This Veteran's Day, we would like to share the story of a Veteran who is dear to us at Tortoise Supper Club. Meet General Robert E. Wood. The General's portrait graces the space above the mantle of the fireplace in our gorgeous Parlor (fondly known as the Red Room). General Robert E. Wood was a great Chicago businessman. He started his career in the military, and notably was the Quartermaster General of the Panama Canal.
As an officer in the United States Army, he was stationed in the Phillipines participating in field service during the Philippine insurrection. From 1902 to 1903 he was assigned to Fort Assiniboin, Montana and then for three years as an instructor at West Point. In 1905 he became the Assistant Chief Quartermaster and later the Chief Quartermaster and Director of the Panama Railroad Company. He served in the Panama Canal Zone for ten years, during the construction of the canal.
Wood retired in July 1915, by special act of Congress as a Major. Following this retirement he worked as assistant to the vice president of the E.I. du Pont de Nemours Company and headed operations in the United States, Venezuela, and Trinidad for the General Asphalt Company. He briefly served as Purchasing Agent of the Emergency Fleet Corporation in early 1917.
In 1917, on the eve of America's entry into the First World War, Wood returned to the Army as an Infantry Lieutenant Colonel. He served in Europe with the 42nd (Rainbow) Division and was promoted to Colonel. Later in the war Wood would serve as transportation director for the entire American Expeditionary Forces in France. Toward the end of the war, he was promoted to brigadier general and made acting Quartermaster General of the Army. In 1916, prior to America's entry into the war, Woods' brother, Captain Stanley Wood, was killed in action while serving as a volunteer in the British Army.
When he retired from the military, he went into the private sector and eventually became the Chairman of the Board at Sears. Under Wood's leadership, Sears went from being the largest mail-order business primarily serving the rural population to the world's largest merchandiser. Wood's intuitive sense for retailing was finely honed, but it wasn't merely guesswork. Gen. Wood's basic measure of the Sear's success was the sales of shoes and hammers. His reason? Because everyone needed those two items. On the river side of the Merchandise Mart, you will find a large stone bust sculpture of General Wood alongside the likes of Ward, and Pirie among others.
From our family at Tortoise Supper Club, we want to wish our Veterans a very happy Veteran's Day and thank them from the bottom of our hearts for their service to our country.