Thursday, December 11, 2008

There's a Sucker Born Every Minute: Michael C. McDonald and Illinois Corruption

On 111th Street, in my Morgan Park neighborhood, Mount Olivet Catholic Cemetery holds the remains of Chicagoans who not only served and protected; built and preserved;blessed and sanctified; but also corrupted and terrorized this city we love. Mt. Olivet is a Chicago museum that holds the bones of Francis O'Neil the Chicago Police Superintendent who single-handedly preserved Ireland's Musical Heritage and stemmed much of the violence during the 1904 Stockyard Strikes in Canaryville; Spanish American War/WWI/WWII heroes; the Chicago Clan-na-Gael Fenians who invaded Canada after the Civil War; gangsters involved in the Prohibition Beer Wars; and members of the many religious orders who created the Settlement House institutions that were co-opted by Jane Addams and erased from public memory by Progressive Agendas. Mt. Olivet holds people that we on the south side call 'The Real Deal.'

Last night at an intimate gathering to celebrate author Rose Keefe's visit to Chicago ( Rose is the author of the definitive biographies of Chicago beer war chieftains Dean O'Banion and George 'Bugs' Moran and recently The Starker: Big Jack Zelig and brilliant conversationalist), I had the pleasure of discussing the current political scandal concerning Illinois Governor Blagojevich with Richard Lindberg a veteran Chicago crime/political journalist/historian/author and host of the History Channel's 'Underground Chicago.'

Mr. Lindberg is coming out with a biography on the life of Michael Cassius 'Big Mike' McDonald the author of Chicago and Illinois political corruption. Recently Richard Lindberg authored the chilling study of the 1955 murders of two Chicago boys-The Schuessler-Peterson Murders by the monster Kenneth Hansen.

Big Mike McDonald controlled the vice and gambling in Chicago and created the cushion between the elites and the working classes through his corruption of elected officials. McDonald viewed himself as a commodities (gambling and drinking) broker confronted by a Ruling Class of Eastern Progressive Reformers who tried to outlaw beer ( to the masses of German immigrants) and whiskey ( to floods of stockyard and canal worker Irish) as well as gambling to all Americans. The forces of Reform were essentially Nativist Know-Nothings using Prohibition of booze and games of chance to effect political control over Chicago.

Richard Lindberg explained that long before Al Capone became associated with political corruption, Michael Cassius McDonald had perfected, what John Kass so brilliantly termed 'The Combine' - a Coalition of the Willing: 'Turn a blind eye to crime/You got Yours and I got Mine!'

Richard Lindberg's study of Big Mike is coming out soon.

Until then - take a look at this tight sketch of Big Mike from the folks at Find A Grave.Com: Photos from that great site!

Birth: 1839
Death: Aug. 8, 1907
Cook County
Illinois, USA

Irish gangster. McDonald began his career as a gambler and used his winnings to open his own gaming parlors and saloons around Chicago. As his wealth grew so did his political power. McDonald eventually became leader of the Chicago Democratic Organization. McDonald became so powerful in fact that on his endorsement alone he could get men elected to high political office. In 1873 McDonald built "The Store" a large four-story saloon, boarding house, and gaming hall. The Store was dubbed "the unofficial City Hall" because much of the city's business was conducted on it's upper floors. A famous phrase, believed to have first been said by legendary circus man P.T. Barnum or Barnum's competitor, banker David Hannum, was allegedly attributed to McDonald. When an employee asked McDonald how they would ever keep The Store filled to turn a profit, McDonald allegedly responded "Don't worry about that. There's a sucker born every minute". The phrase "Never give a sucker an even break" was also credited to McDonald. McDonald was married twice, first to Mary Noonan, then to Dora Feldman. Mike renounced his Catholic faith and divorced Mary to marry Dora. At the age of thirty-two Dora fell in love with a 14-year old artist named Webster Guerin whom she was insanely jealous over. Dora became livid when she mistook Avis Dargan, the fiancee of Webster's brother Archie, as one of Webster's girlfriends. On the morning of February 21, 1907 Dora crept into Webster's studio and shot him through the neck killing him. During Dora's trial "King Mike" McDonald died of heart failure, but left enough money to cover his wife's expenses and court costs. Dora was aquitted on February 11, 1908. On his deathbed McDonald reclaimed his Catholic faith and proclaimed Mary as his only wife in the eyes of God. Mary and two of McDonald's sons from his first marriage later joined Mike in the family mausoleum in Mount Olivet cemetery. Dora was excluded. (bio by: Bobby Hart)

Search Amazon for Michael McDonald

Mount Olivet Cemetery
Cook County
Illinois, USA
Plot: Section 2 - Directly inside front gates turn right

Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Apr 8 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 10741444

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