1876 Chicago mayoral elections

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The Chicago mayoral elections of 1876 is one only two instances in which a Chicago mayoral election was declared invalid (the other being in 1844).

After an election was held in April under disputed circumstances, and was subsequently nullified by the courts, a special election was held in July.

Republican Monroe Heath won the special election in July, thus becoming mayor of Chicago.

These are the last Chicago mayoral elections (including special elections) to take place in an even-numbered year. They are also the only elections since 1862 to have been held in an even-numbered year.

Disputed April election

April 1876 Chicago mayoral election
← 1873 April 16, 1876 1876 (special) →
  Thomas Hoyne (1).gif
Nominee Thomas Hoyne
Party Independent Democratic
Popular vote 33,064
Percentage 97.59%

Mayor before election

Harvey Doolittle Colvin
People's Party

Elected Mayor


The disputed Chicago mayoral election of April 1876 was won by Thomas Hoyne. However, its result was ultimately nullified by the courts.


Illinois' Cities and Villages Act of 1872 had moved municipal elections from November to April and had extended mayoral terms to two years. It went into effect in July of 1872.[1] On April 23, 1875, the city of Chicago had voted to operate under the Act, as opposed to operating under the rules outlined by its city charter.[2][3]

Since the act mandated mayoral elections to be held in April of odd-numbered years, incumbent mayor Harvey Doolittle Colvin believed that his term had been extended an additional year and that no elections were to be held in November 1875 or April of 1876. He believed that a mayoral election would not be held until April 1877.[4]


Recognizing that Colvin would be unseated if a mayoral election were held, Chicago's city council (which was, at the time, composed of many members that were friendly towards the mayor) left the office of mayor off its list of offices for election.[5][6] Thus, neither the Republican nor Democratic Parties believed they needed to put forth mayoral candidates, assuming that this meant that no mayoral election was scheduled to be held.[5]

Despite this Thomas Hoyne, president of the Chicago Public Library's board of directors, opted to run for mayor.[5] He was nominated at a mass meeting[3] and ran as an independent Democrat affiliated with the "Free Soilers Party".[7] Thousands voted for Hoyne by writing his name on their ballots.[8] Additionally, both the Democratic and Republican parties put him on their tickets.[9] He won nearly all of the votes cast for mayor in the municipal election held on April 16, 1876.[5][9][3] However, a mayoral election had not been formally called for by the City Council or the mayor's office.[3][10]


Despite there being no authorization for such a count to be taken, a popular vote count of the mayoral write-in votes was taken when ballots were counted in Chicago's municipal elections.[11] However, the city council ignored this count when it canvassed and made official the election results.[11]

April 1876 Chicago mayoral election[11][12][10]
Party Candidate Votes %
Independent Democratic Thomas Hoyne 33,064 97.59
Scattering Scattering 819 2.42
Turnout 33,883

Legal dispute

The city council which had been elected in an (non-disputed) April election (in which many Colvin allies lost their seats) took office on April 8.[3][10] On its first day the new city council declared that Hoyne was the city's mayor, that the vote that had been taken for mayor was actually binding.[3][11] Hoyne took an oath of office on May 9 and attempted to assume the office of mayor.[3] However, Colvin disputed Hoyne's claim to the office, arguing that the election had been illegitimate and that he was still entitled to serve an additional year as mayor.[3]

The City Council and most departments of the municipal government supported Hoyne's claim to the mayoral office.[3] However, the city's comptroller and police department rejected Hoyne's claim, and supported Colvin in the resulting standoff.[3]

During the city standoff, the police blocked Hoyne from going inside the mayor's office at city hall.[3] Meanwhile, with the support of the City Council, Hoyne fired supporters of Colvin from municipal jobs.[3] Both men offered to possibly resign, but neither actually acted on their offers.[3]


Ultimately, after a 28-day conflict, the dispute was resolved by the courts. At a June 5 meeting of the Circuit Court of Cook County, William K. McAllister ruled that the April election had been illegitimate.[10][3] This meant that Hoyne's "tenure" as mayor had been annulled.[3] Colvin was permitted to extend his mayoral term until a special election would be held.[3] A special election was ultimately held on July 12, electing Monroe Heath as mayor.[3]

Subsequently, in August, it was requested for city attorney to issue an opinion on whether or not Hoyne and the municipal apartment heads he had appointed should receive any remuneration.[3] It was opined that, while Hoyne had not been mayor de jure, he had served as mayor de facto, thus he and his appointees should be awarded payment for the time they acted in their positions.[3]

July special election

1876 Chicago mayoral special election
← 1873
April 1876 (invalid)
July 12, 1876[13] 1877 →
  Monroeheath.jpg 3x4.svg 3x4.svg
Nominee Monroe Heath Mark Kimball J. J. McGrath
Party Republican Democratic Independent
Popular vote 19,248 7,509 3,363
Percentage 63.90% 24.93% 11.17%

Mayor before election

Harvey Doolittle Colvin
People's Party

Elected Mayor

Monroe Heath

In the Chicago mayoral special election of 1876 Monroe Heath defeated Democrat Mark Kimball and independent J. J. McGrath by a landslide 39-point margin.

The election was held on July 12, 1876 and had been called for as part of the Circuit Court of Cook County ruling that had been issued to resolve the dispute over the legitimacy of the disputed election that had been held in April.[14]

At a July 1 convention, the Republican party, which had supported (Democratic-leaning) Thomas Hoyne in the dispute over the 1876 election, opted to nominate their own candidate for the special election.[8] They believed that the April 1876 aldermanic elections, which had seen a Republican landslide, indicated strong prospects of a Republican candidate winning the special mayoral election.[8] Thus, they nominated Monroe Heath for mayor.[8] Heath was a "Reform" Republican.[15]

Mark Kimball was nominated by the Democratic Party.[8] Kimball was a successful businessman, as well as the South Town tax collector.[16][17] He had first made a name for himself in the insurance business, serving separate tenures as director, secretary, and assignee for the Mutual Security Insurance company as well as tenures as the president and manager of the Citizens Insurance Company of Chicago.[17] He had also led a successful career in banking and other business.[17]

J. J. McGrath ran as an Democratic-leaning independent aligned with Colvin's politics.[8]

Chicago voters, rebuking Colvin, elected Republican Monroe Heath in a landslide.[8]


Heath won a landslide victory. His margin of victory was roughly 39 points, a percentage which itself was significantly greater than either of Kimball's opponents' vote shares.

1876 Chicago mayoral special election[18]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Monroe Heath 19,248 63.90
Democratic Mark Kimball 7,509 24.93
Independent J. J. McGrath 3,363 11.17
Turnout 30,120


  1. ^ "Encyclopedia of Chicago "Statutes of Illinois, Acts of 1871 and 1872"". Chicago Historical Society. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  2. ^ "Legal Organization and Charter, City of Chicago". Chicago Public Library. Retrieved January 18, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Gale, Neil (February 13, 2013). "In 1876, Thomas Hoyne and Harvey Doolittle Colvin were both Chicago Mayors at the same time". Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal.
  4. ^ Pierce, Bessie Louise (2007). A History of Chicago, Volume III: The Rise of a Modern City, 1871-1893. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 345–346. ISBN 9780226668420.
  5. ^ a b c d Gunderson, Erica (August 26, 2016). "The Null and Void cocktail, inspired by Thomas Hoyne". WTTW.
  6. ^ Pierce, Bessie Louise (2007). History of Chicago, Volume III: The Rise of a Modern City, 1871-1893. ISBN 9780226668420.
  7. ^ Shigley, Elaine C. "Chicago's Mayors: A Collection of Biographies of All Chicago's Mayors".
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Pierce, Bessie Louise (2007). A History of Chicago, Volume III: The Rise of a Modern City, 1871-1893. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 346. ISBN 9780226668420.
  9. ^ a b History of Cook County, Illinois--: Being a General Survey of Cook County, Volume 2 edited by Weston Arthur Goodspeed, Daniel David Healy (pg 576)
  10. ^ a b c d Politics and Politicians of Chicago: Cook County, and Illinois. Memorial Volume, 1787-1887. A Comlete Record of Municipal, County, State and National Politics from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. And an Account of the Haymarket Massacre of May 4, 1886, and the Anarchist Trials. Chicago: Blakely Printing Company. 1886. ISBN 9780226668420.
  11. ^ a b c d History of Chicago: From the fire of 1871 until 1885 By Alfred Theodore Andreas (page 101)
  12. ^ Longwood, Theodore (November 1885), "Thomas Hoyne", Magazine of Western History, pp. 288–295
  13. ^ Currey, Josiah Seymour (1912). "Chicago: Its History and Its Builders, a Century of Marvelous Growth".
  14. ^ Gale, Neil (February 13, 2013). "In 1876, Thomas Hoyne and Harvey Doolittle Colvin were both Chicago Mayors at the same time". Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal.
  15. ^ Platt, Harold L. (2005-05-22). Shock Cities: The Environmental Transformation and Reform of Manchester and Chicago. ISBN 9780226670768.
  16. ^ Annual Report of the Comptroller of the City of Chicago
  17. ^ a b c History of Chicago, Illinois, Volume 1, Part 2 By John Moses (pg. 643-644)
  18. ^ "RaceID=486047". Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 9, 2018.
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