Illusttration of a woman wearing a headress with an eagle on it (the symbol of chicago) and text on her front on a dark horse with text on its side walking through water. In the background is another horse with a man in a hat riding it.
This button reflects the Chicago mayoral election of 1903. In that election, incumbent Carter Harrison Jr. ran as a Democrat against Republican nominee Graeme Stewart. This button uses the idiom, “Don’t change horses in midstream.” It shows “I Will Not” riding on the back of Harrison while William Lorimer, Republican political boss, is sinking on the back of Stewart. Lorimer is asking the people of Chicago (represented by “I Will Not”) to drop Harrison for Stewart, and this button is not having it.
The 1903 election was political drama. Lorimer had been elected to the House of Representatives under slightly shady circumstances. Opponents demanded a recount, and Stewart supported an injunction against the recount to support Lorimer. Reform-minded voters disapproved of this partisan gesture and helped reelect Harrison to his fourth of five terms as Mayor of Chicago. Stewart died two years later. Lorimer was later elected a US Senator but was convicted of bribery.
“I Will Not” is a wordplay on “I Will.” “I Will” was a goddess designed by Charles Holloway in 1892. Shown wearing a crown with a rising phoenix and the phrase “I will” on her breastplate, she was meant to represent the spirit of Chicago in the same way that Uncle Sam is a symbol of America. “I Will” was an unofficial symbol of the 1893 World’s Fair. Changing “I Will” to “I Will Not” was a dig directed at Lorimer that 1903 Chicagoans would have recognized instantly.
Thanks to the Chicago Public Library for finding the name "I Will" and references to her story.
1903 Chicago mayoral election. En.wikipedia.org. (2020). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1903_Chicago_mayoral_election.
Neil Gale, P. (2020). Chicago's "I Will" Motto and "Y" Municipal Device History.. Drloihjournal.blogspot.com. Retrieved from https://drloihjournal.blogspot.com/2017/05/chicagos-i-will-motto-and-y-m....
Schnickler, E., Finegold, K., Katznelson, I., Shefter, M., Skocpol, T. (1995). Experts and politicians: Reform challenges to machine politics in New York, Cleveland, and Chicago. Princeton University Press.
Winslow, C. Spaulding., Wilder, R. Everett. (1947). Early Chicago: as seen by a cartoonist. Chicago: Charles S. Winslow.