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Jesse Lowe Smith (1869-1934) was an educator and naturalist who served as Superintendent of Schools for District 107 and the principal of the Elm Place School in Highland Park, Illinois from 1902 until his death. A devoted, progressive pedagogue, Smith fostered a love and understanding of the natural world, the arts and culture in students during his tenure at Elm Place School. Smith served on the Highland Park Public Library board, as director of the North Shore Arts League, and as President of the Chicago chapter of the National Geographic Society. Additional civic activities included appointments on the Highland Park Tree and Parkway Commission, the Audubon Society of Chicago (Director) and Friends of Our Native Landscape (Director). He was an avid traveler in the United States and abroad.
Jesse Lowe Smith was born in Macon Illinois on November 23, 1869. From a young age, Smith expressed an avid interest in nature and learning. Smith attended DePauw University for one year in 1891 and received his teaching certificate in 1894 at the age of 25. After teaching at several different schools in Illinois including Lexington and Park Ridge, Smith became the principal of the Elm Place School in Highland Park Illinois in 1902 as well as the Superintendent of Schools for District 107. Smith held those posts for 32 years until his death on April 21, 1934 at the age of 65. Jesse Lowe Smith devoted his life to teaching and sharing his knowledge and love of nature with students. He was a proponent of progressive education including the use of the latest technology at the time, such as the lantern slides in this collection, and also by incorporating nature and the arts into the curriculum by including field trips into nature and to museums and cultural institutions. Jesse Lowe Smith was active on the Library board, and director of the North Shore Art League, and as well as president of the Chicago chapter of the National Geographic Society for which he led an expedition to Montana.