Political power, patronage, and protection rackets: Con men and political corruption in Denver 1889-1894
This work will explore the interconnections between political power and the various forms of corruption endemic in Denver in the late 19th century placing municipal corruption and election fraud into the larger political, economic, social and cultural framework. Municipal political corruption in Denver operated through a series of relationships tying together, the city police, political factions, utility and industrial leaders, con men, gamblers, protection rackets and the election of U.S. Senators. This work will explore not only the operational ties, but also how these ties served all parties, and the discourse used to rationalize the behavior and distribute blame. The dates for this study are bracketed by two significant events: a mayoral election and trial in 1889-1890, and the City Hall War in the spring of 1894. Each of these events represents a point when a rupture in the tight net of political control sparked a battle for hegemony with a concomitant turn to corruption and election fraud on the part of competing political factions. The level of municipal corruption in Denver was not necessarily unusual; however, the extent of the documentation enables a detailed analysis. Denver newspapers blamed the corruption on an unspecified “gang” and a shadowy “machine.” The editors railed against the scourge of con men, and simultaneously used the ubiquitous fraud as a metaphor for trickery and corruption of all kinds. This detailed analysis reveals a more complex series of events through which a cabal of business and industry leaders seized control of both the city and the state government, giving them the political power to wage what has been called a war against labor.
0615: Political science