Saturday, October 13, 2018

Jacob Haish portrait finds new home

The Jacob Haish portrait now displayed at Founders Memorial Library | Photo by Jessi LaRue
A portrait of barbed wire baron Jacob Haish has finally joined images of his competitors Joseph Glidden and Isaac Ellwood.

The portrait of Haish was dedicated October 9 in the new Founders Gallery, located inside the Founders Memorial Library on the campus of Northern Illinois University. The portrait was always intended to reside on campus, but it had never made it there, until now.

Historian Steve Bigolin gave remarks during the dedication, speaking about the university's founders: Haish, Ellwood, Glidden, and Clinton Rosette. The university, then called Northern Illinois State Normal School, wanted images of its founders to display on campus. Legend says Ellwood paid for the creation of his portrait, along with Glidden's. Haish had his own made, and not much is known about a potential Rosette portrait.

The portrait of Jacob Haish. Its measurements are 78"x 60"x 7.5" | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Bigolin said once all three portraits were created, Haish was "embarrassed" by the small size of his portrait compared to those of his barbed wire competitors. Instead of giving the portrait to the school, he gifted it to a niece, and it still resides with Haish family in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, Ellwood and Glidden's portraits hung on each side of the Altgeld auditorium on campus. 

Haish then decided to have a bust made of himself, and that would sit in the original campus library (until that mysteriously disappeared decades later.)

Haish then had a new portrait created, but ended up liking it so much that he kept it for himself, instead of giving it to the school. The portrait was hung in his mansion, and stayed there until the night before the home's demolition in 1961. 
Portrait of Joseph Glidden in Founders Memorial Library | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Portrait of Isaac Ellwood in Founders Memorial Library | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Local lore tells us that members of the DeKalb Masonic Lodge, which Haish was a longtime member, "night requisitioned" the portrait the night before the home's demolition. The portrait would hang in two DeKalb lodge locations, until this year, when it was decided it would find its way to NIU, the home it was meant to have many, many, years ago. 

Ferald Bryan, member of the DeKalb Masonic Lodge, as well as president of the Friends of the NIU Library board, said it was not an easy decision to relocate the image of "Brother Jacob." But while renovating their temple building, members realized how much Haish loved DeKalb. After all, Haish helped found DeKalb and the university, he said.

"It seemed natural that it should come here," Bryan said. "More people needed to see it."

The portrait dedication ceremony October 9. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Images and a model of the Jacob Haish mansion on display during the portrait dedication | Photo by Jessi LaRue
The portrait now hangs proudly in the new Founders Gallery on the first floor of NIU's library, across from the portraits of Ellwood and Glidden. NIU President Lisa Freeman spoke during the dedication ceremony, noting the appropriate placement of Haish's portrait in the library, because of his "love of learning and passion for literacy."

As proudly as the portrait hangs, it is in need of repair. A tear in the portrait, as well as damage to the frame, are obvious. Experts have looked over the portrait and estimated that it needs $22,000 in repairs. 

Monetary donations are welcome to help fund the cost of restoring the portrait. 

Checks can be made to: "Northern Illinois University Libraries -- Haish Photograph Restoration"

Checks can be mailed to or dropped off at:

Libraries Administration
FO 428
Founders Memorial Library
Northern Illinois University
217 Normal Rd
DeKalb, IL 60115-2828

NIU President Lisa Freeman said in some ways, Haish was the "least credited" of DeKalb's founders. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Steve Bigolin said Haish's decision to make an even larger portrait of himself was because he could not be "outdone" by Glidden and Ellwood. | Photo by Jessi LaRue

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Barbed wire field trips, booklets in the works

The cover of the Joseph F. Glidden pamphlet currently used in DeKalb elementary schools. | Image provided by DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association

DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association (DAAHA) is working to educate DeKalb students on the city's barbed wire barons.

Currently, DeKalb School District #428 has a booklet that teaches the district's second grade students about Joseph F. Glidden. 

"The teachers really like the format and commented that it would be nice to have one on other key DeKalb figures," said Donna Langford, DAAHA manager of operations. 

Dr. Anne Almberg of Founder's Elementary wrote one on Annie Glidden, Ellwood House wrote on Isaac Ellwood, and DAAHA volunteered to do one on Jacob Haish.

The booklets are used to meet the curriculum's English Language Arts standards, combining local history with reading and writing exercises. A grant for the schools will cover the cost of printing these materials.

A field trip is also in the works to help further students' understanding of the barbed wire barons, and funding is needed to bus students to these locations: the Ellwood House Museum, the Glidden Homestead and Historical Center, and the parking lot which was once the location of the Haish mansion.

DAAHA estimates the total cost is $4,435.31 for eight days (8 elementary schools and 22 classes) to visit these locations. A grant application has been made to help with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade busing for field trips.The busing costs for the 3rd and 4th graders is in addition to the $4,435.31.

Want to help DeKalb elementary students learn more about the founders of their very own Barb City?

Monetary donations are needed to make these field trips happen each year, so hopefully the second grade classes can take this field trip each fall. 

Any size donation is appreciated for the second grade field trips and will help the grant funds go further for the 3rd and 4th graders. DAAHA is a 501(c)3 and can provide thank you letters to each donor to document the donation to a charitable organization. 

Donations can be sent by mail to:
111 South Second St.
Suite 204
DeKalb, IL 60115

Please specify that your donation is to help fund the second grade field trips.

For more information, email or call 815-756-8737.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Jacob Haish portrait dedication

Remember the story of Jacob Haish's larger than life portrait? The portrait once hung in the Haish mansion in DeKalb, before it was demolished in 1961. Local lore tells us that shortly before the home's demolition, the portrait was salvaged by Haish's "brothers" -- his fellow Masonic Lodge members.

The portrait has hung in the lodge for decades, but was recently moved to Founders Memorial Library at Northern Illinois University. There, it has been joined with images of Haish's fellow barbed wire barons, Isaac Ellwood and Joseph Glidden, to create the Founders Gallery. The gallery is located on the first floor of the college's library.

A dedication ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 9, at Founders Memorial Library, DeKalb. Local historian Steve Bigolin will speak about the history of DeKalb's founding fathers, including Haish. Refreshments will be served. Hope to see you there!

Flyer provided by Northern Illinois University Archives & Regional History Center

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Memories of the Jacob Haish mansion event

Detail of Jacob Haish mansion | Photo provided by Roger Alexander

From J.F. Glidden Homestead and Historical Center:

Go beyond imagining or remembering a seemingly lost DeKalb landmark.
At 2 p.m. on September 9 at the Glidden Homestead, Jessi Haish LaRue will give a presentation on inventor, manufacturer, and DeKalb benefactor Jacob Haish’s ornate mansion. She will explore the house from construction to demolition and where some items ended up. LaRue, a Haish family descendant, is a writer who blogs regularly about Jacob Haish at The blog shares photos, interviews and news articles which relate to Haish's life. LaRue has been documenting her 4th great uncle's story since early 2016 in an attempt to spread the story of the "underdog of barbed wire."
The scale model of the home from NIU’s Regional History Center will also be on view. People who remember the house are invited to come out and share their memories.
“The Haish house was an important historical site that seems lost to us,” says Rob Glover, executive director of Glidden Homestead. “But Jessi offers a rare chance to go beyond imagining or remembering the house. Visitors will be able to examine photos of the house over time and see the model of it to get a 360 degree view.”
Haish is renowned for his “S barb” patented in 1875.
Jacob Haish was born March 9, 1827, in Germany and came to America in 1835 when he was nine years old. In his youth, he learned the carpentry trade from his father and “possessed natural mechanical ingenuity and displayed ready aptitude in the use of tools.” At 19, he moved to Illinois and then to DeKalb in 1853 where he entered the lumber business. He built many of the city’s most notable buildings, past and present, including the Glidden Homestead.
His first barbed wire patent is dated January 20, 1874. His “S barb” was patented August 31, 1875. He followed these with many later designs for wire and other innovative devices.
Also on Sunday, you can tour the home where Joseph Glidden and his family lived when he created his most famous invention, see a working onsite blacksmith shop, and walk where Glidden walked. Joseph Glidden developed barbed wire in DeKalb in 1873 and went on to patent numerous other inventions. Glidden’s brick barn, where an archaeological excavation has taking place, can be considered the monument for the invention of barbed wire, a symbol of innovation in the Midwest, the workshop of an iconic inventor. Programs at Glidden Homestead are made possible in part by the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund.
A full season of programs highlighting “Time Machine” continues at the Glidden Homestead in 2018. A program listing can be found at http://www.gliddenhomestead .org/events.html. The Glidden Homestead, located at 921 W Lincoln Hwy, is open Tuesdays 10-2 or by special arrangement. Admission is $4 per adult and free for children younger than 14. For more information, visit or e-mail or call (815) 756-7904.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Haish fountain finds second life

Remember the sidewalk and fountain that local collector Jim Hovis saved from the Haish property? Those items have recently found new life.

The fountain that once sat on Jacob Haish's front lawn is now surrounded by pieces of sidewalk from the same original location. Jeff Marshall, of DeKalb, arranged these pieces together, giving them a second life. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Details of the Jacob Haish mansion fountain -- barbed wire. | Photo by Jessi LaRue
Jeff Marshall, Haish family descendant and enthusiast, has acquired these items and given them a new purpose. He has installed pieces of the limestone sidewalk beneath the original fountain that was featured on Jacob Haish's lawn.

Marshall, who owns his own landscaping company, was the perfect fit for putting this project together. With a little elbow grease, Marshall was able to revive some of the fountain's original color. He wanted the items to be displayed in a public place, but due to limited available options in the city of DeKalb, he installed these near his home. He encourages those who want to visit this display to contact him.

Click here to read the original story about the fountain, and click here for the original story on the sidewalk.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Haish engine at the Threshing Bee

A Haish Engine was spotted at this year's Sycamore Steam Show & Threshing Bee. The engine is a 1911 model, with 1.5 horsepower, owned by Bob Ronning, of Somonauk. Special thanks to Grace Druien for providing us with these photos.

Haish Engine | Photo by Grace Druien

Haish Engine | Photo by Grace Druien

Haish Engine | Photo by Grace Druien

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Haish Estate Now History

The below article was printed in the December 2, 1959, edition of the DeKalb Daily Chronicle:

Haish Estate Now History
- - -
Last Large Holding of Industrialist Changes Hands

The once sprawling real estate empire of Jacob Haish, DeKalb industrialist and pioneer who died February 19, 1926, passed quietly into history about 11 a.m. Tuesday.

The deed to the last piece of real estate remaining in the estate --- the big Haish farm on Annie Glidden Road just north of DeKalb --- was quietly passed to Joseph Katz of DeKalb by attorneys for the sole surviving trustee of the estate, P.A. Nehring.

Katz purchased the farm at auction September 24 for a record price of $1,035 an acre, or $277,380 for the entire farm. This was approved by Circuit Judge Mel Abrahamson of Naperville October 30.

The deed was exchanged for the final check in the offices of the Chicago Title & Trust Company in Sycamore shortly before noon Tuesday.

Katz said that he planned to start subdividing portions of the farm as soon as practicable, but would also continue to operate the farm as a farm until it is sub-divided or otherwise disposed of in some manner.

The first step in the subdividing of the estate will be about 15 acres in the extreme southeast corner of the big farm which lies adjacent to the city of DeKalb near the north end of Normal Road.

Katz said that this block of land which extends west along the south line of the farm and will be about three streets wide to the north will be subdivided immediately as soon as annexation problems to DeKalb, the DeKalb Sanitary District, and zoning problems are settled.

The area will be called Rolling Meadows and will contain around 50 to 60 homes.

For the present, traffic from the new subdivision will be by way of Normal Road, although Katz said he had future plans for extending Hillcrest Drive westwards to the area and ultimately to Annie Glidden Road.

Katz discussed his plans with the DeKalb City Plan Commission Tuesday night, but purely in a preliminary stage. He said plans were not sufficiently developed to make a definite announcement.