Select Page

The New York Times report of Carter Harrison’s assassination.

Carter Harrison Grave marker

CHICAGO, OCT. 28– Carter Henry Harrison, Mayor of Chicago, was shot at his residence, 231 Ashland Boulevard, at 8:07 o’clock tonight, and died at 8:47 o’clock.

His murderer was a disappointed office seeker named Eugene Patrick Prendergast, who obtain admittance to the mayor’s home in the guise of a visitor.

The assassin gave himself up at the Des Plaines Street police station half an hour later, and was taken in charge by the police and spirited away to some unknown place to prevent any possible attempt by a mob to lynch him.

Mayor Harrison had been at the fair during the day to attend the celebration of American Cities. He returned to his residence at 5 p.m. very weary, the exercises at the fairgrounds having taxed his energies to their utmost. Dinner was served at six o’clock, and after the repast the mayor retired to the back parlor and lay down on a couch, with the remark that he would take a rest, but that he was to be awakened if any person called or any message was received for him. He fell into a peaceful sleep.

Soon after 8 p.m. the doorbell rang, and the maid servant answered it. She found at the door a small sized, weazen-faced, smooth shaven man, who asked if the mayor was at home. And replied to the maid interrogatory, he gave his name as Prendergast. As the name was a familiar one to the maid, she admitted the man to the hallway and close the door. She then went to the rear parlor where the mayor was sleeping and awoke him. She did not at once into the hall where Prendergast was waiting, and the maid had returned to the servants quarters in the basement of the house before the tragedy occurred.

The house is an old-fashioned double brick, with a hall through the center, on either side of which various rooms opened. From the direction taken by the maid servant when she announced him, Prendergast, who was waiting in the hall, knew in which of the rooms the mayor was. He apparently grew impatient at the delay, and before the mayor appeared he had started toward the rear of the hall, intending, in all probability, to enter the room, but just as he was approaching the door the mayor appeared through the doorway.

Carter Harrison Grave marker

Prendergast then deliberately placed a large sized revolver close to the mayor’s body and fired. The shot struck the mayor in the abdomen, and he reeled and fell backward, catching at the side of the doorway as he fell. As he was following the assassin fired a second time, the bullet striking the mayor just above the year. The murderer surveyed his work for an instant, and then fired a third time at the prostrate body of his victim. The shot this time struck Mr. Harrison in the left-hand.

The three shots were all fired as quickly as possible with the heavy 38 caliber revolver which Prendergast had in his hand, and before the other people in the house could get to the mayor’s assistance his murderer turned and fled through the hall out the door, down the long walk between the lawns to the gate, and out onto Ashland Avenue.

As he ran down the walk to the street, the gardener who had been aroused by the shooting, ran around the side of the house and tried to overtake him. Prendergast saw his danger from this source, and turned and fired a shot over his shoulder at the pursuer. It went wide of its mark, but it was effective in keeping the gardener at a distance. The murderer was able to make his escape into the darkness.

He ran away at this time in order to avoid being killed by those who were attracted by the shooting, for half an hour later he gave himself up at the Des Plaines Street police station.

Sergeant Frank McDonald was just receiving over the telephone the news of the mayor’s death, when he was interrupted by the exclamation, “I am the man who did the shooting!” Sergeant McDonald started at the appearance of the man, but he quickly asked him to step inside the railing. The man did so. He was traveling with excitement, but to all appearances, except for the agitation, was perfectly sane. He repeated the remark that he had made on entering the station, to those who quickly gathered about him, “I killed Mayor Harrison.” He said: “I worked hard for him during his campaign for the Mayoralty, and he promised to make me corporation counsel. He was elected, but he failed to keep his promise, and I have shot him because he didn’t do as he said he would.”

Prendergast still carried in his hand the revolver with which he shot the mayor. It was taken from him by Sergeant McDonald. He appeared to be about 25 years old, about 5’7″ in height, and of slight build.

The police officers at the station were afraid that as soon as the cause of the mayor’s death became generally known a mob would collect to avenge him. Prendergast was therefore not placed in a cell at the Des Plaines Street Station, but in charge of four policemen was taken in a carriage to another part of the city and locked up to await the judicial inquiry into his rash act.

There were no eyewitnesses of the brutal, cold-blooded murder. In the house at the time were Preston Harrison, the mayor’s youngest son; Sophie Harrison, his daughter; the butler, and three maidservants. Preston Harrison and his sister were in the upper part of the house. The servants were all below stairs, the maid who answered the bell being the only person of those in the house at the time who caught sight of the murderer. Preston Harrison was the first to reach the side of his father.

On his way down the stairs Preston Harrison rang the police call twice. The shots made him aware that some desperate deed had been consummated, but he did not know as he called the police that he was summoning them to look for the murderer of his own father. He was overcome by horror and grief, but he immediately went upstairs, where he met his sister Sophie, who was preparing to descend, and gently forced her back to her room, where, with as much care as was possible, he told her of the awful fate of her father.

W.J. Chalmers, a neighbor, entered the house and met Preston Harrison just as a young man advanced to the doorway in which the prostrate form of the mayor lay. Life is rapidly ebbing away. Blood was flowing freely from the three wounds in the mayor’s body, and the carpet beneath him was saturated with it. The two men picked Mr. Harrison up and carried him to the couch from which he had arisen to meet his murderer.

Mr. Harrison said: “I am shot, Preston, and cannot live. Where is Annie?”

Mr. Harrison hastily left his father’s side and rushed out upon the street in pursuit of the assassin. In the meantime Mr. and Mrs. WJ Chalmers, who live across the street, had started for the Harrison residence, as they had heard the shooting. They saw a young man running up Ashland Avenue and met us on Preston in pursuit. Young Mr. Harrison stopped long enough to inform his neighbors of the terrible affair and then started in pursuit of the murderer. Mr. and Mrs. Chalmers hastily into the house, Mr. Chalmers at once make in a pillow of his overcoat which he placed under Mr. Harrison’s head.

“I have been shot and cannot live,” said the mayor, as he gasped for breath.

“You will not die,” said Mr. Chalmers. “You have only been shot in the abdomen.”

“No, I have been shot in the heart and I know I cannot live,” was the reply.

Those were the last words of Mayor Harrison.

Neighbors gathered about the doorway in great numbers. Only a few of these were admitted to the house. Those within were anxiously awaiting the appearance of one other woman, who in a short time was to have become the bride of the man who was at that moment in the throes of death.

Ms. Howard has been here for several days. She was to have been married to Mayor Harrison November 7 at Biloxi Mississippi, her home. When in this city she had always visited at the mayor’s house, and the two became very much attached to each other. The attachment ripened into love, and early this summer the engagement was announced. Extensive arrangements were underway for a splendid wedding. A special train was to have borne the party to Biloxi, and fetes were prepared there for their entertainment. Ms. Howard came here this time to finish the preparation of her trousseau. He was to have returned to Biloxi early next week. As usual, she visited at the mayor’s house, which is presided over by Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Jr. Miss Howard left the house after dinner and company with Mrs. Carter H. Harrison, Jr. they returned together, but Miss Howard was the first to enter the house. She did so between the files of sympathetic neighbors who had gathered about the house.

The unusual crowd and the serious faces of the people in a prepared the two women for some dreadful catastrophe. But up to the time they enter the doorway they had no hint of the real trouble. It would’ve taken a very callous person to have breathed the story of the crime into their years at such time. It was left for the members of the family to break the news. Ms. Howard and Mrs. Harrison were met by Preston Harrison at the door, and guided upstairs out of the reach of those who had gathered in the house. There they were informed of what had taken place.

There was the greatest excitement all over the city when the news of the murderer was bruited about. It raged most hotly in the throng which filled the grounds about the mayor’s house. This nearly resulted in the lynching of an innocent man, R. Earle Smith, a young man living at 359 Ashland Avenue, was passed in the mayor’s house just as Pendergast passed in. He noticed Prendergast and wondered if the man were a politician or somebody who is helping the mayor in his preparation for the approaching wedding. Just after Mr. Smith had passed the House, he heard two shots and he felt at once that the man whom he had seen and to the mayor’s residence was responsible. He quickly made up his mind to lie in wait for him and catch him if he came out.

With the end in view, Smith entered a clump of lilac bushes which adorn the grounds in front of the house on each side of the path leading up to the door. When Prendergast appeared at the door, after killing Mayor Harrison, and ran down the path, Smith sprang from the bushes and attempted to grapple him.

Pendergast eluded his grasp and, jumping over the fence, ran down Ashland Avenue towards Adams Street. Smith ran after him and followed him as the murderer turned down Adams Street. Smith says that just as he turned the corner of Adams Street two more shots were fired in the house, and he turned back, and it seemed impossible for him to catch Prendergast, to see what new trouble was brewing in the ill-fated mansion. As he turned into the grounds in his return, the Butler pointed a revolver at him and commanded him to surrender.

Smith tried to explain who he was, but the Butler cried out: “there is the murderer!” Those who ran up to cup the cry, and in an instant Smith was surrounded by an angry mob, which, in addition to handling him roughly, threatened him with lynching.

The police patrol wagon which came up in response to Preston Harrison’s call brought several policemen, one of whom arrested Mr. Smith in spite of his vehenement statement that he was only trying to catch the murderer. The policeman finally led Mr. Smith to the house, where he was readily identified as a neighbor, and his release, of course, followed.

When Prendergast was removed from the display and Street police station he was conveyed in a carriage to the central police station in City Hall. Here he was taken in charge by Inspector Shea, who will once proceeded to catechize him as to the incidents leading up to the crime.

Prendergast said that he made up his mind to kill the mayor yesterday. He went out on Milwaukee Avenue and purchased a secondhand revolver at a pawn shop for five dollars. The revolver was a five shooter. At eight o’clock, as nearly as he could remember, he went to the mayor’s house and rang the bell.

“How many shots did you fire?”

“I fired three shots. That was enough. There was another in the gun.”

“What is your full name?”

“Patrick Eugene Prendergast. My mother is a good, innocent woman. She lives over at 609 Jane Street, west of Seymour. We used to live at 357 Ohio Street.”

“Did you ever go to school?”

“Yes, I’m a good Catholic. I studied at St. Patrick’s school. I know a good many big men. Now there is Archbishop—-, I forgot his name.”

“What happened there?” Asked the inspector.

“I told the girl who came to the door that I wanted to see the mayor. He asked me for my name and I gave it to her, and told her that I had particular business with the mayor.”

“What happened then?

“Why the girl went in and told Mr. Harrison that I wanted to see him.”

“And then?”

“I shot him. I didn’t say a word to the mayor, nor he to me. I shot him and I was justified in doing it.”

“But what did you have against the mayor?”

“I made up my mind to shoot him, and I had some difficulty in doing it. The mayor failed to fulfill his promise to me to elevate the tracks.”

“What happened when the mayor came to the door?”

“I don’t remember exactly. I came out and ran away. Men chased me. I jumped on a streetcar and rode down to Des Plaines Street Station. I walked into the sergeant’s desk and said, ‘I have killed the mayor.'”

“Who are your relatives?”

“I’ve got one brother John. He’s a clerk in the post office. My mother and I used to live at 357 Ohio St.”

“Where do you work?”

“I work as a distributor for the Morning Inter Ocean and Evening Post. I am employed by the city circulators of these papers.”

“How old are you?”

“Why, I am 25. I think I was justified in shooting the mayor. If I get a fair trial before a fair jury I’ll be acquitted.”

“Have you ever studied law?”

“No, I have never studied are practiced. I just put that pistol in my pocket and went over and shot the mayor.”

At frequent intervals the prisoner squirmed uneasily in his chair and refused for a moment to proceed. He is a smooth faced, hollow cheeked, weak looking young man, the most prominent feature of his face being a protruding under lip. His whole appearance indicated a depraved and vicious mind. His nose is sharp and crooked, and his hair, cut short, sparsely covers his misshapen head.

The mayor took a prominent part in the endeavor to provide employment for the unemployed during the exceedingly dull season of last summer. He did everything in his power to advance the work of municipal improvements in order that the laborers out of work might be provided with employment cleaning the streets, constructing sewers, and laying gas and water mains. At the meeting of the Committee of Two Hundred, which was appointed by him to take charge of the entire matter of furnishing food and employment for the unemployed, he was found to be alive to the interests of the poor people of the city, fertile in suggestion, and solicitous of the work of relief and of furnishing employment might be begun without delay. Many of the suggestions which were adopted by the committee with such success were made by him.

The social duties of the mayor in connection with the World’s Fair during the entire summer have been many and exacting, but through it all he carried himself with the dignity and frankness of spirit and action which won him the respect of Chicago’s guests from abroad and the approval of her citizens. One of the first of these was the reception of an entertainment for some days of the Duke of Veragua and his suite. At public functions as well as in the privacy of his own beautiful home on Ashland Blvd., Mayor Harrison did his share to make the visit of the descendant of Columbus at the World’s Fair a pleasant one.

On another notable occasion the mayor also did the honors as the head of a great city in a way which left no cause for complaint. This was on the occasion of the reception and entertainment of the Spanish Intifata. Mayor Harrison’s gallantry was given full expression in all the public and private functions at which he appeared as a representative of the city which was entertaining the Princess. In connection with the reception of prominent people and special days at the world’s fair, Mayor Harrison was called upon to make some 40 speeches, and was always in the best of humor, and the speeches were uniformly well received, though they often were criticized.

Related Reading:
  • The Armour Incubator Baby
  • Philip Armour, Packing Houses and Globalization
  • Philip Armour’s Grave and Obituary
  • The Assassination of Carter H. Harrison, Mayor of Chicago, 1893
  • George Pullman’s Grave and Obituary
  • Deadstyles of Chicago’s Rich and Famous: Cyrus McCormick
  • The Getty Tomb and the Ryerson Mausoleum
  • Graceland Cemetery: Daniel Burnham’s Final Green Space
  • Tinker to Evers to Chance: Baseball’s Sad Lexicon
  • Newsburglar Archives