John Peter Altged

Portrait of John Peter Altged.

John Peter Altged


John Peter Altged was born December 30, 1847 in a small German village. Early in 1848, however, his family immigrated to Ohio. During the Civil War, Altged served in the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the age of 16.

Due to illness, Altged was out of commission several months and by the time he went to return to war, his infantry was disbanded. Altged went back to school and worked several jobs, first as a teacher, then a law clerk, and after passing the bar, an attorney. In 1877 he married a childhood friend named, Emily Ford.

In 1892, under the Democratic ticket, Altged ran for Illinois Governor and became the first foreign-born individual to hold that office in the state. During his time in office, Altged endeavored to improved women and child labor conditions, and standardize state laws, in which he established a commission to begin this process. As on of his first acts in 1893, Altged hired Florence Kelley as the first Chief Factory Inspector; under this title Kelley began a series of inspections into the child labor force of factories within the state and subsequent reports on these experiences.

Altged’s pardon of Haymarket labor strikers in 1893 combined with the railroad Pullman Strike in Chicago, which President Cleveland put down when he called in federal troops, led to Altged’s increasingly unpopularity. Altged was unable to win any election or future term in political office afterwards.

John Peter Altged died March 12, 1902.