“Genius is but audacity, and the audacity of Chicago has chosen a star. It has looked upward to it and knows nothing that it fears to attempt and thus far has found nothing that it cannot accomplish.”—Mayor Carter H. Harrison, October 28, 1893
New York Times, October 29, 1893
The Assassin’s Life Saved by the Prompt Action of Pollce In Getting Him Away Before the Excited Crowd Around Mayor Harrison’s Residence Recognized Him—Several Shots Fired by the Assassin at His Victim. Who Was Taken Completely by Surprise—The Mayor’s Last Day on Earth Passed at the World’s Fair Entertaining the Mayors of Other Cities—The Dead Man Was to Have Been Married to a Louisiana Lady Next Week—His Life Ends Almost Simultaneously with the Exposition Which He DId So Much to Aid—Witnesses of the Brutal Murder, and No Inmate of the House but a Waiting Maid Saw the Assassin—Mr. Harrison’s Career as Editor and PolIticIan.
CHICAGO, Oct. 28.-Carler Henry Harrison, Mayor of Chicago, was shot at his residence, 231 Ashland Boulevard. at 8:07 o’clock to-night. and died at 8:47 o’clock.
His murderer was a disappointed office-seeker named Eugene Patrick Prendergast, who obtained admittance to the Mayor’s home in the guise of a visitor.
The assassin gave himself up at the Desplaine 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 o’clook very weary. the exercises at the Fair Grounds having taxed his energies to their utmost. Dinner was served at 6 o’clook, 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
Soon after 8 o’clock the door bell rang, and the maidservant answered it. She found at the door a small-sized, weazen-faced. smooth-shaven man. who asked if the Mayor was at home. In reply to the maid’s interrogatory, he gave his name as Prendergast. As the name was a familiar one to the maid. she admitted the man to the hall way and closed the door. She then went to the rear parlor where the Mayor was sleeping and awoke him. He did not at once enter the hall where Prendergast was waiting, and the maid had returned to tne servants’ quarters in the basement of the house before the tralledy occurred.
Carter H. Harrison residence
231 Ashland Boulevard
The house is an old-fashioned double brick, with a hall through the centre, on either side of which various rooms open. From the direction taken by the maidservant 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.
Prendergast then delibera.tely 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 falling the assassin fired a second time, the bullet striking the Mayor just above the ear. The murderer surveyed his work for an instant, and then fired a tnird time at the prostrate body of his victim. The shot this time struok Mr. Harrison in the left hand.
The three sbots were all fired as quickly as it was possible with the heavy thirty-eight-calibre revolver which Prendergast had in his hand, and before the other peopie 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 on 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 as he ran fired a shot over his shoulder at his 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 Desplaines Street Police Station.
Sergt, 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!
Sergt. McDonald started at the appearance of the man. but he qniokly asked bim to stop inside the railing. The man did so. He was trembling 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, he said:
I killed Mayor Harrison!
I worked hard for him during his campaign for the Mayor, 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 Sergt. McDonald. He appeared to be about twenty-five years old, about 5 feet 7 inches 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 Desplaines 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 eye witnesses 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 maid servants. 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 ut the time who caught sight of the murderer. Preston Harrisou was the first to reach the side of his father.
On his way down stairs Preston Harrison rang the police call twice. The shots made him aware that some desperate deed had been oonsUlnmated. 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 up stairs. 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 of 234 Ashland Boulevard. who was standing at the door of his house, directly opposite the Mayor’s residence, heard the shooting. and calling to his wife that there was trouble over the way, he quickly ran across the street in time to Eee the assassin make his escape. He entered the house and met Preston Harrison just as the young man advanced to the doorway in which the prostrate form of the Mayor lay.
Life was 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. W. J. Chalmers. who live across the street, had started for the Harrison residence, as they had heard the shooting. They saw a man running up Ashland avenue and met tho son 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 entered the house, Mr. Chalmers at once making a pillow of his oyercoat which he placed nnder Mr. Harrison’s head.
“I have been shot and oannot live,” said tbe Mayor, as he gasped for breath.
“You won’t die.” said Mr. Chalmers.
“You have only been shot in the abdomen.”
“No, I have beeu 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 tho house. Thoae within were anxiously waiting 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.
Miss Howard hat! been here for several days. She was to have been married to Mayor Harrison Nov. 7 at Biloxi, .Miss., her home. When in this city sho has 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 under way for a splendid wedding. A special train was to have borne the party to Biloxi. and fetes were prepared there for their entertainment. Miss Howard came here at this time to finish the preparation of her trousseau. She 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 tho house after dinner in company with Mr. 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 it prepared the two women for some dreadful catastrophe. But up to the time they entered the doorway they had no hint of the real trouble. It would have taken a very callous person to have breathed the story of the crime into their ears at such a time. It was left for the members of the family to break the news. Miss Howard and Mrs. Harrison were met by Preston Harrison at the door, and guided up stairs out of reach of those who had gathered 1n the house. There they were informod of what had taken place. Miss Howard’s grief was pitiable, and Mrs. Harrison fainted away.
Neither Miss Sophie Harrison. Miss Howard, Mrs. Carter Harrison, Jr., nor Carter H. Harrison, Jr., saw Mr. Harrison alive after dinner. Carter H. Harrison. Jr. was down town, and did not return home until the news of his father’s death reached him through the rumors which speedily went flying over the city. Miss Howard and Mrs. Harr1son did not reach the house until after Mayor Harrison had passed away.
There was the greatest oxcitement all over the city when the news of the murder 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 wan living at 359 Ashland Avenue. was passing the Mayor’s house just as Prendergast paased in. He noticed Pendergast, and wondered if the man were a politician or somebody who was helping the Mayor in his preparations for his 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 enter the Mayor’s residence was responsible. He quickly made up his mind to lie in wait for him. and catch him as he came out.
With this end in view, Smith entered a clump of lilac bushes which adorn the grounds in front of the house on eaeh 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 buahes and attempted to grapple with him.
Prendergast eluded his grasp and, jumping over the fence, ran down Ashland Avenue toward Adams Street. Smith ran after him and followed him as the murderer turned down Adams Street. Smith says that just as be tUrned the corner of Adams Street two more shots were fired in the house. and he turned back, as it seemed impossible for him to cat.ch Prendergast, to see what new trouble was brewing in the ill fated mansion. As he turned into the grounds on 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:
Here is the murderer!
Those who ran up took up 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 walton which came up in response to Preston Harrison’s call brought several policllmen, one of whom arrested Mr. Smith in spite of his vehement statement that he was only trying to catch the murderer. The policeman finally led
Mr. Smith to tho house, where he was readily identified as a neighbor, and his
release. of course, followed.
When Prendergast was removed from the Desplaines 8treet Police Station he was conveyed in a carriage to the Central Police Station in the City Hall. Here he was taken in charge by Inspector Shea, who at once proceeded to catechise 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 second-hand revolver at a pawn shop for $5. The revolver was a five-shooter. At 8 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 Joseph Prendergast. My mother is a good, innocent woman. She lives over at 609 Jane Streut, 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. She asked me for my name and I gave it to her, and told her 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.
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 street car and rode down to Desplaines Street Station. I walked in to 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 Street.
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 these papers. J. H. Johnson is the circulator of the Inter Ocean.
How old are you?
Why, I’m twenty-five. 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 or practiced. I just put that pistol in my pocket and went over and shot the Mayor.
At frequent intervals the prisoner squirmed unoasily in his chair and refused for a moment to proeeed. 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 on 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 meetings of the Commmitte of Two Hundred, whioh 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 that 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 duting the entire Summer have been many and exacting, but through them all he carried himself with a 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 and entertainmcnt 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 Boulevard. 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 wav Which left no cause for complaint. This was on the occasion of the reception and entertainment of the= Spanish Infanta. Mayor Harrison’s gallantry was given full expression on all of the public and private functions at which he appeared as the representative of the city which was entertaining the Princess. In connection with the receptions of prominent people and special days at the World’s Fair, Mayor Harrison was called upon to make some forty speeches, and was always in the best of humor, and his speeches were uniformly well received, though they were often criticized.
Illustrations of Assassination of Chicago’s Mayor Harrison from Harper’s Weekly November 11, 1893, From Sketches by Charles Mente and T. Dart Walker.
Illustrations of Mayor Harrison’s Funerals Mayor Harrison from Chicago Tribune November 2, 1893.
Excerpted from Chicago Tribune July 14, 1894
Patrick Eugene Prendergast has paid the penalty of his life for the murder of Carter Henry Harrison. At 11:48 o’clock yesterday morning the trap of the gallows fell from beneath his trembling feet and the rope put an end to his wretched life. He made no speech. He did not speak a word from the time the death march started from the room where he had passed his last night on earth, save for a whispered sentence to the black robed priest who stood beside him on the scaffold. Aside from the trembling of his limbs and the deep breaths which ended in gasps there was no sign from him to show he feared the end.
His death must have been without pain, as his neck was broken by the fall of six feet and there was not a perceptible movement after the trap was sprung. A jury of physicians occupied two benches just in front of the gallows. When the trap fell County Physician Fortner, who headed the jury, stood beside the shrouded body to determine when life had become extinct. There was a wait of five minutes when the other physicians were called to aid in the examination. His pulse continued to beat for almost ten minutes, then the last flutter ceased and Prendergast was pronounced dead. Another five minutes was passed and then the rope’s end was loosened, the body lowered into a waiting coffin, and all was over. The law had taken its course.
December 29, 1893
Prendergast’s brother appealed the sentence, saying that Eugene was insane. The attorney for the appeal was not-yet-famous Clarence Darrow. It was Darrow’s first murder case–and the only one he ever lost to the executioner. The appeal was denied, and Eugene Prendergast was hanged on July 13, 1894.
Four years after Harrison’s murder, his son–also named Carter Harrison–became mayor of Chicago. Like his father, the younger Harrison would be elected to the office five times.
The two times that Chicago held a world’s fair, both times the mayor was shot and killed.
Almost forty years later, in an attempt to kill President-elect Franklin D. Roosevelt, Chicago Mayor, Anton Cermak was shot and killed during a yachting event in Miami, on February 21, 1933, just a few months before the opening of the Century of Progress World’s Fair. The mayor died on March 5th and the murderer, Giuseppi Zangara, was electrocuted on March 20.