Friday, October 26, 2012


For 24 years I was employed by The Washington National Insurance Company of Evanston, Illinois.  I started working for WNIC, as it was known, when I was in high school, and remained with the company until it was bought out in 1998.  I am still in touch with several of my coworkers from WNIC and we refer to those days as "the happiest days of our lives", and in many ways, they were.  I often still wear the service (Veterans) pin I received for twenty years of faithful service to WNIC and my former colleagues joke that I will probably be laid out in my casket wearing the pin as well.

But I must say that until now I had not considered putting Washington National Insurance Company on my tombstone - but that's not the case with the tombstone of Harry H. Hall.  Doing a Find a Grave photo search last Sunday at Rosehill Cemetery I happened upon Harry Hall's tombstone:

It says:
Harry H. Hall
Son Of
J.W. & A.L. Hall
Husband of
Cecile Howes Hall

A Prominent Clerk in
Com. Nat'l Bank.

Life's Duties Here Were Just
Begun, My Last Promotion
Is Heaven Won.

Let's see what we can find out about Harry.

Harry H. Hall was born in June of 1878 in Illinois, the son of John W. Hall and Almara Hall (nee Apthorp).

The 1900 Census already shows him as a "Bank Clerk" at the tender age of twenty-one.  On September 1, 1900, Harry was married to Miss Adaline Cecile Howes in Chicago by Dewitt C. Nye, a "Minister of the Gospel".

There is no more mention of Harry Hall in the newspapers until the announcement in the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 11, 1908 of his death on January 9th:

Harry died in the Garfield Park Sanitarium, where he had been for fifteen days, a victim of typhoid fever.

Postcard courtesy

Obviously Harry was very proud of being a Clerk at the Commercial National Bank of Chicago.  Here's how it looked when Harry worked there:

Commercial National Bank, Chicago - 1909
Postcard courtesy

The Commercial National Bank was formed during the Civil War and led by Henry F. Eames.  By the early 1870s Commercial National Bank had become one of the city's leading banks.  By the turn of the century, Commercial National had grown by absorbing several competitors.  In 1910, the merger of Commercial and The Continental National Bank created a new entity, the Continental & Commercial National Bank of Chicago, which had $175 million in deposits, making it one of the largest banks in the United States.  It continued to grow during the 1920s.  In 1929 it merged with Illinois Merchants Trust Co.; three years later, the bank's name became Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co.  During the Great Depression, the bank required a $50 million loan from Reconstruction Finance Corp. (a federal government agency) to stay afloat.  After World War II, the bank grew: by the beginning of the 1960s, Continental had over $3 billion in deposits and employed 5,000 people.  By the early 1970s, when it had 60 branches and affiliates around the world, the bank employed about 8,200 Chicago-area residents, many of whom worked at Continental's main offices on LaSalle Street in Chicago's loop.  During the early 1980s, after many of its large loans to companies in the oil and gas industries went bad, the bank experienced a sudden and unexpected crisis. Continental's Great Depression–era experience was repeated as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. came to the rescue.  In 1994, a diminished Continental was acquired by BankAmerica Corp. of San Francisco. 

Just as well that Harry didn't live long enough to see what happened to his beloved Commercial National Bank.

Harry H. Hall - faithful and prominent clerk of the Commercial National Bank of Chicago - May he rest in peace.

By the way, here are my Veterans pins.  Maybe I'll wear them in my casket after all.

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