City Bosses in the United States: A Study of Twenty Municipal Bosses

By Harold B. Zink | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XVII
"COLONEL" EDWARD BUTLER

The famous New York City overlords have belonged to the Democratic party. In contrast Philadelphia bosses mainly own the Republican party. "Doc" Ames of Minneapolis once bossed as a Democrat and then turned Republican and dominated in that capacity. But Edward Butler, although nominally a Democrat, ruled St. Louis irrespective of which party won at the polls, for as he once replied when asked why he not seek public office, "I always preferred to let the other fellow hold the office and then get acquainted with him."1 Whether the "other fellow" happened to be a Democrat or a Republican, "Colonel" Butler generally managed to "get acquainted with him" and wielded great power in St. Louis politics in spite of election returns.

Above all Mr. Butler possessed a wealth of cognomens. Sometimes he went by the name of "Colonel," although he had no army connections. Again people called him "Ed." Some spoke of "Old Man" Butler, and still others of "Boss" Butler or the "Village Blacksmith." Born in Ireland somewhere in the vicinity of Dublin, Mr. Butler did not know the exact place or date of his birth, although he spoke of his birth-year as the "year of the big wind." In as much as there were two "big winds" in Ireland during the period-- one in 1830 and another in 1838--it is difficult to determine the exact year to say nothing of the month and day. The "Colonel" always celebrated his birth on Christmas day.2 In ancestry so humble that the family apparently resided in a wretched hut, Edward Butler enjoyed very meagre oppor

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1
American State Trials, ed. John D. Lawson ( St. Louis, 1918), IX, 493.
2
See Mr. Butler testimony in American State Trials, IX, 492. See also the St. Louis Post Dispatch, September 12, 1911, 1:3, and the St. Louis Star, September 10, 1911, 1:6.

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