History

The time is 1932. The arrogance and flamboyance of the 20's had suddenly, by the events in 1929, turned to depression and despair...a great nation built by diversity and strength is drowning in common sea of poverty...its faith in itself nearly gone. Even the weather, with drought and freezing cold, has turned against a frightend, humble people.

The new majority, the nation's poor, elects a new president and suddenly hope and purpose burst across the land people-together-begin to fight unknown forces that have defeated them.

Our restaurant seeks to celebrate this rebirth of hope, this spirit, that saved America. Hannegan's is of party, right nor left, whig nor tory. But Hannegan's does have a cause-to remind us of a time when people came together with common purpose and gave honor to the political process.

THE MYTH

The Hannegan of Hannegan's Restaurant and Pub is largely myth. Certainly there are and have been an abundance of Hannegans in St. Louis.
But our namesake Hannegan is a composite of all the warmth and imagery the name evokes: Irishness, love of Blarney and barleycorn, politics and parties, good food and companionship, music, respect of his peers, loyalty, honor of women and you supply the rest. This is your host Hannegan.

But there is a prototype; a larger than life, local-boy-makes-good Hannegan that lends the mortar to the bricks of our enterprise. Many of the things you see in the restaurant were his...this puts the touch of reality and vitalness to our fantasy. The following pages of this volume offer a brief biography of our real life Hannegan.

 

 

You are in Laclede's Landing, the site of the original city of St. Louis which grew up around the trading post established in 1776 by Pierre Laclede Ligueste. The names of the streets have changed but the original pattern laid out by Laclede still exists.

The building of Eads Bridge in 1874, along with the arrival of the railroad turned the area to industrial uses and new buildings were built among the old. The building you are in, the Witte Hardware Company building, was built in 1905. You are now in an old warehouse space. St. Louis was then the 4th largest city in America, a reflection of the western spread of the population.

Laclede's Landing survived because the two bridges and downtown encircled it; it was too small an area to support modern industry; and in general, the declining population of St. Louis proper didn't need it. For whatever reason, this derelict, Flying Dutchman of a neighborhood, once the keystone of western development, is now alive and available to us again.

Hannegan had an early start because his father was engaged in public service. He was cheif of detectives of St. Louis. He was a tough guy, a law and order man. He ran the Black River Gang out of St. Louis and it was said that Al Capone stayed in Chicago because of the senior Hannegan's reputation. At that time there was much for a chief of detectives to prosecute; prohibition was in full force and the country was in one of its more repressive and prudish periods.

Young Hannegan revealed himself early on to be an overachiver. At Yeatmn High he was a star letterman in baseball, basketball, football and swimming. Somehow he survived all the youthful adulation and became a student at St. Louis University where he worked to get his law degree. In college he played football for the Billikens and one of his teams lost to the Four Horseman of Notre Dame by the amazingly low score of 14 to 0. During summers he played professional baseball for the Kalamazoo Tigers under an assumed name. Even during college football season he played professional football for the St. Louis Blues. How he managed this no one knows. As a student in sports he showed little compassion for his opponents which was countrary to his later involvement with the liberal consciousness of the New Deal.

After college, Hannegan worked hard in local politics. He worked in Barney Dickmann's campaign for Mayor and Barney was quite successful. He also worked for Senator Bennett Champ Clark and Congressman John J. Cochran and these men were to represent him well in Washington in the future. And he worked hard in ward politics and gradually worked his way up until he was the leader not only of his own ward but all the wards in the city of St. Louis. The plurality deliveered for Roosevelt in 1932 brought him to the attention of Jimmy Byrnes, the confidante of President Roosevelt, and that became his Washington connection.

In the thirties, St. Louis was the 7th largest city in the United States and a man who could deliver a plurality of 300 or 400 thousand votes in a Presidential campaign soon became associated with the so-called bosses of other cities.

There was Boss Flynn in Chicago and Boss Curly in Boston and Boss Pendergast in Kansas City and so on. In those days a political boss was precisely a political boss. There was patronage, there were jobs, there were benefits brought to bear on the basis of delivering the votes. It was JImmy Byrnes' business to know who those people were. So, in the process of rewarding those who deliver, Hannegan became Collector of Internal Revenue for the St. Louis district and he worked at it. Not too much later, he because Commissioner of Internal Revenue and this was his first Washington experience.




The big question of the 1944 convention was not whether Roosevelt would be the candidate but who would be his running mate. Roosevelt was tired but the country was at war and, even though it called for an unprecedented fourth term, Roosevelt had to be nominated. Henry Wallace was Vice President at the time but several of the major individuals in the party felt that he was decidedly too liberal and should not be Vice President again.

During a visit Wallace made to China on a fact-finding mission, a meeting was called to discuss with Roosevelt who was going to be Vice President. Roosevelt was satisfied with Wallace's power in the Midwest but Boss Flynn of New York said he'd be trouble in New York and Ed Pauley said he'd be trouble in California. Hannegan from Missouri mentioned the fact that Harry Truman had done an outstanding job as chairman of the War Mobilization board and so on and that he should be considered as a candidate for Vice President. Roosevelt knew Truman but felt that he was probably too old. At that time Roosevelt asked his daughter, Anna Roosevelt Boettiger, to get the congressional diary of Senators to read his record and find out his age. She left the room but one of the gentlemen went out and intercepted her and convinced her not to return with information. Roosevelt was aging and in poor health and didn't notice that she had not returned (which would never have happened in his earlier days). Finally, he said to the group, "You all want Truman, it's OK by me."

Anyhow, when Truman's name came up at the convention Wallace began waving a letter from Roosevelt telling everyone that he had proof that Roosevelt wanted him to be Vice President. Hannegan had to make a quick run out to Roosevelt's railroad car to get a more current letter from him that clearly stated that Truman was his choice. The convention, eager to please the Commander in Chief, gave him Truman as candidate for Vice President. The rest is history!

Since the beginning of America politics, a newly elected president would often give his campaign manager the cabinet post of Postmaster General. The election of 1944 was no different. What was different was that Hannegan really liked being Postmaster General and took his job seriously. Whereever Hannegan went for whatever reason he would visit the local post office and make known his own personal standards for service and housekeeping. Hannegan was sworn in as Postmaster General on his 42nd birthday in 1945, becoming the youngest member of Truman's cabinet. One of his first acts was to announce new, higher salaries. A grade one clerk, for example, would now receive $1,900 annually.

Hannegan resigned as Postmaster in early 1948 and recommended to President Harry Truman that a man named Jesse M. Donaldson become the new Postmaster General. The strange thing was that Donaldson was a career postal employee and for the first time a non-political chief was appointed to head that vast department.


Most people's notion of a politicians is as a power hungry individual set on exploiting the people that vote for him for his own personal good. And as we sit in front of our TVs and in our campers and trailers or watching the ends of our fishing poles, the politician is working. One thing the politician does is work. He goes to dinners, smokers, stage & funerals. The politician goes to endless meetings, fights for seats on county committees and gives up that which most of us cherish, his private time. Most of our documentation of Hannegan from high school on shows him in a tuxedo sitting behind a half consumed dinner worrying over the notes of the speech he was about to deliver.

 
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