George Bell Swift - the man

George Bell Smith was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on December 14, 1845, the son of Samuel W. and Elizabeth Bell Swift.  His parents removed to Galena, Illinois, while he was still an infant, and it was there that he received his early education.

In  1862, at the age of 17, he came to Chicago.  He commenced his business career with the wholesale drug firm of Lord and Smith, as cashier, and remained there until 1867, at age 22, when he became the junior member of the firm of Frazer and Swift, manufacturors of Frazer’s axle grease and lubricating oil.  In 1870 the firm was reorganized under the name of the Frazer Lubricating Company.

In 1879, at the age of 34, Mr. Swift was elected Alderman of the 11th Ward, serving for a two year term; he was appointed Special United States Treasury Agent in 1884, which office he held until the spring of 1885, when he was appointed Deputy City Clerk.  In 1887 he was appointed Commissioner of Public Works by Mayor Roche, and he resigned this office in February 1889, to take over active management of the Frazer Lubricating Company of which he was vice president.  He was re-elected Alderman of the 11th ward in 1892.

Upon the death of Mayor Carter H. Harrison, Mr. Swift was elected Mayor pro tem by the members of the Chicago City Council on November 6, 1893, and served in this capacity until Mayor Hopkins was officially installed as Mayor on December 27, 1893.  He was elected Mayor of the City of Chicago on April 2, 1895, the vote being cast as follows: George B. Swift, Republican 143,884 votes; Frank Wenter, Democrat, 103,125 votes; Baynard Holmes, People’s Party, 12,882 votes; Arthur J. Bassett, Prohibition, 994 votes; and Ebenezer Wakely, Free Silver candidate, 302 votes.  He served a single term of two years as Mayor.

In 1911 Mr. Swift was named to the Chicago Board of Education.  He died on July 2, 1912, of heart failure, surrounded by his family, and is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

–information taken from a typed, undated and unattributed document in the files of the Chicago Board of Education.  Text in italics have been added.