200 North Main Street | Bloomington, Illinois | 309-827-0428

Frank W. Aldrich Collection

Processed by: Rebecca Reeser, July 2004 | Reprocessed by: Michael Kozak, March 2008


Contents

  1. Collection Information
  2. Historical Sketch
  3. Photographs
  4. Scope and Content Note
  5. Box and Folder Inventory
Collection Information

Volume: 5 boxes
Dates: 1854, 1867, 1896, 1899-1953, 1955, 1974, 1976, 1978, 2001, 2002
Restrictions: Some brittle documents. Use photocopies unless authorized by Librarian / Archivist.
Reproduction: Permission to reproduce or publish material in this collection must be obtained in writing from the McLean County Museum of History.
Location: Archives

Historical Sketch

     Frank W. Aldrich was born on June 8, 1873, son of Carlin C. and Amanda Wilson Aldrich.  He spent much of his childhood in the town of McLean attending public school and developing hobbies that became lifelong interests.  As a child he enjoyed walking through the woods in Funk’s Grove and hunting for arrowheads in the fields.  These interests would not leave him when he left central Illinois to attend Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and later Yale University.  Upon graduating, Aldrich returned to central Illinois to join his father in business forming C.C. Aldrich and Son Bank in 1897.  There, he served as cashier for a number of years and managed estates and investments.  In addition to management, he was heavily involved in land sales and investments in the area.  C.C. Aldrich and Son Bank later became known as McLean State Bank and Trust, the name it kept until it closed.  Under Frank Aldrich’s leadership, this bank was one of three that remained solvent in McLean County after the bank holiday in 1932, a testament to Aldrich’s banking abilities.  Upon his retirement, Frank Aldrich bought out the bank’s stockholders and closed the bank because he did not feel comfortable leaving it in other hands.

  Frank Aldrich married Frances Scroggs of Champaign in October of 1897, then on November 6, 1912, he married Gertrude Harwood of Decatur.  Together they contracted a beautiful home at 1506 E. Washington Street in Bloomington where they resided the remainder of his life.  Local contractors completed construction, and Aldrich sought the noted Illinois landscape architect Jens Jensen to design the grounds.  Aldrich had two daughters, Dorothy F. and Virgini O., who became Mrs. Shannon Meriwether and Mrs. Joseph Van Vleck, and one stepson, Harry Harwood.

  During World War I, Frank Aldrich enlisted in the Red Cross Service.  He was appointed Field Director for a U.S. General Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut where he remained from May through November 1918.  He then became the Associate Director of Camp Service working at the headquarters of the Red Cross Atlantic Division in New York City. Of his service Aldrich claimed, “I feel that I could not have taken up more interesting and what I believe to be more important work than that being done by the Red Cross in the camps and hospitals…”  He expressed gratitude toward his hard working staff and a genuine appreciation for the time he spent getting to know patients and hearing their stories.  Before leaving the Red Cross, Aldrich was recognized for devising accounting and organizational systems that were adopted by camps throughout the country. 

  While Frank Aldrich was a banker by trade, he was remembered by many, locally and internationally, because of his hobbies.  In his obituary, Aldrich was described as “a serious student of natural history, archaeology, ornithology, and botany.”  Aldrich called himself a reformed hunter, and his lifestyle reflected this change.  Locally, he gave many lectures and speeches urging church and social groups to take an interest in their natural surroundings.  From May 1926 through May 1928, Aldrich wrote a weekly Nature Column for The Pantagraph with articles on area wildlife constructed from his own observations and research.  Aldrich’s own curiosity about the world around him is evident in the numerous letters of inquiry he sent throughout his lifetime seeking information on various plants and animals and responding to articles he read.  Aldrich was involved in a variety of organizations relating to his interests.  He joined the American Anthropological Association in 1926, became a U.S. Deputy Game Warden in 1932, and served as a committee member for the Illinois State Academy of Science from 1932-1933.  He was a large supporter of the Audubon Society, taking local residents on birding outings and attending Audubon Nature Camp.  In addition, he worked with others trying to secure the area he had loved so dearly since childhood, Funk’s Grove, as a state park.  In 1952, Governor Adlai E. Stevenson asked him to join the State Board of Museum Advisors, an honor which he accepted, but was not able to fulfill due to health problems.  These appointments demonstrate the level of proficiency he obtained and interest he displayed in several areas through personal study.

  Frank Aldrich’s work as an amateur archaeologist brought him international recognition.  Aldrich is responsible for reassembling one of the most well-preserved Native American flint collections ever found.  The Mackinaw Cache, an assemblage of pre-historic lithic work, was discovered by gravel workers in 1916 and given away.  Upon hearing of this find, Aldrich corresponded with owners and reassembled thirty-one of the Native American masterpieces.  Aldrich worked earnestly securing casts of this collection for all who were interested including the Smithsonian and the U.S. National Museum.  He donated the flints to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and they remain what Smithsonian Anthropology head curator Dr. W.H. Holmes called “the best examples of chipped flint work ever found in America.”  Thus, a boyhood arrowhead collector recognized the masterful craftsmanship of an artist who lived hundreds of years before.

  In addition to local archaeology, Frank Aldrich developed an interest in prehistoric man during a 1921 trip to France.  This led him to join a three-month expedition led by George Grant MacCurdy of Yale University to study Prehistoric sites and collections in Europe in 1925.  As a member of the American School of Prehistoric Research, Aldrich participated in digs, museum tours, and lectures in England, France, Spain, and Germany.  Following this trip, Aldrich continued his prehistoric research and gave many lectures on prehistoric man and prehistoric art.

  Frank Aldrich also held a love for traveling.  He visited Europe on numerous occasions visiting friends and pursuing his research. His love for the great outdoors took him across the United States.  In his travels and at home, he kept journals of his observations and daily activities.  In addition, Aldrich was an avid correspondent.  He remained in contact with several people from the American School of Prehistoric Research, local friends, and friends he had acquired through his many hobbies.  One such friend was a German count, Graf Nesselrode, with whom he corresponded over the first half of the Twentieth Century discussing nature and hunting and tracing economic, political, and social conditions in their respective countries.

  Frank Aldrich, the banker, writer, lecturer, amateur archaeologist and naturalist, and true man of many trades died on January 25, 1953 in Ft. Myers, Florida.  Funeral services were held in Funk’s Grove.  His legacy survives in the wildflower seedlings he shared with over 150 local residents, in the contributions he made to the world of archaeology, in the flint collection given to the Illinois State Museum, in the many that he served during his tenure as a banker, and in the many that followed his advice and took a interest in the world around them.

Correspondence

Aldrich correspondents included:

John Gaylord Coulter, who earned a Ph.D. in botany from the University of Chicago and later became a government botanist in the Philippines. He wrote several standard textbooks in the field, including Plant Life and Plant Uses (American Book Company, 1913).

Jens Jenson, a Danish-born landscape architect known for his “prairie style” design work. Jensen designed the grounds for Aldrich’s residence at 1506 E. Washington St. in Bloomington.

George Grant MacCurdy, who formed the Anthropology Division of Yale University’s Peabody Museum. MacCurdy became a professor of prehistoric archeology at Yale, and authored, among other works, The Coming of Man, Pre-Man and Prehistoric Man (The University Society, 1935).


Scope and Contents Note

The Frank W. Aldrich collection contains personal artifacts, newspaper articles, essays and lectures, personal and professional correspondence, business papers, travel materials, and journals.  It is organized into boxes by category as follows:  Box 1 contains Frank W. Aldrich’s personal and family materials, home construction records, and personal correspondence.  Box 2 contains materials relating to Aldrich’s hobbies including nature, archaeology, and travel.  Box 3 contains business papers and land records from McLean State Bank and Trust, Aldrich’s business, as well as miscellaneous newspaper clippings.  Box 4 contains domestic travel materials, photographs, and journals written by Frank Aldrich.  Box 5 contains journals written by Frank Aldrich and miscellaneous publications.  The following is an itemized list of the collection’s contents.


Box and Folder Inventory
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  • Box 1
  • Box 2
  • Box 3