Charles Deering

Charles Deering was born in 1852. His mother died when he was only four years old, and he lived with his grandparents and grew up in Maine. Among his papers is a letter from his frugal father in Chicago encouraging him to be a good boy, and enclosing one dollar to buy stamps and paper to write him back.

Charles’ cherished ambition was a naval career. His father disapproved, but saw the wisdom of allowing his son to pursue his dreams. Charles excelled in his studies as a midshipman at Annapolis and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1873. Charles and his friend William Henry Schuetze outranked their classmates to such an extent that they were the only possibilities for first place in their class. Family history says he yielded first place to Schuetze, who would be a life-long friend, and graduated second that year at the Naval Academy.

Charles sacrificed his treasured pursuits for duty and loyalty to his father and family. After serving twelve years in the Navy, Charles resigned his commission at age 29 to join Deering Harvester. He was considered a natural leader, and used diplomacy and his knowledge of the world to build relationships for Deering Harvester and International Harvester. Charles managed the operations of raw materials and mines as well as coal and timber acquisitions for the Company. Charles served as Chairman of the Board of International Harvester from 1902-1910.

In addition to his business acumen, Charles possessed an innate artistic talent; his quick accurate sketches were prized by friends and family. He studied art and attained proficiency as a portrait painter in addition to being an enthusiastic art collector. During that time, he met John Singer Sargent with whom he developed a lifelong friendship. Sargent believed Charles could have had a successful art career.

Charles was a devoted Naturalist, planting gardens for bees and birds and building numerous aviaries at his homes in Florida and Illinois. His later years were spent in the beloved gardens he had created. Charles was a generous philanthropist, and much of his art collection was distributed after his death to the Art Institute of Chicago. He was a benefactor of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. When a hurricane devastated Miami in 1926, hundreds of dying and injured patients fill the hospital to capacity, and a temporary hospital facility opened at the McAllister HoteI nearby. In 1927 the Deering Family gave $610,000 to the hospital, no small amount in those days. He died at his home near Miami in 1927.