Category Archives: Campbell

Dodging the Tax Man

tax dodging headline 2“But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

April 15, as we all know, is tax day.  The dreaded writing of checks, the rush to find stamps and hit the post office after work (for those of us who procrastinate) and the joy/disappointment that comes with receiving our tax refunds.  St. Louisans in the 1870s were none too fond of tax day either, as it turns out. Some sleuthing on the part of Campbell House’s senior researcher, Tom Gronski, turned up a couple of St. Louis Post-Dispatch articles from February 1879 showing not only that wealthy folks in St. Louis weren’t fond of paying their taxes, but that they actively hid money, often avoiding paying anything at all when tax season rolled around.

The investigative piece exposes a common practice among St. Louis’ upper echelon:

“One favorite way of evading the tax is to place their money in the hands of some real estate agent for loaning, and the money is turned over by notes to some confidential clerk by the agent, who signs the note and back it ‘without recourse.’ This clerk may not have a dollar of property and it is very easy to transfer notes of this kind, so that no on has any at the time the assessment returns are made.”

The articles go on to highlight some of the dodgy dealings of a few prominent St. Louisans, including J.B.C. Lucas, Charles Chouteau, Rudolph Bircher, and others.  Check out the gallery below as the author works his way through each person’s legally declared property (or suspicious lack thereof) when the assessor came calling.

Soooo, you might ask: “Where did Robert Campbell fall in all of this?”  An excellent question.  And, as far as we can tell, he was at least somewhat up front with the City of St. Louis about his wealth when he filed his 1878 state tax return (federal income taxes were not collected until 1913).  The Post-Dispatch reports a list of the wealthiest St. Louisans and what they declared in terms of real estate and personal bank account holdings.  Robert (highlighted in yellow) seems to be pretty up front about what he has in the bank, listing $319,000 in real estate holdings and just over $32,000 in his own personal bank account.


Some of his counterparts, however, have suspiciously little listed (highlighted in red).  One has to wonder how such high rollers managed to roll so high with $0 in the bank.  That’s not to say Robert comes out of all of this scot-free, though.  As up front as he seems to be in this report, he had to have been doing a bit of finagling of his own.  Just a few years earlier Robert had sold the site of the former Southern Hotel for hundreds of thousands of dollars and at the time of his death one year later in 1879, his estate was worth millions by today’s estimations.

So, the moral of this story is that some things never change and tax-dodging and exploiting loopholes are an age-old American art.  Have a happy April 15th!

To view the full text of either of the articles cited in this post, click HERE and HERE.

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Magical Mystery Tour, CHM style

Campbell House has its fair share of mysteries, ranging from odd architectural quirks of the building to questions about the intricacies of the Campbell family’s history.  But there are a couple recurring modern mysteries that rear their puzzling heads every few months here at the Museum.  Not that we’re complaining, in fact we look forward to them!  But that hasn’t stopped us from trying to get to the bottom of who’s behind them!

The Half-Dollar Donor

Every couple of months, we’ll go to open our big beautiful double front doors and find a silver surprise hanging out on the front steps.  Sometimes there’s just one, sometimes as many as three or four, but the gift is always the same: a Kennedy 50 cent piece.  The years on the coins range from 1971 all the way up to 1995 and, to date, this mystery person has left more than thirty of them!  A couple of weeks ago, two of the coins mysteriously appeared in the middle of the afternoon, between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.  Thanks to some nifty features of our security system, we could look back at video of our front steps during the time period and we found… absolutely nothing.  So the mystery continues…


Part of our mysterious collection of Kennedy half-dollars… they’re too cool to deposit!

Birthday Card Bewilderment

We’re always a little extra excited to get the mail when a Campbell birthday is coming up and we watch our calendar pretty closely as a result.  We obviously aren’t alone in our birthday vigilance, because on the birthdays of Robert and Virginia Campbell and their sons Hugh, Hazlett, and James (there were TEN MORE children, but unfortunately none survived past their 8th birthdays) a mysterious birthday card arrives without fail, marked with a return address of  “Somewhere in Time”.  Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated James’ (the baby of the family) 154th birthday and, like clockwork, we got a charming card in the mail.  What’s extra neat is that this mystery birthday card-sender takes care to get the cards in the mail so that they arrive right on the birthday itself- that’s dedication, folks.  Here are just a few of the cards and some of our particular favorites.

So there you have it.  Campbell House has oodles of mysteries, old and new.  Swing by and see us sometime, we’d be happy to give you the Magical Mystery Tour: CHM style.

Sorry, we couldn’t resist.

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Happy Pi Day from Campbell House!

Let there be great rejoicing throughout the land!  Pi Day (3.14) has arrived, and in honor of this most esteemed of mathematically-centric holidays, we have a little something special to share with you.  One of the crown jewels of the collection here at CHM is Virginia Campbell’s handwritten cookbook, with hundreds of recipes ranging from the delicious (Almond Sponge Cake and Baked Macaroni and Cheese) to the, uh… other stuff (Pickled Oysters and Mushroom Catsup).  So we thought it would be neat to share Virginia’s recipe for mincemeat pie filling, something you don’t see too much of these days.  You’ll have to come up with the pie crust yourself, but we’ll get you most of the way there.

Here’s the original handwritten recipe…


“Mince Meat” recipe in Virginia Campbell’s hand

As you might notice, her recipe calls for THREE POUNDS of beef suet and 12 apples.  In the interest of time and so you don’t end up with enough mincemeat to feed a small army, we cut the batch down for you and put in some helpful 21st century cooking terminology and techniques.  Also, for those of you wondering what exactly “suet” consists of, click here.  (hint: beef and mutton fat, yum!)

What a perfectly perfect mincemeat pie SHOULD look like...

What a perfectly perfect mincemeat pie SHOULD look like…


1 and 1/2 cups suet, finely chopped.
6 apples, cored and finely chopped
2 cups currants
2 cups raisins
1/4 cup chopped citron
3 lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon cloves
1/2 tablespoon allspice
11 and 1/2 cups brandy


  1. Using a food processor place the suet, apples into the bowl.  Pulse to combine together.
  2. Remove the suet/apple mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients. (For a finder texture mince return to food processor and pulse until the desired texture is reached.)
  3. Tightly cover and refrigerate mincemeat for at least a week before using until ready to use in pies.  Will store refrigerated for up to six months.  Makes about 6 cups of mincemeat.

Many thanks to food historian and author Suzanne Corbett for putting the recipe in 21st century terms, keep an eye out over the next year as we publish a new, expanded edition of Virginia’s cookbook!

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Christmas at the Campbell House


Part of what makes Campbell House so unique is that the vast majority of everything you see when you go through the House is completely original.  No fakes, MSGs or fillers.  What you’re seeing belonged to the Campbells, was used by them on a daily basis, and is still calling CHM home more than 160 years later.  But when it comes to Christmastime at the Campbell House, we’ve had to be a little bit creative.

2929787835_xmas_tree_question_mark_M_answer_103_xlargeYou see, though we would like to say that all of the beautiful ornamentation, luscious greenery, and Victorian frills found throughout the building is spot-on original as well… it’s not.  In fact, we only have TWO original Campbell Christmas pieces in our collection.  That’s not two sets of decorations or two boxes… it’s two.  And there’s a pretty easy explanation for why this is.

The Campbells, as we’re well aware, knew how to throw a party.  Folks like President U.S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman, James Eads, and Henry Shaw regularly supped here at the House, and Virginia even had the formal parlor doubled in size to accommodate the elaborate get-togethers.  As you can imagine, their Christmas parties (and later, their son Hugh’s Christmas parties) would have been a grand affair, and the Campbells made sure their guests went home with gifts to remind them of the evening.  But these weren’t specialty gift bags or neon t-shirts with “Campbell Xmas Party 1854″ emblazoned across the front.  When you came to a Campbell Christmas party, you were allowed to take with you an ornament from their tree.  And, as many guests came and went through the halls of this grand home, so too did the Christmas decorations.  Kind of a neat tradition, right?  Great for the guests, not so great for us here at CHM who would love to get our mitts on some of those ornaments in the present day.

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Parlor tree, mid-construction.

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Completed parlor tree.

So, when you come through Campbell House this holiday season (and we HIGHLY encourage you to do so), know that you’re looking at our best guess of what a Campbell Christmas might have looked like.  Is it spot-on original?  No.  But it is quite the sight to behold.  Holiday decorating takes the better part of a month to complete.  It’s worth the effort.

Check out pictures below of the two remaining Campbell Christmas decorations in our collection.  Also some pictures of how we deck our halls during the holiday season!

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The only Campbell ornament remaining in the CHM collection. A small, celluloid (thin plastic-like material) piece depicting a young girl with a basket of apples. The ornament was taken off the Campbell Christmas tree and given to a young visitor in 1922.

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The only other Campbell Christmas piece still in our collection today, is this reindeer. Originally part of a full set of Santa’s eight reindeer that sat on the Campbells’ dining room table (see below), Vixen ended up with a different St. Louis family for more than 90 years before he was returned to Campbell House.

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Sterling silver harp nameplate on the critter’s back identifying him as Vixen. Please disregard the neon green iPhone case.


The original full set of reindeer on the Campbell family dining table,  circa 1895.

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A Thanksgiving Story: Father Dunne’s Boys and Hugh Campbell


“Father Dunne and some of his boys”

Father Dunne’s Newsboys’ Home and Protectorate, as an organization, will be 108 years old this coming February. Back in 1931, during the 25th anniversary celebration, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat recollected that, “A mysterious ‘Friend of the Home,’ who has never permitted his name to be known, began his ministrations at [at the Home on] Selby Place, sending every now and then a wagonload of provisions and leaving with Father Dunne, gifts of money, always anonymously. In those early days it is probable the home could not have existed but for this friend. Suffice it to say that his interest has never abated. A bountiful Thanksgiving dinner every year since then is one of his outstanding benefactions.” This is the story of who that anonymous benefactor was.


Fr. Peter Joseph Dunne

The future Father Peter Joseph Dunne was born June 29, 1870 in Chicago.  His father was a carpenter, but both his parents did not enjoy good health, and the family moved to a small farm in Kansas in 1873 to get away from “the stifling city streets.” Nevertheless, Peter Dunne’s mother died in 1879 and his father took Peter and his four siblings to reside in Kansas City, Missouri, where Peter’s father died three years later.  An orphan at the age of 12, Peter was employed in a printery, but later found work at the Catholic Orphans’ Home for Girls in Kansas City where his sisters resided.  Working various odd jobs and apprenticeships through age 24, Peter moved to St. Louis in the winter of 1891, where he first was a teamster, then, after panic of 1893, became night watchman at Saint Louis University.


Though poorly educated, the Jesuits put him on the path to priesthood. He spent four years at St. Benedict’s College in Atchison, Kansas, then entered Kenrick Seminary in 1898.  At age 32, Peter Joseph Dunne was ordained a priest on June 13, 1903. His first assignment was at St. Columbkille’s Church in Carondelet, then, in May 1905 to St. Rose’s Catholic Church.  No doubt always alert to the problems of parentless boys and the need for education, on September 10, 1905 he preached a sermon claiming the education of boys in St. Louis, as in the rest of the nation, was neglected in favor of girls. “Girls are not inclined by nature to be as bad as the boys,” thought Father Dunne. “Boys are not naturally bad, but they must be properly trained.” The St. Louis Republic newspaper reported, “The attack on the system of the instruction of youths as conducted by the Catholic Church is said to be the first public utterance of its kind.”

Untitled-1Perhaps in reaction to Father Dunne’s sermon, or perhaps it was already part of the plan, on December 6, 1905, Archbishop John Glennon announced the establishment of a “home for poor boys and girls” in St. Louis, most of whom worked menial jobs, such as selling newspapers or shining shoes, to survive on the streets. He appointed Father P. J. Dunne as director to “devise ways and means for its creation and maintenance.” The home was to be located on Sixteenth or Seventeenth Street, between Washington Avenue and O’Fallon Street (“the congested district east of Jefferson Avenue.”) According to Father Dunne, they would start with the boys:  “Newsboys, bootblacks and all homeless boys who are too old to find a shelter at orphanages will be cared for free of charge.” In addition, the home would provide “a refuge for boys who are arrested and taken before the juvenile court.”  Father Dunne would solicit funds from local businessmen: “Several prominent St. Louis philanthropists have already signified their willingness to do all within their power to promote the enterprise.”

IMG_6234But funds were slow in coming in. In early February 1906 Father Dunnes’ Newsboys’ Home opened at 1013 Selby Place (in north St. Louis, just across from today’s Carr Park). Three boys were the first residents. The first night there was no furniture, but a neighboring merchant loaned him blankets and comforts for the night.  Seventeen years later, at the annual Thanksgiving dinner, Father Dunne recalled how several days later “This kind man came to the house and I was not at home. He asked the cook if there was anything to eat in the house for the boys. She told him there was very little – one-half a loaf of bread and two doughnuts. The gentleman went to a wholesale house and sent up a two-horse load of groceries and provisions that lasted us many months.”

Per Father Dunne’s recollection, this same “unknown benefactor” would visit the Home as frequently as twice a week to check on things. By May 1906 the number of homeless boys had increased to 35. With the help of friends, including the anonymous gift-giver, Father Dunne rented a larger house at 2737 Locust Street.  It was here that the newsboys’

"That Feller", Mr. Hugh Campbell

“That Feller”, Mr. Hugh Campbell

celebrated their first Thanksgiving. The St. Louis Republic headline read “Prince of Mystery Stuffs Newsboys,” and described “that feller” – as the newsboys referred to the donor – as a “distinguished-looking, handsome and a thorough aristocrat in his bearing” who watched as the 56 residents ate turkey, dressing, rolls, fruit, nuts, pie, cake, and ice cream, all served by waiters “who looked as if they might have stepped out of the Arabian Nights.”  At each boy’s plate were a dollar bill, a box of Busy Bee candy, and a toy turkey.  The anonymous benefactor would go on to spend approximately $1,000 every Thanksgiving for the next 25 years to provide a similar feast. It was only after the donor’s death in 1931 that Father Dunne officially identified the sponsor as Hugh Campbell, Jr., the millionaire son of Robert Campbell.

Banquets occurred year after year, seemingly growing in excess (and certainly in the number of resident boys) over time. On November 10, 1907, just before the occasion of the second Thanksgiving banquet, Father Dunne’s Newsboys’ Home and Protectorate moved to brand new and even larger quarters at 3010 Washington Avenue, at the corner of Washington & Garrison avenues.  This was the result of donations from 30 local businessmen, with Hugh IMG_6230Campbell allegedly providing the bulk of the funds.  The Home could now provide for at least 125 boys, and more over time. By 1909, news reports recorded not only the sumptuous feast (always catered), but accompanied by a stringed orchestra (most often De Martini’s), that would entertain the boys with patriotic American or lively Irish music.  Each meal began with a prayer of thanks for the unknown benefactor, who seemed to attend in the early years, but less frequently as the years passed.  At its’ height, the Thanksgiving banquet provided no less than 600 pounds of turkey to feed upwards of 200 boys.

FrDunneHC2 (1)The newsboys referred to the stranger who provided the dinners as “that feller” or “Mr. Murphy.”  Hugh Campbell reportedly told Father Dunne that his donations were to remain anonymous, and if his name ever got out, the Newsboys’ Home “would never get another nickel.” He also told the priest, “You had better take what you can while I’m living because my will is made and you will get nothing when I die.”  It was only after his death on August 9, 1931 that the extent of his generosity to the Newsboys’ Home was made known.

During one of the Campbell estate lawsuits, in 1933, Father Dunne testified that Hugh Campbell first came to the Selby Place residence in 1906 after reading about the new home in the newspaper.  We know now that Hugh has always had an interest in these types of charitable organizations, having donated to the creation of a “Street Boys’ Home” in St. Louis in 1877.  Hugh also gave Father Dunne money, in addition to the cart full of food, and continued to provide for the home and specific boy’s in particular through the years.  Besides the Thanksgiving banquets, starting in 1906, Hugh donated the money for construction of the Washington Avenue building in 1907. In 1908 he donated portraits to the Home of Father Dunne, Cardinal Glennon, and the “original newsboy” Jimmy Fleming, in addition to funds for the marble altar in the chapel.  In 1909 he provided the money for the facility swimming pool.  Hugh also sent several of the boys through the Ranken School of Mechanical Trades, bought one boy an artificial leg, sent “fruit enough for six months” with the Thanksgiving day dinners, and furnished the Home’s 75 piece band with uniforms.

After Hugh’s death another “unknown benefactor” provided the Thanksgiving meal in 1931.  The banquets continued in the ensuing years, but news reports never again emphasized the extravagance of the feast.  Father Dunne died in March photo (6)1939.  In 1948, RKO pictures released a movie “Fighting Father Dunne” starring Pat O’Brien as Father Dunne, a fictionalized low budget response to 1938’s MGM production of “Boy’s Town.” This despite the fact that Father Dunne’s Newsboys Home and Protectorate had preceded Father Flanagan’s original home for homeless boys by 10 years and Boys’ Town by 14.


Father Dunne and boys with newly designed building at 3010 Washington Avenue


Former Dunne’s Newsboys’ Home building at 3010 Washington Avenue in the current day

The Newsboys’ Home and Protectorate continued through the years.  It remained at 3010 Washington Avenue, but in 1947 was reorganized and placed under the Catholic Charities department of children.  In 1956 the home celebrated its 50th anniversary at the Washington Avenue location.  In July 1970 the building at 3010 Washington Ave was sold to the Salvation Army and Father Dunne’s Newsboys’ Home moved to 4253 Clarence Ave (the building at 3010 Washington Avenue still stands today and was vacated in May 2013 by the Salvation Army). The concept of the homeless newsboys had changed over time, and services were provided for troubled and emotionally disturbed youth. In 1988, the Newsboys’ Home moved to 853 Dunn Rd (on the campus of the former Aquinas High School).  In 2006, “Father Dunne’s Old Newsboys’ Home,” a Catholic Charities’ agency providing residential services for boys in foster care, ages 12-21, was one of five agencies that merged to form Good Shepherd Children & Family Services.

**Special thanks to CHM Senior Research Tom Gronski for guest-writing this blog post.

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