Michael Hinky Dink Kenna

First Ward Committeeman for 49 Years

Born 1857, Died 1946

From the rough Irish neighborhood known as "Connelly's Patch," Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna received his political education early in life, when he dropped out of school and began selling newspapers within the rough Levee district of Chicago.1 Many of the vice business owners he delivered to began to ask him to do favors for them, one of whom gave him the nickname that would stick for the rest of his life, "hinky dink," because of his small stature. He soon moves up to open his own regular newsstand, converting it into a lunch/coffee shop after the great fire of 1871. Kenna was 13 years old.

By the time he was 24, Kenna had opened a saloon within the Levee, and had the politics of the first ward greatly under his control. In order to create a political force out of the underworld, Kenna proposed a partnership with "Bathhouse" John Coughlin. Kenna's planning and grand vision combined with Coughlin's ability to spread the word, and created one of the most powerful machines in Chicago history. The first ward was theirs.2 A candidate with money was able to team up with their machine to "get out the vote," with pay set at $.50 a vote.3

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