Political Boss: John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald Part 2

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.

This record of accomplishment was more than enough to please the Dearos. In 1894, they sent their favorite to the U.S. Congress. Fitzgerald served in Washington for an undistinguished 3 terms.

Meanwhile, the Yankee establishment in Boston quaked at the prospect of John Fitzgerald and his Dearos moving into city hall, and in the mayoral election of 1905, they united behind a Republican blue blood to stop him. This well-meaning Harvard man, Louis Frothingham, had nearly all of Boston's "respectable" element behind him, but once on the streets, he never knew what hit him. For weeks, Fitzgerald made 10 speeches every night, denouncing his opponents as anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, and un-American. He toured the wards in a large red car, followed by flying squads of what the reporters described as "Napoleon's Lancers."

The result was predictable enough--Johnny Fitzgerald and his Dearos marched into city hall with the zeal of an occupying army. The new mayor made spectacular changes in the way the city was governed. A saloonkeeper replaced a physician on the Board of Health. Another saloonkeeper became superintendent of public buildings. A whitewasher, the superintendent of sewers, and a bartender who had been expelled from the legislature, the superintendent of streets. For deserving Dearos, Fitzgerald created new positions such as city dermatologist. Civil service was easily circumvented by the invention of novel job categories--rubber boot repairers, tea warmers, tree climbers, wipers, watchmen to watch other watchmen.

Fitzgerald made no apologies for the graft in his administration, and as a result he was thrown out of office by a "good government" coalition in 1907. The Republicans kept their pledge to "clean up the mess in City Hall," but after 2 years of this antiseptic government, the voters became so bored that they longed for the return of the colorful Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald's opponent in the next round was New England's wealthiest banker, another Harvard blue blood named James Jackson Storrow. Storrow spent over half a million dollars on his own campaign, but Fitzgerald turned even this fact to his advantage. The slogan "Manhood against Money" was used beneath a touchingly domestic photograph of Fitzgerald and his brood. The most dramatic event of the campaign occurred during a huge rally one warm Saturday night in "the dear old North End." Fitzgerald had hired a brass band for the occasion and had instructed them to play "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "The Wearing of the Green" when he walked onto the platform. Both songs were concluded, however, before Johnny Fitzgerald had finished with his handshaking, and so the bandleader struck up "Sweet Adeline," a popular favorite of the day. With his face beaming, Fitzgerald came up to the edge of the platform and sang the song solo, then led the crowd in the chorus. At that moment, the "Honey Fitz" legend was born. "Sweet Adeline" and the "honey-sweet voice" in which Fitzgerald sang it became his trademarks, and at every public occasion he was obliged to sing the song at least once.

Needless to say, Fitzgerald won the election and served a final term as mayor of Boston. For a while, Honey Fitz toyed with the idea of running for reelection, but he was rudely shouldered aside by the brash young upstart, James Michael Curley, boss of the South Side. In order to attack Fitzgerald, Curley announced a series of "educational" lectures contrasting famous characters in history with John F. Fitzgerald. His 1st lecture, given at Dorchester High School, was on "Graft in Ancient Times v. Graft in Modern Times" and featured a comparison between the Rome of the Decadent Ancients and the Boston of the Dearos. The title of the next lecture--"Great Lovers: from Cleopatra to Tootles"--alluded to the unsubstantiated rumors of a romance between Mayor Fitzgerald and a blond cigarette girl named Tootles Ryan. Before Curley could deliver this knockout blow, Honey Fitz withdrew as a candidate.

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