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The French theme commemorates an important chapter in the life of Robert R. McCormick, Cantigny's benefactor. In 1918, at age 37, Colonel McCormick commanded an artillery unit in the Battle of Cantigny in France as a member of the U.S. Army's First Division. It was America's first significant victory in World War I and the battle had a major impact on the Colonel. Upon returning to Wheaton, he renamed his estate after the tiny village in France that he and his fellow soldiers had liberated from German occupation.
In his will, McCormick established Cantigny "as a public park and museum for the recreation, instruction and welfare of the people of the State of Illinois." The 500-acre estate was his gift to the community and this event our gift to his legacy.