Library collection highlights Daley’s life and times

Videography by Anne Brooks Ranallo


Photographs of family dinners and fishing trips. Souvenirs of Venetian Night, a visit from the Apollo astronauts and the 1959 Pan American Games. And letters — lots and lots of letters, asking for jobs, new garbage cans and tickets to see the Beatles in the band’s first Chicago appearance.

These items and more from Richard J. Daley’s six terms as mayor of Chicago are available for review by researchers in the Richard J. Daley Collection, which opened in July in the UIC Library.

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and Santa

Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley with Santa in a photo by mayoral photographer Laszlo Kondor, who donated it to the library collection.

Housed in a 2,550-square-foot room in the Special Collections Department, the Daley collection contains 150 linear feet of documents from Daley’s years as mayor of Chicago and simultaneous terms as chairman of the Cook County Democratic Committee.

Daley was mayor from 1955 until his death in 1976, a period when American cities faced population declines, job losses, infrastructure decay and social unrest.

Under his leadership, Chicago gained new skyscrapers, expressways, public art, an expanded airport and the UIC campus.

After his death, his widow, Eleanor Daley, donated his archives to UIC — the institution the mayor considered one of his greatest achievements.

Daley had important relationships with many national political leaders of the time, including presidents Truman, Kennedy, Nixon and Johnson. He met all manner of celebrities, from Pope Paul VI to Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Roosevelt and Anwar Sadat.

Richard J. Daley and Laszlo Kondor on a boat full of people

Richard J. Daley, mayoral photographer Laszlo Kondor (left of Daley in suit and tie), and winners of a 1975 summer fishing derby. Photo by John H. White / University of Illinois Library Archives

The collection includes photos documenting those occasions, as well as his personal life. There are decades’ worth of news clippings, memorabilia from Daley’s campaigns for sheriff, county clerk, state senator and mayor, and his auto license plates with number 708222, the vote tally from his first mayoral election.

His personal library is part of the collection, ranging from Life of Christ by Fulton J. Sheen to The Shadow that Scares Me by Dick Gregory. There are painted portraits, commemorative items from other governments — even a framed skyline image made of matchbooks, created by the president of an association of Chicago crossing guards.

Items from the collection are showcased in a temporary exhibit through Feb. 8 in Special Collections.

The collection is available to the public for study and research, with assistance from librarians, during regular Special Collections hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Appointments are recommended.

For information, visit the library’s Special Collections website.


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