even the rights of married women. The attention of professional gentlemen, teachers, school inspectors, country merchants, library committees, parents, and, indeed, of all who were engaged in building up a new section of the country, was called to the “valuable books in all the departments of literature” which Brautigam & Keen provided, from the publications of Eastern firms to albums and blankbooks, maps, and travelers’ guides. This desire to satisfy the demands of a midwestern community continued to dominate the firm when it became known as Joseph Keen, Jr., & Brother, and as D. B. Cooke was learning the literary requirements of his new customers, William B. Keen, who would one day be associated with him, was enjoying a similar education.”)
But I digress. My great-grandfather, Arthur, was an architect and a curious person who never stopped learning. He had an incredible dry wit, which I’ve mostly experienced in the letters he wrote to my grandmother (she kept everything). He learned all about the new-ish hobby of photography, and was a very good photographer. He was a gifted writer, creating visuals in your head with just words on a page. (He also wrote an amusing travelogue of a canoe trip he took with a friend. I still need to transcribe that one.) He went over to Germany in 1946 as a civilian working for the Army to help get things organized over there (you can read his letters to my grandmother here).
I think he would have been very interesting to meet. My mom met him in the late ’60s, just before he died in 1968. She said he was pretty quiet and still enjoyed his cocktails. I think he only opened up to those close to him—he certainly opened up to my grandmother in the letters he wrote, but I think they were very close, what with my great-grandmother dying in the 1918 flu epidemic when my grandmother was just a baby.
I don’t have any grand reflections for this blog post, but I was thinking about Arthur and wanted to spend some time writing about him. If you want to get to know him, too, check out the other blog I linked to above.
He also lives on in my house. I have his trophies (for what, I am not sure), his scissors, his pocket watch, some of his architectural drawings, I believe, and a variety of other things, including many photos, letters, and writings.
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