Carter Harrison, Sr.

Carter Henry Harrison, Sr. (February 15 1825October 28 1893) was an American politician who served as mayor of Chicago, Illinois from 1879 until 1887; he was subsequently elected to a fifth term in 1893 but was assassinated before completing his term. He previously served two terms in the United States House of Representatives. Harrison was the first cousin twice removed of President William Henry Harrison.

Born near Lexington, Kentucky to Carter Henry Harrison II and Caroline Russell, he was only a couple of months old when his father died. He was educated by private tutors, and was graduated from Yale College in 1845 as a member of Scroll and Key. Following graduation, he traveled and studied in Europe from 1851 to 1853 before entering Transylvania College in Lexington, where he earned a law degree in 1855. He was admitted to the bar in 1855 and commenced practice in Chicago; Harrison came to Chicago because he saw it as a land of opportunity.

Harrison ran an unsuccessful campaign in 1872 for election to the Forty-third Congress. Beginning in 1874, he served as a member of the board of commissioners of Cook County. He was elected as a Democrat to the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth Congresses (March 4 1880 and 1884.

A Summer's Outing

In 1890, Harrison and his daughter took a vacation trip from Chicago to Yellowstone National Park and Alaska. His letters from the trip were first published in the Chicago Tribune and later compiled into the book (1891): A Summer's Outling and The Old Man's Story.


The night of the Haymarket Riot in 1886, Harrison walked unmolested through the crowd of anarchists and advised the police to leave the demonstrators alone. The riot was sparked by a bomb, reportedly thrown at police by anarchists. After leaving office, Harrison was owner and editor of the Chicago Times from 1891 to 1893. He was re-elected in 1893, in time for the World's Columbian Exposition. His desire was to show the world the true Chicago, and he appointed 1st Ward Alderman "Bathhouse" John Coughlin to sit on the reception committee. On October 28 1893, three days before the close of the Exposition, Harrison was murdered in his home by Patrick Eugene Prendergast, a disgruntled and apparently mentally ill office seeker. Harrison was buried in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery. Prendergast was hanged on July 13 1894. Harrison was Chicago's first five-time elected mayor; eventually his son, Carter Harrison, Jr., was also elected mayor five times.

Harrison's career and assassination are closely connected with the World's Columbian Exposition, and are discussed at some length as a subplot to the two main stories (about the fair and serial killer H. H. Holmes) in The Devil in the White City. His death came two days before the scheduled close of the fair, whose celebration was cancelled in lieu of a large public memorial service for Harrison.

See also


  • Abbott, W.J. (1895). Carter Henry Harrison: A Memoir. New York:
  • Johnson, Claudius (1928). Carter Henry Harrison I: Political Leader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

External links

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