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James Curtiss

James Curtiss
11th Mayor of Chicago
In office
Preceded by John P. Chapin
Succeeded by James H. Woodworth
13th Mayor of Chicago
In office
Preceded by James H. Woodworth
Succeeded by Walter S. Gurnee
Personal details
Born April 7, 1803
Wethersfield, Connecticut
Died November 2, 1859(1859-11-02) (aged 56)
Joliet, Illinois
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Mary Kimball
Children James, Mary Kimball, Sarah, Lucy Maria, Elizabeth, Laura, Charles Chauncy, Laura Minnie, George Warren
Residence Chicago, Illinois

James Curtiss (also Curtis) (April 7, 1803 – November 2, 1859) was an American politician who twice served as Mayor of Chicago, Illinois (1847–1848 and 1850–1851) for the Democratic Party.


  • Early life 1
  • Chicago Years 2
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Early life

Born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, he became a printer's apprentice at an early age in Philadelphia.[1] He worked for a time at the Portland Argus, then was printer, and eventually editor and publisher of the Eastport Northern Light, a Jackson Democrat newspaper.[1][2] He married Mary Kimball on May 18, 1830.[3] From 1830 through 1935, he served as a postmaster in Eastport.[4][5] In 1834, Curtiss was under investigation by the Postmaster General for his management of the office.[6]

Chicago Years

Curtiss arrived in Chicago from Eastport, Maine in 1835 and became editor of the Chicago Democrat.[7] Shortly after his arrival in Chicago, he was appointed States Attorney for the district north of the Kankakee River.[1] He opened a short-lived law practice with William Stuart in 1836. Stuart and Curtiss was dissolved in 1837.

The Panic of 1837 left a large number of land investors unable to meet their obligations. Curtiss and others made a vain attempt to delay the opening of the Municipal Court that winter, in hopes of delaying the resulting foreclosures.[8]

Almost immediately on arrival into Chicago, Curtiss began a career of public service. He was appointed to Chicago's first Board of Health in June of that year, and succeeded Ebeneezer Peck as Town Clerk in September 1836.[8] He was elected alderman of the 2nd Ward in 1838, of the 3rd Ward in 1846, and City Clerk in 1842. He ran in Chicago's third mayoral election (1839), losing to Benjamin Wright Raymond, 353-212.[8]

In 1843, he was Corresponding Secretary of the Chicago chapter of the Washington Temperance Society.[8] In 1845, the Illinois Legislature created the Court of Cook County; Curtiss was appointed its first clerk.[8]

In 1847, Curtiss ran a successful campaign against Philo Carpenter (Liberty Party) and John H. Kinzie (Whig) to become Mayor of Chicago. In 1848, he lost to James Hutchinson Woodworth (Independent Democrat (Fusion ticket of Whigs & Democrats)). Running again in 1850, he defeated Levi Day Boone & Lewis C. Kerchival (Democrats without formal party nomination).[9]

He ran unsuccessful campaigns for Mayor in 1851 and 1852, losing both times to Walter S. Gurnee.[9] Retiring from politics, Curtiss moved to West Urbana (now Champaign) Illinois in 1855, and took up farming.[1][10]

Curtiss died on November 2, 1859, in Joliet, Illinois, after a long illness.[3] His funeral was held at the Second Presbyterian Church on Wabash Avenue following the Odd Fellows rites.[1] Originally buried in City Cemetery, when the Cemetery was moved to make way for Lincoln Park, his remains were lost.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Obituary". Chicago Press and Tribune (Chicago). 11-04-1859. 
  2. ^ Joseph Griffin, ed. (1872), A History of the Press of Maine, Brunswick: Press of J. Griffin, pp. 148–149 
  3. ^ a b Morrison, Leonard Allison; Stephen Paschall Sharples (1897). History of the Kimball family in America, from 1634 to 1897 : and of its ancestors the Kemballs or Kemboldes of England; with an account of the Kembles of Boston, Massachusetts. Boston: Damrell & Upham. 
  4. ^ United States Official Postal Guide. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 1831. p. 9. 
  5. ^ Official Register of the United States. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 1835. p. 7. 
  6. ^ Niles, William Ogden (1834). Niles' Weekly Register, 46. Washington, DC: H. Niles. p. 304. 
  7. ^ Hurlbut, Henry Higgins (1881), Chicago Antiquities, Chicago, IL: Chicago, p. 644 
  8. ^ a b c d e Andreas, A.T. (1884), History of Chicago: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time 1, Chicago, IL: A.T. Andreas 
  9. ^ a b "Biography of Mayor Curtiss at Chicago Public Library". Chicago Public Library. 2002. Retrieved 2011-01-22. 
  10. ^ Ninth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point NY, Chicago, IL: A.S. Barnes and Co, 1878 
  11. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence (1996–2010). "Curtiss to Cushin". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2011-01-25. 

External links

  • First Inaugural Address
  • Second Inaugural Address
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