William Lorimer (politician)

William Lorimer (April 27, 1861  September 13, 1934) was a U.S. Representative from the State of Illinois. He subsequently served in the United States Senate and was known as the "Blond Boss" in Chicago. In 1912, however, the Senate held Lorimer's election invalid due to the use of corrupt methods and practices including vote-buying.

William Lorimer
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
June 18, 1909  July 13, 1912
Preceded byAlbert J. Hopkins
Succeeded byLawrence Y. Sherman
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1903  June 17, 1909
Preceded byHenry S. Boutell
Succeeded byWilliam Moxley
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1895  March 3, 1901
Preceded byLawrence E. McGann
Succeeded byJohn J. Feely
Personal details
Born(1861-04-27)April 27, 1861
Manchester, England
DiedSeptember 13, 1934(1934-09-13) (aged 73)
Chicago, Illinois
Political partyRepublican


Lorimer was born in Manchester, England. His family immigrated to the United States in 1866, first settling in Michigan and then moving to Chicago in 1870. Lorimer was self-educated. He had been apprenticed to a sign painter when he was ten. He worked in the Chicago meat-packing houses and for a street railroad company.

In 1894, Lorimer was elected to the first of two non-consecutive tenures (1895-1901, 1903–09) in the US House of Representatives. In 1909, he helped to engineer the blocking of the re-election of US Senator Albert J. Hopkins, a Republican who had been Lorimer's ally, but was now a political foe. With Hopkins' re-election bid finished, Lorimer seemed surprised when a coalition of 55 Illinois State House Republicans and 53 State House Democrats pushed his name to fill the now-vacant seat in the US Senate. At the time, US Senators were elected by state legislatures. Lorimer's name went before the State Senate, and after a contentious campaign, he was elected to the US Senate. He took his seat in March 1909.

In 1910, The Chicago Tribune published an admission by Illinois Assemblyman Charles A. White that Lorimer had paid $1,000 for White's vote in the that election.[1]

On July 13, 1912, after two Senate investigations and acrimonious debate, the US Senate adopted a resolution declaring "that corrupt methods and practices were employed in his election, and that the election, therefore, was invalid." Lorimer was expelled from office.

Many in Chicago believed that Lorimer's ouster was politically inspired and that he was wrongfully deprived of his seat. Such corruption nationwide led to the passage in May 1912, of the Seventeenth Amendment to the US Constitution, providing for direct election of U.S. Senators.[2]

When he returned to Chicago he was greeted by a parade and a throng at a meeting in Orchestra Hall. One of the speakers at the meeting was attorney Charles Lederer of Adler & Lederer (now known as Arnstein & Lehr, LLP) and a former member of the Illinois General Assembly. He presented a resolution to the meeting reciting the wrong done to Mr. Lorimer, his fight for his seat and the faith of his friends in him.[3]

Lorimer served as president of La Salle Street Trust & Savings Bank from 1910 to 1915, and then entered the lumber business. He died in Chicago at age 73.

See also


  1. A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago at www.questia.com
  2. The Senate Historical Office. "The Election Case of William Lorimer of Illinois (1910; 1912)". senate.gov.
  3. Chicago Daily Tribune, July 24, 1912.

Further reading

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Lawrence E. McGann
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John J. Feely
Preceded by
Henry S. Boutell
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
William Moxley
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
Albert J. Hopkins
Class 3 U.S. Senator from Illinois
Succeeded by
Lawrence Yates Sherman
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