Stories from the Big House


M & H Zinc Company

In 1856, Edward Hegeler, a 21-year-old graduate of the School of Mines in Freiberg, Saxony, Germany, immigrated to the United States with a classmate, Frederick Matthiessen, and established a zinc manufacturing empire.

The two young entrepreneurs moved west across the country until they reached La Salle, Illinois, where the ready availability of coal and access to Wisconsin-mined zinc ore provided the perfect setting for their business venture: a zinc smelter or refinery. Their timing was impeccable as the Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Company (M & H) was to become a major provider of zinc used in the production of armaments during the Civil War.

By 1880, M & H had become the largest zinc company in the U.S.; a manufacturing empire on the Illinois prairie. It maintained that distinction until 1910. Several inventions and innovations contributed to the success of the M & H Zinc Company.

Edward Hegeler invented a zinc smelter, known as the Hegeler Furnace, and patented a kiln that came to be used by zinc manufacturers the world over. The company pioneered the recovery of sulfur dioxide to manufacture sulfuric acid which M & H then distributed nationally.

Open Court Publishing

The Hegeler Carus Mansion was also the birthplace of Open Court Publishing Company, which Edward Hegeler launched in 1887.

The goals of Open Court were to provide a forum for the discussion of philosophy, science, and religion, and to make philosophical classics widely available by making them affordable. Hegeler was truly interested in an honest exchange of ideas and would print books and articles that he didn’t necessarily agree with.

Shortly after Open Court’s inception, Hegeler hired the German scholar Dr. Paul Carus as managing editor of the publishing company. Carus shared Hegeler’s interest in the relationship between science and religion. During his lifetime, Carus also wrote 75 books and nearly 1,500 articles on philosophy, religion, history, literature, politics, poetry, and mathematics, he also wrote music.

As well as publishing works by the world’s great thinkers, Open Court introduced two periodicals, The Open Court and The Monist, featuring essays from scholars around the globe. Thousands of philosophers, scientists, and authors including John Dewey, Clarence Darrow, Alexander Graham Bell, Upton Sinclair, and Ezra Pound corresponded regularly with Dr. Carus.

Open Court Publishing was housed on the ground floor of the Mansion for over 80 years.
The publishing company continues its original mission today by printing important works in the fields of philosophy, psychology, history, education, and popular culture.

Carus Corporation
In 1915 Edward Hegeler Carus, a grandson and namesake of Edward Hegeler, founded the Carus Chemical Company.
Today, Carus Corporation specializes in environmental remediation and manufacturing and application of  Potassium Permaganate--which is used to clean water and also a variety of manganese compounds.  Carus family members continue to manage the business today.

Carus Publishing Company
Today, Carus Publishing includes Open Court General Books and 14 children's magazines: CRICKET, LADYBUG, SPIDER, BABYBUG, and CICADA (mostly fiction), the non-fiction MUSE, ASK, and CLICK (published in conjunction with THE SMITHSONIAN), and COBBLESTONE, CALLIOPE, APPLESEEDS, FACES, ODYSSEY, and DIG.

Cricket Magazine Group began with the launch of the children's publication Cricket Magazine in 1973.  Current publications for young readers include fourteen different kid's magazines spanning ages from toddlers to teens and focusing on Literature & Imagination, History & Culture, and Science & Ideas. Collectively, the magazines have won every award in North America, including the Association of Educational Publishers Golden Lamp Award and the Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award.

The mission of CRICKET is to inspire children to a lifelong love of reading and learning.