After 8 months of on and off work, a trip to the Newberry Library, and dozens of articles logged and noted, Isham Randolph – the engineer that reversed the flow of the Chicago River, has a respectable Wikipedia article: Isham Randolph.
I’m pretty proud of the work, every sentence on that page has a reference, in some cases more than one. I’d estimate that that article equals around 20 – 30 hours of work. Not an enormous investment, but more than I would have thought, and more than what the end result really looks like. During the time I worked on it, several other contributors helped clean and correct some wikipedia-ish issues around copyright and formatting. No one else contributed research or content, I always held out hope that there would be another closet Isham Randolph enthusiast out there in the world, but it looks like I’ve found a niche of exactly one – me.
What’s next? I’m not entirely sure. I’ve started to pull together some articles on Col. Robert Isham Randolph, Isham’s son. In 1930, the Colonel, a veteran of the Mexican Revolution and World War I, was appointed as the chair of the Chicago Association of Commerce. Within 6 months, he had established The Secret Six, a (obviously) secret organization of prominent businessmen that threw their vast wealth behind the goal of ridding Chicago of crime. When I read this blurb from the Tribune, it blew my mind.
So, what’s next? A page for Isham Randolph’s son, who was apparently Chicago’s version of Batman. It’s not an exaggeration, the Secret Six brought Eliot Ness to Chicago, and ultimately brought down Al Capone. Sure, some crabby historians think that Randolph and the CAC created the furor over Racketeering for some nefarious purpose, but I’m at the stage in my research where I’m totally buying the Secret Six as super-hero squad hook line and sinker.
Given the popular conception of Al Capone and the Untouchables, how could it be possible that it was all manufactured by a conglomerate of Chicago’s wealthiest businessmen? Would they really do something like that just to get Anton Cermak elected to the mayor’s office on promises of being hard on crime in 1931? Just a few short months after the formation of the Secret Six? It’s just a lot to fathom. I’m going to go with the official line, but – wow, what if the Randolph family both reversed the flow of the Chicago River and elevated Al Capone from petty gangster to public enemy one just to get a mayor elected?! What a family!