William Butler Ogden
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William Butler Ogden
William Butler Ogden
William B Ogden by GPA Healy, 1855.jpg
1st Mayor of Chicago

John H. Kinzie (as town President)
Buckner Stith Morris
Member of the New York State Assembly

January 1, 1835 - December 31, 1835
ConstituencyDelaware County, New York
Personal details
Born(1805-06-15)June 15, 1805
Walton, New York
DiedAugust 3, 1877(1877-08-03) (aged 72)
New York City
Political partyDemocratic (Before 1860)
Other political
Republican (Beginning in 1860)
Spouse(s)Marianna Tuttle Arnot
EducationNew York University Law School
OccupationReal Estate Developer

William Butler Ogden (June 15, 1805 - August 3, 1877) was an American politician and railroad executive who served as the first Mayor of Chicago.[1] He was referred to as "the Astor of Chicago."[1]

Early life

Ogden was born on June 15, 1805, in Walton, New York. He was the son of Abraham Ogden (1771-1825) and Abigail (née Weed) Ogden (1788-1850).[2]

When still a teenager, his father died and Ogden took over the family real estate business. He assisted Charles Butler, his brother-in-law, with business matters related to opening a new building for New York University, attending the law school for a brief period himself.


He was a member of the New York State Assembly (Delaware Co.) in 1835.[3]In 1837, he was elected the first mayor of Chicago, serving the customary one-year term until 1838.[1]

Railroad career

Ogden was a leading promoter and investor in the Illinois and Michigan Canal, then switched his loyalty to railroads. Throughout his later life, Ogden was heavily involved in the building of several railroads. "In 1847, Ogden announced a plan to build a railway out of Chicago, but no capital was forthcoming. Eastern investors were wary of Chicago's reputation for irrational boosterism, and Chicagoans did not want to divert traffic from their profitable canal works. So Ogden and his partner J. Young Scammon solicited subscriptions from the farmers and small businessmen whose land lay adjacent to the proposed rail. Farmer's wives used the money they earned from selling eggs to buy shares of stock on a monthly payment plan. By 1848, Ogden and Scammon had raised $350,000--enough to begin laying track. The Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was profitable from the start and eventually extended out to Wisconsin, bringing grain from the Great Plains into the city. As president of Union Pacific, Ogden extended the reach of Chicago's rail lines to the West coast."[4]

In 1853, the Chicago Land Company, of which Ogden was a trustee, purchased land at a bend in the Chicago River and began to cut a channel, formally known as North Branch Canal, but also referred to as Ogden's Canal.[5] The resulting island is now known as Goose Island.

Ogden designed the first swing bridge over the Chicago River[6] and donated the land for Rush Medical Center. Ogden was also a founder of the Chicago Board of Trade.[7]

Later Ogden served on the board of the Mississippi and Missouri Railroad and lobbied with many others for congressional approval and funding of the transcontinental railroad. After the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Ogden was named as the first president of the Union Pacific Railroad. Ogden was a good choice for the first president, but his railroad experience was most likely not the primary reason he was chosen; Ogden was a clever man who had many political connections. When Ogden came to lead the Union Pacific, the railroad was not fully funded and had not yet laid a single mile of trac. The railroad existed largely on paper created by an act of Congress. As part of the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, Congress named several existing railroad companies to complete portions of the project. Several key areas needed to link the East (Chicago) to the West had none, and hence the Union Pacific was formed by Congress. Ogden was a fierce supporter of the transcontinental railroad at a time of great unrest for the country and was quoted as saying:

This project must be carried through by even-handed wise consideration and a patriotic course of policy which shall inspire capitalists of the country with confidence. Speculation is as fatal to it as secession is to the Union. Whoever speculates will damn this project.

As history now shows, eventually Ogden and many others got their wish.

Later life

On October 8, 1871, Ogden lost most of his prized possessions in the Great Chicago Fire. He also owned a lumber company in Peshtigo, Wisconsin, which burned the same day.

Personal life

The sarcophagus of William Butler Ogden in Woodlawn Cemetery

He married Marianna Tuttle Arnot (1825-1904).[2] Marianna was the daughter of Scottish born John Arnot and Harriet (née Tuttle) Arnot.[2] In New York, he named his home in the Highbridge, Bronx (named after the bridge now called Aqueduct Bridge over the Harlem River connecting Manhattan and the Bronx) Villa Boscobel.[1]

Ogden died at his home in the Bronx on Friday, August 3, 1877.[1] The funeral was held August 6, 1877, with several prominent pallbearers including, Gouverneur Morris III, William A. Booth, Parke Godwin, Oswald Ottendorfer, William C. Sheldon, Martin Zborowski, and Andrew H. Green.[8] He was interred at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx.[8]


Namesakes of William B. Ogden include a stretch of U.S. Highway 34, called Ogden Avenue in Chicago and its suburbs, Ogden International School of Chicago, which is located on Walton Street in Chicago, and Ogden Slip, a man-made harbor near the mouth of the Chicago River. Ogden Avenue in The Bronx is also named after him, as is Ogden, Iowa.[9] The Arnot-Odgen Memorial Hospital, founded by his wife Mariana, also bears his namesake.


  1. ^ a b c d e "A Representative American". The New York Times. 4 August 1877. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Van Alstyne, Lawrence (1907). The Ogden Family, Elizabethtown Branch. New Haven, CT: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Press. Retrieved 2018.
  3. ^ Merriner, James L. (2004). Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2003. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 19. ISBN 0-8093-2571-3.
  4. ^ "William Butler Ogden". American Experience. PBS. 2003. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Hill, Libby (2000). The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History. Chicago: Lake Claremont Press. pp. 85-86. ISBN 1-893121-02-X.
  6. ^ Merriner, James L. (2004). Grafters and Goo Goos: Corruption and Reform in Chicago, 1833-2003. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-8093-2571-3.
  7. ^ Taylor, Charles Henry. History Of The Board Of Trade Of The City Of Chicago. Chicago: R. O. Law, 1917.
  8. ^ a b "Funeral of William B. Ogden. Simple and Impressive Services in St. James' Church at Fordham--Bishop Clarkson's Discourse Upon The Dead Millionaire's Life and Its Lessons". The New York Times. 7 August 1877. Retrieved 2018.
  9. ^ Harpster, Jack (2009). The Railroad Tycoon who Built Chicago: A Biography of William B. Ogden. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 9780809329175.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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