Buckingham Fountain


Presented to this city by Miss Kate Buckingham in memory of her brother, Clarence, this fountain in Grant park east of the Congress street plaza, was modeled after the Latonia fountain of Versailles.  About twice the size of the original and by far the largest and most elaborate fountain in the world, it was unveiled Aug 26, 1927.  Provision for its perpetual maintenance was made by its donor.


Four pairs of bronze seahorses, cast in France, appear to be swimming in the main basin in tribute to the states bordering Lake Michigan - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.


It is the first fountain to make use of modern plumbing and lighting equipment, the latter being especially designed.  A 45,000 candlepower system of colored flood lights provides illumination for the water display, the central column of which raised to a maximum height of 90 feet.


Clarence Buckingham


Clarence Buckingham, for many years prominent in financial circles in Chicago, a collector of rare paintings and a director of the Art Institute, died last Thursday night (August 28, 1913) of heart disease at his residence at 2036 Prairie avenue.


Mr. Buckingham never married, and the only surviving members of his immediate family are two sisters, the Misses Kate and Maude Buckingham.  He was born at Zanesville, O., November 2, 1854, and moved with his parents to Chicago when only a boy.


He became associated with his father’s concern, the J. and E. Buckingham Co., dealers in grain, later absorbed by the Illinois Central railroad.  He then became a broker and was elected to the directorate of the Corn Exchange National Bank and the Illinois Trust and Savings Co.  At one time he served as president of the Northwestern Elevated railroad company.


He took a keen interest in art, serving as a director of the Art Institute and exhibiting his collection of etchings and Japanese prints.


He was a member of the Calumet, Chicago, Union League, Onewentsia and South Shore clubs.


Chicago Tribune.  August 30, 1913.


Kate Sturges Buckingham


Kate Sturges Buckingham was born in Zanesville, Ohio, August 3, 1858, and as an infant was brought to Chicago by her parents.  All her conscious life Chicago was her beloved home and she was pre-eminently a Chicagoan.


Her grandfather, Solomon Sturges, and her father, Ebenezer Buckingham, were important factors in the making of Chicago, so that her for the city had a possessive background - possessive with that keen sense of “noblesse oblige” which gave her a personal obligation to serve it, but which never allowed her to believe that what her family had done for Chicago, or what she did or could do for it gave her privileges among her fellow citizens.


Before and behind the Zanesville days, both sides of her family had records of high achievement in the East and in the Old Country to which she never referred.


She saw Chicago grow from a village into a great city and gradually one of her chief aims in life became that of making beauty and art available to the people of Chicago, and part of their daily lives.  This she had in mind when she built the Clarence Buckingham Fountain in memory of her brother.  This was in her mind when she sought great artists to design the memorial she wished built in Chicago to Alexander Hamilton.  This was in her mind as she added to her great collection in the Art Institute.  She often said, “When I was a girl, Chicagoans had to travel far and wide to see things of beauty.  I am glad I have lived to see the day when people now come from far and wide to see beautiful things in Chicago.”


Two things were significant about her gifts and artistic collections.  She gave nothing with her own name attached to it.  Her gifts were always memorials to others, and she kept for her own private use no object of art without first offering to one of Chicago’s museums.  Here, as well as with her many donations to music, she wanted to serve people.  Hers was truly the spirit that built a great Chicago, and the only spirit that will keep Chicago the great city its builders made it.


Townsfolk.  May, 1939.




    NOTE:  The following text was handwritten on the Chicago

           Historical Society document, By Ruth Hanneman. (JDK)


Father of Kate, Maude and Clarence Was:


Ebenezer Buckingham (from Old Northwest Genealogical Quarterly, January 1901 - has pictures)


Ebenezer’s father was Ebenezer Buckingham


    Born Feb 9, 1778, Greenfield, Conn.; died 1832.

    Married Nov 27, 1805, Kate Putnam (daughter of General

    Rufus Putnam).  (She died Mar 14, 1808, at birth of son.)


    He traces lineage thru Thomas Buckingham (one of the

    founders of Yale College).


    Second marriage:  Sarah Sturges of Fairfield, Conn., Mar

    31, 1812.


    Third marriage:  Eunice Hale of Glastonberry, Conn., Aug

    15, 1816.


Ebenezer’s mother was Esther (Bradley) Buckingham


    Children:  Stephen, Milton, Ebenezer, and others.


Father of Kate:  Did a lot at Zanesville, Ohio...banking, school systems, merchandise store, State Senate *1815-1816 and 1823-1824), promoted building (?) Canal (Ohio).


    Remark after his death:  “Boys, the Almighty knew what He

    was doing when he took away Ebenezer Buckingham.  If he had

    lived 10 years longer he would have owned all southeastern



Thomas Buckingham had a son, Thomas, who was a Puritan settler and ancestor to nearly all Buckingham’s in eastern and central part of USA.  He sailed from London in one of three ships; one was The Hector which arrived in Boston 26 June 1637.  Prominent in church and towns where they lived - 1794 Cooperstown, NY.  Studied math and surveying.  First work northwest of Ohio River.


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