James Curtiss

James Curtiss
11th & 13th
Mayor of Chicago[1]
In office
March 12, 1850 – March 11, 1851
Preceded by James H. Woodworth
Succeeded by Walter S. Gurnee
In office
March 9, 1847 – March 14, 1848
Preceded by John P. Chapin
Succeeded by James H. Woodworth
City Clerk of Chicago[1]
In office
Preceded by Thomas Hoyne
Succeeded by James M. Lowe
Chicago Alderman[1]
In office
Serving with John S.C. Hogan
Preceded by Fancis Edwards/ Francis H. Taylor
Succeeded by J. Brinkerhoff/ Benjamin W. Raymond
Constituency 3rd Ward
In office
Serving with John S.C. Hogan
Preceded by Peter Bolles/ Francis C. Sherman
Succeeded by Eli S. Prescott/ Clement C. Stose
Constituency 2nd Ward
Clerk of the Court of Cook County
In office
Preceded by inaugural office holder
States Attorney
In office
Town Clerk of Chicago
In office
Preceded by Ebenezer Peck
Succeeded by Isaac N. Arnold as Chicago City Clerk
Personal details
Born March 29, 1806
Wethersfield, Connecticut
Died November 2, 1859(1859-11-02) (aged 56)
Joliet, Illinois
Political party Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Mary Kimball
Children James, Mary Kimball, Sarah, Lucy Maria, Elizabeth, Laura, Charles Chauncy, Laura Minnie, George Warren
Residence Chicago, Illinois

James Curtiss (also Curtis) (March 29, 1806 – November 2, 1859) was an American politician who twice served as Mayor of Chicago, Illinois (1847–1848 and 1850–1851) for the Democratic Party.

Early life

Born on April 7, 1806 in Wethersfield, Connecticut, Curtiss became a printer's apprentice at an early age in Philadelphia.[2] He worked for a time at the Portland Argus, then was printer, and eventually editor and publisher of the Eastport Northern Light, a Jackson Democrat newspaper.[2][3] He married Mary Kimball on May 18, 1830.[4] From 1830 through 1835, he served as a postmaster in Eastport.[5][6] In 1834, Curtiss was under investigation by the Postmaster General for his management of the office.[7]

Political career in Chicago

Curtiss arrived in Chicago from Eastport, Maine in 1835 and became editor of the Chicago Democrat.[8] Almost immediately after his arrival in Chicago Curtiss began a career of public service.

Shortly after his arrival in Chicago, he was appointed States Attorney for the district north of the Kankakee River.[2] He was appointed to Chicago's first Board of Health.[9] He succeeded Ebenezer Peck as Town Clerk in September 1836.[10] He also opened a short-lived law practice with William Stuart in 1836 named Stuart and Curtiss, which was dissolved the following year.

The Panic of 1837 left a large number of land investors unable to meet their obligations. In hopes of delaying the resulting foreclosures Curtiss and others had unsuccessfully attempted to delay the opening of the Municipal Court that winter.[10][9]

Curtiss was elected alderman for the 2nd Ward in 1838. In 1839, he ran in Chicago's third mayoral election, losing to Benjamin Wright Raymond.[10] In 1842, he was elected City Clerk.[10] In 1843, he was made Corresponding Secretary of the Chicago chapter of the Washington Temperance Society.[10] In 1845, the Illinois Legislature created the Court of Cook County and appointed Curtiss as its first clerk.[10][11] In 1846, he was elected as alderman again, this time for the 3rd Ward.[10]

First mayoral term

Curtiss became mayor after winning the 1847 election, running a successful campaign against Philo Carpenter (Liberty Party) and John H. Kinzie (Whig). He was sworn-in on March 9, 1847.[12]

He lost his bid for reelection in 1848, being defeated by James Hutchinson Woodworth (an independent Democrat who ran on a fusion ticket supported by Whigs and Democrats). His tenure ended on March 14, 1848, when Woodworth succeeded him in office.[13]

Second mayoral term

Curtiss returned to the mayor's office after winning the 1850 Chicago mayoral election, defeating Levi Day Boone and Lewis C. Kerchival (both of these challengers being Democrats without formal party nomination).[14] He was sworn-in on March 12, 1850.[15]

Curtiss was again defeated in his bid for reelection, losing the 1851 election to Walter S. Gurnee. His tenure ended on March 11, 1851, when he was succeed in office by Gurnee.[16]

In 1852, he sought to unseat Gurnee, but again lost.[17]

Retirement from politics

Retiring from politics, Curtiss moved to West Urbana (now Champaign) Illinois in 1855, and took up farming.[9][2][18]


Curtiss died on November 2, 1859, in Joliet, Illinois, after a long illness.[4] His funeral was held at the Second Presbyterian Church on Wabash Avenue following the Odd Fellows rites.[2] Originally buried in City Cemetery, when the Cemetery was moved to make way for Lincoln Park, his remains were lost.[19]


  1. ^ a b c "Centennial List of Mayors, City Clerks, City Attorneys, City Treasurers, and Aldermen, elected by the people of the city of Chicago, from the incorporation of the city on March 4, 1837 to March 4, 1937, arranged in alphabetical order, showing the years during which each official held office". Archived from the original on September 4, 2018. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Obituary". Chicago Press and Tribune. Chicago. November 4, 1859.
  3. ^ Joseph Griffin, ed. (1872), A History of the Press of Maine, Brunswick: Press of J. Griffin, pp. 148–149
  4. ^ a b Morrison, Leonard Allison; Stephen Paschall Sharples (1897). History of the Kimball family in America, from 1634 to 1897 : and of its ancestors the Kemballs or Kemboldes of England; with an account of the Kembles of Boston, Massachusetts. Boston: Damrell & Upham.
  5. ^ United States Official Postal Guide. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 1831. p. 9.
  6. ^ Official Register of the United States. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. 1835. pp. 7.
  7. ^ Niles, William Ogden (1834). Niles' Weekly Register,. 46. Washington, DC: H. Niles. p. 304.
  8. ^ Hurlbut, Henry Higgins (1881), Chicago Antiquities, Chicago, IL: Chicago, p. 644
  9. ^ a b c Chicago's Mayors: A Collection of Biographies Of All Chicago’s Mayors by Elaine C. Shigley (Chapter nine)
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Andreas, A.T. (1884), History of Chicago: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, 1, Chicago, IL: A.T. Andreas
  11. ^ Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society
  12. ^ "Mayor James Curtiss Inaugural Address, 1847". www.chipublib.org. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Mayor James Hutchinson Woodworth Inaugural Address, 1848". www.chipublib.org. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "Biography of Mayor Curtiss at Chicago Public Library". Chicago Public Library. 2002. Retrieved 2017-11-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "Mayor James Curtiss Inaugural Address, 1850". www.chipublib.org. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ "Mayor Walter S. Gurnee Inaugural Address, 1851". www.chipublib.org. Chicago Public Library. Retrieved 26 May 2020. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Biography of Mayor Gurnee at Chicago Public Library". Chicago Public Library. 2002. Retrieved 2017-11-02. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Ninth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy at West Point NY, Chicago, IL: A.S. Barnes and Co, 1878
  19. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence (1996–2010). "Curtiss to Cushin". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved 2011-01-25. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links