Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Kelly-Nash Machine
Kelly-Nash Machine

Kelly-Nash Machine

Dinner with Mayor Edward J. Kelly, 1938
The Kelly-Nash Machine dominated Chicago government and the local Democratic Party from 1933 to 1947.

Following the fatal shooting of Mayor Anton Cermak in February 1933, longtime Cermak ally and Cook County party chairman Patrick A. Nash orchestrated the city council's appointment of Edward J. Kelly, chief engineer of the Sanitary District, to complete the mayor's term. Consolidating and refining Cermak's organization, these men shared political power in Chicago until Nash's death in 1943. Nash viewed politics as a business where rewards equaled performance. He remained in the background praising and punishing machine members while tightening party control over the city.

Unlike Nash, Kelly was a gregarious mingler. A loyal New Dealer, Kelly produced huge majorities for Franklin D. Roosevelt and in return controlled New Deal social and welfare programs in the city.

Kelly's terms as mayor were bathed in controversy. Gambling and organized crime ran rampant with little mayoral concern. But it was Kelly's progressive views on race, especially relating to housing, that led party leaders to consider him a liability. The very machine that he and Nash had nurtured forced Kelly's retirement from politics in 1947.

Biles, Roger. Big City Boss in Depression and War: Mayor Edward J. Kelly of Chicago. 1985.