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Carter Harrison, Sr.
Wikimedia CommonsCarter Harrison, Sr.

Think this mayoral election is ugly?

Written by
Adam Selzer

Elections get ugly. It's the nature of the game. But nothing going on this year quite compares to what happened in 1893. With an election approaching right around the time that the World's Fair opened, one paper claimed that if Carter Harrison were elected, every criminal in the country would move to Chicago. 

Simply calling Carter Harrison "soft on crime" was not enough for the Chicago Evening Journal. In March 1893, it published an article entitled "THIEVES ON THE RUN: Thugs Flocking to Chicago From Every Quarter."

The Journal insisted that "dangerous and desperate men, familiar with vice and crime in every form" had been flocking to the city ever since Harrison was nominated. "When a town or city is labeled 'right,'" it wrote, "murderers, thieves, pick-pockets and all species of criminals inquire no further...for a month past, every train that entered Chicago has brought recruits to the criminal population...'On to Chicago' is the cry of the criminal army, and on to Chicago that army is marching. Part of it is here already, and if Carter Harrison should be elected Mayor the city will be given over to plunder."

It went on to estimate that 200 new professional criminals, encouraged by Harrison's chances, were arriving in town every day. "The very life of the city hangs on the result of next week's election," they roared. "Harrison must be defeated."

Of course, Harrison was not defeated. And a check through the paper's archives indicates it managed to refrain from saying "we told you so" when he was assassinated by a crank in his Ashland Boulevard home six months later. 

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