"Bathhouse" John Coughlin

"Bathhouse" John Coughlin (1860 - 1938) was an alderman in Chicago's First Ward from 1892 or 1893 until he died in 1938. Coughlin and alderman Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna ran Chicago's First Ward, which included the notorious "Levee" district, for about 45 years. During this time period Chicago had a well earned reputation for corruption and Coughlin and Kenna were legendary for the way they used their political position to sell protection to gambling and prostitution houses and engage in election fraud. Coughlin was born in Chicago to Irish immigrants. He earned the nickname "Bathhouse" because at age 19 he got a job as a towel boy and errand runner in a Turkish bathhouse in Chicago.

In 1894 an underling named Billy "The Clock" Skakel was dissatisfied with his take from Coughlin so he decided to run against Coughlin in the upcoming election for alderman. Coughlin was the candidate for the Democratic Party so Skakel formed the Independent Democratic Party so he could get on the ballot. Coughlin became worried when it looked like Skakel might win so he went to Mayor Hopkins for help. Hopkins called Skakel in and asked him to withdraw but Skakel refused. Coughlin then had some of his lawyers and Moses Salomon, the state senator for the First District, look for a way to keep Skakel out of the race. A week before the election they found a city law that prohibited anyone convicted of a crime from holding a municipal office. Skakel had been arrested and fined some years previously for gambling so they took this information to the election board. The board was controlled by Mayor Hopkins' people and they removed Skakel's name from the ballot without granting him a hearing. The next day Skakel, with several attorneys including Clarence Darrow, went before a judge to argue that removing Skakel from the ballot was illegal. The judge agreed and Skakel was put back on the ballot. The election was held on April 3, 1894. Because of the contest between Skakel and Coughlin there was a great deal of violence with three people being shot but none died. Coughlin ended up winning the election. Skakel was the paternal great-uncle of Ethel Kennedy.