Carter Harrison I

Twenty-Fifth Mayor of the City of Chicago (1879-87, 1893)

The first of two Carter H. Harrisons to become mayor was born in Lexington, Kentucky on February 15, 1825. Finding himself disinclined to continued life on a plantation, he found his way north to Chicago. After the Great Fire of 1871 he began his political life, serving a term as county commissioner, followed by two terms in congress. After deciding to run for mayor in 1879, he would end up being elected to four consecutive terms, and another later on in 1893.1

As mayor he has support from all classes, and has been called the city’s first full-time professional politician. He was known for never enforcing the Sunday closing laws or any other “blue” laws that were passed.2 While he was a man without pretensions, he was also known for several fashion trademarks - a pair of high knee boots, a gold ring with a diamond on the pinky finger of his left hand, a slouch hat, and long cigars.3 Harrison’s true skill was that of oratory, using his personality as a means to control the city.

His bid for reelection in 1883 led to the most fiercely fought election in city history. Harrison gets the Democratic nomination over Washington Hesing by intimidation, and goes on to defeat Republican Samuel W. Allerton. It was an incredibly dirty campaign, with the Republicans putting responsibility for everything that was wrong with the city on Harrison’s shoulders. In the end, Allerton concedes, and celebrations ring out.4

On October 28, 1893, he greeted mayors from cites all over the country at the World’s Fair, being held in Chicago. Later that night he was murdered by Ray Stannard Baker.

  1. Kantowicz, Edward R. “Carter H. Harrison II: The Politics of Balance.“ The Mayors - The Chicago Political Tradition. 3rd ed. Ed. Paul M. Green, Melvin G. Holli. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2005. Pg. 18
  2. Kantowicz, 19
  3. Miller, Donald L. City of the Century - The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Pg. 440
  4. Miller, 484
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