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Elizabeth Chandler Papers

Identifier: spe-c00004

Scope and Contents

This collection is made up almost entirely of letters, with a small number of newspaper clippings, photographs and hand-copied poems, prayers and literary excerpts. The letters, written primarily by Albert, document his near-decade living in Chicago, 1891-1899. He discusses attending the 1893 World’s Fair; dealing with the hard winters; living in boarding houses; farm life in Evanston; commuting around the city on foot, bicycle and train; his various business ventures; his time in the military during the Spanish American War; and his time in the National Guard as an amateur photographer at the Battle of Virden, the southern Illinois labor incident at which striking miners were killed in an altercation with authorities.


  • Creation: 1891 - 1931
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1891 - 1899


Language of Materials

Materials primarily in English, with some letters in German.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Elizabeth (Bessie) Chandler of Massachusetts traveled with her aunt, Mary Ware, to Tarpon Springs, Florida, in 1891. There she met Albert Hafner. Albert had immigrated to the United States from Switzerland with his brothers John and Joe sometime in the late 1800s. Albert and Bessie became engaged. Soon after, Bessie traveled to St. Augustine, Florida, with her aunt, where she spent much of the next decade, and Albert traveled onto Chicago where he began living. His brother John, sister-in-law Lena, and two nephews, Joe and John Jr., lived on a farm in Evanston. Albert spent much time there over the next 10 years, including living there for many months while his brother returned to Switzerland to visit their mother. Albert dabbled in a variety of business ventures over the years, from cigar sales for a supplier in Florida to real estate sales in the Chicago suburbs. In 1898, Albert spent time in the military during the Spanish American War. The same year, as a National Guard member, he served at the Battle of Virden, a labor clash in southern Illinois. Throughout, he wrote to Bessie of his experiences.

After eight years living apart with no movement toward marriage, Bessie suggested breaking the engagement. The last letter from Albert concedes to her wishes while speaking about his shame over the fact that he never felt financially stable enough to marry and support her. He then was called back to Switzerland because his mother was ill. It appears that he lived there for the rest of his life. The final letter from Bessie on June 18, 1899, tells Albert that she feels they will not be parted for long.

A small part of this collection includes Bessie’s later attempts to find Albert again. In 1929, she was able to locate one of his nephews, Joseph A. Hafner, who still lived in the Chicago area. Joseph confirmed that his Uncle Albert had remained in Switzerland and was still living, though he had not contacted him in years. Bessie’s letter encouraged Joseph to write his Uncle Albert and pass along her letter. It is unclear whether Bessie and Albert ever reconnected.


0.5 Linear Feet (in 1 box)


This collection is made up almost entirely of letters, with a small number of newspaper clippings, photographs and hand-copied poems, prayers and literary excerpts. The letters are written primarily by Albert Hafner to his fiancé Elizabeth (Bessie) Chandler, who was living in Florida. They document his near-decade living in Chicago, 1891-1899. The letters describe, among other things, the 1893 World's Fair, farm life in Evanston, cold winters, boarding houses, bicycling and business ventures from cigar sales to real estate.


Letters are arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased in 1998.

Processing Information

After being open for a few years for research, one researcher listed which letters specifically mentioned the 1893 World’s Fair. In 2018, the archivist annotated those six letters.

Guide to the Elizabeth Chandler Papers
Johanna Russ. Preliminary processing by volunteers in prior years. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
June 2014
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