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The Chicago Way – 1915 to 1955

William "Big Bill" Thompson

William "Big Bill" Thompson

As I noted earlier, Obamanation is attempting to rewrite history in an astonishing attempt to convince people that Illinois isn’t really corrupt.  So I thought I’s give a little history lesson on Chicago politics, starting with the Prohibition era.

William Hale Thompson (May 14, 1869 – March 19, 1944) was mayor of Chicago from 1915 to 1923 and again from 1927 to 1931.

Known as “Big Bill”, Thompson was the last Republican to serve as Mayor of Chicago. Early in his mayoral career, Thompson began to amass a war chest to support an eventual run for the Presidency by charging city drivers and inspectors $3 per month. In 1927, Al Capone’s support allowed Thompson to return to the mayor’s office.

Pledging to clean up Chicago and remove the crooks, Thompson instead turned his attention to the reformers, whom he considered the real criminals. During this final term in office, the “Pineapple Primary” occurred (April 10, 1928), so-called because of the bombs used to intimidate politicians. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre also took place while Thompson was mayor.

Amid growing discontent with Thompson’s leadership – particularly in the area of cleaning up Chicago’s reputation as the capital of organized crime – he was defeated in 1931 by Democrat Anton Cermak.

Thompson had had a longstanding rivalry with the McCormick family, including Robert Rutherford McCormick who published the Chicago Tribune.  After Thompson’s defeat, the Chicago Tribune wrote that:

For Chicago Thompson has meant filth, corruption, obscenity, idiocy and bankruptcy…. He has given the city an international reputation for moronic buffoonery, barbaric crime, triumphant hoodlumism, unchecked graft, and a dejected citizenship. He nearly ruined the property and completely destroyed the pride of the city. He made Chicago a byword for the collapse of American civilization. In his attempt to continue this he excelled himself as a liar and defamer of character.

Upon Thompson’s death, two safe deposit boxes in his name were discovered to contain nearly $1.5 million in cash.

William Emmett Dever (March 13, 1862–September 3, 1929) served as the Democratic mayor of Chicago from 1923 to 1927.

In 1923, Democratic party boss George Brennan selected Dever as having the best chance of defeating incumbent mayor William “Big Bill” Thompson. Dever ran on a reform platform and Thompson withdrew from the race in favor of Arthur C. Leuder, who was easily defeated by Dever.

Dever fought against the corrupting influence of bootleggers and gangsters. Despite considering himself a “wet”, he enforced prohibition since it was the law of the land. The media labeled his war on bootleggers as the “Great Beer War” and it resulted in a decline of crime.

By 1925, Chicago was in the middle of a gang war and many public officials were murdered. Dever tried to stem the violence and noted that although prohibition was a “tremendous mistake,” he had no choice but to enforce it.   Dever ran for re-election in 1927 against “Big Bill” Thompson, who defeated him by 83,000 votes.

Anton (Tony) Joseph Cermak, (May 9, 1873 – March 6, 1933) was the mayor of Chicago from 1931 until his assassination in 1933.

While shaking hands with President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida, on February 15, 1933, Cermak was shot and mortally wounded when Giuseppe Zangara, who attempted to assassinate Roosevelt, hit Cermak instead.

Later, rumors circulated that Cermak, not Roosevelt, had been the intended target, as his promise to clean up Chicago’s rampant lawlessness posed a threat to Al Capone and the Chicago organized crime syndicate.  According to Roosevelt biographer Jean Edward Smith, there is no proof for this theory.

Edward Joseph Kelly (May 1, 1876 – October 20, 1950) mayor of Chicago from 1933 to 1947.

Following the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak Kelly was hand picked by his friend, Patrick Nash, Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, for the mayoralty election of 1933. Together, Kelly and Nash built one of the most powerful, and most corrupt, big city political organizations, called the “Kelly-Nash Machine.”

Martin H. Kennelly (August 11, 1887 – November 29, 1961) served as the Democratic mayor of Chicago from 1947 to 1955.

When the city administration of Edward J. Kelly was threatened with defeat by corruption, scandal and Kelly’s liberal integrationist policies the Cook County Democratic Party Machine responded by dumping Kelly and slating the “reformist” Kennelly in his place.  Kennelly was elected Mayor of Chicago in 1947 and re-elected in 1951.

Kennelly proved to be too independent and reform oriented for his regular Democratic Party sponsors and was dumped by the party bosses at the 1955 endorsement slating in favor of Richard J. Daley. Daley soundly defeated Kennelly in the 1955 Democratic Primary and went on to election in 1955.

Tomorrow:  Richard J. Daley

(all references from Wikipedia)

91 Responses

  1. I love the Chicago Tribune reference.

    Apparently they have been a thorn in the side of politicians for decades.

  2. The Times (UK) sez Emanuel should resign:


    This can’t be a bus anymore; it’s gonna have to be a friggin’ freight train! 😛

  3. Off-topic:

    Season’s Greetings, folks. I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth; I just decided to take a break from politics.

    BTW, does reading anime slash fiction [fanfiction.net has an AMAZING Konata/Kagami trilogy by “RezleVettems”] qualify me as hentai, or is that only if I start WRITING the stuff? :mrgreen:

  4. Remember that Michelle Obama is a part of the machine. Her daddy was a precinct captain, I think.

  5. He has given the city an international reputation for moronic buffoonery, barbaric crime, triumphant hoodlumism, unchecked graft, and a dejected citizenship.

    Thompson can be proud that his legacy lives on — “the Chicago way.” The Obama attempt to “re-write” the history of Chicago reminds of Dallas when they changed their minds about killing off Bobby Ewing & decided to just “write off” the last season as “a dream.” The Obots have jumped the shark.

  6. I love history – thanks and keep it coming MIQ. Rather like Bu$h et al tried/is trying to rewrite history.

    OT but is anyone else experiencing snow falling here at the Confluence….I mean on the screen from the top?

  7. I couldn’t read all of the post, because the snowflakes started to trigger a migraine and I was getting nauseated. I hope I get used to them.

  8. Angie, and we thought nola was bad with $Bill Jefferson, the Morials and the Orleans Parish School Board.

    We’re pikers compared to the folks from Chi-town! 😆

  9. Boo Radly,

    I don’t think I’ll be able to read the blog until the snow stops falling. Now they are coming down past the comments. I have to go before I get really dizzy and sick. Night all!

  10. You mean everybody is seeing those little white dots?

  11. Yes, and they are making me sick! Is that something we have a choice about? I’m highly susceptible to motion sickness.

  12. I wasn’t going to say anything about the dots. I was waiting for them to change to pretty colors.

  13. Triggering a migraine? BB — really?

  14. I thought the snow was a virus — glad to know it’s RD’s Christmas gift to us.

    Obama chose Chicago, he wasn’t born there.

    And we are supposed to think he is uniquely unsullied by it? Ha.

  15. Yes, I saw the white dots, too.

  16. I started with the Chicago mayors because they are generally perceived as being more powerful than the governors.

  17. Katiebird,

    Yes, I’m sorry, but I can’t handle the snow apparently. Should I just come back after Xmas?

  18. No snow now?

  19. Bush looks to me like he knew the shoes were coming.

  20. Bush looks to me like he knew the shoes were coming.

    He was pretty quick!

  21. It doesn’t seem to be falling on all wordpress blogs. OK, I’m going. See you again when the snow stops.

  22. Just de-activate your javascript and you won’t see any snow

  23. I must be on the right track, the trolls reacted quickly.

  24. Excellent lead up to the Daley era (s), then and now.

    Thanks for the post.

  25. OT: This Bernard Madoff thing is really freaky, and terrifying to anyone with investments.

    This isn’t new — it’s been going on for decades — He’s 70 years old.

  26. I turned off the snow.

  27. Caillech Bird — goddess of weather.

  28. I thought the snow was a virus too. I was just about to switch browsers and run Norton. That stuff plays havoc with my nearsightedness.

  29. Downticket,

    I don’t even know what that means? Could you explain how to do it? Would it affect other pages that I read?


    Thanks, but I don’t want to be a party pooper. If there is a way for me to stop it on my computer, that would be great.

  30. Back from a sabbatical from all things politic (after the recent unpleastness that pretended to be an election);
    I return to see Chicago political history.
    I grew up outside Chi-Town (rat-a-tat-a-tat.. that’s machine guns… sometimes when I travel abroad and say I grew up in Chi people make machine gun sounds in honor of Capone and the gang).

    My favorite bit of Chi pol history jumps the gun (ha)
    a bit from where myiq left off.

    When Bilandic the Daley machine’s baby got whipped by Jane Byrne. Although folks might say otherwise, I remember the lore at the time was that it was that big ol snowstorm that came the day before election day.
    The Chicago machine (that’s supposed to do snow removal) was pathetic in performance… the voters got hopping mad and “oops” no more Bilandic.

    It’s nice to know that people still care about some matters more than keeping the corruption going. Snow removal ranks above the Daley machine.

    Let’s hope some other things do as well. And those streets of Chicago get cleaned up.

    P.S., please take Obama away. We keep putting him out on the curb for pick-up, but the garbage men keep failing to take him away.

  31. Regency,

    It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one who was bothered by the snow!

  32. BB: It’s why I had to shut off the blog early last night. i thought I was seeing floaters. Hee. Glad they’re gone.

  33. Thx, Katiebird!

  34. BB:

    When computer geeks give advice everything after “just” is usually incomprehensible,

    “Just regrammat the frammistopple to conform to the blorty”

  35. myiq2xu,

    LOL! I know a lot of stuff about computers, but I guess I’m not quite a geek yet.

  36. angelasmith:

    I’m from smoggy California. There is lots of little stuff about Chi-town that isn’t in history books.

    Please feel free to contribute.

  37. Quick pop-in, but I overheard ABC News tonight talking about Blago & Co. Even the sycophantic media is starting to wonder why Obama has not made a definitive statement 6 days after the fact. I was in the other room so only caught it from a distance but they reported that Republicans have an ad out putting the pressure on, and “even top Dems are asking why BO hasn’t explained it more clearly.” Someone (I think it was Rendell) came on and said he needs to spell it out.

    Tick tock, tick tock. So much for that fabled transparency that is so much easier to talk about than actually execute.

  38. fif:

    They are trying to figure out how much Fitz knows – they don’t want to get caught in a lie (again)

  39. He’s a Do-Late President already. Damn, man, work faster.

  40. When I’m done with the mayors I want to do bios of Blago, Rahmbo, JJJ and a few other infamous Illini (Vrdolyak, Reynolds, Rostenkowski)

  41. If Obotia feels the need to justify historic corruption, then they feel a disturbance in the force, heh. I hope they continue to do it. It’s entertaining.

    The cognitive dissonance is clear. If BO was known to be squeaky clean — embraced by the Chicago machine because he was so pure, he blinded them into repentance, presumably — why would Blagojevich have even constructed the elaborate ambitions caught on tape? Things that make you go hmmm…

  42. that fabled transparency that is so much easier to talk about than actually execute.

    So very, very true.

  43. alice:

    They aren’t justifying it, they are trying to deny it ever existed.

  44. fif — they’re wondering why Obama hasn’t made a definitive 6 days after the fact? Uh, well, for one he isn’t “definitive” about anything and two: he didn’t have the good sense to call for Blago to resign for an entire day after the indictment. He had to be dragged kicking and screaming to repudiate Farahkan’s endorsement and Wright’s ravings.

    Meanwhile, the msm and elected officials are “playing doctor on tv” by declaring Oblag nuts — they say he is “delusional, narcissistic, vengeful and profane” Personally, I think they are describing Obama — remember how he projected everything that was bad about himself on Hillary & Palin — “do anything to win” “no moral compass” “in experienced” “a bimbo?” Same thing is going one with the Blago is crazy meme.

  45. The entire media is going nuts over the shoe-tosser, like the story is really significant.

  46. OK, my cynicism meter is turned up to 11, I’m pretty sure Dubya was expecting the chucked footwear.

    How tightly would a presidential press be controlled in Iraq? What sane journalist would spontaneously throw their shoe at the POTUS, with the SS and Blackwater standing guard? In Iraq, a top producer of IED’s?

    But, maybe it was all just serendipity. Who knows?

  47. Angie:
    Blago seems perfectly sane to me. Repulsive, yes. But Not insane.
    The man is just a more blunt, slightly less intellectually lazy Obama, and that is what scares the MSM so much. They must cover for Obama, because if they don’t, their credibility is lost. Not that it wasn’t in the first place. Some 18% of Americans have faith in the media to tell the truth.
    I think it is hilarious and entertaining, watching the Obots squirm. It will be the only good thing that happens for the next few years. Watching the Obots wail. I will LAUGH and gleefully rub my hands together, and possibly gloat and point and/or laugh.

  48. Yup,
    what kind of glue is Fitzgerald walking on? Lift your feet man, one after the other and get this going.
    Fitz still has Daley and Obama to fry. Why he’s taking so damn long and why there was such a huge space
    pre-election where Fitz had fallen off the map is damned annoying.

  49. I was hurling that shoe along with the shoe thrower.

  50. HEY! I liked the snow! It was cute!

  51. Angie,

    “teh cuvR up” takes time, especially when wire tapz are involved. 🙂

  52. angelasmith, on December 14th, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    I think Fitz’s main target is Daley. He is the big fish. Obama is second too him since he is president-elect.

  53. Shrubbya ducks pretty good, makes you wonder how many other things he has had hurled at him …

  54. swanspirit, LOLOL!

  55. Headline: Lame duck ducks

  56. Downticket, did you read Evelyn Pringle’s work?
    I thought she showed enough implicating material on Obama and intimated that Fitzgerald had witnesses to
    back the info up. It looked like it might be enough to get him. Did you think that?

  57. JMAC
    hahahahahahahaha tooo funnyyyyyyyyyy

  58. I thought the shoe throwing was hilarious. made my fricken day to watch that. If anyone deserves to have shoes thrown at their head, GWB does…

  59. Chicago is no different than any other big city machines. They just do it on a larger scale. MA is another state that has had its share of crooks and liars. We even had a Boston mayor who was reelected while sitting in jail. Patronage comes with a price. From the lowliest ward captain who got his brother a job picking up trash to the highest office where the “lottery wins” were awarded to a Bolger brother.

    Whereever you look somebody is on the “take” or the “make”. But our president elect is going to “change” all that. We are just not invited to watch him do it. Something like how they make baloney. Transparency: another word in the dictionary.

  60. Fitz is a excellent prosecutor and he is very methodical.

    He knows this is politcally sensitive stuff so he doesn’t order an arrest until he is sure he has evidence “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

  61. angelasmith – I haven’t read it yet but plan on reading it

  62. They are saving the shoes for the Bush Library.

  63. BB-the snow was giving me a headache, too (and I’m not prone to headaches), and I did find it on other WordPress blogs. Thanks to KB for turning it off.

    I’ve just been catching up on today’s posts. Like you, BB, ever since Obama “won” the Iowa caucuses, I’ve read everything on him I could put my hands on. The question that has always intrigued me is how did this kid who grew up in Hawaii, went to school in California and New York, end up in Chicago in an attempt to launch a political career. My understanding of the Chicago political machine is that the first question one is asked upon arrival is “Who sent you?” Again, I agree with BB that the the likely connection is Ayers who was teaching at Columbia while Obama was a student there.

    There have been occasional references here to Frank Marshall Davis, and while there is no question that the person of “Frank” referred to in Obama’s book “Dreams From My Father” is Davis, it is highly doubtful that in 1985 (or thereabouts when Obama made his first appearance in Chicago) FMD, after a 40-year absence, would have been in a position of influence to introduce Obama into the Chicago political scene. Davis and his wife (a white Chicago socialite) settled in Hawaii shortly after WW2 and, to the best of the family’s knowledge, never returned to Chicago. By the time Obama graduated from Columbia, Davis was nearly 80 years old and living in near poverty in Honolulu. While it’s possible that Davis might have advised Obama (during his teenage years in Hawaii) to try his political luck in Chicago someday, it is unlikely that Davis had any direct influence in Obama’s eventual rise in Chicago politics.

    I come to this conclusion by dint of my acquaintance with two of Davis’s five children and the editor of three books of Davis’s works, all of them (much to my chagrin) ardent Obama supporters.

  64. Since he “borrows” his speeches from others, I expect Obama to imitate Nixon with “your president is not a crook” statement in short order.

  65. Downticket,
    The Pringle stuff is the best I’ve read on anything to do with the debacle we’ve been through. It reads as smooth as can be and is filled with fact and reference.
    She deserves a pulitzer for her work. I used to stay up late at night waiting for her next installation to be
    put up. The work she did to produce such tight, well-composed and methodical work must be absolutely staggering. And forget about the style. She is what an investigative journalist is supposed to be.

  66. The standard for arrest is “probable cause” but Fitz doesn’t want to let a big fish jump off the hook.

    He nails his big cases down tight.

  67. Pat:

    Can we expect “Checkers II?”

  68. Watch out if Obama, our Lincoln in waiting, begins his speeches with “four score and seven years ago”. I give permission for someone to just shoot me. Sincerely.

  69. ooops,footnoting myself. I meant to state that Pringle’s work follows Obama’s footsteps in Chicago . Pringle doesn’t cover the election (at least anything that I’ve been able to get my hands on doesn’t).

  70. Honest question here: Does anyone really think that the media/DNC will allow Obama to be tainted by all this? I mean, any other politician would be dogmeat by now, but not His Holiness. What does it take?

  71. Jmac, on December 14th, 2008 at 7:48 pm Said:
    They are saving the shoes for the Bush Library.

    Stopppp I cant breeeaattheeee LOL LOL

  72. Pat at 7:51

    oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. I’m seeing Biden go down first
    (that is the Obama way– sorry reference to…) ala
    Spiro Agnew. I see a similarity in lack of hair, lack of ethics, and a little problem with questionable funding.
    Then I see Obama on the airwives, sweat pouring
    just like old Mr. Nixon… and those beautiful, beautiful words…”you won’t have Barack Obama to kick around anymore”

    cue the champagne, crack out the VCRs.

  73. We have been handed such a swill of “Camelot” that it makes me sick to my stomach. What we are getting is what most of us holdouts have predicted right along. Lies, corruption, unaccountability, incredible myths, fools gold.

    Anyone blind enough not to see, or at the very least question, what lies right in front of their noses, deserves a slap up the side of the head with a mallet!

  74. Nell,

    Ayers wasn’t teaching at Columbia in the 1980s, when Obama was there. Ayers had just emerged from underground then. He was attending the teacher’s college. But they lived near each other and shared a faculty advisor. I’m convinced that is where they met, but we will probably never know for sure.

    Obama sure does look at lot like Davis, doesn’t he? And he looks nothing like Barack Obama Sr. But why would his mom lie to him about who his father was? It’s all very mysterious.

  75. Julie:

    The media tried to cover for G-Dub too, but facts are stubborn things.

  76. I don’t have any idea what it will take for the press to turn on the spotlight. Frankly, I think they could have videos of Obama dancing at the Bada Bing and stuffing dollar bills into his G string and they would admire his ability to stay on those inch shoes!

  77. This is too good
    bos Senate Seat is now on Ebay
    by Steve Young


  78. bb: David and his wife still lived in Hawaii where Obama’s grandparents also resided. Mr. Davis and Mr. Dunham were friends. How embarrassing to admit his paternity. Better to blame the Kenyan student who already had a wife and kid back home.

    Would not surprise me if they didn’t pay Obama to take the blame which may account for everything that followed since August 1961.

    I have no direct knowledge of this but it may explain that pesky birth certificate no one has seen and his reluctance to produce it.

  79. Pat – what would it take for you to ‘see’ a Clinton error?

  80. Sorry, BB, my mistake (I *ahem* misspoke). I meant to say that Obama and Ayers were both students at Columbia at the same time.

    I know F.M. Davis’s only son. Believe me, he is the spitting image of his father (and his mom was a blond blue-eyed white woman!). I’ve also seen many photographs of FMD as a young man–there is no physical resemblance between Obama and Frank Marshall Davis.

    IMHO, this rumor has about as much credibility as the BC controversy.

  81. Cinie has been kickin’ ass and naming names on the BlagObamadrama:


  82. Ha! Obama’s seat on e-bay. Too funny.

    Glad the snow is off also. My motion sickness was flaring as well.

  83. “Glad the snow is off also.”

    Why I hate Christmas reason #1103

    Fake snow

  84. “Nell”
    If your still around I am also intrigued by the F.M. Davis connection. He had Obama’s attention at a key time in his life; for “8” years!!

  85. new thread up!

  86. Nell,

    I didn’t really think that, but the pictures of them do look a lot alike to me. I also think Barack looks like his mom and grandfather though.

  87. Barack’s mom (Stanley Ann Dunham) looks like her dad (Stanley Dunham) not her mom (Madelyn Dunham)

  88. tpt/ny–I’m still around.

    There is no question that Stanley Dunham and Frank Marshall Davis were friends (although how they became friends is not known). Stanley probably sought to introduce a black male role model into his grandson’s life and thus brought Barack around to Frank’s house when he and Frank played cards, listened to jazz, drank whiskey from a jelly jar and possibly smoked a little weed. Frank was a controversial figure, no doubt, but also a positive influence. He was a champion of civil rights, a leading figure in the Negro Press of the 30’s and 40’s, a leader in the Hawaiian labor movement., and a prominent poet. There are three books of his writings currently in print — one an anthology of his poetry called “Black Moods” and another his autobiography called “Livin’ the Blues”–fascinating reading. The third is a collection of his essays published in the black press (both in Chicago and Hawaii) rather prosaically entitled “Writings of Frank Marshall Davis.”

    Given that I comment rather infrequently here, please allow me to re-establish my bona fides by stating that I am not now nor have I ever been an Obama supporter.

  89. “Ditto”!
    I read earlier that you said Davis had no $ later in life; but I still feel strongly ( no proof yet) that HE was Obama’s introduction to the political e-lites. Let’s face it without a teleprompter he’s not that great!

  90. While I realize we all have our favorite tinfoil hat theories (me included!) on how Obie rose to power, it is my considered opinion that Frank Marshall Davis, a man who spent the last 40 years of his life in Honolulu (returning to the mainland only once in that time), was not a major influence in that rise. It is much more likely that associations Obama made at Columbia (Ayers, Alinsky?) lead to his eventual political matriculation to Chicago.

  91. My most recent post disappeared into oblivion, Can you rescue it, myiq?

    Many thanks.

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