Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Seating chart prepared  by Frances Glessner

Seating chart prepared  by Frances Glessner

The Glessners celebrated Christmas in 1915 by hosting a dinner for 24 people at 1:00pm on Christmas Day.  Although the menu served was not recorded, the Glessner journal (by this time being written by John Glessner), and Frances Glessner’s dinner book both list the guests who were present.  Their dining room table was designed to accommodate 18; Frances Glessner noted, however, that the carpenter could extend the table to seat 24 when needed.

Mrs. Enrico (Juliette) Tramonti

Mrs. Enrico (Juliette) Tramonti

Two of the dinner guests, Mrs. Tramonti and Mrs. Bernhard, had come on Christmas Eve to decorate the Christmas tree.  Regarding Christmas Day, John Glessner wrote:

“Mr. and Mrs. Tramonti came to breakfast, then went elsewhere, and our Christmas party came at 12 to see the tree lighted.  Our dinner was at one and the party broke up about 4 p.m.  There were Frances Lee and her children, Mr. and Mrs. Stock, Mr. and Mrs. Tramonti, Mr. and Mrs. Wessels, Mr. and Mrs. Voegeli, Mr. and Mrs. Bernhard, Mr. and Mrs. von Holst, Helen and Anna, Mrs. Kennedy, Frank Baird, Vera Stock, Nathalie Gookin.  In the evening we went to the orchestra concert and had Frances Lee and Frank Baird in our box.  To list the presents is beyond me.”

So who were the guests invited to dine with the Glessners?  Not surprisingly, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was well represented, and in fact there were more people at the table with CSO connections than there were Glessner family members.  It is also interesting to note that a number of the guests were the ages of the Glessners’ children, such as Hermann von Holst and Enrico Tramonti, something that was actually quite typical when examining the dinner books.  Here is a synopsis of those present:

Frederick Stock

Frederick Stock

Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Stock and daughter Vera – Stock was appointed music director of the Theodore Thomas Orchestra (later the Chicago Symphony) in 1905, following the death of founding director Theodore Thomas.  Stock first came to the symphony in 1895 as a violist and was promoted to assistant conductor in 1899.  The Stocks were intimate friends, and in 1907, Stock had given a large portrait of himself to the Glessners for Christmas, inscribing it “to my best friends” (shown above).

Frederick J. Wessels

Frederick J. Wessels

Mr. and Mrs. Frederick J. Wessels – Wessels was the business manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the treasurer of The Orchestral Association.

Henry E. Voegeli

Henry E. Voegeli

Mr. and Mrs. Henry E. Voegeli – Voegeli was the assistant manager of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  The Voegelis and the Wessels were both frequent guests at the Glessners’ summer estate, The Rocks, in New Hampshire.

Enrico Tramonti

Enrico Tramonti

Mr. and Mrs. Enrico Tramonti – Tramonti was appointed principal harpist with the Symphony Orchestra in February 1902, continuing in that position for 25 years.  He and his wife Juliette were close friends of the Glessners, frequently spending holidays with the family. 

Mr. Frank T. Baird – Baird was a prominent vocal teacher and taught in Chicago for over forty years, in addition to serving as the long time organist at Third Presbyterian Church.  He was the accompanist for a number of well-known singers including Adelina Patti, Clara Louise Kellogg, and Annie Louise Carey.  Among his many students was the prominent actress and singer Lillian Russell.

Mr. and Mrs. Hermann von Holst – Von Holst was a prominent architect best remembered today for taking over Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural practice when Wright left for Europe in 1909.  Von Holst designed a number of buildings at the Glessners’ summer estate, The Rocks, including the home for their son George, which was von Holst’s first commission after opening his own office. 

Mr. and Mrs. Wilhelm Bernhard – Bernhard was also an architect, a graduate of the polytechnic academy in Dresden.  He specialized in city planning and in 1913 had won the first prize in the City Club competition for his layout of a model quarter section of land in Chicago.

Mrs. Nathalie Sieboth Kennedy – Kennedy had served as the reader for Frances Glessner’s Monday Morning Reading Class since the fall of 1902.  A lecturer and tutor, she served as president of The Fortnightly from 1910 to 1912, and was the daughter of Joseph Sieboth, a pupil of Felix Mendelssohn.  Her late husband, Prof. Horace Milton Kennedy of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, had died in 1885.

Miss Nathalie Gookin – 16 year old niece of Nathalie Kennedy.  Her father, Frederick William Gookin, also a good friend of the Glessners, was the long time curator of Japanese prints at the Art Institute of Chicago. 

Miss Helen Macbeth and Mrs. Anna Robertson – Frances Glessner’s sisters

Frances Glessner Lee – The Glessners’ daughter (she had divorced by this time)

John Lee (age 17), Frances Lee (age12), and Martha Lee (age 9) – children of Frances Glessner Lee and grandchildren of John and Frances Glessner

Note:  The CSO program for December 25, 1915 consisted of the following:
Pastorale from "Christmas Oratorio" -  Bach
A Short Serenade for String Orchestra (Kochel 525) - Mozart
Sonate, "The Flute of Pan" - Mouquet
Symphonic Poem "La Belle au Bois Dormant" - Bruneau
Symphony No. 2, D Minor, Opus 70 - Dvorak
The Mouquet was orchestrated and performed by Alfred Quensel, principal flutist with the CSO from 1896 to 1926.  It was the first performance of this piece in Chicago.  The Dvorak Symphony No. 2 is now listed as Symphony No. 7.
(Thank you to Frank Villella, CSO archivist, for providing this information)