A Family of Record

Members of the Glessner-Lee family were prodigious chroniclers of their lives. John Jacob Glessner, Frances Glessner Lee’s father, was the son of a newspaperman and harbored an affection for the printed word for the rest of his days. His father, Jacob Glessner, published and edited newspapers throughout Ohio — the Somerset Whig, the St. Clairsville Gazette, the Cadiz Sentinel and others. When the elder Glessner was elected to the Ohio legislature in 1861, the 18-year-old John Jacob stepped up to edit the Zanesville Gazette in his absence.

As an adult, John Jacob Glessner produced several books, including a bound volume of reminiscences of business friends in the Commercial Club of Chicago, a forebear of the Chamber of Commerce. He also produced a manuscript about the family’s residence designed by H.H. Richardson, The House at 1800 Prairie Avenue, Chicago.

John Jacob’s wife, and Frances’ mother, Frances Macbeth Glessner, kept a written journal of the family’s daily routine from the 1875 until the 1930s. When she was unable to write journal entries due to bouts of chronic illness, John Jacob lovingly completed the task for her in his own careful writing. Letters, invitations, thank-you notes, newspaper clips and various pieces of ephemera were inserted between pages of Frances Macbeth’s journal. The full journal is available at the Chicago History Museum, and has been transcribed up to the year 1921.

During the 1950s and 60s, Frances Glessner Lee’s son, John Glessner Lee, produced a weekly family newsletter called the Lee News. Family members sent John Glessner Lee letters, which he curated, edited, and typed up for distribution. What a wonderful way for an extended family to keep in touch before the era of social media.

Drawing from Frances Macbeth’s journal, The House at 1800 Prairie Avenue, and a variety of other sources, in 1971 John Glessner Lee and his daughter, Percy Maxim Lee, produced a history of the Glessner-Lee-Blewett families titled Family Reunion.

Those who are interested in learning more about the Glessner family are fortunate to have a wealth of source material.

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