John O’Shea Scrapbook

Dates: 1901-1959
Size: 1.5 linear feet in 1 box
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Harold Washington Library Center, Special Collections, 400 S. State Street, Chicago, IL 60605
Collection Number: spe-p00094
Provenance: Donated by Ken DeMuth in 2018.
Custodial History: Mr. DeMuth is an architect and Secretary for the Revere Park Advisory Council. The scrapbook came into the possession of the Advisory Council.
Access: Materials are open without restrictions.
Use: Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: John O’Shea Scrapbook, [Page OR Folder #], Special Collections, Chicago Public Library
Processed by: Johanna Russ, 2020. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Johanna Russ, 2021.


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.

Biographical Note

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. 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.

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.


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.

Related Collections

Subject Terms

  • Chicago Park District (Chicago, Ill.)
  • Irish Americans--Illinois--Chicago
  • North Center (Chicago, Ill.)

Collection Inventory

This inventory was based on an original descriptive inventory provided by the donor.

Box 1 Page 1 Blank
Box 1 Page 2 John O'Shea, Re-Election promotional pieces for River Park District Park Commissioner, 1921, undated
Box 1 Page 3

Newspaper clippings of O'Shea River Park District commissioner election endorsements from NorthCenter News and unidentified publication, undated.

Masthead from Ravenswood News, 1936

Box 1 Page 4 Blank
Box 1 Page 5 Typed letter, election endorsement from John O'Shea Non-Partisan Campaign Committee [for election to River Park District board], 1921
Box 1 Page 6 Newspaper clipping, "O’Shea Father of River Park: Career is Woven with Neighborhood Progress," Publication unknown. Article on O’Shea’s career describing offices held, business interests, children Dan, Margaret and Catherine, undated
Box 1 Page 7 Newspaper clipping, "John O’Shea Elected President of River Park: Led fight to prevent present from being used as City Dump," NorthCenter News, 1936.
Box 1 Page 8 Blank
Box 1 Page 9 Newspaper clipping, "'Giddap' Builds City, Horse Car Driver Muses: John O'Shea Recalls Lure of $1.75 Wage," Chicago Sunday Tribune. Describes O’Shea’s work as a driver for horse drawn street cars, 1931
Box 1 Page 10 Newspaper clipping, "California Park at California and Irving park Boulevard," The Lincolnite. Describes July 4th program and O’Shea’s flag raising ceremony, 1924
Box 1 Page 11 Newspaper clipping, "Ahead of the Times: The Mildly Low-Down," publication unknown. O’Shea recalls his youth working as an ice man harvesting ice blocks from the frozen river, undated
Box 1 Page 12 Blank
Box 1 Page 13 Newspaper clipping, "O'Shea Night, Belle Plaine Club to Honor Commissioner on Thursday, September 25," NorthCenter News, 1930
Box 1 Page 14 Blank
Box 1 Page 15

Newspaper clipping, [Article on John O'Shea], Lake View West End Improvement Asso'n News Reporter, 1922.

Photograph, “Surprise Party on Mrs. B. McDowell given by Children, Nieces & Nephew - June 13, 1925." O’Shea, front row, 3rd from left, 1925 June 13

Box 1 Page 16

Newspaper clipping, "Paul Revere O’Shea Heads Western Ave Parade," publication unknown, undated.

Photograph, eight riders on horseback on unknown city street, possibly part of a parade, undated.

Color cartoon of officer writing speeding ticket, “Sorry Dad, Regulations you know," in typescript, "You better take it easy, John," undated

Box 1 Page 17 Newspaper clipping, "O'Shea's play at Campbell & Irving Park; Fighting Irish play 3 games in 4 days," NorthCenter News, undated
Box 1 Page 18 Valentine greeting card, signed, “To Patrick, from your Dad,” undated
Box 1 Page 19 Newspaper clipping, [St. Patrick's Day announcement], NorthCenter News. St. Patrick's Day party invitation, celebration at the Lions Club, 1940 Irving Park Blvd., 1929
Box 1 Page 20

Newspaper clipping, "New Priest: Cardinal ordains young priest; says first mass Sunday," publication unknown. About Rev. Richard J. Bermingham, Our Lady of Mercy Church, 4432 N. Troy St., undated

Clipping, "Wedding Bells ring for Miss [Lillian] Bermingham and E.T. McBreen," publication unknown, undated.

Box 1 Page 21

Newspaper clippings, "Part of happy democratic Xmas party crowd;" "Kiddies pack sidewalks at Northcenter Theatre;" "'Too much harmony' comes to N'center: New Year Eve Show;" NorthCenter News. Articles feature John O'Shea dressed as Santa Claus, 1933

Photograph, O'Shea as Santa Claus, surrounded by children, undated

Box 1 Page 22 Blank
Box 1 Page 23 Newspaper clipping, "O’Shea Speaks at Park Celebration: 10,000 attend California Park celebration," NorthCenter News. Story on Fireworks and Celebration at California Park. Names of attending Park Commissioners, 1926
Box 1 Page 24 Blank
Box 1 Page 25 Newspaper clipping, "A.A.R.I.R. to Hold Convention in New York," The Irish American. Story on John O’Shea’s attendance at the American Association for Recognition of the Irish Republic in New York, 1935
Box 1 Page 26

Newspaper Clipping, "Parade Opens Queen’s Fete: Carnival Week will start with floats and bands," publication unknown. Story on annual Queen of Angels carnival, John O'Shea serving as grand marshal, undated

Photograph, two men, one in costume, possibly John O'Shea as early settler, undated.

Box 1 Page 27

Photograph, same costumed man from p. 26, with a second man, driving a stage coach, undated.

Photograph, children and teens on horseback, likely for a parade, boy dressed as Uncle Sam, undated.

Box 1 Page 28

Newspaper clipping, "A.A.R.I.R. Chicago, Ill.," publication unknown. Story on St Patrick’s day celebration, undated

Photograph, John O'Shea shaking hands with unidentified man, undated.

Photograph, John O'Shea with three unidentified nuns and one unidentified man, undated.

Box 1 Page 29

Newspaper clipping, "Obituary for Michael D. O’Shea," Chicago Daily Tribune, 1958.

Photograph of John O'Shea at 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair, 1933

Photograph of unidentified man at 1933 Century of Progress World's Fair [Mike Rogers?], 1933

Photograph of John O’Shea and unidentified man in front of garage, undated.

Photograph of unidentified men camping along water, undated.

Box 1 Page 30 Club Register, The Cooligan Club. Brief character statements and humor for club members including John O’Shea, 1936
Box 1 Page 31

Newspaper clipping, "Rustic Bridge for Legion Park," publication unknown, 1934.

Certificate declaring John O'Shea elected Park Commissioner for River Park District, 1916.

Box 1 Page 32

Newspaper clipping, "Mike Rogers, 75, Guest at Irish Birthday Dinner," publication unknown. Hosted by John O'Shea, undated

Photograph of Mike Rogers, undated

Box 1 Page 33 Photograph, two women and John O’Shea on horseback in uniform. On verso, “Dedication, Brands Park,” undated
Box 1 Page 34 Photograph, John O’Shea seated in uniform on speaker platform with three unidentified men. On verso, “Dedication, Brands Park,” undated
Box 1 Page 35

Newspaper clipping, "5000 Pledge Loyalty to U.S.," Herald & Examiner. Story on Portage Park Citizens Day event, undated

Photograph, John O’Shea speaking at microphone in front of US flag, undated

Box 1 Page 36 Photo Cards, monochrome photos of two children, Mary Ann and Tommy [Possibly niece and nephew], undated.
Box 1 Page 37

Newspaper clipping, "Boys and girls! Are you in this Picture? Free Theatre Tickets!" NorthCenter News, 1936.

3 Photographs, John O'Shea dressed as Santa Claus with children and others, undated.

Box 1 Page 38 Blank
Box 1 Page 39

Newspaper clipping, "'Who’s Who' in Northcenter," NorthCenter News. Biographical story on John O’Shea, describing O’Shea’s business circular from 1901 and formation of River Park District. [See Loose folder 2 for circular], 1937

Photograph, John O'Shea driving excavation equipment, undated.

Box 1 Page 40 2 Photographs, John O'Shea dressed as Santa Claus, undated
Box 1 Page 41

Newspaper clippings, "The World’s Champion Santa Claus," Standard Opinion, 1937.

Photograph, John O'Shea dressed as Santa Claus with two unidentified men, undated

Box 1 Page 42

Christmas card, exterior, "My mother and dad," interior, "wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy prosperous new year, Maryann McBreen," 1936.

Cartoon, a police man giving Santa Claus a speeding ticket, undated

Box 1 Page 43

Christmas greeting, from employees of River Park District, 1937.

Christmas card from daughter Marguerite, undated.

Box 1 Page 44

Newspaper clipping, "In De Paul’s Gallery of Beauty," featuring Amber Donahue, Chicago Daily News, 1933.

St. Patrick's Day greeting card, from niece Patricia, 1938.

Box 1 Page 45 5 Photographs, unidentified. Likely of family members. One appears to be John O'Shea, undated
Box 1 Page 46 Newspaper clipping, "St. Pat. Official. John O'Shea judge at Horse Show and St. Patrick Party," NorthCenter News, 1938
Box 1 Page 47 2 Photographs, unidentified groups, undated
Box 1 Page 48 Newspaper clipping, "Arrange Irish Dinner," Standard Opinion, 1938
Box 1 Page 49 Newspaper clippings, "Save The Lawn Prize Winner. Marguerite O'Shea winner in 'Save the Lawn' Contest," publication unknown, 1938
Box 1 Page 50 Newspaper clipping, "Irish Celebration Set for August 14 at Riverview Park," publication unknown, undated
Box 1 Page 51 Two fabric ribbons for “Irish Day” at Riverview Park. One marked “Arrangements Committee," One marked "County Kerry," 1938
Box 1 Page 52

Invitation to 50th Wedding anniversary mass for Mr. & Mrs. Reinhard Jelkes, 1943.

Photograph, presumably of the Jelkes, undated

Box 1 Page 53 Blank
Box 1 Page 54

Newspaper clipping, [John O'Shea on horseback, parade leader at dedication at Western and Cuyler], NorthCenter News, 1944.

Photograph, O'Shea on horseback, undated

Photograph, William J. Tuohy speaking during campaign for Cook County State's Attorney, 1944.

Box 1 Page 55 Certificate stating O'Shea elected Park Commissioner of River Park District, 1933
Box 1 Page 56 Newspaper clipping, "O’Shea Leads in Popularity: Father Keane in second place; Terrence Moran in third place: Contest arousing widespread interest all over Chicago," The American Gael, 1940
Box 1 Page 57

Newspaper clipping, "John O’Shea Leads Irish ‘Pop’ Contest: L.V. Man leads contest to measure esteem in Gaelic circles," unknown publication, undated.

Newspaper clipping, "St. Patrick and the Shamrock," by John O'Shea, unknown publication, 1940.

Letter from Mr. Kolmar to O'Shea congratulating him on winning #2 most popular Irishman, 1940.

Box 1 Page 58

Newspaper clipping, "Father Keane most popular: Irish Hold Election," Herald-American, [1940].

Greeting card, from Bill Eaton, congratulating O'Shea on winning #2 most popular Irishman, [1940]

Box 1 Page 59 Newspaper clipping, "Biographies of Candidates in Popularity Contest: John O'Shea, Michael J. Doyle, Rev. James R. Keane, Terence F. Moran, John McGinnis," The American Gael, [1940].
Box 1 Page 60 Photograph, Reverend John J. Doody, undated
Box 1 Page 61

Architectural Rendering, exterior monochrome print of watercolor style rendering of "Proposed church for Queen of Angels Parish, Rev. John J. Doody, D.D. Pastor; McCarthy, Smith and Eppig Architects, [1939]

Printed Thanksgiving message announcing completion of new church building for Queen of Angels, 1939.

Box 1 Page 62 Newsletter clippings, [Eight images of church construction progress], Queens Voice. Includes Father Doody (pastor) and John O’Shea, 1939
Box 1 Page 63

Rendering, Exterior artist’s rendering of Queen of Angels, undated.

Photographs, Reverend Henry P. Cunneen, Reverend Jas. J. Fitzgerald, Reverend Eugene V. Mulcahey, Reverend J. McCarthy, undated.

Box 1 Page 64 Newspaper clipping, "Gabby Center of Rousing Welcome," unknown publication. Photograph and caption of Chicago Cubs manager, Gabby Hartnett, in crowd after winning National League Championship, undated
Box 1 Page 65 Photograph of California Park building entrance with names of Commissioners on sign, including John O’Shea, undated
Box 1 Page 66

Flier, Farewell Dinner in honor of John O'Shea, 1939.

Newspaper clipping, "Farewell Dinner," unknown publication. Given to honor O'Shea's retirement from the Park District, [1939]

Photograph, O'Shea with two unidentified men, undated.

Box 1 Page 67 Event program, Hawthorne School assembly, schedule includes John O'Shea to speak as a "pioneer resident of Lakeview," 1939
Box 1 Page 68 Newspaper clipping, "Old Timer Reunion Thursday; Corned Beef Cabbage is on Menu," NorthCenter News. Written by John O’Shea, details history of old cottage that stood on the corner Campbell & Irving Park, which became part of Revere Park, 1940
Box 1 Page 69 Newspaper clipping, [Article on model of neighborhood created by Coonley Grammar School students, visited by John O'Shea], NorthCenter News. Includes history of Coonley School, 1941
Box 1 Page 70

Newspaper clipping, duplicate of p. 69. Newspaper clipping, "John O'Shea," publication unknown. Describes St. Patrick's Day message from O'Shea, 1941

Newspaper clipping, "John O’Shea Cavalcade of Transportation, Subway," NorthCenter News. Describes event held at opening of subway, 1943

Box 1 Page 71 Blank
Box 1 Page 72 Clipping, "Father Cunneen leaves Queen of Angels," Queens Voice, Queen Of Angels Church, 1937
Box 1 Page 73 Clipping, "Father McCarthy leaves," Queens Voice, Queen Of Angels Church, 1942
Box 1 Page 74 Newspaper clipping, "Chicago Priest Hero in Solomon Battle: Parish Proud of 'Father Jim'," unknown publication. Article recounts events regarding Rev. James J. Fitzgerald on August 7 in the Solomon Islands during World War II, undated
Box 1 Page 75 Blank
Box 1 Page 76

Newspaper clipping, “With their Hearts still Young and Gay," The Chicago Sun. Old Settlers reunion, Harms Park, 1945

Photograph, John O'Shea and Katherine Bialk at reunion, 1945

Box 1 Page 77 Blank
Box 1 Pages 78-79 Newspaper clipping two page spread, "Operate or Die Bandit Pair Captured: Detroit Police seize desperadoes with 'girl friend,'" Atlanta Georgian. Article on robbery and shooting at 4623 N. Western Ave on night of May 3, 1939, 1939
Box 1 Page 80 Newspaper clipping, "Jaunty in an Irish Jaunting cart…" Chicago Herald American. Caption about cart being presented to Museum of Science and Industry and O'Shea driving Irish Queen contestants, 1947
Box 1 Page 81 Newspaper clipping, "Santa Goes to School," Chicago Sun. O'Shea as Santa Claus visits Scammon Elementary School, 1947
Box 1 Page 82 Newspaper obituary clippings, "Evelyn Beatty Tierney," Chicago Sunday Tribune, 1945; "Former Alderman Albert F. Schulz Rites Tomorrow," undated; "Services for Thomas R. Casper," undated; "Timothy Long, old settler, passes on," 1942; "Funeral Rites Saturday for F.J. O'Malley," Chicago Daily Tribune, 1959; "Michael D. O'Shea," Chicago Daily News, 1958
Box 1 Page 83 Newspaper obituary clippings, "Tribute to George McGrath," undated; photograph, [George McGrath]; "Funeral Rites Monday for T.R. Caspers," undated; "St. Vincent De Paul Society president Alex Ferguson," Queens Voice, 1939; "Alex Ferguson," [1939]. Funeral program, Dr. George W. Billig, 1942. Printed poem, "The Fighting Irish," about Notre Dame, undated
Box 1 Page 84 Newspaper obituary clippings for Father John J. Doody, 1941
Box 1 Page 85 Obituary clippings, "In Memorial of Rev. Father John J. Doody," by John O'Shea, Queen's Voice, [1941]; John Joseph Casey, 1943
Box 1 Page 86 Obituary clippings and announcements, "Rev. Terence O'Brien, Twenty years pastor of St. Columbkille's Church to be buried today," 1942; "Sister M. Lucia claimed by death," The Southern Messenger, 1949; "In Loving Memory, Gertrude Crane," 1957
Box 1 Page 87 Obituary clippings, "Death of Frances Martell is mourned throughout the U.S. and also in Ireland: De Valera represented at the funeral," unknown publication, 1942; "Capt. William J. Grace of Chicago, advocate of Irish cause, is dead at age of 58," The Gaelic American, 1948
Box 1 Page 88

Newspaper clipping, "3 Shopping Weeks Left," NorthCenter News, 1947

2 photographs, O'Shea dressed as Santa Claus, with child and toys, undated

Box 1 Page 89 Duplicate of p. 81: Newspaper clipping, "Santa Goes to School," Chicago Sun. O'Shea as Santa Claus visits Scammon Elementary School, 1947
Box 1 Page 90 blank
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper clipping, “$1,000 Cleared at Lincolnite Ball,” The Ravenswood [ ]. Article on Lincolnite Charity Ball held at River Park fieldhouse. O’Shea appears in photograph, 1930
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper obituary clipping, “Julia McBreen nee O’Shea,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 1949
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper clipping, [Article on the American League for an Undivided Ireland, covering tribute speech on occasion of John O’Shea’s death], The Gaelic-American, 1948
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper obituary clipping, “James H. Frawley,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 1948
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper clipping, “And now they’re apartment hunters,” North Side Sunday Star. Wedding announcement for Mary Tracy and Joseph Cunneen, 1942
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper clipping, “Replies to Letter on Divided Ireland,” Chicago Daily News, 1949
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper obituary clipping, “PFC. Edward H. Kiewitz,” NorthCenter News, 1949
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Newspaper clipping, “Picnic turns back time to Fair of 1893,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 1951
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Photograph, unidentified monument and American flag, undated
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Photograph, John O’Shea, Century of Progress Chicago World’s Fair. Duplicate of p. 29, 1933
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Photograph, John O’Shea with horse, undated
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Photograph, John O’Shea portrait, undated
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Letter from Anthony J. Lavelle to NorthCenter News editor Wermick. Describes effort to name a new park on bank of Chicago River between Montrose and Irving Park after John O’Shea, 1948
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Advertising leaflet, “Nixon & Prassas’ addition to New Ravenswood Park: A unique subdivision of beautiful homes.” Features image of John O’Shea and other River Park Commissioners, undated
Box 1 Loose folder 1 Photographic reproduction of autographed image of Éamon de Valera, Irish politician, undated
Box 1 Loose folder 2 Chicago Park District envelope, “Marie to read,” undated
Box 1 Loose folder 2 Blank letterhead for “Marie Valentin,” undated
Box 1 Loose folder 2 Advertising circular for John O’Shea, “Dealing in beer, ale, porter, weiss beer, wines and liquors…15-17 Irving Park Blvd.,” 1901
Box 1 Loose folder 2 Newspaper clipping, “John O’Shea Council to honor its founder,” Ravenswood-Lincolnite, 1949
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