Advertisement in The Boston Globe, December 12, 1905
On December 12, 1905, John F. Fitzgerald won a special election to become mayor of Boston. He replaced the late Patrick A Collins, who died suddenly in September 1905 while on vacation, leaving the seat vacant.
He became the first Irish-American to win the seat, following in the heels of two Irish-born mayors, Hugh O'Brien (1885-88) and Collins (1902-05).
Fitzgerald ran against Republican candidate Louis Frothingham and beat him by a margin of 47% to %38. Three other independent candidates were also in the race.
Leading up to the general elections, there were rumors in the local newspapers, including The Boston Globe, that opponents of Fitzgerald, dissatisfied with the Democratic primary results, planned to knife him at the polls. There were also rumors that several Democratic operatives were working with Frothingham to keep Fitzgerald out of the mayor's seat.
At that time, the mayor's seat was contested every two years, and Fitzgerald lost the 1908 election to George Hibbard by a margin of 42% to 40%. He ran again in 1910 and won a four year term, beating Hibbard and two other candidates.
Born in Boston's North End in 1863, Fitzgerald was the son of Irish immigrant Thomas Fitzgerald of Limerick and Mary Josephine Hannon of Acton, MA. He worked his way up from the Boston Common Council to state senate before becoming U.S. Congressman from 1895-1901. He was also the publisher of a weekly Boston newspaper, the Republic, described on the masthead as "an Irish-American Family journal."
Known as Honey Fitz for his melodious singing voice, Fitzgerald was the grandfather of U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
There is a plaque to Fitzgerald in Boston's North End.
Find more about Boston Irish history at IrishHeritageTrail.com.