The Samuel Carson Pirie Line




By Megan McKinney


Pirie dynasty founder and his wife with many of their descendants in a multi-generational shot:

Sarah Carson Pirie and John Thomas Pirie at the top with their daughter, Sarah Isobel.

Directly below them are Mary (Mrs. Norman D. Weir); Samuel Carson Pirie; Margaret Carson Pirie; John Taylor Pirie and slightly below, his wife Sophie.

Norman D. Weir; Allan Hawkins Pirie; Evelyn Weir North.

Isobel Pirie; Gordon Lenox Pirie.

John Thomas Pirie II, Margaret Elizabeth Pirie, Jessie Merns Weir Wuichet,

Children on the bottom row are Lockwood Masters Pirie (Woodie), John Taylor Pirie Jr., Samuel Carson Pirie Jr. and Robert S. Pirie.


Samuel Carson Pirie as a young adult.


Eldest of the second generation Piries, Samuel Carson Pirie grew to enjoy a robust life. Remembered as “a lean and leathery man,” he would become an avid yachtsman and, like other Piries, a hunter of big game. In 1899, he married Harriet Masters Lockwood.


Harriet Masters Lockwood Pirie.


Harriet and Samuel’s eldest child, John Thomas Pirie II, born in 1900, would marry Alice Quarles. He was followed in 1902 by Isobel, later Mrs. Benjamin Williams, and, in 1904, by Lockwood Masters Pirie, known as “Woodie.” Finally, in 1906, there was Samuel Carson Pirie II, later to marry Jean Kester Adams.

It was a child every year—or two—for Harriet and Samuel, then tragedy occurred. A year following the arrival of Samuel Carson Pirie II, Harriet again became pregnant; however, both she and the child died at its birth in June 1907. After only eight years of marriage, Samuel was a widower, and would remain one for the remainder of his life.


Samuel Carson Pirie’s Brooklyn base was 162 Prospect Place, which backed up to his parent’s Park Place house.


Samuel’s third child, Woodie, was a competitive sailor who would take a bronze medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. His boat was the Twin Star.


The more mature Samuel Carson Pirie.


The business career of Samuel Carson Pirie began in the family firm in 1885 and rose to a peak in 1930, when he was elected chairman of the board, an office he held until his death eight years later.

While summering in Newport in 1938, 74-year-old Samuel returned from a cruise in his power boat, Alanna, during the evening of August 11 and collapsed on the wharf. He died immediately; the medical examiner’s diagnosis was chronic myocarditis.

This brings us back to examine more closely the chain of eldest sons who link this distinguished 19th and early 20th century family line to more recent Chicagoans. It begins with the first son of founder John Thomas and Sarah Carson Pirie, yachtsman Samuel Carson Pirie, above.



Another of Samuel Carson Pirie’s handsome boats, The Oriole.


Samuel’s eldest son—born in 1900—was John Thomas Pirie II, who graduated from Princeton University in 1924 before joining Carson’s. A resident of Winnetka for nearly a quarter century, this grandson of both founders became manager of the credit sales department, then a vice president and director of Carson’s. Along the way, he served as a lieutenant in the Navy during World War II and was a member of the Indian Hill Club and the University Club of Chicago.

He died in December 1951, leaving his widow, the former Alice Quarles of Milwaukee, who lived until 1985. They were parents of two daughters, Harriet Pirie Pillsbury and Alice Pirie Wirtz, and a son, William Quarles Pirie.


Megan McKinney’s Classic Chicago series, The Department Store Piries, will continue on Sunday, December 10,  with The John Taylor Piries and a Glamorous Chain of Daisies.


Photography Courtesy of Alice Pirie Wirtz

Author Photo:

Robert F. Carl