The House of Peacock first opened its doors on February 9, 1837, the same year Chicago (population 4,000) was incorporated as a city. According to one historian, the opening of the city’s first retail jewelry establishment in the small frame building on Lake Street marks Chicago’s passing “from semi-savage conditions to civilization and refinement.”
E.O. Gale wrote in his Reminiscences of Early Chicago “Elijah Peacock came here in 1837 and engaged in his trade of jewelry and watch repair, a calling that had already descended through three generations, following the English custom, and which his son Charles (C.D.), who was born in 1838, and who has been one of our leading men in that line, tells me will be continued indefinitely, as his mantle is slipping from his shoulders onto his sons.”
Now, of course, there were other things than jewelry needed in this new country, and one can picture the pleasures of the housewife, torn away from the comforts of the old homestead down East, at being enabled, through the House of Peacock, to set her table with a Sheratonian tea service or a Boardman coffee set, not to mention the soup tureens, hot-water dishes, ewers, basins, trays, and candlesticks needed throughout the home. The House of Peacock enabled upscale clientele to purchase some “old-world elegance”.
Men’s watches at this time were largely imported from Europe, and Chicago’s efficiency was based partly by the ability on the part of “the man in the street” to produce from his waistcoat a gold and silver case time pieces rather than wait to know the time until he could refer to the “grandfather’s clock” that stood in the hall at home. Founder Elijah Peacock, a skilled third generation watch and jewelry repairman, was lauded by his contemporaries for using his craft to repair pocket watches, thereby “quickening Chicago’s efficiency”.
Stability and permanence, these were the qualities that Chicago needed most at this time, and for these the founder of the House of Peacock and his successors have stood throughout her somewhat stormy career. It is such men as Elijah Peacock and Chicago’s first Mayor William B. Ogden, of whom the words of Burns are true, “The man’s the gowd for a’ that.”
When the great fire engulfed the city in 1871, headlines read, “Chicago in Ruin”. Fortunately the House of Peacock survived; all the valuable merchandise had been locked in a fireproof vault. Eighteen years later, Elijah passed the mantle to his son Charles Daniel, and in 1889, the name was changed to C.D.Peacock. As the city grew, C.D.Peacock expanded along with it. Each store was designed to be a showplace for the finest jewelry, watches, and gifts; only the best materials such as Verde Antico Serpentine marble were utilized. The magnificent brass doors from C.D.Peacock in the world-famous Palmer House are legendary. The House of Peacock, phoenix-like, flew over to 96 West Madison Street, after the fire, before the watches and clocks had time to run down and by 1873 was found “holding down the ground” at State and Washington Streets.
From the earliest days, the record books read like a veritable Who’s Who of Chicago: Cyrus McCormick (inventor of the reaper), George M. Pullman (inventor of the sleeping car), Potter Palmer, Marshall Field, Mary Todd Lincoln, and Mick Jagger. C.D.Peacock continues to cater discreetly to athletes, entertainers and other celebrities from Chicago and all parts of the United States.
The oldest guild jeweler in the Chicago area, C.D.Peacock’s tradition of commitment to quality and service continues today.