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William B. Ogden

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

William Butler Ogden
William B Ogden by GPA Healy, 1855.jpg
1st Mayor of Chicago
In office
Preceded byCreated
Succeeded byBuckner Stith Morris
Member of the New York State Assembly
In office
January 1, 1835 – December 31, 1835
ConstituencyDelaware County, New York
Personal details
Born(1805-06-15)June 15, 1805
Walton, New York
DiedAugust 3, 1877(1877-08-03) (aged 72)
New York City
Political partyDemocratic (Before 1860)
Other political
Republican (Beginning in 1860)
Spouse(s)Marianna Tuttle Arnot
EducationNew York University Law School
OccupationReal Estate Developer

William Butler Ogden (June 15, 1805 – August 3, 1877) was an American politician and railroad executive who served as the first Mayor of Chicago.[1] He was referred to as "the Astor of Chicago."[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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To be Mayor of Chicago means to be a leader for the city during the good times and the bad Beyond their elected duties, they must be able to identify the source of Chicago’s strengths, the diverse population that makes up our city and the past and future problems that we might face In this series we will look at each individual mayor of Chicago in an effort to not only better understand what it , means to be mayor but to trace the very history of our city though them . So who are the mayors of Chicago? William buttler ogden was the first mayor of Chicago, born June 15th 1805 in Walton, New York. At the age of fifteen he set out for New York city in preparation for a career as an attorney. His Chicago connection came about though his brother in law Charles Butler who had a real estate investment in Chicago. He needed someone on the ground and soon recruited Ogden to be his director in Chicago. Ogden arrived here 1835 to a small town with only 1500 residents. He arrived to a miserable site as it had just rained heavily. Ogden wrote Nevertheless ogden made good on selling the land Butler had purchased for a profit becoming a full fledged land developer, encouraging eastern clients to continue investing in and improving their land in Chicago. He knew that this town, at the mouth of the Chicago river had potential. In March 1837 Chicago was incorporated as a city and the first mayoral election took place between Ogden running under a democratic ticket and John harris Kinzie, the son of John Kinzie an early settler in Chicago, who ran under the Whig party ticket. In the end Ogden was elected the first mayor of Chicago at a confident 489 votes to 217. On May 3rd he too the oath of office which has changed very little to this day. The mayor and his council would serve a term of only 1 year before another election was held. It stayed this way up until 1863. Back then taking on the responsibility of Mayor was different from what it means today. It was more a public service, than establishing a political career. Ogden only served a 10 month term to align with the original date of March 4th on the city charter. Although a short term wouldn’t be his biggest challenge as mayor, that would be the Panic of 1837. He became mayor during the start of a financial crisis, it came about due to credit tightening from England. It caused many American banks to fold, construction projects, such as the ilinois michigan canal, stopped and the price of land that Ogden and many others had invested in dropped significantly. In the midst of these hard times, Ogden continued to establish the new city with his very limited resources. In fact the city treasure reported only having 2947 dollars when we were incorporated as a city. Ogden appointed the first permanent bored of health, organized the first census and oversaw the election of the board of school inspector. While money was tight Ogden organized a scrip to be used for the cities internal transactions. A systems of IOU’s to keep Chicago going. The city was full of them, they came in the form of 1,2 or 3 dollar denominations or they were valued for goods and services such as a loaf of bread or a shave at the barber. The financial times continued to worsen during Ogdens term and debtors were soon clashing with those who owed them money. People had bought up land here in for a great deal of money and now it was worth very little. Eventually this all came to ahead at a public meeting in Chicago where a heat debate was formed over weather the debts should be rejected or paid. Ogden was able to quell the crowd, sympathizing that he himself had debts and that dishonor these debts would tarnish the honor of our infant city. Reassuring the crowd that, the bad times would pass and Chicago would eventually become the prosperous city he imagined. Ogden wasn’t completely done with serving the community. In 1840 he served as Alderman for the 6th ward and 7 years later alderman for the 9th. He continued to generously volunteer his time through public and private positions Ogden resumed his work in real-estate and other business adventures around Chicago. He invested in our first brewery and the McCormick haversters. Much of the land on the north side of Chicago river was developed under Odgen’s Chicago Dock and Canal Trust earning the name Ogden’s slip.He continued to purchase and sell land around chicago. Encouraging his investors to make improvement to the land as once the depression passed it would be much more profitable. He was an astute advocate for the railroad for Chicago, today that seems to be logical idea, but back then people were impressed by the rickettey wooden planked roads. Of course, mostly people were waiting out for the completion of the illinois michicagan canal which would connect chicago to the Missippi river. This wasn’t good enough for Ogden, he railway would be imperative to the success of rural midwest farmers and of course Chicago. This reasoning was even more sound by a the town of Galena illinois a booming iron producing town based right on the mississippi. The ore was shipped down the river to St Louis where they were making a tidy profit. A railway from Galena to Chicago would benefit Chicago emensily and thats exactly what Ogden set out to do. Tirelessly traveling the countryside encouraging farmers and citizens to by shares in the railroad company. Eventually, the railroad rain from chicago to Elgin in 1850, Belvidere in 1852, and Freeport in 1853. Although though the railroad never lived up to its name and did not end up making it to Galena, it set into motion many economic benefits enjoyed by Chicago and northern Illinois. Through the 1850s and 60’s Ogden was President or director of more that 12 railroads, the galena and chicago line which would become the basis of the chicago and north western line railroad which was formed in 1859. Ogden was paramount in the expansion of the rail network, advocating the connection of many small towns the railroad. William Ogden died on August 3rd, 1877 in New York city. He had accumulated a large financial wealth that was distributed between family and friends. Through his family 600,000 dollars was endowed to the University of Chicago to establish the Ogden Graduate School of Science. Ogden has been memorialized all over Chicago with Ogden elementary school, Ogden avenue and ogden park on the south side. His contribution’s as Mayor of Chicago were not as grand as his many successful business endeavors. None the less, Ogden set a standard for Chicago and the Mayors to follow which was beyond that just being the First person to do something. Interestingly, another fact that I found out while researching this video was that Goose Island wasn't always and island. Ogden actually owned the land and was excavating the land for brick making. He ended up forming a canal which in turn created an island It was originally called Ogden's Island But it soon got its name after the Geese that the Irish people were keeping there in their settlement Or so the story goes


Early life

Ogden was born on June 15, 1805, in Walton, New York. He was the son of Abraham Ogden (1771–1825) and Abigail (née Weed) Ogden (1788–1850).[2]

When still a teenager, his father died and Ogden took over the family real estate business. He assisted Charles Butler, his brother-in-law, with business matters related to opening a new building for New York University, attending the law school for a brief period himself.


He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Delaware Co.) in 1835.[3] In 1837, he was elected the first mayor of Chicago, serving the customary one year term until 1838.[1]

Railroad career

Ogden was a leading promoter and investor in the Illinois and Michigan Canal, then switched his loyalty to railroads. Throughout his later life, Ogden was heavily involved in the building of several railroads. "In 1847, Ogden announced a plan to build a railway out of Chicago, but no capital was forthcoming. Eastern investors were wary of Chicago's reputation for irrational boosterism, and Chicagoans did not want to divert traffic from their profitable canal works. So Ogden and his partner J. Young Scammon solicited subscriptions from the farmers and small businessmen whose land lay adjacent to the proposed rail. Farmer's wives used the money they earned from selling eggs to buy shares of stock on a monthly payment plan. By 1848, Ogden and Scammon had raised $350,000—enough to begin laying track. The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was profitable from the start and eventually extended out to Wisconsin, bringing grain from the Great Plains into the city. As president of Union Pacific, Ogden extended the reach of Chicago's rail lines to the West coast."[4]

In 1853, the Chicago Land Company, of which Ogden was a trustee, purchased land at a bend in the Chicago River and began to cut a channel, formally known as North Branch Canal, but also referred to as Ogden's Canal.[5] The resulting island is now known as Goose Island.

Ogden designed the first swing bridge over the Chicago River[6] and donated the land for Rush Medical Center. Ogden was also a founder of the Chicago Board of Trade.[7]

Later Ogden served on the board of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad and lobbied with many others for congressional approval and funding of the transcontinental railroad. After the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Ogden was named as the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ogden was a good choice for the first president, but his railroad experience was most likely not the primary reason he was chosen; Ogden was a clever man who had many political connections. When Ogden came to lead the Union Pacific, the railroad wasn't fully funded and hadn't yet laid a single mile of track—the railroad existed largely on paper created by an act of Congress. As part of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Congress named several existing railroad companies to complete portions of the project. Several key areas needed to link the East (Chicago) to the West had none, and hence the Union Pacific was formed by Congress. Ogden was a fierce supporter of the transcontinental railroad at a time of great unrest for the country and was quoted as saying

This project must be carried through by even-handed wise consideration and a patriotic course of policy which shall inspire capitalists of the country with confidence. Speculation is as fatal to it as secession is to the Union. Whoever speculates will damn this project.

As history now shows, eventually Ogden and many others got their wish.

Later life

In 1860, Ogden switched his loyalty to the Republican Party, which shared his views regarding slavery, although he left the party over a dispute with Abraham Lincoln. Ogden felt that the Emancipation Proclamation was premature. Following his defection from the Republican party, Ogden retired from politics and moved back to his native New York.

On October 8, 1871, Ogden lost most of his prized possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. He also owned a lumber company in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, which burned the same day.

Personal life

The sarcophagus of William Butler Ogden in Woodlawn Cemetery
The sarcophagus of William Butler Ogden in Woodlawn Cemetery

He married Marianna Tuttle Arnot (1825–1904).[2] Marianna was the daughter of Scottish born John Arnot and Harriet (née Tuttle) Arnot.[2] In New York, he named his home in the Highbridge, Bronx (named after the bridge now called Aqueduct Bridge over the Harlem River connecting Manhattan and the Bronx) Villa Boscobel.[1]

Ogden died at his home in the Bronx on Friday, August 3, 1877.[1] The funeral was held August 6, 1877, with several prominent pallbearers including, Gouverneur Morris III, William A. Booth, Parke Godwin, Oswald Ottendorfer, William C. Sheldon, Martin Zborowski, and Andrew H. Green.[8] He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx.[8]


Namesakes of William B. Ogden include a stretch of U.S. Highway 34, called Ogden Avenue in Chicago and its suburbs, Ogden International School of Chicago, which is located on Walton Street in Chicago, and Ogden Slip, a man-made harbor near the mouth of the Chicago River. Ogden Avenue in The Bronx is also named after him, as is Ogden, Iowa.[9] The Arnot-Odgen Memorial Hospital, founded by his wife Mariana, also bears his namesake.


  1. ^ a b c d e "A Representative American". The New York Times. 4 August 1877. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Van Alstyne, Lawrence (1907). The Ogden Family, Elizabethtown Branch. New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  3. ^ Merriner, James L. (2004). Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833–2003. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-8093-2571-3.
  4. ^ "William Butler Ogden". American Experience. PBS. 2003. Retrieved 2009-01-07.
  5. ^ Hill, Libby (2000). The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press. pp. 85–86. ISBN 1-893121-02-X.
  6. ^ Merriner, James L. (2004). Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833–2003. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-8093-2571-3.
  7. ^ Taylor, Charles Henry. History Of The Board Of Trade Of The City Of Chicago. Chicago: R. O. Law, 1917.
  8. ^ a b "Funeral of William B. Ogden. Simple and Impressive Services in St. James' Church at Fordham--Bishop Clarkson's Discourse Upon The Dead Millionaire's Life and Its Lessons". The New York Times. 7 August 1877. Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  9. ^ Harpster, Jack (2009). The Railroad Tycoon who Built Chicago: A Biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 9780809329175.
This page was last edited on 11 October 2019, at 01:14
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