William Safire's Sunday "On Language" column mentions the Chicago term,

"ward heeler." Safire still won't even talk to me, but if he did, he'd know

that a fine definition can be found in the Chicago Tribune, "ENCYCLOPEDIA

CHICAGOANA" (a wonderful, comic series), 4 August 1901, pg. 4, col. 4:

(A fat man is shown in the cartoon, asking "ARE YOU WIT US?")


(A boss. One who has influence, authority, control, or leadership over

the sovereign voters of a ward or subdivision of a city or municipality. One

who knows how, when, and where to get votes and how much they will cost. The

residuary trustee, or envoy extraordinary, or resident representative of a

political leader, man of destiny, or favorite son. The lieutenant of a

candidate for office.)

A WARD-HEELER holds his office not by appointment or election, but by

his ability to corral the boys, as the sovereign voters of a ward are called.

The ward-heeler must know all the keepers of groggeries in his ward and drop

around frequently and buy the boys beer with somebody else's money. The

ward-heeler keeps the boys in line and sees on election day that they vote

once anyhow, and twice if they can. It used to be a part of his official

duty to kick over the ballot box and walk off with the ballots if there were

too many votes cast for the opposition candidate. That is not so much the

fashion at present, but still followed in many localities. The ward-heeler

gets his friends jobs on the police force or in the Street Cleaning

department. He wears a quiet suit with a diamond in his necktie and a large

ring with glass setting on his finger. He always talks in a husky voice and

usually says: "Say, fellers, are you wid us or against us."