The “Boy Mayor” who cleaned up city politics

Sworn in when he was just 34, reformist John Purroy Mitchel became New York’s second-youngest mayor ever in 1914.

His age set him apart from his predecessors—as did his mission: to get rid of the corruption that had infiltrated city politics since Tammany rule in the 1800s.

“While in office Mitchel cut waste, improved accounting practices, and worked to professionalize the city’s civil service by standardizing salaries and work guidelines for municipal employees,” explains Columbia University (Mitchel was part of the class of 1899.)

He also cut police graft and created the first zoning laws, and four years later ran a reelection campaign that endorsed a national draft.

Tammany bosses were determined to beat him in 1917, and he was defeated by Tammany-backed John Hylan.

After losing the election, he enlisted in the Air Service and prepped to fight in World War I. On a training mission in Louisiana in 1918, he fell from his plane and was killed.

[Above: Mitchel throwing out the first pitch at the Polo Grounds in 1916]

Mitchel was memorialized all over the metro area: two flagstaffs in Bryant Park, Mitchel Air Force Base in Long Island, and this plaque at the entrance to the Central Park Reservoir.

[Photo: centralparknyc.org]

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6 Responses to “The “Boy Mayor” who cleaned up city politics”

  1. ronfwnc Says:

    Alas, Mitchel Air Force Base also exists only in memory; it closed in 1961. The land is part of Hofstra University and Nassau Veterans Coliseum.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    Ah, thank you for setting the record straight.

  3. ronfwnc Says:

    You’re welcome. I love your blog; you do a wonderful job capturing both the disappearing and vanished New York.

  4. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks…corrections are always welcome.

  5. paul ruoso Says:

    A true patriot.

  6. Benjamin Waldman Says:

    The one other NYC memorial you forgot is at Columbia, his alma mater

    http://newyork.untappedcities.com/2011/10/11/in-search-of-john-purroy-mitchel-the-boy-mayor/

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