A Campaign Recipe
For National Homemade Soup Day, we’re sharing a recipe that circulated during Michael A. Bilandic’s 1979 mayoral campaign.
After the death of mayor Richard J. Daley on December 20, 1976, the Chicago City Council chose Michael Bilandic to act as mayor until an election could take place. A South Sider, Bilandic was proud of his roots and family background. He was born in 1923 to Croatian immigrant parents and raised in the Bridgeport community area, where he attended Croatian-language school at St. Jerome’s. After serving in World War II as a first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Bilandic attended Saint Mary’s College (now Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota) and returned to Chicago to attend law school at DePaul University. His political career began in 1969 when he was elected alderman of the 11th Ward, which encompasses Bridgeport.
After finishing his term as acting mayor, Bilandic won the spring election in his own right, becoming the first Chicago mayor of Croatian ancestry. Beyond the sudden popularity of Croatian greetings in city hall, Bilandic’s ancestry was highlighted by his appearance at negotiations with Croatian nationalists who held six hostages at Chicago’s West German consulate in August 1978. Several national conferences on Croatia’s future and celebrations of Croatian Independence Day were staged at the LaSalle Hotel.
During his 1979 election campaign, Bilandic emphasized his ethnic and family loyalties. One such example is this brochure, which featured family recipes like Croatian cheese torte, Grandma Bilandic’s fried chicken, and his wife Heather’s potato leek soup. In January 1979, about a month before the primaries, a record-setting blizzard passed through Chicago, leaving nearly two feet of snow in a two-day period. The city was slow to deploy snowplows, which caused significant delays to public transportation and trash collection. Mayoral candidate Jane Byrne blamed Bilandic for the mismanagement of the situation, casting him as an ineffective leader, and soundly defeated him in the Democratic primary.
After his brief stint as mayor, Bilandic went on to have a successful legal career. He won a seat on the Illinois Appellate Court in 1984, was elected to a ten-year term as justice of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1990, and became chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court in 1994. Bilandic died in 2002 and is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois.
Image: Michael A. Bilandic campaign literature and recipe booklet, 1979. CHM, ICHi-059212_a and ICHi-059212_b.