The 1923 Polk Directory holds a wealth of information about the abundance of milliners in Chicago. But not all one could hope for, as it was not until the 1929 Directory where wives were included with the womens given names provided in the residential pages. Fortunately, Mary was still single when she had her shop.
Mary’s shop was at 2534 N. Milwaukee Avenue, but it is sadly torn down. Mary lived at 3120 Logan Blvd. This is a lovely spot across from parkway, in a lovely neighborhood just a couple blocks northeast of the store. The present day picture from Google Earth shows the building just as it was when Mary lived there. More importantly to me, it is just as it was when I walked past it everyday to take the bus to high school in the mid 1960s.
What was Mary’s story before the first indication she was creating a business for herself in millinery? Ancestry.com reveals so many tidbits one can create a storyline.
Mary E. Luckman is a name which shows up in the 1910 census in Dickinson, MI. This Mary is 10 years old and had been born in England. She was living with her parents, who had seven children, only four who were alive in 1910.
In 1920 Mary E Luckman, born in England, age 20, is a servant in the home of Gilbert A. Bliss, at 5625 Kenwood, a teacher of mathematics at the University of Chicago. All has not gone well for Gilbert, tho his two children, Elizabeth, 5 yrs old, and Ames, 16 months old, likely had plenty of attention, but no mother.
Back on June 15, 1912, 36 year old Gilbert married Helen Hurd, then 24. Elizabeth was born in IL, likely Chicago, about 1915. Ames was born Sept 4, 1918. WWI was in full swing, and Gilbert submitted his draft registration, age 42, on Sept 12, 1918, listing Helen as his emergency contact. What uncertain times for Helen, with a 3 year old and a newborn to face the fact she could lose her husband in the war. Somehow those worries were flipped backwards, as Helen was dead by the 1920 census, and it seems Gilbert never had to serve abroad, as the war ended Nov 11, 1918.
In the 1920 census, living with the Gilberts, and Mary E. Luckman, were two other mature women. One was a cousin, Blanche E Dickinson, 53, from IA, who was a kindergardner, working at school. The other woman was Alice E. Fischer, 55, a housekeeper from England.
Life changed quickly in 1920 at the Gilbert household, which probably prompted Mary to explore other work options. Gilbert remarried on Oct. 12, 1920, to Olive Hunter, 36. In the 1930 census it is just the two adults with the two children, and no other helpers were there. Did the stock market crash of 1929 cause the rest of the helpers to be sent away? Had Mary left not long after the marriage as the new bride may have preferred to be the mother and complete caretaker for her newly gained children?
The 1923 Polk Directory provided the listing of Mary’s shop on Milwaukee Av and living close by, but it was not long till things changed again, with the likely closure or sale of the shop.
April 30, 1924 Mary Luckman married John Gaecke, of Wisconsin, and moved to Wisconsin, at times living with his parents. One wonders what her hat looked like which she wore to her wedding. And what became of all the hats in the shop when she moved on to WI?
Somewhere along the way John and Mary moved to Pinellas, Florida, where they both died; Mary in Oct. 26,1980. One can just imagine Mary knew all the good Green Bay, WI hat shops before finding the warmth of Florida.
In honor of International Women’s Day today, here is a salute to Mary Luckman Gaecke, who found her way from Michigan to Illinois, to Wisconsin, to Florida, most likely with plenty of hats safely packed for the journey.