The Chicago MacLeishes | Chicago Classic Magazine

The great 20e american poet of the century Archibald McLeish.

By Megan McKinney

After a trying winter and spring that included eye surgery, hospitalization and a broken kneecap, I’m thrilled to be back in the editor’s box of Classic Chicago Sunday morning. From this place, over the next few weekswe will explore the lives of various members of Chicago’s MacLeish dynasty.

Among those included in the extended clan are a pair of intimates from the Scott Fitzgeralds and Ernest Hemingways during their heyday in 1920s France and three of today’s bright Hollywood movie stars.

But let’s start with glamorous poet Archibald MacLeish.

Archie MacLeish at Hotchkiss School.

“God, how I didn’t like Hotchkiss!” Archibald MacLeish was 89 – in the last six months of his long life – when he spat those words at an interviewer. He really hated the school where he was a leader in athletics and scholarship.

The Athlete Archie

He was the best swimmer in his class and the center of the varsity football team. He edited the school newspaper and served as yearbook editor. On the honor roll, he won each of the school’s prizes for essay writing, debate, and oration, and he was a class poet. In his freshman year, he was selected for the Forum, one of the school’s two literary and debating societies, and for the Olympian, one of its pair of athletic societies.

A postcard showing the beginning of the 20e Century Hotchkiss School.

MacLeish’s reaction to his Eastern prep school was shared by many young people in the Midwest at the time—boys from substantial backgrounds back home—who, when they suddenly found themselves immersed in the student body of a prestigious prep school in the East, hated it. Chicago Grandstand the heir Joseph Medill Patterson, who will establish the New York Daily News— the most prosperous newspaper in the country — was another; he hated Groton.

Joe Patterson a few years after Groton, but still hating him.

Archie MacLeish, as his contemporaries – then and still – called him, felt that his Eastern schoolmates were extremely class-conscious and snobby. So he fought back by excelling both on and off the sports field. It wasn’t that Archie had been snubbed; he just wasn’t used to feeling anything other than first-rate, and there was the usual hazing, whatever plagued his mother. The Distinguished Third Mrs. Andrew MacLeish, Archie’s mother.

Archie’s mother, Martha Hillard MacLeish, former president of Rockford College, wasn’t the only headteacher in her family; his sister Mary Hilliard had founded the Westover School for Girls in 1909 and would continue as headmistress until 1932. Aunt Mary, who adored Archie, regularly visited Hotchkiss from Middlebury, Connecticut to console him.

Those who have followed the many stories, books and gossip about the romance of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ginevra King of Lake Forest may recall that Ginevra was one of three girls expelled from Westover School for bending over at their dorm window one night and talking with some boys standing up. outside. Miss Hilliard earned her moment in popular culture as a manager who issued the suspension and then overturned it. (Nevertheless, Garfield King, withdrew his daughter from Westover and enrolled her in a school in Manhattan, Miss McFee’s on 72n/a Street.)

Esther Cleveland

Mary Hilliard was determined that her nephew would marry a girl from a wealthy and/or powerful American family, preferably a girl from Westover. When she set him up with President Grover Cleveland’s daughter Esther, he found the girl unattractive. So, in late 1910, Miss Hilliard hosted a luncheon in Westover and surrounded Archie’s place at the table with place cards for the gorgeous daughters of the country’s most prominent families; however, providence intervened.

A young woman who was not on Aunt Mary’s list, Ada Taylor Hitchcock, was mistakenly seated across from Archie and after lunch she took her new friend to visit the school that Mary Hilliard had founded. Before the day was over, Archie was “completely smitten” with pretty and vivacious Ada.

MacLeish was an extraordinarily handsome and compelling man throughout his life. In the words of his sister, Ishbel, teenage Archie was “the death of women”. It would continue. Women would always be attracted to him and he to them, especially beautiful women. It was hard for Archie to resist a gorgeous woman and often he didn’t. Women came and went in his life; however, from that day in late 1910, it would always be Ada he would return to.

In September 1911, Archie entered Yale, where he would be as outstanding as he had been at Hotchkiss in athletics and scholarship. He began the tenure as the starting center for the freshman football team, with his poem Gifts published in the first issue of the year of Yale Literary Magazine. When the class of 1915 approached graduation four years later, Archie was universally regarded as being regarded by faculty and classmates as its most outstanding member. He was voted both the brightest and the most versatile, and emerged with both a Phi Beta Kappa key and a membership in the Skull and Bones senior society, for which he was hired in May 1914. And Yale wouldn’t forget it.

Harvard Law School

Now was the time to make a living with a career that lived up to that dazzling promise. Like so many young men of his day and later, he believed that law school would not only enable him to practice law, but also lay the foundation for other career opportunities. So the next step was not just law school, but Harvard Law School.

Archie did magnificently at Harvard Law and was, as everyone expected, elected to the highly respected Harvard Law Review. Meanwhile, there was Ada Hitchcock, the young woman he fell “completely in love” with during Aunt Mary’s Westover School lunch. His feelings for Ada had changed from love to a desire to have her in his life permanently.Farmington’s Elm Tree Inn in Farmington, where wedding guests were staying

Archie and Ada were married after his first year of law school on June 21, 1916, at First Congregational Church near Ada’s family home in Farmington, Connecticut.

Continuing law school would be interrupted by Archie’s participation in World War I, where he served in the historic Second Battle of the Marne. His last mandate at Harvard Law will be a special post-war session, from February to August 1919, from which he will emerge as the best student of the promotion 50. To make it official, he receives the Fay Diploma, awarded to the member of the obtaining the classification the highest in “learned, conduct, and character, and shows the greatest promise”.

Could he have known that he and Ada would be back in France very soon under much happier circumstances?

Editor Megan McKinney’s Chicago Classic Dynasty The MacLeish saga will then continue with the years Archie and Ada spent with the Hemingways and the Fitzgeralds in 1920s France.

Edited by Amanda K. O’Brien

Author Photo by Robert F. Carl

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