January 10, 2010

Edwin Upton Curtis, Mayor of Boston

Edwin Upton Curtis (1861-1922) was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He was the son of George Curtis and Martha Ann Upton Curtis, and was married to Margaret M. Waterman.

Graduated from the Roxbury Latin School, he was fitted for college at the Little Blue School in Farmington, Maine. He was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1882, and apprenticed as an attorney and was admitted to the Suffolk Bar. He was the law partner of William Gardner Reed in the firm of Reed & Curtis. He commenced his political career as city clerk of the city of Boston. He progressed steadily in positions with increasing responsibility from thesecretary of the Republican City Committee, mayor of Boston, Asistant United States Treasurer at Boston, Collector of Customs for the Port of Boston, and as a member of the Metropolitan Park Commission.

In his inaugural as mayor of the city of Boston in 1895, he advocated the importance of special financial provision for educational buildings and facilities, the desirability of a Board of Election Commissioners, the policy of having special examinations of the city's financial system and resources, and making provision for public parks and other needs. All election machinery was placed in the control of a Board of Election Commissioners, composed of four men, two from each political party. It was said that his administration was characterized by a regulation of expense.

Curtis was also the police commissioner during the 1919 Boston Police Strike, which broke out when he refused to permit the creation of a police union. The strike, which plunged Boston into civil chaos, heralded a dramatic shift in traditional labor relations and views on the part of the police, who were unhappy with stagnant wages and poor working conditions. Then Governor Calvin Coolidge intervened in the strike brought him national fame which, in turn, led to his nomination as the partner of Warren Harding as running mate for Vice-President in the 1920 presidential election.

The Curtis Monument is an elegant white marble piece on Catalpa Avenue. It once had a pair of bronze eagles that flanked the tall center shaft.