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Roswell B. Mason (September 19, 1805 – January 1, 1892; buried in Rosehill Cemetery) served as mayor of Chicago, Illinois (1869–1871) for the Citizens Party.

Roswell B. Mason
25th Mayor of Chicago
In office
Preceded byJohn B. Rice
Succeeded byJoseph Medill
Personal details
Born(1805-09-19)September 19, 1805
New Hartford, New York, United States
DiedJanuary 1, 1892(1892-01-01) (aged 86)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Political partyCitizens Party
ResidenceChicago, Illinois


Early LifeEdit

Mason was born on September 19, 1805 in New Hartford, New York to Arnold Mason and Mercy Coman.[1] His mother was a lineal descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. His father Arnold, born in Swansea, Massachusetts, was an engineer instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal, the Morris Canal, and the High Bridge in New York City.[2]

Professional LifeEdit

Mason began his career as an engineer working with his father at the age of 17 on a canal construction project in Albany, New York related to the Erie Canal. He subsequently attended an engineering school in Utica, New York. Mason was the first Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad. [3]

Mason and his family moved in Chicago in 1865, when he was one of several engineers who worked to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to improve health conditions and the cleanliness of Lake Michigan.

Mason held a high position with the Illinois Central Railroad until he decided to run to be Mayor of Chicago on a reform ticket in 1869.[4] During his administration, the Great Chicago Fire occurred. Mason responded by directing General Philip Sheridan to place the city under martial law. To date he is the last non Republican or Democratic Mayor of Chicago.


He is the namesake of Mason, Illinois.[5]

An elementary school in west Chicago is named after him.


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia of Biography of Illinois, Volume 1, 1892, page 197
  2. ^ Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vols. 43-45, page 4
  3. ^ Illinois Central Magazine, Volumes 43-44, 1954, page 23
  4. ^ Gale, Edwin O. (1902). Reminiscences of Early Chicago and Vicinity. Chicago: Revell. p. 389.
  5. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 201.