Published: October 12, 2015

A Gathering of Great Minds: A lead up to The Field Museum

Jenna Lieblich, Membership Manager, Programs, Membership
Two men and a woman stand on a roof, overlooking the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.

In a Chicago newspaper communication, Frederick W. Putnam first proposed the idea of a Natural History Museum. Then the Curator of the Peabody Museum and Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University, Putnam believed the Columbian World Fair offered a great opportunity to make "an important contribution to science" by presenting ethnographic exhibitions of past and present peoples of America at the Fair. Initially, Putnam's ideas received great opposition, but Putnam refused to be silenced. On November 28, 1981, Putnam addressed the city of Chicago at The Commercial Club, urging people to take advantage of the great opportunity the Fair offered to found a museum, outlining a blueprint for the scientific preservation, discovery, and understanding of natural history. 

During the summer of 1893 there was another push to create a natural history museum from the collections assembled at the Fair. In July 1893, in a letter published by the Tribune, S.C. Eastman called attention once again to the proposal, initiating public interest and calling a public meeting to adopt measures to establish a new Chicago Museum. Over one hundred leading citizens attended the meeting. Under the name "The Columbian Museum of Chicago" an application was filed by sixty-five incorporators and fifteen trustees. On September 16, 1893, only six weeks before the end of the fair, the charter was granted.

(Check back next week to see how the story of The Field Museum unfolds.)

One hundred and twenty-two years ago, an act of philanthropy established The Field Museum. Today, support from members like you sustains that act. From fossils to fungi, mummies to meteorites, we have them all. Invest in YOUR museum. Mark your calendars for Wednesday, October 28, 2015 and make a gift on our first annual Giving Day! #FieldGivingDay

© The Field Museum, GN91806d, Photographer C.D. Arnold.