Evanston History Center dedicating year to celebrating Charles Dawes

Tucker Johnson, Reporter

The Evanston History Center is holding a series of special events to mark what would have been the 150th birthday of notable Evanstonian Charles Dawes, who served as U.S. vice president during the 1920s.

At its kickoff event in August, EHC announced the public phase of its fundraising campaign to renovate the Dawes House, which also serves as the center’s headquarters, and to fund the center for future generations. The center has already raised more than half of its $4 million goal, including a $100,000 matching gift from Jennifer Pritzker, a local billionaire philanthropist.

As part of the “Year of Dawes,” the EHC has developed a special exhibit on Dawes’ life, which is set to open in January 2016 and will offer lectures about Dawes’ family and the history of the Dawes House at 225 Greenwood St. EHC has yet to release its plans for “Year of Dawes” events for winter and spring 2016.

Dawes served as vice president under Calvin Coolidge and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for his work on restructuring German reparations from World War I. Dawes held several other prominent public positions including ambassador to the United Kingdom and was a general stationed in France during World War I.

“His career would put him in touch with all the grand events of the early 20th century,” said Jenny Thompson, EHC’s director of education. “(The Year of Dawes) is something really worthwhile and interesting for Evanston but also in terms of the larger American narrative.”

Eden Juron Pearlman, executive director of EHC, said the center will also be publishing two books, including Dawes’ World War I memoir and a new biography in partnership with Northwestern University Press.

Dawes’ 1921 memoir, “A Journal of the Great War,” covers his experiences while in charge of supply operations for American troops stationed in France during World War I. The currently untitled biography is set to be released by NU Press in August 2016.

“This is the first book that we’ve partnered (with EHC) on,” said Jane Bunker, director of NU Press.

Written by award-winning biographer Annette Dunlap, the book will be the first comprehensive biography of Dawes ever published.

In addition to his political notoriety, Dawes was a self-taught composer. One of his compositions, set to lyrics after his death in the 1950s, reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for six weeks in 1958.

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