Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Melvin George Holli  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: 1933 in Ishpeming, Michigan

-- Melvin George Holli on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Holli lives in the Chicago area.

Biographical and Professional Information

Holli is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author and co-editor of 15 books on urban, ethnic, and political history, including ''The American Mayor: The Best and Worst Big-City Leaders''.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

The Ethnic Frontier: Essays in the History of Group Survival in Chicago and the Midwest
ISBN: 080281705X

Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. 1977

Book by Jones, Peter, Holli, Melvin

Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait
ISBN: 0802870538

Eerdmans. 1995

This award-winning study of ethnic life in Chicago richly details the various peoples and ethnic institutions in America's heartland city. This newly revised and expanded edition also includes chapters on African-American migration, Chatham, Latino Chicago, the Chinese in Chicago, Asian Indians, Korean-Americans, the new entrepreneurial immigrants, and the Swedes. There is also a new six-chapter section that examines saloons, sports, crime, churches, neighborhoods, and cemeteries.

The Making of the Mayor of Chicago, 1983
ISBN: 0802870473

Eerdmans Pub Co. 1984

Discusses the issues in the 1983 Chicago mayoral primary and election and examines the reasons for the victory of Harold Washington

The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition
ISBN: 0809313367

Southern Illinois University Press. 1987

Green and Holli have tapped America’s best-qualified observers to help us fathom the “byzantine labyrinth that honeycombs and undergirds Chicago politics.”

Here is a political roadmap through the labyrinth. There are insightful essays about the recent mayors: Richard J. Daley, Michael A. Bilandic, Jane M. Byrne, and Harold Washington. Less well known even to astute political observers are Edward F. Dunne, reformer and reputed radical, who had “long-haired friends” and “short-haired women” in his administration the politically reticent Fred A. Busse Big Bill Thompson, a buffoon whose departure from office was much rued by Al Capone William E. Dever, “an honorable man” who was “soundly defeated by a loudmouthed lout [Thompson] who barely avoided imprisonment” Anton Cermak, smart, tough, a winner stopped only by an assassin’s bullet Edward J. Kelly, who balanced scandal and accomplishment to reign for 14 years and Martin H. Kennelly, a nice guy, honest, dignified, inept.

The earliest mayor to be considered is Joseph Medill. More famous as editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Medill was the mayor who, after the Great Fire of 1871, guided the city in its rise from ashes. Representing the city at the turn of the century was long-time mayor Carter Harrison II, a progressive, effective mayor who, when forced by reformers to close the red-light district, worried that he had merely driven the whorehouses into the neighborhoods.

Restoration 1989: Chicago Elects a New Daley
ISBN: 0925065099

Lyceum Books. 1990

Book by Green, Paul M., Holli, Melvin G.

Chicago: A View From City Hall (IL) (Images of America)
ISBN: 0752413295

Arcadia Pub. 1999

Book by Holli, Melvin, Green, Paul

The American Mayor: The Best and the Worst Big-City Leaders
ISBN: 0271018771

Penn State University Press. 1999

The American Mayor offers a unique ranking of the nation's big-city mayors by expert scholars. Although the mayoralty is one of the most important political executive offices, it has escaped the kind of evaluations by which scholars have ranked American presidents. Now, thanks to Melvin Holli, we have a comparable survey of the "best" and "worst" mayors, covering some 730 mayors from the big-fifteen cities, from the beginning of the modern office in 1820 to the 1990s. The poll of historians, biographers, and social scientists produced a remarkably strong consensus.

Who were our best mayors? The list ranges from Boston's "Great Mayor" Josiah Quincy (1823–1828) to New York City's Fiorello La Guardia (1934–1945), who is first on the all-time-best list. La Guardia, a stouthearted fireplug of a man, built modern New York, fought Murder Incorporated, read the comics to children over the air during a newspaper strike, and was a symbol of ethnic probity and honesty. Sandwiched between Quincy and La Guardia are several other outstanding mayors, including Cleveland's Tom Johnson (1901–1909), Pittsburgh's David Lawrence (1946–1959), Detroit's Hazen Pingree (1890–1897), and Los Angeles's Tom Bradley (1973–1993).

Taking the first-worst prize among scoundrel mayors is Chicago's William H. "Big Bill" Thompson (1915–1923, 1927–1931), one of the most colorful mayors in the city's history, if not the most corrupt. Big Bill, also known as "Kaiser Bill" for his pro-German stand during World War I, accepted campaign funds from gangsters including Al Capone. Also among the "worst" is another Chicago mayor, Jane Byrne (1979–1983), the only woman on the list. Jersey City's Frank Hague (1917–1947) and Philadelphia's Frank Rizzo (1972–1980) are among the other notable rascals who have sat in city halls.

The American Mayor presents complete findings of Holli's poll in jargon-free fashion. Holli explains the results of the survey, gives biographical sketches of the ten best mayors, as well as some attention to the worst, and then uses the findings of modern leadership studies to explore mayoral success and failure. He concludes with a chapter titled "Pathways to Power," in which he reviews the New York City political milieu that produced the nation's "best" mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, and also examines the career of the nation's most successful big-city mayor, Buffalo's Grover Cleveland, the only mayor to become president of the United States.



Speaking Engagements

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Contact Information Author C/O University of Illinois at Chicago Circle Chicago, Illinois 60680