H. H. Kohlsaat
Herman Henry Kohlsaat was born March 22, 1853 in Albion, Edwards County, Illinois, one of six children of Reimer and Sarah (Hall) Kohlsaat. His father had been an officer in the Danish Army, and immigrated to the United States, settling in Albion in 1835. Kohlsaat’s mother had immigrated to Illinois with her family from England in 1821. Reimer and Sarah Kohlsaat were abolitionists whose home was reportedly a station on the Underground Railroad. Kohlsaat’s siblings included Christian C. Kohlsaat, who later became a well known jurist in Chicago. The year following Herman’s birth, the Kohlsaat family moved to Galena, Illinois where he attended school and learned farm work until 1865, when his family moved to Chicago. He attended school in Chicago for two years and in 1867 went to work as a carrier for the Chicago Tribune. Kohlsaat later worked for several Chicago merchants, including Carson, Pirie, Scott and Co. He became a traveling salesman, eventually working for Blake, Shaw and Company, a wholesale bakery owned by R. Nelson Blake, who was to become Kohlsaat’s father-in-law. In 1880 Kohlsaat married Mabel E. Blake (born 1861 - died 1959) and became a junior partner of Blake, Shaw and Company in charge of a bakery-lunch establishment. In 1883 he bought out Blake, Shaw and Company’s interest in the establishment and started H.H. Kohlsaat and Company, which for about thirty years was one of the largest baking establishments in Chicago. He became the originator of the “bakery lunch,” and subsequently became successful in enterprises other than the bakery business.
From 1891 to 1893 he was part owner of the Chicago Inter Ocean. In 1894 Kohlsaat abandoned his interest in the Inter Ocean, and purchased the Chicago Times Herald and the Evening Post. From 1894 to 1901 he was editor and publisher of the Chicago Evening Post and the Times Herald. Under Kohlsaat’s direction, the newspapers became increasingly involved in national politics. He converted the papers from Democratic to Republican organs. In 1901, the Chicago Times Herald was amalgamated with the Chicago Record into the Chicago Record Herald of which paper he was editor from 1910 to 1912. In 1912 he bought the Inter Ocean, then bankrupt, and succeeded in seeing it through another receivership in 1914 in which year he combined it with the Record Herald, the new paper being known as the Chicago Herald. At the same time he retired from the publishing field.
Kohlsaat was a friend, confidant and advisor of five United States Presidents: McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson and Harding. He helped draft the gold standard plank during the Republican party's 1896 national convention in St. Louis. William McKinley's (then Governor of Ohio) campaign for the presidency against William Jennings Bryan was ultimately won on the gold standard issue. Kohlsaat was one of McKinley’s strongest allies. Kohlsaat visited McKinley at the White House in 1898. According to one published account, McKinley confided to Kohlsaat that he was having difficulty sleeping over an upcoming decision to go to war with Spain over Cuba. Kohlsaat later related that McKinley broke down in his presence and cried like a "boy of thirteen."
In 1923 Charles Scribner’s Sons published Kohlsaat’s book From McKinley to Harding: Personal Recollections of Our Presidents. The book, a collection of short chapters featuring Kohlsaat’s experiences with the five presidents, serves as Kohlsaat's memoirs. Kohlsaat also wrote several articles for the Saturday Evening Post in 1923 and 1924, including one of General U.S. Grant. Kohlsaat had a personal interest in General Grant, presumably influenced by his early childhood in Galena. In 1891 Kohlsaat presented Galena with a monument of the General for the city’s Grant Park.
Kohlsaat died October 17, 1924 in Washington, D.C., in town to attend the World Series. He was staying at the home of Herbert Hoover, then United States Secretary of Commerce. A memorial tablet in the Washington National Cathedral is dedicated to Kohlsaat.
Kohlsaat had two daughters. Pauline (born 1882 - died 1956) married Potter Palmer II. The Children's Home and Aid Society of Illinois has a distinguished award they bestow entitled the "Pauline K. Palmer Award". Katherine (born 1889 - died 1991) married Roger Bulkley Shepard of St. Paul, Minnesota and had four children, Roger B., Jr., Blake, Constance, and Stanley. In 2013, the Thomas Irvine Dodge Nature Center became the recipient of Katherine's family homestead in Cottage Grove, Minnesota which had been in her family for nine decades.
- Miller, Scott (2011). The President and the Assassin. New York: Random House. pp. 130–131. ISBN 978-1-4000-6752-7.
- Frederic Logan Paxson (1933). "Kohlsaat, Herman Henry". Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
- Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Kohlsaat, Herman Henry". Encyclopedia Americana. This work in turn cites:
- Flower, E., “H. H. Kohlsaat,” Cosmopolitan Magazine, Vol. XXXV, New York, 1903, p. 338
- Wellman, W., “Mr. Kohlsaat of Chicago and His Part in the Political History Making of 1896,” Review of Reviews, Vol. XV, New York, 1897, p. 41
- H. H. Kohlsaat, From McKinley to Harding: personal recollections of our presidents, 1923 (at archive.org)
- Pauline Kohlsaat Palmer (Mrs. Potter Palmer II)
- Children's Home and Aid Society of Illinois