1837 Chicago mayoral election

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Chicago mayoral election, 1837
May 2, 1837 1838 →
  WBogden (a).jpg John H Kinzie c1850s (a).png
Candidate William B. Ogden John H. Kinzie
Party Democratic Whig
Popular vote 489[1] 217
Percentage 69.26% 30.74%

Mayor before election

John H. Kinzie (as Town President)

Elected Mayor

William B. Ogden

The 1837 Chicago mayoral election was held on May 2, 1837. It was the inaugural Chicago mayoral election, taking place the same year as Chicago's incorporation as a city. Democratic candidate William B. Ogden defeated Whig incumbent Town President John H. Kinzie by a landslide 38.5 margin.

Shortly after the election Ogden was sworn in as Chicago's first mayor. This set the precedent of scheduling Chicago's mayoral inauguration for the month of May, a practice which has continued into the present.[2]

The election coincided with elections to the Common Council. In addition to winning the mayor's office, Democrats took all 10 seats of the Common Council.[3]


Prominent Chicagoan W. B. Egan had been considered a potential candidate, however he refused to run.[4]

Chicago had quickly been becoming a stronghold for the Whig Party.[5] To overcome this trend, Democrats Francis Sherman, John Wentworth, and Peter Pruyne convinced William B. Ogden to run on their party's ticket.[5]

Kinzie campaigned on a platform advocating the extension of Chicago's plank roads in to the countryside.[5] Wentworth ran a more railroad-centric candidacy, believing that the railroads were the lifeline for the city's future.[5]

Making use of his roots in the city, as the son of early settlers, Kinzie's supporters used the slogan "First born of Chicago" to promote him.[5] Kinzie had the backing of old settlers, such as Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard.[5] Detractors of Ogden accused him of being a "transient speculator" whose only aim was to make money off of Chicago before returning to New York.[6]

Kinzie, being popular figure, initially seemed to have an advantage in the election.[5]

Voting procedure[edit]

Voting was done viva voice. Individuals would walk up to a table and orally announce their vote, for all to eavesdrop upon.[5] Each ward had a single polling place.[5]

The polling places for each ward were:[3]

  • First: The "Eagle", No. 10 Dearborn Avenue
  • Second: Lincoln Coffee House
  • Third: Charles Taylor's House, Canal Street
  • Fourth: Chicago Hotel, northeast corner of Canal and Lake Streets
  • Fifth: Canal office, North Water Street
  • Sixth: Franklin House, North Water Street


Odgen won 489 to 217.[1][5] He won in every ward, even defeating Kinzie in his own ward by a single vote.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Chicago Mayors, 1837-2007". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago History Museum. Retrieved December 4, 2018.
  2. ^ John, Derek (18 February 2015). "No Conspiracy Required: The True Origins Of Chicago's February Elections". WBEZ. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Origin, Growth, and Usefulness of the Chicago Board of Trade: Its Leading Members, and Representative Business Men in other branches of Trade. New York: Historical Publishing Company. 1885–1886. p. 37. Retrieved December 4, 2018.CS1 maint: Date format (link)
  4. ^ Goodspeed, Weston A. (Feb 6, 2017). The History of Cook County, Illinois. Jazzybee Verlag.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Harpster, Jack (December 3, 2018). Railroad Tycoon Who Built Chicago.
  6. ^ Pierce, Bessie Louise. A History of Chicago, Volume I: The Beginning of a City 1673-1848. p. 376.