Wentworth, John

“Long John” Wentworth dominated Chicago politics from the time he arrived in the city as a young Jacksonian Democrat until he left public life as a Republican supporter of Abraham Lincoln. So-called for his six foot six inch height, “Long John” had been born in New Hampshire, graduated from Dartmouth College, and arrived in Chicago in 1836. He quickly became the editor of the Chicago Democrat and two years later owned the paper. Raucous and partisan as a newspaperman, he was elected in 1843 as the youngest, and tallest, member of the 24th Congress. His growing opposition to slavery, culminating in his vote against the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, ended his congressional career in 1854. He became a Republican, stumping for Fremont in 1856 and supporting Lincoln in 1858 and 1860. He also served two terms as a flamboyant and heavy handed mayor of Chicago. Few fellow Republicans came to terms with his arbitrary style, ambition, and popularity and he was often at odds with others in the party. Abruptly, in 1861, after supporting Lincoln for president and then urging that no compromises with the South, he closed his newspaper and retired from public life. He spent his remaining decades tending to his 5000 acre estate, and writing on local history. His wife died in 1870 and only one of his five children was living when he himself died in October 1888. Characteristically, he had built a 72 feet obelisk, the tallest in the Rosehill Cemetery, to mark his last resting place. (By John Osborne)
Life Span
    Full name
    John Wentworth
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Paul Wentworth (father), Lydia Cogswell (mother), Roxanna Marie Loomis (wife, 1844)
    Other Education
    Dartmouth College, NH
    Attorney or Judge
    Farmer or Planter
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Other Religion

    John Wentworth (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    WENTWORTH, John,  (grandson of John Wentworth, Jr.), a Representative from Illinois; born in Sandwich, Carroll County, N.H., March 5, 1815; educated in the common schools and academies at Gilmanton, Wolfeboro, and New Hampton, N.H., and South Berwick, Maine; taught school for several years, and contributed political articles to newspapers; was graduated from Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H., in 1836; moved to Chicago, Ill., in 1836, where he engaged as a clerk in a law office, and also studied law; editor and manager of the Chicago Democrat; appointed aide-de-camp to Governor Carlin in 1838; attended the law department of Harvard University in 1841; was admitted to the bar in 1841 and commenced practice in Chicago, Ill.; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1843-March 3, 1851); elected to the Thirty-third Congress (March 4, 1853-March 3, 1855); Republican mayor of Chicago 1857-1863; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1861; elected as a Republican to the Thirty-ninth Congress (March 4, 1865-March 3, 1867); resumed the practice of law; died in Chicago, Ill., October 16, 1888; interment in Rosehill Cemetery.
    "Wentworth, John," Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000295.

    John Wentworth (American National Biography)

    "Long John" Wentworth, who stood 6' 6" and in his prime weighed more than 300 pounds, was the sort of colorful character that might have been created by a historical novelist seeking to portray a genial self-promoter who marched to his own drummer, yet retained the affections of the voters of Chicago and his northern Illinois district for three decades. A combative editorialist and debater who took forthright stands on the major issues of the day, Wentworth by the 1850s was a throwback to earlier times, representing a purer commitment to individual liberty and laissez faire capitalism than his businessmen enemies who thrived in the age of incorporation.
    William G. Shade, "Wentworth, John," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-01047.html.
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Fehrenbacher, Don Edward. “The Judd-Wentworth Feud.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 45 (Autumn 1952): 197-211. view record
    Fehrenbacher, Don Edward. Chicago Giant: A Biography of Long John Wentworth. Madison, WI: American History Research Center, 1957. view record
    Jones, Stanley L. “John Wentworth and Anti-Slavery in Chicago to 1856.” Mid-America 36 (July 1954): 147-160. view record
    Wentworth, John. Congressional Reminiscences. Chicago: Fergus Printing Co., 1882. view record
    Wentworth, John. Early Chicago. Chicago: Fergus Printing Company, 1881. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Wentworth, John," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/16469.