Roswell B. Mason
25th Mayor of Chicago
In office
December 6, 1869 – December 4, 1871
Preceded byJohn B. Rice
Succeeded byJoseph Medill
Personal details
Born(1805-09-19)September 19, 1805
New Hartford, New York, United States
DiedJanuary 1, 1892(1892-01-01) (aged 86)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Resting placeRosehill Cemetery
Political partyCitizens Party
Harriet Lavinia Hopkins
(m. 1831; died 1891)
Residence(s)Chicago, Illinois

Roswell B. Mason (September 19, 1805 – January 1, 1892) served as mayor of Chicago, Illinois (1869–1871) for the Citizens Party.

Early life

Mason was born on September 19, 1805, in New Hartford, New York to Arnold Mason and Mercy Coman.[1] His mother was a lineal descendant of Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island. His father Arnold, born in Swansea, Massachusetts, was an engineer instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal, the Morris Canal, and the High Bridge in New York City.[2]

He married Harriet Lavinia Hopkins on September 6, 1831, and they had eight children.[3][4]

Professional life

Mason began his career as an engineer working with his father at the age of 17 on a canal construction project in Albany, New York related to the Erie Canal. He subsequently attended an engineering school in Utica, New York. Mason was the first Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad.[5]

Mason and his family moved in Chicago in 1865, when he was one of several engineers who worked to reverse the flow of the Chicago River to improve health conditions and the cleanliness of Lake Michigan.[3]

Mason held a high position with the Illinois Central Railroad until he decided to run to be Mayor of Chicago.[6]


Mason was elected Chicago mayor on a reform ticket in 1869.[6]

Mason was sworn in as mayor on December 6, 1869.[7]

During his administration, the 1871 Great Chicago Fire occurred. Mason responded by directing General Philip Sheridan to place the city under martial law. To date he is the last non Republican or Democratic Mayor of Chicago.

Mason's tenure as mayor ended on December 4, 1871, when he was succeeded by Joseph Medill.[8]

Mason's grave at Rosehill Cemetery
Mason's grave at Rosehill Cemetery

Later life and death

Mason's wife Harriet died on March 29, 1891.[3]

He died at his home in Chicago on January 1, 1892, and was buried at Rosehill Cemetery.[3]


He is the namesake of Mason, Illinois.[9]

An elementary school in west Chicago is named after him.


  1. ^ Encyclopaedia of Biography of Illinois, Volume 1, 1892, page 197
  2. ^ Journal of the Western Society of Engineers, Vols. 43-45, page 4
  3. ^ a b c d "R. B. Mason is Dead". Chicago Tribune. January 2, 1892. p. 5. Retrieved November 16, 2021 – via
  4. ^ Andreas, Alfred Theodore (1885). History of Chicago: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Vol. II. A. T. Andreas Company. p. 51. Retrieved November 16, 2021 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Illinois Central Magazine, Volumes 43–44, 1954, p. 23
  6. ^ a b Gale, Edwin O. (1902). Reminiscences of Early Chicago and Vicinity. Chicago: Revell. pp. 389.
  7. ^ "Mayor Roswell B. Mason Inaugural Address, 1869". Chicago Public Library. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  8. ^ "Mayor Joseph Medill Inaugural Address, 1871". Chicago Public Library. Retrieved May 26, 2020.
  9. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 201.