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329 West 18th Street Suite #610
Chicago, Illinois 60616
(312) 243-1808

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Mayor Edward J. Kelly Collection

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Collection Identifier: C.2018-10
Extent of collection
10 reels of 35mm totaling approximately 1800 feet; 2 reels of 16mm totaling approximately 500 feet
Inclusive Dates
1939 - 1944
Bulk Dates
1939 - 1944
The Mayor Edward J. Kelly Collection consists of films collected by former Mayor of Chicago Edward J. Kelly (1933-1947) and found in his home in Eagle River, WI, after his death. Included within the films are fragments of newsreels depicting the construction of the State Street subway tunnel in 1939, the re-election of Kelly as mayor in 1939, the opening of a WWII service men's center in Chicago in 1942, and the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Thomas E. Dewey in 1944. The collection also includes a short campaign advertisement for Kelly's re-election in 1939.
Kelly, Edward J. (was compiled by)
Edward J. Kelly (1876-1950) was born to Stephen, a police officer, and Helen (née Lang) Kelly in Chicago's Bridgeport neighborhood. As a boy he worked as a newsboy, cash boy in a department store, and an office boy for a broker. He later worked as an undertaker and surveyor. In the 1920s, Kelly was the chief engineer of the Chicago Sanitary District, sponsored by Patrick Nash, the owner of a sewer contracting company. In 1924 Kelly became president of the South Park Commission and that year presided over the completion and opening of Solider Field, a project of the commission. He organized events and fundraisers at the venue, many of which were sponsored by the Democratic Party.

After the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak in 1933, Kelly was appointed by Nash, also Chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, to succeed Cermak as mayor. The "Kelly-Nash Machine" became known as one of the most powerful and most corrupt big city political organizations. A strong supporter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs, Kelly oversaw numerous city construction projects, including the 1933-34 Century of Progress World's Fair, the Outer Drive Bridge (opened 1937), the State Street subway (opened 1943) and Milwaukee-Dearbon subway tunnels (opened 1951), and hundreds of miles of streets, sewers, sidewalks, and curbs. At the same time, the city government also became mired in scandal following the Memorial Day Massacre of 1937 and calls of corruption for Kelly's patronage system for precinct workers. Kelly successfully ran for re-election three times, in 1935, 1939 and 1943, but was deemed unelectable by the Democratic Party in 1947 and did not seek another term. His fourteen-year tenure made Kelly the longest-serving mayor of Chicago until Richard J. Daley (from 1955-1976).

Kelly was married twice, to Mary Edmunda Roche in 1910 (died 1918) and Margaret Ellen Kirk in 1922. He died in 1950 and was interred in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, IL.
Custodial History
The films in the Kelly Collection were previously stored in Kelly's former home in Eagle River, WI. After his death in 1950, the house and its contents were sold to the Murphy family of the Murphy Construction Company (now MCC, Inc.). The family moved the films to climate-controlled storage in the mid-1970s. In 2018, the Murphys sold the house and brought the films to CFA.
Language of Materials
Access Restrictions
This collection is open to on-site access. Appointments must be made with Chicago Film Archives. Due to the fragile nature of the films, only video copies will be provided for on-site viewing.
Use Restrictions
CFA does not own copyrights to the films in this collection.
Publication Date
February 19 2019
Kelly, Edward J.
Chicago Opens 2nd Service Mens Center, also table hockey scene (comedy)
Chicago Service Men's Center - Fragment
Edward J. Kelly
G.I. Country Club
Game of Checkers + Washington