John O'Shea Scrapbook
Scope and Contents
In 90 pages and 2 folders of loose items, this scrapbook documents not only John O’Shea’s life, but the development of the North Center area from farms and prairies to urban neighborhood. The development of the River Park District and its parks is covered, as is the Irish Catholic community on Chicago’s northwest side in the 1930s and 1940s, especially the Queen of Angels Parish and its clergymen.
The scrapbook includes newspaper clippings, many from the local paper, NorthCenter News. Photographs, holiday cards, and event programs are also included. Obituaries for a number of O’Shea’s friends, associates, family members, and others also appear.
- 1901 - 1959
- O'Shea, John, 1872-1948 (Person)
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Biographical / Historical
John O’Shea was known as the “Father of River Park.” Born in Ireland in 1872, he immigrated to Chicago in 1886. He worked as a bellboy at the Gault House hotel, and as a horse cart driver. He then moved to New York for a couple years, where he worked at Sherwood Press. Upon returning to Chicago in 1891, he moved to what is now the North Center neighborhood, but what then consisted of farms and prairies. He lived there for the rest of his life, and he watched the area develop into an urban neighborhood.
In 1895, he founded O’Shea Ice & Coal Company, and he and his wife and three children lived over the business at 4022 N. Western Avenue. He harvested ice in the winter to sell in the summer, and he also sold milk and alcohol to his fellow settlers. At that time, he lived primarily among German settlers.
In 1913 and 1914, O’Shea helped fight a plan to put a garbage dump near the Chicago River in the neighborhood. By 1917, he had helped establish the River Park District, one of 22 separate park districts that were consolidated into the Chicago Park District in 1934. By 1934, the River Park District oversaw Brands Park, California Park, Green Briar Park, Legion Park, Paul Revere Park, and River Park. A Commissioner of the River Park District since its inception, O’Shea was eventually made President of the District.
In addition to his commercial business and his work with the River Park District, O’Shea was also prominent in the neighborhood in other organizations such as the Cooligan Club, the Knights of Columbus, the Queen of Angels Holy Society, the Catholic Guards of America, the John O’Shea Peace Council of the American League for an Undivided Ireland and the Illinois State Council of the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic, among others. O’Shea frequently led local parades, and he dressed up as Santa Claus every year for local children. He also helped run a youth baseball team. He was involved in his church, the Queen of Angels Parish. During a 1940 contest sponsored by the newspaper, The American Gael, O’Shea was voted second most popular Irishman in the Chicago area. “The Father of River Park” died in 1948.
2 Linear Feet (in 1 box (including 1 scrapbook))
Language of Materials
John O'Shea was known as the "Father of River Park." This scrapbook documents O’Shea’s life, the development of the North Center area from farms and prairies to urban neighborhood, the development of the River Park District and its parks and the Irish Catholic community on Chicago’s northwest side in the 1930s and 1940s, especially the Queen of Angels Parish and its clergymen.
The scrapbook has been disbound. Pages are arranged in the original order in which they were bound. Items that had come loose from the scrapbook are foldered together at the end.
Mr. DeMuth was an architect and Secretary for the Revere Park Advisory Council. The scrapbook came into the possession of the Advisory Council.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by Ken DeMuth in 2018.
- Chicago Park District (Chicago, Ill.)
- Irish Americans -- Illinois -- Chicago Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- North Center (Chicago, Ill.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- DeMuth, Ken (Person)
- O'Shea, John, 1872-1948 (Person)
- Guide to the John O'Shea Scrapbook
- Johanna Russ, 2020. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English
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