Search billions of records on


Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 43-44

ROBERT ALEXANDER WALLER is one of the men whose enterprise, intelligence and foresight have combined to place Chicago among the foremost cities of the world. Not only has he encouraged and sustained the intellectual and moral culture of its citizens, but he has been identified with some of the most magnificent public enterprises known to modern times.  For more than a half-century the physical, commercial and mental powers of this great city have been constantly re-inforced by the accession of progressive and energetic men from every part of the civilized world.  Among this cosmopolitan people are many prominent representatives of the Blue Grass State, a region which has long been famous for the activity, refinement and intelligence of its citizens.

The subject of this notice combines the zeal and valor of the typical Kentuckian with the confidence, discernment and patriotism which characterize the true Chicagoan.  He was born in Lexington, Kentucky, June 2, 1850, and a few years later, with the other members of the family, became a resident of Chicago.  Extended notice of his parents, James and Lucy Waller, will be found elsewhere in this volume.

After a primary course in Chicago, Robert A. Waller entered Washington and Lee University, and completed his course in that institution at the age of twenty-two.  He returned to Chicago, and in the spring of the following year  entered the insurance office of D. L. Bowmar as office boy.  Two years later he became a partner of his former employer, and when Mr. Bowmar retired from business, owing to ill-health, in 1879, Mr. Waller became the sole proprietor.  Since that date the enterprise has been conducted under the name of R. A. Waller & Company, which is one of the best-known firms in that line of business in the city.

In 1892 he organized the Ashland Block Association, of which he has ever since been President.  The structure erected by that association in the same year is one of the finest and most conspicuous office buildings in the city.  When it was first proposed to hold the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, he became one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the movement.  He was elected one of the Board of Directors, and afterward became the Second Vice-President of the Exposition, which honorable position he continues to hold.  He helped to organize the Sheridan Drive Association, which has been active in securing the establishment of a pleasant road along the lake shore north of the city, and leading to Milwaukee, as a continuation of the famous Lake Shore Drive of the city.

He is the founder of Buena Park, one of the finest residence suburbs on the north shore, which is now within the city limits, and resides there with his family.  In February, 1893, Governor Altgeld appointed Mr. Waller one of the Lincoln Park Commissioners, and he soon afterward became the President of that body, succeeding Mr. W. C. Goudy, at the death of the latter.  Many valuable plans of improvement were executed under his administration.  Because of his refusal to introduce politics into the management of the park, he incurred the displeasure of the Governor, who asked his resignation.  With true and manly independence, he refused to resign, thus compelling Governor Altgeld to show his hand as a small politician by his removal.  Though a life-long Democrat, Mr. Waller preferred removal to meddling in petty politics.  He has always stood above mere partisanship, and has used his utmost influence to have the affairs of every department of the city administered for the general welfare of its people.  By refusing to prostitute his official position to political uses, to the detriment of the public service, he earned the respect and warm regard of large numbers in all political parties.  In July, 1895, he was appointed by Mayor Swift one of the Civil Service Commissioners provided for in the laws of March 20, 1895, to secure classification and promotion for merit alone in the departments of the City Government.

In June, 1876, Mr. Waller married Miss Lina Swigert Watson, of Frankfort, Kentucky, daughter of Dr. Edward Watson, of that city.   Mr. and Mrs. Waller have one son, Robert Alexander Waller, junior.  No family in Chicago stands higher socially than that of Mr. Waller.  He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and is identified with many of the most prominent clubs and associations.  His breadth of character and restless activity make him a useful and popular member of each of these organizations.

                                -- Submitted on 9/5/99 by Sherri Hessick ( )