Teaching Cleveland
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High School Edition: 9-12

Lesson 25

"Heelers, Boodlers, and War Bummers: Political Bossism in Cleveland"


To acquaint students with the politics of Cleveland at the turn of the century. To make students aware of existence and influence of political machines in Cleveland during the period immediately before the era of political reform.


Handout 1 - Heelers, Boodlers, and Ward Drummers


federal plan
war bummers
machine politics
Robert McKisson
Czar Bernstein
Maurice Maschke
Municipal Association


  1. What were local politics like in Cleveland at the turn of the century?
  2. How extensive was the influence of political machines in Cleveland government at the turn of the century?


  1. Distribute copies of the handout to the students. Have the students read the handout and answer the questions for discussion below.
    a. How did the new constitution (charter) of the city of Cleveland change the government of the city?
    b. Why do you think this new charter changed peoples' attitudes about their participation in city politics?
    c. How did the vision of the "new reformers" fail the majority of the population of Cleveland?
    d. How did the operation of machine politics have an adverse effect on the running of the city government?
    e. Why was McKisson's power finally broken?
  2. For additional information on reform politics in Cleveland, the teacher and students are referred to "Mounting Crisis and Reform: Cleveland's Political Development," by Thomas F. Campbell, PhD. in The Birth of Modern Cleveland, 1865 -1930. Campbell, Thomas F. and Edward M. Miggins, eds. Associated University Presses, 1988. This article contains an excellent overview of reform politics in Cleveland from the party machines of the end of the 19th century through the reform politics of Tom L. Johnson and others.

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