Chicago Politics


Politics in my Chicago days was wonderful rampant skullduggery. You could see every crooked bone of it, every rotten piece of its inner working was visible.

I remember the citizens of Chicago surrounding city hall, three thousands of them, with ropes in their hands threatening to lynch the aldermen who had been bribed.

I remember when Mr. William Hale Thompson was running for mayor. His idea of getting votes was not to make speeches or annoy people with ideologies. He used to put on shows all over town and the shows consisted of one naked lady being chased by an imbecile who had been borrowed from the local loony bin. The audience would sit there, applaud and yell and Thompson always got elected.

The two politicians I most remember out of my youth were a couple of aldermen who ran the first ward in Chicago. This was the ward where all the brothels, all the gangsters, all the dives, all the bums were. The aldermen were called Hinky Dink and Bathhouse John. And Hinky Dink was a little, wiry, nervous man and the Bathhouse was a portly fellow given to writing poetry.

They held their grip on the First Ward in a very practical way. About a week before the election, they would import from two to five thousand bums. They would put them up in rooms, twenty to a room. They would feed them a free lunch at the Workingman’s Exchange which was a saloon they ran. And when election time came these two to four thousand bums would go to the polls and vote. Not once.

Each bum was supposed to vote five to ten times. Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink always came in by a great majority.

There was one election however where something odd happened and the forces of law and order struck. The two aldermen took the count for a while. About two days before the election, the Workingman’s Exchange opened. No sooner had it opened than somebody noticed there was a head sitting on the bar. It was the head of a decapitated bum. Quite a story ensued. The papers all began to talk about who cut this bum’s head off.

Around three o’clock in the afternoon, the door opened, a car passed and another bum’s head was thrown into the bar. This caused a panic among the bums who started evacuated their crowded rooms and fleeing Chicago like it was a plague spot. As a result of the disappearing, the forces of law and order won. Bathhouse John and Hinky Dink were not aldermen for the next two years.

However, when the next election came around, they prepared for law and order. They engaged the entire police department of the city of Chicago to protect their bums. Outside of every flop house stood five cops watching to see that no heads were cut off.

The Ben Hecht Show, Jan 29, 1959

William Hale Thompson was mayor of Chicago from 1915 to 1931.  He was mayor during the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 and was said to have control of the 75,000 African-American voters in his day.

Always a flamboyant campaigner, Thompson held a debate between himself and two live rats which he used to portray his opponents. According to Thompson, at this time the biggest enemy the United States had was King George V of the United Kingdom. Thompson promised his supporters that if they ever met, Thompson would punch the king in the nose.

The First Ward was run by Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and John J. “Bathhouse” Coughlin, who became rich collecting protection from the brothels and gambling dens in their district.

How little things have changed.

big bill thompson_schmidt

  • Veracious_one

    ….and look at what Chicago politics has turned out….all these politicians have one thing in common…they were Democrats….

    • A Z

      Thomson was a Republican.

      You may not like it, but he was. I certainly do not like it. The party is not perfect but I’ll take a glass that is 7 10ths full as opposed to something that is less full like the Democrat party.

      To paraphrase Reagan if you agree with 7 of 10 policies of person you work with them. In this case I am speaking about the Republican party. It is not always right but it is better than the Democrat party. But the current establishment is making people leave it and that may be a good thing. We can get a better party.

      “Together, Kelly and Nash built one of the most powerful, and most corrupt, big city political organizations, called the “Kelly-Nash Machine”. In 1947 Kelly acquiesced to the Cook County Democratic Party’s decision to slate a candidate with reform credentials for the office of Mayor and was succeeded by Martin H. Kennelly.”

      • Daniel Greenfield

        Back then Chicago politics was hopelessly corrupt. Anyone who participated was bound to be rotten.

        Also urban Republicans tended to be more liberal than the Dems in many cases

        • A Z

          I liked how the Irish political Machine told Kelly to stand down so the same machine could put forward a reformer with the end result that the same people minus Kelly were in control

          The Irish political machine also gave Mayor Cermak short thrift.

          The machine in Chicago may not be drive by Irish, but it still glued together by family and who you know.

          You could substitute almost any ethnic group and get similar results.

  • Wolfthatknowsall

    In the 1960 Election, my sister was a DEM precinct captain. She had married into the mob, and her husband was an enforcer/hit man. If Republican campaign workers came into the precinct, she would sic “Crazy Rick” … or “Rick, the Animal”, as he was also known … on them. He never was arrested, because the cops were paid off.

    Late in the night, she received a call from her boss. She walked out to her car, retrieved 500 false voter registrations and ballots, and “recounted” the vote. Surprise! Kennedy won …

    Five hundred dead Democrats from Mt. Carmel Cemetery voted, that night, including Al Capone and Frank Nitty. Today, I strongly suspect that Mayor Washington did not die of natural causes …

    Nothing you could say about Chicago politics would shock me, Daniel …

    • Daniel Greenfield

      Nixon really should have challenged

      • Wolfthatknowsall

        I agree with that, wholeheartedly.

        • danfan

          and now we’re stuck with bathhouse barry and hinkydink david

    • .

      Nixon was not perfect. But he was “way better” (to use colloquial English) than hardcore Democrats will ever admit. I think the stolen election and the persecution started by the Left over his House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1948 made Nixon bent.

      Yes, Nixon helped get Alger Hiss. Hiss also convicted of perjury and in the 1990s, when Russian archives were opened, it came out that Alger Hiss was a Soviet spy.

      • Wolfthatknowsall

        This Hiss Affair was exactly the reason why the Left, in general, and the Media, in particular, hated Nixon so much. Hiss was a darling of the media, and it was widely spoken of that he would run for President, in 1952. When Nixon “got” Hiss, he sealed his entire future relationship with the media.

        So, you have Whittaker Chambers … a repentant former spy and Communist … and Alger Hiss testifying under oath before HUAC. Chambers said that he knew Hiss during his days as a spy, and Hiss said he had never even heard of someone like Chambers.

        Nixon, a lawyer, immediately saw that someone was lying, and set about finding the truth. Thank God for Nixon! Hiss was lying … the man who was Roosevelt’s adviser at Yalta, and who was the Secretary-General of the UN at its organizing conference in San Francisco.