Ogden Gas scandal

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The Ogden Gas scandal was a political scandal in Chicago in February and March 1895[1] that concerned the formation of the Ogden Gas Company for the purposes of forcing an existing gas franchise holder to purchase it and thereby enrich members of the city government.[2] Of the ten aldermen who had voted for the ordinance forming the company and ran for re-election in April, only two received another term; another six pro-ordinance aldermen declined to run.[3] Democratic Mayor John Patrick Hopkins declined to run for reelection and supported Democratic candidate Frank Wenter, who was heavily defeated by Republican George Bell Swift.[4] Upon taking office Swift signed ordinances repealing the franchises of the company and shortly thereafter revoked the company's permits to do business.[4]


John Patrick Hopkins was born in Buffalo, New York, and dropped out of school at the age of 13.[5] He met and befriended Roger Sullivan, and the two constructed a political machine.[6]

Passage of ordinances[edit]

On February 25, 1895, the Chicago City Council met and discussed many trivial items on the agenda; the companies later subject to scandal did not appear.[7] Hopkins left early in the meeting and gave the gavel to alderman Mike Ryan, who recognized fellow alderman John McGillen.[8] McGillen introduced an ordinance to grant a franchise to the Norwood Construction Company for the construction of an electric plant, before substituting for it an ordinance granting the Cosmopolitan Electric Company a 50-year franchise.[9] The Cosmopolitan Electric Company's franchise passed despite the concerns of several aldermen unaffiliated with the scheme and the fact that the company itself was unknown to the council.[9]

Ryan gave the gavel to McGillen, who recognized alderman John Powers.[9] Powers introduced a motion to reconsider a failed 1892 franchise to the City and County Gas Company.[9] After an attempt to delay this was shelved, Powers substituted for it a franchise to the Ogden Gas Company, which also passed despite objections.[9]


The ordinance was called "the most disgraceful act" in the history of the City Council by a local paper.[5] Attempting to determine the identities of those who operated the mysterious companies became fashionable throughout Chicago.[10]

Hopkins's career was ruined in the aftermath of the scandal.[5] He was castigated by opponents as the most corrupt mayor in Chicago's history to that date.[5] He died of Spanish flu in 1918.[5]


  1. ^ Hogan, p. 87
  2. ^ Flanagan, Maureen A. (2004). "Gray Wolves". Encyclopedia of Chicago. Chicago Historical Society.
  3. ^ Hogan, p. 74
  4. ^ a b Hogan, p. 75
  5. ^ a b c d e Hogan, p. 12
  6. ^ Hogan, pp. 12–13
  7. ^ Hogan, p. 66
  8. ^ Hogan, pp. 66–67
  9. ^ a b c d e Hogan, p. 67
  10. ^ Hogan, p. 68

Works cited[edit]

  • Hogan, John F. (2018). Chicago Shakedown: The Ogden Gas scandal. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press. ISBN 9781467139519.