1893: Mayor Carter Harrison

Mayor Carter Harrison, photo courtesy the Chicago Historical Society

The assassination of Mayor Carter Harrison occurred immediately after he had given the closing address at the World Columbian Exposition on October 28, 1893. The Mayor was known as the Mayor of the Common Man, and much beloved. The mayor was shot in his home by Eugene Patrick Prendergast, whose sanity was immediately in question. After several mental examinations Prendergast was executed.

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The murder of the Mayor attracted attention not only because it was the Mayor who was murdered, but also because the defendant’s claims for justification were so unreasonable. Prendergast turned himself into the police and explained that he had just shot the Mayor because the Mayor had not awarded him the job of Corporation Counsel, a job for which he was untrained and unqualified. At the hearing as to whether he was sane enough to be executed, Prendergast was represented by Clarence Darrow. Medical experts were split on the question of his sanity, and Prendergast did hang. The case is discussed and analyzed in “Lunatics and Anarchists: Political Homicide in Chicago.”