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Chicago in the Age of CapitalClass, Politics, and Democracy during the Civil War and Reconstruction$
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John B. Jentz and Richard Schneirov

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036835

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036835.001.0001

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Chicago’s Immigrant Working Class and the Rise of Urban Populism, 1867–73

Chicago’s Immigrant Working Class and the Rise of Urban Populism, 1867–73

(p.117) 4 Chicago’s Immigrant Working Class and the Rise of Urban Populism, 1867–73
Chicago in the Age of Capital

John B. Jentz

Richard Schneirov

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines Chicago's immigrant working class and the rise of urban populism. In January 1872—three months after the Great Fire—Anton Hesing, Chicago's German political boss, organized a protest against the city government's effort to ban new wooden housing in the city as a fire control measure. For Hesing, the fight against the “fire limits” was a battle against the proletarianization of Chicago's workers, whose distinctive independent status was based on the ownership of real property and a house. He fought to preserve a particular kind of working class independent of large-scale capital, and free of alien radicalism, particularly socialism. In leading the movement against the fire limits, Hesing then became the chief architect of urban populism in the city. With labor reform marginalized, urban populism helped politicize the city's immigrant skilled workers and lower middle class.

Keywords:   immigrant working class, urban populism, Anton Hesing, fire limits, alien radicalism, socialism, labor reform

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