The Great Chicago Fire is considered to be the event that brought first political machines to the city. The ambiguous situation on the political front opened the door for the underworld to come to power. Michael McDonald was the first boss of the Chicago machine and he was a tie between criminals and politicians (Simpson, D et al. p. 65) Corruption played an important role at the beginnings of the old Chicago machine, when criminals and mafia were contributing to the political campaigns. “Originally there were multiple political machines, both Democratic and Republican in Chicago, governed by patronage and corruption” (Simpson, D, et al p. 65). During the last part of the nineteenth and at the beginning of the twentieth century Council of the Gray Wolves ran the city politics. This turbulent political period was constructed on struggle with reformers and preying upon the defenseless public (class notes). Immigrants were constantly coming to Chicago; Irish, Germans, Poles – they were looking for jobs (Simpson, D. et al., p. 123). They faced discrimination and began to organize themselves in political power. Then mayors Carter H. Harrison, Carter H. Harrison II and William Hale Thompson continued political machine in Chicago. However, it was mayor Anton Cermark who united ethnic groups and began dominance of the Cook County Democratic Organization – political machine. “Urban Growth Machine and Rubber Stamp City Council were begun under Mayor Cermark” (Simpson, D. Et al., p 65). Then Edward Kelly became Chicago’s Mayor and he capitalized on New Deal federal funds and graft from organized crime (notes). Finally, whether Chicago was ready for the reform or not - Richard J. Daley was elected in 1955 and served almost six terms. It was a time when city machine politics were failing but he was able to “steer the Cook County Democratic Organization to one electoral triumph after another” (Biles, R). Under his long term in the office he was able to greatly expand and improve Democratic Party machine. He continued the Rubber Stamp Council, which approved whatever mayor demanded. Movie “Daley: The Last Boss” presents a scene of one of the meeting of the Rubber Stamp Council, where disoriented politician approved one thing, but suddenly changes his mind when hears “You were supposed to say no!” This expresses the influential power of Mayor Daley. His politics may be characterized in terms of patronage jobs, nepotism, Government contracts and favors all of which accounted for campaign contribution and eventually votes. “These contributions of precinct work, money, and votes won elections for the Richard J. Daley machine, which then controlled the government so that the mayor could distribute the spoils that kept the machine running” (Simpson, D. et al. p. 66).
Despite of the common opinion that political machines were inefficient Mayor Richard J. Daley “the last boss” loved his city and invested a lot of money and energy in reconstructing, improving and beautifying the city of Chicago. R.J. Daley wisely used federal money obtained from the New Deal. He approved many construction projects, which contributed to his nickname – “The Builder”. Among his accomplishments we can distinguish the beautiful and modern campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago as well as O’Hare airport, the Sears Tower or the McCormick Place, which are the landmarks of Chicago’s landscape. These huge construction contracts created jobs, unions, and eventually great support for the mayor. He was able to create “The City that Works” because he could deliver services to his voters and satisfy their needs. “In addition to delivering votes, ward bosses were also expected to deliver city services 365 days a year.” (Simpson, p. 97).
R.J. Daley did not feel guilty about his power. As he was introduced in the Mike Royko’s book he considered himself as a regular neighborhood man who followed his