Morton McMichael

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Morton McMichael
Morton McMichael (1807-1879).jpg
Mayor of Philadelphia
In office
Preceded by Alexander Henry
Succeeded by Daniel M. Fox
Personal details
Born (1807-10-02)October 2, 1807
Burlington, New Jersey
Died January 6, 1879(1879-01-06) (aged 71)
Political party Whig / Native American / Republican
Spouse(s) Mary Estell
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Profession Newspaper publisher

Morton McMichael (October 2, 1807 – January 6, 1879) was mayor of Philadelphia from 1866-1869 and a prominent newspaper publisher.[1]

Early life[edit]

Born in Burlington, NJ to John and Hannah McMichael, he moved to Philadelphia while still young. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, and then read law and was admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1827.

Family life[edit]

Morton married Mary Estell (1822-1877) and had four children:

Morton McMichael Jr. served as Lt. Colonel under General John Reynolds. He served as a senior staff member in the Army of The Potomac under Reynolds at the Battle of Gettysburg, where Gen. Reynolds was killed in action during siege. McMichael Jr. became a prominent banker after the war, serving as President of the First National Bank, and helped organize The Penn Club in 1875.

William McMichael served in a variety of positions during the war. He was captured at the Battle of Shiloh and endured four months as a prisoner of war before being exchanged. He rose to the rank of Brevet Colonel and serves as adjutant-general under Gen. Henry Halleck. After the war, he embarked on a legal career. He served as Minister to Santo Domingo, Asst. Attorney General, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and as a member of the Board of Indian Commissioners. He was also President of the Law Academy of Philadelphia.[2]

Clayton McMichael also served in the Union Army, fought at Gettysburg, and rose to the rank of brevet Major and serving as aide-de-camp to Gen. David Birney and Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. He later replaced his father as Editor of The North American. He also served as a US Marshall for the District of Columbia and as Philadelphia City Treasurer.[2]

Charles McMichael, too young to serve in the War, entered a career in law and served as a Judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.[3]

Newspaper career[edit]

Morton McMichael became an editor of The Saturday Evening Post in 1826. From 1831 to 1836 he was editor-in-chief of the Saturday Courier. In 1836 he founded the Saturday News, and published the Saturday Gazette with Joseph C. Neal from 1844 to 1847. At the outset of 1847, he became a publisher of The North American, which could claim as a successor to the Pennsylvania Packet to be the oldest daily newspaper in the United States. The paper grew to prominence under McMichael, who became sole publisher in 1854 (when co-owner Robert Montgomery Bird died). He remained publisher until his own death in 1879, though his sons took over active operations in his final years.[4][5][6][7]

Public life[edit]

McMichael served in an number of political positions throughout his life. He began his service as a police magistrate and then an Alderman in Philadelphia. In 1843 he was elected Sheriff of Philadelphia County, serving until 1846. McMichael served as Sheriff during the Philadelphia Bible Riots of 1844.[8]

To win reelection in 1844, McMichael joined the Native American party, an early version the 1850s "Know-Nothing" Party which held strong Anti-Catholic and Anti-Immigrant positions.[8] In 1854, McMichael chaired the Executive Consolidation Committee, which merged the city of Philadelphia with many of the surrounding districts into a single political entity.[9]

After the Civil war, McMichael was elected the first Republican Mayor of Philadelphia, serving from 1866 through 1869. In 1867, while serving as Mayor, McMichael also became President of the newly created Fairmount Park Commission, a position he held until his death in 1879.

In 1873 he was appointed a delegate at large to the fourth Constitutional convention of Pennsylvania. This resulted in the establishment of the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1874.


A statue of McMichael, unveiled in 1882, sits in Philadelphia's Fairmount Park at Sedgely Drive and Lemon Hill Drive.[10]

The East Falls district of Philadelphia named McMichael Park after Morton McMichael.

Morton McMichael Elementary School is also named in honor of him. It is a part of the Philadelphia public school system.

McMichael was a founding member and fourth President of the Union League. The McMichael Room in the Union League building is named in his honor.


Preceded by
Alexander Henry
Mayor of Philadelphia
Succeeded by
Daniel M. Fox