John Wentworth

Sixteenth Mayor of the City of Chicago (1857-58, 1860-61)

Born 1815, Died 1888

"Long John" Wentworth arrived in Chicago on October 27, 1836. Hailing from Sandwich, New Hampshire, the 21 year old had $30.00 in his pocket. He would become a master of dirty politics, and end up owning the “Chicago Democrat” newspaper, become city printer, a lawyer, serve five terms in Congress, and two terms as mayor.1

Considered to be the city's first strong mayor, despite the limitations of the office at the time. Known as independent and honest, Wentworth attempted to crack down on prostitution and wipe out the vice district. Elected March 3, 1857, the new mayor stood 6' 6'' and was around 300 lbs. An intimidating figure indeed.

On April 20, 1857, Long John, along with the Fire Department and 30 Policemen, led a famous raid on the vice district known as "The Sands." Using teams of horses they succeeded in pulling down nine shanties that were used as whorehouses. While destroying these, all he really accomplished was driving everyone from the area across the river, where they would regroup and continue business as usual.2

A few months later, on June 18, he continued his reformist ways, deciding that all low hanging signs in the city had to go. He had the police remove "every swinging sign, awning post or box found protruding two feet or more beyond the front of the buildings."3 The signs were then all thrown in a pile on State Street, where the owners could claim they if they desired.

When finally retiring, Wentworth become famous as an authority on the history and legend of Chicago. He died October 16, 1888.

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