Morris Eller

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Morris Eller
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Born(1865-07-16)July 16, 1865
Liepāja, Latvia
DiedNovember 22, 1943(1943-11-22) (aged 78)
Resting placeJewish Waldheim Cemetery
CitizenshipUnited States of America
Spouse(s)Jennie Kalman
ChildrenEmanuel Eller (son)

Morris Eller (July 16, 1865[1] - November 22, 1943[2] ) was a Prohibition-era politician whose rise from humble immigrant beginnings to boss of Chicago's "Bloody 20th Ward" epitomized the infamous reputation of Chicago in the 1920’s for patronage politics, violence, and corruption.

Eller was born in Libau, Russia (what is today known as Liepāja, Latvia) in 1865 and immigrated to the United States arriving in Chicago on September 22, 1883[3] where he worked as a peddler while going to night school to learn English.[3] He later became a bookkeeper for a tailor of women’s clothing, Jacob Lasker, where he met Jennie Kalman, Lasker’s sister-in-law and model. On March 3, 1888, Eller married Jennie Kalman when he was 22 and she was 19.[4] During this time, Morris was also active in Jewish social organizations, serving as the Grand Secretary of the Order of the Western Star for nine and a half years and President of the Independent Order Brith Abraham of the West.[3]

Eller entered politics in 1895 when he was elected Deputy Assessor for Chicago and rapidly moved up in Chicago government – to Deputy Collector in 1896 and Deputy Recorder in 1897. He held that last position until 1907 when he ran for the seat of Alderman of the 9th Ward, replacing Abe Harris who moved to a position as Clerk of the Criminal Court.[3] He later served as City Sealer and as a Trustee of the Sanitary District in Chicago.[5]

Based on his success and advancement in Chicago government, Eller later moved his family from the 9th Ward to 1301 South Peoria Street[6], in the 20th Ward, just blocks from Jane Addams’ Hull House on what is today referred to as “the near west side” of Chicago, and became the Republican committeeman of the 20th Ward in 1918[7]. Eller proved particularly skilled in not only acquiring, organizing, and controlling patronage, but also in diplomacy, on several occasions serving as an intermediary between warring crime organizations. Based on his association with members of both the “North Side” and “South Side” gangs like Al “Scarface” Capone, George Clarence "Bugs" Moran, Earl J. "Hymie" Weiss, Vincent "The Schemer" Drucci, Frankie Lake, and Terry “Machine Gun” Druggan, Eller was able to elevate the art of power brokering to a new level.[8]

While serving as Republican ward committeeman under Mayor William Hale "Big Bill" Thompson, Eller's ward earned its notorious reputation for voter fraud, ballot box stuffing, and violence which culminated in the murder of his political opponent, Octavius Granady in the 1928 primary election, popularly known later as the “Pineapple Primary”.[9] “In the six months prior to the primary election, 62 bombings took place in the city, and at least two politicians were killed.”[10] Granady, an African-American lawyer representing reform factions opposing the corruption, was chased by Eller’s supporters and gunned down as he ran from his car.[11] In that same year, Eller and his son, Superior Court Judge Emanuel Eller, along with a number of their "henchmen" different reports state differing numbers of 14 to 18 “henchmen”, would face a conspiracy indictment brought by the prominent Chicago attorney, reformer, and a founder of the Chicago Crime Commission, Frank Loesch, which included murder, gambling, and prostitution.[12] Morris Eller and his son, Emmanuel, were eventually acquitted, at least partly because “…two of the chief witnesses against the accused men, William Sephus and Sam Watts, precinct workers in the ward, have disappeared mysteriously.”[13]

Eller was not just an instigator, but also a target of political violence in Chicago. His own home was bombed, as reported in the pages of the International Herald Tribune on September 4, 1926.[14] In addition, a second bombing of Eller’s home at 201 S. Central Avenue on the evening of January 15, 1930 was reported as headline news in The Chicago Daily Tribune the following day.[15]

Morris Eller died on November 22, 1943 at the home of a grandson and is buried at the Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.[2]


  1. ;
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Morris Eller". geni_family_tree.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Jewish Daily Courier, March 17, 1907 (
  4. Morris Eller in the Cook County Marriages Index, 1871 – 1920 on
  5. Chicago Jewish History, pub. by the Chicago Jewish Historical Society, Vo. 32, Number 1, Winter 2008, page 9
  6. 1920 Chicago Census and
  7. Chicago Eagle, Volume THIRTIETH YEAR, Number 2, 5 October 1918; at https://idnc.library.
  8. Summarizing and paraphrasing information primarily from “The Kosher Capones” by Joe Kraus
  9. John Tuohy's History of the Chicago Mob, page 57 of 103, at https://mywriterssite.blogspot. com/2017/03/john-tuohys-history-of-chicago-mob-b.html
  10. Peterson, Virgil W. (1962). Barbarians in Our Midst: A History of Chicago Crime and Politics. Boston, Massachusetts: Little, Brown. p. 142.; cited at
  11. Leon M. Despres, “A Candid Assessment of Jews In Chicago Politics Since1920; A Veteran Independent Looks Back At Varied Achievements, Shortcomings”; Chicago Jewish History, volume xiii. no.2, January, 1990, page 7.
  12. Gangland Chicago: Criminality and Lawlessness in the Windy City by Richard C. Lindberg
  13. “14 Chicago Henchmen Tried for Kidnapping” reported in The Pittsburg Press, March 17, 1929; based on The United Press news release.
  14. Tribune, International Herald (September 4, 2001). "Opinion | 1926:Political Blast : IN OUR PAGES:100, 75 AND 50 YEARS AGO (Published 2001)" – via
  15. Chicago Daily Tribune, Thursday, January 16, 1930; “BOMB MORRIS ELLER’S HOME”, Front page.

External links

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