NU Archives’ Best Dead People: Charles Deering

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For Halloween, University Archives has created an exhibit to display in University Library honoring some of Northwestern’s most famous dead people. In case you aren’t able to make it to the exhibit, The Flipside has researched the lives of some of Northwestern’s most prolific figures.

Charles Deering was born in 1857 in the basement of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. The sole heir to the John Deere Corporation, Deering spent most of his childhood and adolescence squandering the family fortune on tobacco and donations to the Confederate Army.

Deering received a Bachelor’s Degree from Northwestern University with a concentration in Women’s Studies. Deering went on to co-found Playboy Magazine, entirely focusing on writing the articles. However, an unhappy marriage to Frances Willard compelled the magazine tycoon to turn to alcoholism, which explains most of Frances Willard’s life’s work. When Deering was not drinking himself into a stupor or writing Playboy articles, he spearheaded many campus improvement projects, such as installing air conditioning in Blomquist and putting a crosswalk in front of 1835 Hinman, and funding The Keg so Northwestern students could piss off his wife and the residents of Evanston even more effectively than he did.

If there were two things Charles Deering hated more than anything else, they were wide-open spaces and libraries. After he died, Frances Willard had both of them constructed in his name just to piss off his lingering spirit. He is still said to haunt the basement bathrooms of Deering Library and occasionally make the Internet flicker across campus during finals week.

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