Political Boss: John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald Part 1

About the political boss John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald his biography and the history of the United States.

JOHN F. "Honey Fitz" FITZGERALD (1863-1951). Political boss.

One of the most colorful politicians of modern times, founder of an American political dynasty, Fitzgerald was born in Boston's North End, the son of Irish immigrants. Like many other Irish Americans of his generation, he grew up in a red brick tenement and received much of his education in the streets.

In the Boston of the 1880s the Irish may have constituted a majority of the city's population, but they remained largely under the thumb of the Yankee aristocracy. Fitzgerald's 1st step in politics was to prove himself a "regular fellow" to his Irish neighbors in the North End. He became active in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the St. Alphonsus Association, the Knights of St. Rose, the Neptune Associates, the Catholic Union of Boston, and dozens of other religious and fraternal organizations.

All this sociability paid off in 1892 when young Fitzgerald, who had been earning his living in the insurance business, got himself elected to the Boston Common Council. He now set out to consolidate his position and establish himself as boss of the North End. In a shabby upstairs office, he set up the "Jefferson Club," where anyone with a problem was free to drop in at any time. He kept an indexed card file of everyone in his district who needed a job. At Thanksgiving and Christmas he was on hand with food baskets that contained, among other things, a festive turkey. No wedding took place in the North End without a prominently displayed gift from Johnny Fitzgerald. Each morning he scanned the death notices in the papers, and he never missed a wake.

Before long, Fitzgerald was ready to announce his candidacy for the Massachusetts State Senate. In the course of his campaign, the flattering phrase "Dear old North End" tripped so easily and so frequently from Fitzgerald's tongue that his North End supporters became known as "Dearos." To his opponents, the talkative young politico was known as "Fitzblarney."

On Election Day, the Dearos came through and sent their man to the State Senate. In his new position, Fitzgerald distinguished himself primarily by sponsoring Columbus Day as a State holiday in order to please the thousands of Italian immigrants who were then arriving in Boston. He also used his State House connections to place a horde of relatives and supporters in comfortable state jobs.

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