Irish Cincinnati-Mike Mullen and Ward Politics

By:  Kevin Grace

As the election season draws to a close over the next couple of weeks, it seems appropriate to consider the story of Mike Mullen, perhaps corrupt in the eyes of muckraking journalists, but certainly beloved among his own kind – and isn’t that always the case when it comes to urban politics? A jaded opinion, you say?  Maybe, I respond, but certainly one that is backed by the boisterous heritage of American city life.  And, so in the spirit of Archives Month in Ohio and the democratic system of government, here we go…

Mullen Detective Agency

Mullen Detective Agency

“Politics are said to be inborn in an Irishman, but at this time, in Cincinnati, he had not shown in any distressing degree this aptitude.” This sentiment, expressed in 1870, was changed by Mike Mullen, the quintessential ward healer.  As the Eighth Ward captain, he controlled dozens of patronage jobs, all of which went from Democrat to Republican when he bolted to the machine politics of George B. Cox.  The son of Irish immigrants, Mullen was beloved in his ethnic community, helping his constituents through bad times and holding a massive “Irish Day” picnic every year. He was Cox’s man on City Council, running his business from City Hall and his private detective agency in a building at Peebles’ Corner.  After he died in 1921, his loyal Irish constituents raised funds for a memorial bandstand in Lytle Park, where a marker to Mullen now stands.

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