As part of the roll-out of our expanded Civil War transcription project (see the announcement here) we tweeted a letter written by Ferdinand S. Winslow to his four year old son, William Herman. Several of our readers have wondered what became of the Winslows after the war, and the story is actually quite interesting.
Ferdinand Winslow was a Quartermaster during the war, serving at various ranks and taking on progressively greater responsibilities. He also seems to have been a dedicated family man, as the letter to “Herman” demonstrates. During the war Ferdinand and his wife Wilhelmina conceived another child, and Ferdinand was so eager to be with his family when the birth was imminent that he attempted to resign his post multiple times, writing with increasing desperation to Mina in hopes that he would join her soon. Unfortunately, the letters in our collection stop just before we learn if he was successful. The child was born in 1863 while the family was in St. Louis. Two more children came in 1866 and 1868—sadly, all three of these children died before reaching age 10. Ferdinand seems to have lived on for a good many years–there is some evidence he eventually settled in New York City.
William Herman, who received the letter from his father with the ring to kiss, went on to form a company with his brother, Francis, called Winslow Brothers Ornamental Iron Works. They were responsible for much of the decorative iron work that can still be seen around Chicago today, such as the façade to the Carson Pirie Scott building. William Herman Winslow, through his association with Louis Sullivan, befriended a young Frank Lloyd Wright, and commissioned Wright to design his home in River Forest, IL. Winslow and Wright set up a printing press in the basement and produced several private press books, including the significant piece House Beautiful, designed by Wright. The house is still standing today, a testament to a remarkable family that persevered through the Civil War and took part in the building of Chicago.