Joseph Medill (April 6, 1823 – March 16, 1899) was a Canadian-American newspaper editor, publisher, and Republican Party politician. He was co-owner and managing editor of the Chicago Tribune, and he was Mayor of Chicago from after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 until 1873.
|26th Mayor of Chicago|
|Preceded by||Roswell B. Mason|
|Succeeded by||(Lester L. Bond), Harvey Doolittle Colvin|
|Born||April 6, 1823|
Saint John, New Brunswick, British North America
|Died||March 16, 1899 75) (aged|
San Antonio, Texas
|Political party||Fireproof, Republican|
|Spouse(s)||Katherine "Kitty" Patrick|
In 1853, Medill and Edwin Cowles started the Leader, a newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio. (It was later absorbed by The Plain Dealer.) In 1854, the Tribune's part-owner, Captain J. D. Webster, asked Medill to become the paper's managing editor. Medill was further encouraged to come to Chicago by Dr. Charles H. Ray of Galena, Illinois, and editor Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune.
In 1855, Medill sold his interest in the Leader to Cowles and bought the Tribune in partnership with Dr. Ray and Alfred Cowles (Edwin's brother).
Under Medill's management, the Tribune flourished, becoming one of the largest newspapers in Chicago. Medill served as its managing editor until 1864, when Horace White became editor-in-chief. At that time Medill left day-to-day operations of the Tribune for political activities.
But White clashed with Medill over the presidential election of 1872. So, in 1873 Medill bought additional equity from Cowles and from White, becoming majority owner. In 1874, he replaced White as editor-in-chief. Medill served as editor-in-chief until his death.
Under Medill, the Tribune became the leading Republican newspaper in Chicago. Medill was strongly anti-slavery, supporting both the Free-Soil cause and Abolitionism. Medill was a major supporter of Abraham Lincoln in the 1850s. Medill and the Tribune were instrumental in Lincoln's presidential nomination, and were equally supportive of the Union cause during the American Civil War. The Tribune's chief adversary through this period was the Chicago Times, which supported the Democrats.
Medill was among Chicago's Protestant elites. His rabid anti-Irish sentiment was published daily in The Chicago Tribune. He regularly dismissed the Irish as lazy and shiftless. “Who does not know that the most depraved, debased, worthless and irredeemable drunkards and sots which curse the community are Irish Catholics?” This came even as Irish laborers worked feverishly to complete Chicago's stately St. Patrick's church at Adams and Desplaines Streets in the mid-1850s.
In 1864, Medill left the Tribune editorship for political activity, which occupied him for the next ten years. He was appointed by President Grant to the first Civil Service Commission. In 1870, he was elected as a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional convention.
As mayor, Medill gained more power for the mayor's office, created Chicago's first public library, enforced blue laws, and reformed the police and fire departments.
During his mayoralty, Medill worked successfully to have the Illinois General Assembly modify the city charter to increase mayoral authority. As mayor-elect, on December 4, 1871 he tapped Judge Murray F. Tuley to draft a "Mayor's Bill" to be submitted to the General Assembly in its next session. After successful lobbying by Medill and Tuley, the bill passed on March 9, 1872. It went into effect July 1 1872, and provided the mayor with the new authority to,
- Serve as presiding officer of the Chicago City Council; to appoint all unelected city officials with the advice and consent of the City Council
- Remove all unelected city officials, with only the requirement that they provide the City Council with reasons for such a removal
- Appoint the standing committees of the City Council and serve as an ex officio member of those committees
- Veto any ordinance, including all or part of an appropriations ordinance, with a two-thirds vote of the City Council required to override such as veto
- Exercise special police powers
In his first year as mayor, Medill received very little legislative resistance from the Chicago City Council. While he vetoed what was an unprecedented eleven City Council ordinances that year, most narrowly were involved with specific financial practices considered wasteful and none of the vetoes were overridden. He used his new powers to appoint the members of the newly constituted Chicago Board of Education and the commissioners of its constituted public library. His appointments were approved unanimously by the City Council.
Medill sought funding for the recovery of Chicago. Medill had strongly lobbied on behalf of the city to receive state financial aid, taking advantage of his connections with state legislators in the state capitol of Springfield, Illinois. While, at the time, state law prohibited the direct appropriation of state funds to the city, Medill was able to get the legislature to pass a special act reimbursing the city for $2.9 million the city had expended on the state-owned Illinois and Michigan Canal. Medill also sought federal financial help. Medill took advantage of his connections in Washington, D.C. to seek such aid. In his third month in office, he wrote Vice President Schuyler Colfax to urge the passage of a tariff rebate that would help increase the supply of inexpensive material for the reconstruction of the city. Despite strong opposition from lumber interests, the legislation succeeded in passing. Medill also convinced President Grant to give a personal $1,000 contribution to aid the city's reconstruction. More than $5 million in gifts an loans were collected from people and cities across the world.
Medill was a strong Republican loyalist who supported President Grant for re-election in 1872. The breach with White came because White supported the breakaway Liberal Republicans, reformists who nominated Horace Greeley for president. It was also at this time that Medill broke with Greeley.
In his second year as mayor, tensions arose as he began to further utilize the new new powers given to the mayor. At the first 1873 meeting of the City Council, Medill announced that he would be using the power to select the chairmen of members of the council committees. He appointed his loyalists to lead most important committees, while aldermen of wards consisting of immigrant populations received lesser consideration for appointments. In the first three months of 1873 alone, Medill practiced his veto power on five City Council ordinances.
Medill met not only resistance from a City Council divided over his exercise of power and aspects of his agenda, but also resistance from citizens. Anton C. Hesing derided him as "Joseph I, Dictator".
The stress of the job of mayor impaired Medill's health. In August 1873, he appointed Lester L. Bond as Acting Mayor for the remaining 3½ months of his term, and went to Europe on a convalescent tour.
Legacy and honors
The Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University is also named in his honor.
- McKinney, Megan (2011). The Magnificent Medills. New York, New York: Harper Collins. p. 10. ISBN 9780062097750. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
- Rushton, Wyatt (1916). Joseph Medill and the Chicago Tribune (thesis). University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved 2007-10-24. and White, James Terry (1895). The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States. James T. White & Company, via New York Public Library via Internet Archive full view. p. 224. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- Lindberg, Richard C. (2009). The Gambler King of Clark Street: Michael C. McDonald and the Rise of Chicago's Democratic Machine. SIU Press. pp. 6, 36–37, 82. ISBN 978-0-8093-8654-3. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
- "Mayor Joseph Medill Inaugural Address, 1871". www.chipublib.org. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
- Green, Paul M.; Holli, Melvin G. (2013). The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition, fourth edition. SIU Press. pp. 1–14. ISBN 978-0-8093-3199-4. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
- Williams, Greg H. (25 July 2014). The Liberty Ships of World War II: A Record of the 2,710 Vessels and Their Builders, Operators and Namesakes, with a History of the Jeremiah O'Brien. McFarland. ISBN 978-1476617541. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
- "Our History". www.medill.northwestern.edu.
- McKinney, M. The Magnificent Medills (2011)
- Anderson, Jeffrey Justin. Joseph Medill: How one man influenced the Republican presidential nomination of 1860 (Ph.D. Diss.) Roosevelt University, 2011.
- Tebbel, John William. An American dynasty: the story of the McCormicks, Medills, and Pattersons Greenwood Pub. Group, 1968.
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