John Peter Altgeld

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Altgeld was a political opponent of Carter H. Harrison, Jr. (1860–1953), who had been elected Mayor of Chicago in 1897. [24] Altgeld believed that Harrison aimed to spearhead conservative forces in the Democratic Party at the national level and that if he were re-elected as mayor Harrison would have the power to hand pick conservative delegates to the 1900 Democratic National Convention. [24] Finding Harrison's prospective opponent, a "Free Silver" Republican, a less offensive option, Altgeld decided to himself run for Mayor – having faint hope of victory himself, but seeking to split away the progressive Democratic vote and thereby send Harrison to defeat. [24]

Altgeld charged that Harrison was building a political machine and that his administration was corrupt, publicly claiming in March 1899 that Harrison's administration was complicit in the theft of city funds by political allies in connection with city public works projects. [25]

In his final campaign, Altgeld ran for mayor of Chicago as the candidate of the Municipal Ownership Party. He finished third, garnering more than 15% percent of the vote, but was unable to achieve his ulterior motive, the defeat of Mayor Carter Harrison.


In 1901, Altgeld made a quixotic effort to challenge Harrison for the Democratic nomination for mayor. [26]

Post-gubernatorial years

Sickly since his brush with death in the Civil War, Altgeld had suffered from locomotor ataxia while governor, impairing his ability to walk. He lost all of his property except his heavily mortgaged personal residence, and only the intervention of his friend and former protégé, Clarence Darrow, saved him from complete financial ruin.

Death and legacy

Altgeld's grave in Graceland Cemetery, Uptown, Chicago 2004-06-20 2000x2000 chicago graceland altgeld.jpg
Altgeld's grave in Graceland Cemetery, Uptown, Chicago

Altgeld was working as a lawyer in Darrow's law firm when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while delivering a speech on behalf of the Boers in Joliet, Illinois in March 1902. He was 54 years old when he died. Thousands filed past his body as it lay in state in the lobby of the Chicago Public Library, and he was eulogized by Darrow and by Hull House founder Jane Addams.

Altgeld is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Uptown, Chicago.

The governor influenced the design of five castle-like structures in Illinois universities. [27] One is Altgeld Hall at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is currently home to the Mathematics Department, and had previously housed the College of Law and the University Library. [28] The other four are the eponymous edifices at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and Northern Illinois University, as well as John W. Cook Hall at Illinois State University and Old Main at Eastern Illinois University. Chicago's Altgeld Gardens Homes, one of the first housing projects in the United States, was named after the former governor as well as the street located at 2500 North in Chicago's grid system, Altgeld Street.

See also

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John Peter Altgeld
20th Governor of Illinois
In office
January 10, 1893 January 11, 1897
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Governor of Illinois
1892, 1896
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by