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Assassination of Carter Harrison

 

 

 

Assassination of Carter Harrison

Known as “the common man's mayor,” Carter Harrison I (1879–1887, 1893) enjoyed riding through the city's neighborhoods mounted on his white horse and boasted that his office door was “always open.” Ironically, this policy of easy availability would ultimately prove his demise.

Chicago was enjoying an unbounded period of celebrity on the evening of October 28, 1893, the night before the close of the World's Columbian Exhibition. Mayor Harrison's commitment to the world's fair had permitted Chicago to showcase its rise to modernity in the 20 years following the Great Fire of 1871. While enjoying a period of rest that evening after his dinner in the family mansion on South Ashland Avenue, the mayor was confronted by Patrick Eugene Prendergast, a deranged unemployed Irish immigrant, embittered over failing to be appointed the city's chief attorney. Armed with a .38 caliber revolver, he shot Harrison three times at point-blank range. The mayor's wounds were fatal. Chicago was plunged into mourning. Even Clarence Darrow was unable to save Prendergast from the gallows.