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Chicago Millinery History: Conventions in Chicago; 1800s February 26, 2016



Political conventions have been held in Chicago since 1860. The fourteen Republican and eleven Democratic conventions held here beats the closest city of Baltimore with a distant total of ten conventions.

What people wore to conventions has changed over the century plus of events. We shall give lip service to men, then jump into women’s fashions, particularly hats.

The male attendees have changed from waistcoats, and powdered wig of the 1700’s to the current business casual or just casual wear. If you are a candidate hopeful or scheduled speaker, then wearing the traditional tailored suit and tie is now the norm. For headwear the synthetic foam boater hat still exists to a degree, but the baseball cap has gained a foothold. Small metal pins and doodads or paper signs are sometimes added to these hats.

What women wore is a shorter history. Few women attend conventions for the majority of the years from our country’s beginning. In 1876 Miss Phobe Couzins addressed the group. As a lawyer and supporter of suffrage, she was allowed 10 minutes to speak to that hotbed topic.


Women delegates were not part of conventions until? Some digging may still reveal that tidbit of information. Even the wives of candidates were not always present. With the exception of Jackie Kennedy, who was pregnant and due in Dec, since then hopeful presidents and vice presidents have had their wives present.

NBC was first to broadcast a convention, the Republican convention in 1940. Before that time movie shorts, the newsreels sufficed for some. Chauncey Depew, Senator Perkins, and Governor Whitman of New York are shown at GOP Convention, 1916, Chicago, Il, which ran 2 min.

Primarily word of conventions came from newspapers. Although Chicago has a rich history of newspapers, much was lost in the fire of 1871, the year the Chicago Tribune started publication.

WIGWAM, 1860
Chicago has been the nation’s most popular political convention city, in part because of its geographic centrality. Between 1860 and 1996, Chicago hosted Republican and Democrat presidential nominating conventions, plus one notable Progressive Party assembly. Chicago’s closest competitors for the most presidential conventions are Baltimore with 10, followed by Philadelphia’s 9.


Wigwam # 1

Chicago’s first presidential nominating convention, the Republican National Convention of 1860, was held in the “Wigwam,” a temporary two-story wooden structure. Last-minute backroom deals, plus a successful scheme to pack the galleries with holders of counterfeit tickets, brought unexpected victory to Abraham Lincoln. If there were women present, they would have been in the gallery. They would have been wearing bonnets, as a proper woman would not be outside her home without one.



Democrats convened for the first time in Chicago in 1864, when they nominated General George B. McClellan and passed an antiwar platform. Republicans returned to Chicago in 1868 to unanimously nominate, at the Crosby Opera House, the victorious General Ulysses S. Grant.


1864 Peterson’s magazine


In 1880, Republicans convened in the Interstate Industrial Exposition Building on Michigan Avenue to nominate former speaker of the House of Representatives James A. Garfield, on the thirty-sixth ballot. Four years later, Chicago hosted its first double convention in the Interstate Industrial Exposition Building. Republicans nominated James G. Blaine, of Maine, secretary of state for the assassinated Garfield, on the fourth ballot. Democrats nominated New York governor Grover Cleveland, who became president.



This Harper’s Weekly from June 1880 shows in detail the intensity of the crowd. Drawings by Frank H. Taylor. A big thank you to Mr. Taylor for including those women in their bonnets in the left bottom corner.


The Leslie’s Illustrated magazine June, 1880 drawings by W. Parker Bodfish tell the story almost as well as a photograph.


Another drawing by Mr. Bodfish in the Leslie’s Illustrated of June 1884 shows great joy at the nomination. If one looked carefully, in the upper left corner, there is one woman in this picture. She  is holding both a flag and her parasol. She might have been rather dangerous in a crowd.

In 1884, Republicans met, but their nomination from Maine, Speaker of the House James G. Blaine was an unsuccessful candidate against Cleveland. Back room bargaining had been taking place at the highly regarded Grand Pacific Hotel, where just the year before, Standard Time had been adopted. Even if everyone was not on the same page politically, at least everyone knew what time it was.



Harper’sWeekly, June 1884 convention outside at night.


Harper’s Weekly June 1884 shows  Michigan Ave, outside the convention. Drawn by Schell and Graham, it indicates a parade was of great interest.  The women have the bustle in the back,  dresses with highly corseted waistlines. Parasols are also seen used by girls and women. Keeping the sun off the face helped keep the porcelain complexion, which was highly desirable, long before concerns for sun damage to the skin.


Another Harper’s Weekly drawing of the Palmer House Hotel can still stand in that same space today, and enjoy the lobby for which it has become well known.


Harper’s Weekly:  Journal of Civilization, June 7, 1884 paid tremendous attention to the convention, with it featured on the cover.

In 1888, Republicans met in the still-unfinished Civic Auditorium to nominate Senator Benjamin Harrison, of Indiana, on the eighth ballot. He lost the popular vote in the general election but beat President Cleveland in the Electoral College.

In 1892, Democrats met in a temporary “Wigwam” in Lake Park to nominate Cleveland for a third time. He regained the presidency. (See bottom of page for photo of unused ticket.)

A fine reference exists by R. Craig  Sautter, and Edward M. Burke. Inside the Wigwam: Chicago Presidential Conventions, 1860–1996.

The 1896 Democratic convention, held in Chicago’s first Coliseum on 63rd Street, was the most unpredictable of the nineteenth century, next to Lincoln’s. William Jennings Bryan, just 36 years old, captured the hearts of delegates with his spellbinding “Cross of Gold” speech and won the nomination on the fifth ballot. He lost a dramatic election to business-oriented William McKinley

Buildings of the conventions:
Wigwam #1 at Lake and 1860, destroyed between 1860-1871.

Wigwam # 2

Interstate Exposition Building 1884. See blog of February 16, 2016 for more details.

History: the first Coliseum
The first Coliseum hosted horse shows, boxing matches, and circus acts beginning in 1866. Typical of most nineteenth century cities, Chicago had a flourishing bachelor subculture, which made events at the Coliseum often rowdy affairs. The arena’s history is hazy as there is no knowledge as to when it was opened and when it closed down.[1]

The second Coliseum

The second Coliseum, situated in Woodlawn on the south side, had a difficult history. Initial construction began early in 1895 on a 14-acre (57,000 m2) site of the World’s Columbian Exposition, but in August of that year the incomplete structure collapsed, and builders had to start over. Construction of the 300-by-700 foot building entailed the use of 2.5 million pounds of steel, 3.2 million feet of lumber, and 3 million bricks, and was finally completed in June 1896. The building was impressive in size for its day, twice as large as Madison Square Garden; its interior was supported by 12 massive arches, 100 feet high with a span of 230 feet. There were seven acres of interior floor space.

Not only Democrats and Republicans chose Chicago for their conventions.
Other parties=15 other conventions in Chicago
Greenback 1880=1
Independence 1908=1
Progressive 1912, 1918=2
Farmer Labor 1920,1928=2
Prohibition 1900, 1928, 1940, 1964=4
Socialist 1904, 1908, 1956=3
Libertarian 1992=1
Green 2008=1

Ticket costs back in the day are unknown. Fortunately some have survived, and at times appear for sale online.

Democratic ticket available in 2016 from 1892= $800 on eBay. The Republican 1884 ticket shown at the top of the page had an opening price for auction on eBay for $175 on Feb. 25, 2016.

Democratic ticket available in 2016 for a ticket from 1932=$12 on eBay. Clearly these are not as popular, or many still exist.

Want to know more? Presenting programs on Chicago’s millinery history is a fun experience for Mary Robak, the author of this blog. In 2016 a new topic has been added, Political Conventions and Hats. If you would like more information about such a presentation, please add a comment and let the fun begin.

Coming soon, the blog on Chicago Millinery History:Conventions 1900s 


Chicago Millinery History: Elsa Schiaparelli February 23, 2016


Fabulous books on Elsa Schiaparelli add to the allure of all things ELSA. Especially when the person with the largest collection of her creations has put that story into words. BillyBoy is a fashion geru of this day. His first encounter with “Schiap” creations was a hat he found in a Paris flea market when he was 14. The book comes out July, 2016.



Books of the 21st century written on Elsa have totaled 8 since the 2007 reissue of the 1954 Shocking Life: the autobiography of Elsa Schiaparelli by Elsa Schiaparelli.

My “book report” could never cover all the fine tidbits from those, so the following is just to wet you appetite for more. Besides the soon to be released book, Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli, by BillyBoy, there was a charming one released in 2015, written for youth, Hot Pink. Susan Goldman Rubin brings out the best of the story, without the hot tidbits of a sometimes off color life. When the term Shocking Pink was coined to describe her signature color, there was also plenty shocking about her life as well.


It is also nice to read an adult biography with many fine qualities established from the life of one of the worlds most successful fashion designers. Meryle Secrest brings out plenty in her 2014 book, Elsa Schiaparelli: a biography.


Also out in 2014 was a collection of unseen family photos, by Schiap’s granddaughter, model, Marisa Berenson. Elsa Schiaparelli’s Album adds new meaning to her love of family.

Who was this woman we revere as a fashion icon between the two world wars?

Born 1890-1973 she left Rome for a life spent back and forth from New York to Paris. In Paris she won the fashion world attention with her sweaters, then moved along the fashion continuum to sportswear to all manner of apparel, including hats and other museum worthy designs.

A fascination with Surealism led to oft references as an artist who worked in fabric. She was the leading designer who based inspiration from Jean Cocteau and Salvador Dali on the backs and heads of women. The Chicago History Museum exhibit in 2008-09, CHIC CHICAGO featured one simple beige dress with the well know jacket of a woman’s hair cascading down the sleeve and profile across the chest.


Schiaparelli made hats to draw attention to herself, as well as others. It is said the lamb chop hat with a white frill at the bone was the first of her hats to gain attention for the absurd.

Famous women wore her hats. Marlene Deitrich is known for a photo among hats with a cigarette and legs outstretched. Mrs. Daisy Fellows, former Harper Bazaar editor, was the one who wore the shoe hat and brought Americans to their knees in awe over her Schiaparelli look. The shoe hat was originally inspired by Salvadore Dali, a Surrealist artist who collaborated on her fashion design.



Elsa did animal skin hats, with the face of a big cat looking on as she wore this on her own head. Rather distracting, if I say so myself. Mostly Elsa favored wearing turbans.


She had one design that was the most copied. It was a knit tube with one end closed, called a MadCap. This was copied by Madcaps company founder Mr. Soloman, who retired a millionaire to Florida. Schiap came to despise the design as she came to see it everywhere. Imitations were sold finally at the five and dime and perhaps those worn on the head of each newborn was the tipping point for her dismay. She then had her staff dispose of any of their design and prohibited talking of it again. The part where imitation is the greatest form of flattery did not work for Schiaparelli.

Top Ten Tidbits on Schiaparelli
#1 Born 9/10/1890, died 11/13/1973.
Born in Italy to a mother of aristocracy ( and some Scottish background), and father a professor and scholar of old coins. Her uncle, was an astronomer who found the canals of Mars. Elsa had an older beautiful sister, but Elsa had “beauty marks” on her face referred to as the Big Dipper, by her uncle.

#2 Hated name Elsa, called herself Schiap.
Even in youth the name Elsa was not acceptable to her, and insisted everyone call her Schiap. Her parent were hoping for a boy, and had no name for a girl. At her christening they chose Elsa, the name of her nurse, not your typical choice. Her youth was anything but dull. She was sent by her family to a Swiss boarding convent school, but her wild side did not fit well with expectations. She went on a hunger strike, which resulted in her father coming to bring her back home, ending the 3 month education. Some near miss marriages occurred, one with a much older man, an Arab while she was 13 and visiting in Tunisia, which her father would not allow. An arranged marriage to a wealthy Russian would not be acceptable to Elsa no matter how hard she was persuaded by her family. She may have been enamored by a lower class fellow, who may have really been the love of her life, as she called out his name several times upon her deathbed.
Once on her own she went to attend a fancy event in Paris, but without a suitable gown she was left to create an emergency outfit. She did not know how to sew, but purchased many yards of fabric and kept it together with pins. While dancing a tango the pins were falling out at an astonishing rate to the point she had to be shielded by her escort to depart before a total unveiling.

#3 Moved to NYC in 1922 but divorced when deserted, age 31.
In 1914 she married a man of questionable repute, a “Count” de Kerlor. She had attended a lecture by him on theosophy, but she did not leave the audience when other attendees left. By morning they were engaged. He, tho, was lured away during their marriage by the charms of Isadore Duncan. Isadore died when her long scarf caught in her car’s axle in 1927 and was strangled. He sought fame in some manner as a psychic detective, and writer. Fortune did not follow. He ended up murdered in Mexico at the age of 39.

#4 One daughter, Gogo. Born Maria Luisa, but then her father deserted mother and child, who had Polio. Some felt Schiap was not close to her daughter, but some thought her ingenious with what she did to support her. The blow that led to speculation was when Gogo married in NY while her mother was in Paris, unaware of the marriage.

#5 Initial success was a knit sweater done in 1927, in Paris. She had left NYC in 1922 and found rejection in Paris, closing in 1926. The sweater was of a knit she had seen made by Armenians. She commissioned them to create for her, which became wildly successful.

#6 Long standing disdain for Coco Chanel.
Chanel was established when Schiap came back to Paris. Very different styles. After WWII there was a downward spiral for Schiap, while Chanel reopened in 1954 with ongoing success, heavily based upon American appreciation.

#7 Signature color legacy Shocking Pink.
It embodied her overall philosophy of shocking people with her actions. Her erotic poetry as a teenager is said to have essentially brought her much criticism from family. Accounts vary if this was when she was 14 or 21. Her fashion designs could be just as provocative, as in the Lobster dress for the trousseau of Wallis Simpson, soon to be Mrs. Windsor.
There was a lamb chop hat worn by Gala Dali, Mrs. Salvatore Dali, with a suit of drawers for pockets.
Daisy Fellows, of Harpers Bazaar, wore the shoe hat, based upon the inspiration of Salvatore Dali.

#8 Autobiography “Shocking Life.”
This 1954 book did not receive critical acclaim, mostly based on the manner in which it was written. Some felt if she would have allowed for a collaboration with a writer, things would have been better.
The 2014 biography, Elsa Schiaparelli by M. Secrest also focused on the speculation that Schiap was a WWII German collaborator. Records are reviewed which were kept monthly by the FBI on her for two and a half years.
In 2013 there was an exhibit of designs by Prada and Schiaparelli in NY.That book is a wonderful review of her work; ” Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations.”

#9 Business bankrupt and closed 1954.
Returned from the US after the war to find her business intact, and reopened. The upswing of the Dior New Look in 1947 was the fashion world favorite, leaving the Hard Chic Schiap designs out cold. Closed in 1954, but licensing was an area in which she excelled. Perfume, lingerie, eyewear, and hats seem to be the likely best fit. Endorsements of other companies became an important aspect as well.

#10 Two granddaughters. Berry Berenson Perkins, (Mrs. Tony Perkins, wife of the actor who died in 1996 of AIDS), had two sons, Oz Perkins and Elvis Perkins. Berry had been a photographer who died in 9/11 when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the Twin Towers. The other granddaughter is Marisa Berenson, actress and model, supportive of the revived Schiaparelli label. Marisa lived with Schiap and had a closeness that may have been greater than she had with her own daughter, Gogo. Marisa faced criticism in the 1970s at her short mini skirt wardrobe from Schiap, even tho Schiap was most known for her controversial designs. Marisa was with her till the end. Her legacy? Beyond the designs, there are others who worked for her early in their careers, such as Hubert Givency, and Pierre Cardin. In 2006 Diego Della Villa bought the company name, and in August 2013 brought on Marco Zanini. The first collection appeared in 2014.The revival of the company has pleased Marisa, and it seems the legacy of fashion may live on.

Hats:Lamb chop, Shoe, Hens Nest, Ink Pot, Telephone, Lobster



Hats in Chicago?

In April 1946 Marshall Field, and Co held a month long event, Forum of International Fashion. They brought in  seventeen designers from the US and abroad. Elsa Schiaparelli was the first designer to present, on April 8, 1946. The ad for the Forum was an entire page, sure to catch the eye of every female reader.



For an overview of the entire Forum, the Chicgao Tribune started off with a full page to  introduce the daily stars:

(For more information on the Forum, see blog entry of Feb. 24, 2016)

It certainly would be wonderful to have seen those fashions, and the hats made for each ensemble.

Back to the present. Some of the books mentioned are in local libraries, but having those photos to savor again and again is easily accomplished. Visit your local independent bookseller and have them order it, if it is not already in stock. Chicagoans can head to Bookends and Beginning, in Evanston. They are more than willing to order, just call, then visit.





Chicago Millinery History: Raymond Hudd Lives On March 18, 2012

The annual Service Club of Chicago spring luncheon is coming up May 10, 2012, featuring the millinery of Raymond Hudd. Last year Bes Ben was featured, and this year we have moved on in time to the era of 1950 forward.

There will be Raymond hats on display from a couple of Chicago collectors, but one wonders if there are more of the whimsical ones hidden in a closet or two. There are over 100 in the collection of the Chicago  History Museum, and those were featured in an exhibit curated by Timothy Long, Hats Over the Edge, in 2001.

Since those closet stored hats are so elusive one wonders if there are photos of women wearing his hats to also be part  part of the exhibit. So here is the call for those pictures to come out of hiding, shoe box or album. And if you are feeling generous, perhaps even allow those pictures to be added to the ebook currently being written about Raymond, to record them for history.

These five are just a few from the collection of Iris Sholder for the luncheon exhibit. Check back as photos of other exhibit hats will be added later.

Looking forward to hearing about your Raymond hats.


In Retrospect: Raymond Hudd December 19, 2011

Today would have been Raymond Hudd’s birthday, but sadly he passed away this summer.

His talent was phenomenal, and his generosity more so.

He is missed by many, but here is a collection of things and memories: My favorite Raymond inspired hat. The large straw is one we played with in spring 2011. The yellow straw  on the cover of the Chicago Daily News TV Guide made him proud. The small gold lame to the left of the straw with black feathers is a mate to a pair bought by his friend, Iris Sholder and I. The photos in the back are of many owned and worn by another client and friend, Jean. (click on photo to enlarge to see more). The small photo on the straw hat include one of a bird hat, which is a fond memory for his client and friend Nancy. The small photo of him dancing is with his friend Eia, who carried on his name when establishing the Raymond Hudd Award for students at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago. The framed announcement was from the event Falling Head First Millinery: Chicago Millinery Past and Present.  Raymond was honored one day of the three day event, in great part thanks to Laurie Kennard. If you visit the Chapeau site scroll down to the bottom to see the QuickTime link to her video: In Everything I Saw A Hat.


Chicago Millinery History: Raymond Hudd Memorial August 27, 2011 July 27, 2011

The Chicagoland memorial for Raymond Hudd will be held August 27, 2011 at 1:30pm at The King Home Huss Gallery at 1555 Oak, Evanston, IL.

If you wish more details please add a comment that the details can be shared with you. You are also encouraged to add memories here or to the online page:

If you are unable to attend but wish to share a Hudd hat to be on display, we will be delighted to include your hat and return it to you.  Please add a comment for more details. Any hats on display one wants to donate for the upcoming silent auction later in 2011, would be welcome. That auction will fund the  annual School of the Art Institute of Chicago Raymond Hudd Millinery Award. For more details of the award please review:


Bes Ben Hat Luncheon of The Service Club of Chicago May 18, 2011

Sherry Lea Holson did Benjamin Green-Field proud. Her organization of this wonderful luncheon for the oldest service organization in Chicago, the Service Club of  Chicago, was held today to honor the work of Benjamin Green-Field of Bes Ben hats. The presentation by noted Bes Ben historian, Elizabeth Jachimowicz with a slide show  had ladies laughing at some unique hats.

Just as Elizabeth is seen here reviewing the exhibit hats, she has been studying these hats since her 15 years at the Chicago History Museum when Ben was present for the exhibit of his works. There are many hats that have crossed her hands, and each one has all of the details recorded in detail. There were stories of his successes and his hats. Just in case you were needing a new tidbit, she explained that he started in 1919 with his sister Bessie, creating hats designed to reflect the latest Paris styles. His travels to Paris included returning with prime examples of what women around the world wanted. After ten years Bessie removed herself from the business, but the name remained. At that point he consolidated their several stores to the one most folks recall, in the 900 block of Michigan Avenue. He left many decades later only because the building was to be torn down. One Mag Mile now stands in its place.

As far as Bes Ben Hats, you could admire some on loan in the midst of a pleasant room at the Club, or on the heads of several attendees. Sherry Lea Holson wore the coral hat that was heavier than most other Bes Bens in the place. Two attendees from the Benjamin Green-Field Foundation wore delightful small hats, as well as an iridescent one on the head of Iris Sholder,  the newest Bes Ben fan. Another woman had on a delightful white number as well. And if there were more of you out there who were not sighted by this writer, please update us. Your willingness to share by wearing was most appreciated.

What hats were ladies wearing to this event? Overwhelmingly they were big brim hats. The Kentucky Derby had nothing on these 230 ladies. Many of the hats had been made especially for this day by the premier couture milliner from Chicago, Loreta Corsetti, who was resplendent in a voluminous cream (?) straw creation. Picture by John Reilly PhotographyAren’t John Reilly’s photos spectacular? Here are more:

Thank you John for real pictures.

Prizes were awarded for several categories to Mamie Walton, Laurie Davis,  Rochelle Trotter and Cheryl Bollinger.  Winners had delightful stories to tell . The two most memorable of the four stories were from Rochelle and Cheryl. Rochelle could not have been more excited, and had struggled even until last night to decide which hat to wear, making a John Koch of Chicago very notable. A rust/orange dupioni silk with an upturned brim was simple in its use of fabric in a way that made the design sing.

Cheryl could have been a contender if there were a category of largest hat as well.  She regaled everyone with her story of the Paw Paw, MI florist,  Sherri Taylor owner of Taylor’s Florist, who created a BIG hat to match her floral print dress. Based upon a black hat there were white flowers  bigger than nature ever intended. Perhaps I am misquoting her, but I think she said her husband thought it was a refrigerator that had been delivered when the box with the hat arrived. When I came home and told my husband the story of this hat and that we were making a trip to meet this newest milliner, he rolled his eyes. Men!

But speaking of men there were two who added much to the day. Patrick Kearney brought four hats from Susannin’s Auction of Chicago, and also represented Irene, who sadly missed the fun on behalf of Robert Feigenheimer. Four hats loaned from his sister’s estate were only a few of many purchases of Linda Feigenheimer. Elizabeth’s slide show ended with the picture of the Independence Hat. Linda had outbid a New York collector in 1999 at an auction for this hat. It was more than $18K, which remains the highest ever for a hat. But then she spent over $30K that day on Bes Ben hats alone.

The other gentleman present was Bunky Cushing who recorded details of this event that are far more inclusive than what is in this blog. For the inside scoop you must go to Thank heaven he has professional pictures to share.

Bunky joined in the hat judging, and this man knows style. It was a pleasure to confer with Elizabeth and he about the wonderful hats selected for prizes. If there could have been an additional twenty runner-up hats they would have included, in no particular order: Cheryl Coleman who went to Jill Henning of Ohio during the Kentucky Derby, Sally Shock in a floral knockout, Shanna Montgomery who insisted the bright pink headwear she sported did not qualify, tho really it did, Tracey Di Buono in the Butterfly creation of Philip Treacy, Tina Weller in a turquoise hat that made her dress a standout, Roni Siegel in feathers, Julie Peckham and Lily Hauf, both in Loreta Corsetti hats, and all those others whose names escaped me while enthralled with their hats.

All in all it was a perfect day in Chicago to wear a hat, as it will be again tomorrow.

Happy 2011!


Chicago Millinery History: The World of Bes Ben Hats Lives On in 2011 April 16, 2011

Filed under: Bes Ben,Chicago Millinery History — froufrou4youyou @ 10:38 am
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Chicago ladies gather for lunch for various reasons. Sometime it is still all about the hat.

May 17 is a big day for hats, lunch and Bes Ben. Benjamin Green-Field was a milliner of no small fame in the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s in Chicago. His life and times will be featured at just such a sold out lunch.

If you are in the Chicago loop that day you may see any or all of the attendees wearing wonderful hats. Some will be sporting vintage Bes Ben hats, some others from their own collections, and some purchased from current Chicago designers for this event. One can hope this sparks resurgence in love for Chicago millinery.

Not familiar with Bes Ben hats? Stop at the Chicago History Museum, there are always a few on display. Since it is a rotating exhibit you may come to find you will see quite a variety over the year. If you are not able to make the trip you can visit the GreenField Foundation website for a lovely selection, and background information on this gentleman.

Happy 107th day of 2011!