Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Altgeld, John Peter

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ALTGELD, John Peter, lawyer, b. near Berlin, Germany, 30 Dec., 1847. He was brought to this country in childhood by his parents, who lived on a farm in Richland county, Ohio. After a limited elementary education he enlisted in the volunteer army in 1864, and afterward taught for several years. In 1869 he went to St. Louis, a great part of the way on foot, and later taught and studied law in northwestern Missouri, being admitted to the bar in 1872. In 1875 he removed to Chicago. where he built up a large practice. In 1884 he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for congress. In 1886 he was chosen judge of the Cook county superior court, and in 1890 he became its chief justice. After serving as judge for five years he resigned, giving as his reason the necessity of devoting all his time to his private business. In 1892 he was nominated by the Democrats for governor, and during his canvass visited all parts of the state, seeking to meet voters personally as well as by holding public meetings. He was elected by a plurality of 23,000 over Joseph W. Fifer, his Republican predecessor. The most striking incident of his administration was his protest against the sending of federal troops to Chicago during the railway strikes (see Cleveland, Grover). In 1896 he was a candidate for re-election, but was defeated by his Republican opponent, John K. Tanner, by a plurality of more than 100,000.