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Horace G. Chase Papers

Identifier: spe-chas

Scope and Contents

The majority of the collection consists of correspondence involving the three Chase Brothers, principally 1880 to 1885. The collection is, however, not strictly company records, but rather Horace G. Chase’s papers inasmuch as he is the recipient of almost all the incoming correspondence.

Because of the dual nature of many of the letters as both business and personal, no attempt has been made to separate correspondence into two distinct series. The Chase genealogy in the printed guide available in the Special Collections Reading Room will help identify relationships between writers and recipients.

As much of the correspondence is on letterhead stationery, the collection is a valuable resource for 1880s Chicago business letter style. All items with a Chicago connection have been so noted in these folder titles. The journals of Horace Chase in 2:22 cover his apprenticeship in Boston; the journal in 2:23 concerns his New England life before coming to Chicago.


  • Creation: 1843 - 1902


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Horace Gair Chase was born in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, July 9, 1827, one of three sons of probate judge Horace and Betsy (Blanchard) Chase. His mother died when he was young, and his father remarried in June 1844. At age sixteen he was apprenticed to the mathematical and nautical instrument store of Samuel S. Thaxter & Son in Boston, where he remained for over a year until his health failed. He appears to have boarded with the Cushing family at this time. Off duty hours found young Horace at the library, various church and temperance meetings, and occasionally at the theatre. His politics at this time were yet undecided and he attended Democrat and Whig meetings with equal enthusiasm. By his twentieth birthday, Horace was back in Hopkinton working as a cobbler.

In 1852, Horace followed his brothers Samuel B. and Charles C. to Chicago and became employed by real estate dealer James H. Rees, who with Edward Rucker, originated the land abstract system in Chicago. In 1855, Horace and Samuel Chase joined fortunes with James Rees to form Rees, Chase & Co. Eventually, Mr. Rees was bought out, and the firm became Chase Brothers & Co. Over the next decade and a half, the fortunes of the firm improved, and Horace settled at 864 Prairie Avenue, and in 1869 at 924 Prairie Avenue. This latter address is now the 1900 block of that street, a neighborhood described in Mayer and Wade’s Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis as “the focus of fashionable living” in the 1860s. The Chase home was a block away from the Marshall Field mansion erected in 1874 and three blocks from the Philip Armour home.

In 1870, brother Charles C. Chase joined Chase Brothers & Co. The fourth partner was George H. Bailey, and the office was located at 48 LaSalle Street. After the fire of 1871, in which the Cook County abstract records were destroyed, it was found that Chase Brothers & Co. and two other abstract firms (Shortall & Hoard and Jones & Seller) had each lost part of their indices, but together had a complete set, with some duplicates. The three firms therefore merged, and still later consolidated with Chicago Title and Trust. Immediately after the fire, Chase Brothers & Co. established its offices at 299 W. Washington Street. Horace maintained a separate loan business with John B. Adams as well.

Horace G. Chase married in Chicago on June 14, 1860, to Ellen Marian Sherwin. They became the parents of four children: Samuel M., Bessie L.B., Lucy B., and Horace Stanley. Charles C. Chase married in 1874 to Bel (d. 1883) and moved to Lake View, then a separate city. Samuel B. Chase also settled in Lake View. Both Horace and Marian survived into the twentieth century, and in their retirement years summered at Hopkinton, New Hampshire. In politics he was a Republican. The Chases belonged to the Reformed Episcopal Church. He was a member of the Masonic Order.

An outline of the Chase Family Tree is provided here in the print version of this finding aid.


0.75 Linear Feet (in 2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection consists of correspondence, primarily related to the business of real estate in early Chicago.


This collection is arranged alphabetically by format or topic. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by name of writer/recipient pair, and chronologically within each writer/recipient grouping. Family, personal, and business material is interfiled. Writers who have written more than one letter have their own folders; writers of one letter are generally found in the Miscellaneous folders (1:38-41).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Dr. Joseph B. Francus, 1983.

Related Materials

A photograph of Chase’s home can be found in the Frank W. Smith Plate Glass Slide Collection. See GP-SMITH 778.

Guide to the Horace G. Chase Papers
Processed by Galen Wilson, May 1990. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
1990 May
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875