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A Chicago Pioneer: J. Young Scammon

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Created: 3/9/2015      Updated: 8/2/2016

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The Laflin Memorial Building was the home of the Chicago Academy of Sciences for a century, giving the collection a more permanent home than it had had in years. Unfortunately, one of the men who was an early supporter and founder of the Academy died before it became a reality.

J. Young Scammon

Jonathan Young Scammon was born July 27, 1812 in Whitfield, Maine, and from an early age expressed a fondness for, and interest in, agriculture and horticulture. In fact, were it not for an accident that stripped him of the full use of his left hand. Instead, he studied law and was admitted to the bar. He began practicing and became an early settler of Chicago, arriving in the city in 1835. In 1837 he was selected as Attorney of the State Bank of Illinois, and in 1839 became reporter of the Illinois Supreme Court.

In addition to his legal work, Scammon became an organizer and supporter of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, created a charter for Chicago’s public school system, and established the first bank under the general banking law of Illinois. Despite this work, he never lost his love for nature, and kept a beautiful garden at his home on Michigan and Randolph. It was this interest in horticulture and the natural sciences in general that brought him to begin meeting with other original members of the Chicago Academy of Sciences in the offices of Dr. Edmund Andrews. Once the Academy was officially formed, and plans were discussed to create a museum, Scammon joined the Board of Trustees, and served on the Board until 1883. Scammon died 125 years ago today, on March 17, 1890.

Scammon truly was a Chicago pioneer. Visit the sources below to learn more about the contributions he made to the city, and the societies he worked to found and organize.

William H. Bushnell, Biographical Sketches of Some of the Early Settlers of the City of Chicago, pp. 19-31

Jonathan Young Scammon

Charles Henry Taylor, History of the Board of Trade of the City of Chicago, pp.122

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