John Coughlin (alderman)

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"Bathhouse" John Coughlin (1860-1938) was an alderman of Chicago's First Ward from 1893 until his death in 1938. Coughlin acquired his nickname as a result of working in a bathhouse as a masseur. Eventually he was able to purchase a tavern and several bathhouses of his own. Coughlin and his partner, fellow First Ward alderman Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna, were known as the "Lords of the Levee," a district which was part of their ward. The "Levee" was known as being a vice-ridden section of Chicago and home to many saloons, gambling dens, prostitutes, pimps, and flop houses. The two also led the Gray Wolves of Chicago.[1]

Coughlin and Kenna were also the hosts of the First Ward Ball, an annual political fundraiser which brought together safecrackers, prostitutes, gangsters, politicians, businessmen, gamblers, and a variety of other types. The event would raise more than $50,000 a year for the two First Ward aldermen until it was closed down in 1909 by Mayor Fred Busse. By the time it was banned, the ball was so large that it had to be held in the Chicago Coliseum, the city's major convention center. Besides its notoriety in attracting many unsavory characters it often ended with the police having to curb disorderly conduct bordering on rioting.

Later when Coughlin was accused of corruption, he demanded a retraction, not for the charge of graft, but for the claim he was born in Waukegan, Illinois.


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