Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, May 26

Gapers Block

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Elsewhere in this country, people do not perceive the government as being centrally important in their lives. But in Chicago, watching City Hall is one of the city's favorite spectator sports, providing endless entertainment. Chicagoans not only know their alderman's name, they also have his or her number on speed dial.

The long-standing joke declares that Chicagoans like their politics a little corrupt. But the 18 month-long federal investigation into bribes for jobs in the city's Hired Truck Program is testing every resident's corruption tolerance level. Résumés are flying at City Hall these days as the investigation continues to probe broadly and deeply into the government's patronage system, in which the hiring of city workers is influenced by political loyalty.

Yet while some political pundits are looking ahead to the next election and speculation runs wild about Mayor Richard M. Daley's political future, others are looking back.

Chicago's younger generations were not yet born when the first Mayor Daley ruled Chicago for 21 years, dying in office in 1976. They do not remember the Shakman decrees that outlawed the city's patronage system in the 1970s. As a result, there has been a rise in interest in learning more about the reign of Chicago's last boss, Richard J. Daley.

The following bibliography will help the under-35 crowd match wits with any Boomer over Chicago politics and government. Although some of the titles are no longer in print, all can be found at local libraries.

Essential Reading

Cohen, Adam and Elizabeth Taylor. American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation. (2000)
This book was called "the one indispensable source on Daley" by one reviewer and well-reviewed in the press all around when it was published. The book is an engaging and detailed account of the life of Richard J. Daley, which also places him within the larger context of twentieth-century politics. Amazon offers it in PDF format for only $9.95.

Royko, Mike. Boss: Richard J. Daley of Chicago. (1971)
This best-selling biography is distinctive because of its author as much as it is for its subject. Essential reading not only for those interested in Daley, but also those interested in Royko's signature style.

The Rest

Biles, Roger. Richard J. Daley: Politics, Race and the Governing of Chicago. (1995)
A concise and even-handed biography of the late mayor that synthesizes earlier sources, and focuses especially on race relations in the Chicago politics of Daley's era.

Ciccone, F. Richard. Daley: Power and Presidential Politics. (1996)

Gleason, William F. Daley of Chicago: The Man, the Mayor, and the Limits of Conventional Politics. (1970)
This was the first published biography of Daley and established a tone and scope followed by many subsequent works.

Granger, Bill and Lori Granger. Lords of the Last Machine: The Story of Politics in Chicago. (1987)

Kennedy, Eugene C. Himself!: The Life and Times of Mayor Richard J. Daley. (1978)
This biography was one of the first published after the mayor's death. Written by a psychologist, when Milton Rakove, himself a Daley biographer, reviewed this book, he declared, "it is well worth reading for anyone interested in a trained psychologist's analysis of Mayor Daley's personality."

O'Connor, Len. Clout: Mayor Daley and His City (1975)
A colorful look at the life and time of Mayor Daley, published while he was still in office.

O'Connor, Len. Requiem: The Decline and Demise of Mayor Daley and His Era. (1977)
A follow-up book, published just after Daley's death, that outlines the final years of the mayor's reign.

Rakove, Milton L. Don't Make No Waves, Don't Back No Losers: An Insider's Analysis of the Daley Machine. (1975)
One reviewer succinctly described this book as "better than Royko, but not as good as Gleason," referring, of course, to Boss and William's Gleason's Daley of Chicago.

Rakove, Milton L. We Don't Want Nobody Sent: An Oral History of the Daley Years. (1979)

Sullivan Frank. Legend: The Only Inside Story About Mayor Richard J. Daley (1989)


Join the Gapers Block Book Club! Just sign up for the email list for news, announcements and more. This month we are reading Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury. We will be meeting to discuss the book on Monday, September 12, at The Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. The meeting will begin at 7:30pm.

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About the Author(s)

Alice Maggio is a Chicago librarian. She welcomes questions and topic suggestions for her column at . Due to the volume of email received, she may not reply to every query, but you may be contacted if your question is selected for the column.

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