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Carter H. Harrison IV papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Harrison

Scope and Content of the Collection

The largest part of this collection consists of the correspondence of Carter H. Harrison IV (1860-1953), although there is also a fair amount of correspondence and other documents relating to Harrison's father, Carter H. Harrison III (1825-1893), and Harrison's wife, Edith Ogden Harrison. Harrison's correspondents included some of the leading Democratic political figures of his day, including William Jennings Bryan, James Farley, Harold L. Ickes, and James Hamilton Lewis. The outgoing correspondence of Harrison's father is mainly personal, although some of his incoming correspondence relates to requests for patronage appointments and other political matters.

Besides the foregoing, the collection also contains a significant amount of materials relating to the history of Harrison's family, including letters written by and to his ancestors, and letters sent to Harrison by family members and others recounting the family's genealogy. The writings of Harrison that are part of this collection consist mainly of speeches, articles, and short untitled manuscripts on various topics, together with drafts of, and a large amount of culled material from, Harrison's three books (Stormy Years, Growing Up With Chicago, and With the American Red Cross in France, 1918-1919). In addition, there are a number of photographs (mainly of Harrison, his father, and other individuals), and a series of printed invitations and other souvenirs kept by Harrison as mementos of some of the dinners and other events he attended during and after his tenure as mayor, such as a luncheon honoring Theodore Roosevelt and a ball for Heinrich, Prince of Prussia. Finally, there are some collector's items, including letters and autographs from John Quincy Adams, Washington Irving, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, George Washington, and Noah Webster.

Harrison clearly kept the items in this collection with an eye that they might one day be saved for posterity. Many items throughout the collection contain handwritten annotations by Harrison in which he explains the document's context or provides his thoughts on the document's subject. Harrison also often refers the reader to specific pages of his books for more information about the person, place, or event in question.


  • Creation: 1637-1953
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1840-1950



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Carter H. Harrison IV papers are open for research and available to users one box at a time in the Special Collections Reading Room (Priority III); except for Series 21, Collector's Items, which is 5 folders at a time maximum, and items in each folder will be counted before and after delivery to the patron (Priority I).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Carter H. Harrison IV papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to either the Newberry Library or the applicable author or his or her heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Carter H. Harrison IV

Carter Henry Harrison IV ("Harrison"), like his father, Carter Henry Harrison III, was a five term Democratic mayor of Chicago. Harrison served his first four terms around the turn of the twentieth century (1897-1905), with his final term running from 1911 until 1915. Harrison was also Collector of Internal Revenue for the Chicago area during the 1930s and early 1940s.

Harrison's father moved to Chicago in 1855 from Kentucky, shortly after his graduation from Transylvania University (now the University of Kentucky) Law School, and marriage to Sophonisba Preston, Harrison's mother. Upon his arrival in Chicago, Harrison's father invested his money in real estate, and then hung out his shingle as a lawyer and real estate agent. Harrison was born a few years later, on April 23, 1860. In 1873, Harrison's mother was advised to travel to Europe for her health, and Harrison and the rest of the family accompanied her and traveled throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland that spring and summer. Harrison's father then returned to Chicago in the fall to tend to his real estate business, but Harrison remained in Germany with his mother and attended school at the Altenberg Gymnasium.

In 1874, Harrison's father was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, and despite spending much of 1875 in Europe with his family, he was re-elected to Congress in 1876. During this time, Harrison continued his studies at Altenberg, but after his mother died in the fall of 1876 he returned to Chicago.

Upon his return to Chicago, Harrison entered St. Ignatius College (now Loyola University), which was then located near the family's home on Ashland Avenue between Jackson and Van Buren Streets. Harrison graduated from St. Ignatius in 1881, second in a class of two, and then attended Yale University Law School, from which he received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1883. After law school, Harrison came back to Chicago and practiced law until 1891 when he and his brother, William Preston Harrison, took over the operation of the Chicago Times, which their father had recently purchased.

After completing his second term in Congress, Harrison's father was elected mayor of Chicago and served four consecutive two-year terms, from April 1879 to April 1887. He then took a break from politics, including an eighteen month trip around the world, before being once again elected mayor in 1893. Six months after taking office, however, on the final day of the World Columbian Exposition, Harrison's father was assassinated in his home by Patrick Prendergast on October 28, 1893.

In 1894, Harrison's family sold the Chicago Times, and Harrison focused his energies on his real estate investments until he followed in his father's footsteps and successfully ran for mayor in 1897. Harrison served as mayor from 1897 until 1905, and again from 1911 to 1915. During his first term as mayor Harrison was best known for his bitter, but ultimately victorious, fight against Charles T. Yerkes, the traction railroad baron, who sought a fifty year streetcar concession from the city that Harrison felt was unfair. The traction interests had significant aldermanic support, allegedly obtained through bribery and improper means, and were prepared for Harrison's veto of the proposed ordinance, which they expected to be able to overcome. Harrison, however, went further and took the fight directly to the people, urging them to challenge their aldermen on the issue. Although this move angered some in the Chicago Democratic Party who felt that Harrison had overstepped his bounds, it made Harrison popular with the people, who re-elected him to a second two-year term in 1899.

The Yerkes battle cemented Harrison's reputation as a man of integrity and one who was not afraid to ruffle a few feathers in order to do what he thought was right. Harrison was re-elected again in 1901 and 1903, but declined to run in 1905, when he was succeeded as mayor by Edward F. Dunne, another Democrat. In 1907, the mayoral term was extended from two years to four and Dunne lost his re-election bid to Republican F. A. Busse. Harrison then re-entered the political scene for the 1911 election, in which he defeated Dunne in the Democratic primary, and Republican Charles E. Merriam, a professor at the University of Chicago, in the general election. During what would prove to be his final term as mayor, Harrison was persuaded that the best way to handle prostitution and gambling was to try to eliminate these practices altogether, instead of treating them as necessary evils and attempting to segregate such vices to particular sections of the city where they could be contained and informally regulated by the police, as Chicago had done for many years. This change in tactics led Harrison to a direct confrontation with long-time allies John J. ("Bathhouse John") Coughlin and Michael ("Hinky-Dink") Kenna, the aldermen of Chicago's notorious First Ward, which served as the city's main red-light district. Harrison eventually succeeded in shutting down most of Chicago's houses of prostitution and gambling dens, including the infamous Everleigh Club, but these achievements came at a cost. Without Coughlin and Kenna's political support (which, ironically, had been critical years earlier when he stood up against Charles Yerkes), Harrison lost the Democratic nomination to Robert M. Sweitzer in 1915 and moved to the sidelines of Chicago politics, although he remained active in the Democratic Party at the national level throughout the remainder of his life.

When America entered World War I, Harrison desperately wanted to participate, but was too old to serve in the military. He lobbied heavily for an appointment to a meaningful position that would allow him to, if not see action, at least be able to "hear the big guns." Eventually, Harrison was made a Captain in the American Red Cross and stationed in Toul, France, a few miles behind the front lines, where he worked to help make life more comfortable for the American troops stationed and recovering at the several field hospitals located there.

Following the war, Harrison spent most of the 1920s traveling. He took multiple trips around the world, along with shorter excursions to Europe and Africa. By the early 1930s, however, reversals in the stock market had diminished his personal fortune and Harrison decided to return to work, even though he was now over seventy years old. Relying on his political connections, Harrison was appointed Collector of Internal Revenue for the Northern District of Illinois by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. It was thought that this would be a relatively short-term position, but Harrison ended up holding the post until the end of 1944, when he finally retired from public service for good at the age of 84.

Harrison was a both an outdoorsman and a scholarly patron of the arts. He loved hunting and fishing, and throughout his life went on numerous expeditions into the wilderness in search of big game or the perfect trout stream, including hunting and fishing trips to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, India, Indochina, and Africa. In 1940, when he was eighty years old, Harrison and his long-time friend Oscar Mayer (the Chicago meat-packer), each bagged a 150 pound buck on their annual hunting trip to northern Michigan. Harrison also had somewhat of a reputation as a trencherman, and favored a "Kentucky Nightcap" of bourbon before retiring for the day. At the same time, however, Harrison was an avid art collector and regular at the Chicago symphony and opera. Before his death, he donated his substantial art collection to the Art Institute of Chicago, including works by Paul Gauguin, Childe Hassam, Mary Cassatt, Claude Monet, and Toulouse-Lautrec. In recognition of his support, the Art Institute ultimately named Harrison a Benefactor and Governing Life-Member of the museum. According to his daughter, Harrison's "light-reading" usually consisted of poetry or the ancient Greek classics, and he read a chapter of the Bible each night throughout his life in fulfillment of a boyhood promise to his mother.

Harrison died on Christmas Day, 1953, at the age of ninety-three. On New Year's Eve of that same year, the Chicago City Council passed a resolution recognizing his accomplishments as mayor, Collector of Internal Revenue, world traveller, and patron of the arts. The resolution stated, in part, that "from such men as Carter H. Harrison, men of integrity, vision, high civic ideals and unswerving zeal, we shall take example." Harrison led a life full of accomplishments and achievements, and appeared to have no regrets. The only disappointment that seemed to stick with him was the failure of his son, Carter H. Harrison V, to have a son that could carry on the family name. Much to Harrison's chagrin, it was his daughter, Edith Harrison Manierre, who bore him two grandsons, while his son gave him four granddaughters.


11.3 Linear Feet (23 boxes and 1 oversize box)


Correspondence, writings, clippings, photographs, and memorabilia relating to Chicago Mayor Carter Henry Harrison IV (1860-1953), and his family, particularly his wife, Edith Ogden Harrison, and his father, Chicago Mayor Carter Henry Harrison III (1825-1893). The collection also includes a number of letters, autographs, and miscellaneous other documents from famous people that were not originally directed to Harrison or his family, but which Harrison kept as collectibles.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Biographical Materials
Box 1
Series 2: Incoming Correspondence
Boxes 2-8
Series 3: Outgoing Correspondence
Boxes 9-10
Series 4: Harrison Family Correspondence and Miscellaneous Documents
Box 11
Series 5: Correspondence Pertaining to Carter Harrison IV
Box 12
Series 6: Miscellaneous Correspondence
Box 12
Series 7: Writings
Boxes 13-15
Series 8: Clippings
Box 16
Series 9: Photographs and Prints
Box 17
Series 10: Printed Invitations and Souvenirs
Box 18
Series 11: Harrison Family History
Box 18
Series 12: Chicago Commission for the Encouragement of Local Art
Box 19
Series 13: The Hill School Matter
Box 19
Series 14: Edith Ogden Harrison, Incoming Correspondence
Box 19
Series 15: Edith Ogden Harrison, Writings and Outgoing Correspondence
Box 19
Series 16: Carter H. Harrison III, Incoming Correspondence
Box 20
Series 17: Carter H. Harrison III, Outgoing Correspondence
Box 21
Series 18: Carter H. Harrison III, Speeches and Other Works
Box 21
Series 19: Carter H. Harrison III, Miscellaneous Documents
Box 21
Series 20: Miscellaneous
Box 22
Series 21: Collector's Items
Vault Box 23

Collection Stack Location

1 21 5, Vault 49 4


Gift of Carter H. Harrison IV (1860-1953), 1952; Carter H. Harrison V (1890-), 1959; and Russell MacFall, 1960.

Processed by

Amy Nyholm, Diana Haskell, Brian Silbernagel, 2003.

Inventory of the Carter H. Harrison IV papers, 1637-1953, bulk 1840-1950
Brian Silbernagel
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States