Dec 5, 2023 - Culture

How former Ald. Ed Burke became Chicago's king of swag

Man with hand up to his mouth, covering it, wearing glasses and pinstriped suit.

Former Chicago alderman Ed Burke last year. Photo: E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

In recent witness testimony at Ed Burke's corruption trial, a fast-food mogul revealed that the alder once gave him fancy Burke-branded "salt and pepper shakers" over lunch at the Beverly Country Club.

  • That got us thinking about the various totems we've heard about Burke offering Chicagoans over the years.

What's happening: We rounded up pictures and stories about a few of them.

Thin, silver salt and pepper shakers with a Chicago flag on them.
Pass the salt. Photo courtesy of an Axios reader.

Salt and pepper grinders: An Axios reader and friend of Monica's shared a picture of the "Anne and Ed Burke" salt and pepper grinders he also received over a meal with Burke.

  • Monica's used them, and they work beautifully.
Gold badge on blue background, gold badge with photo of a man in center, on blue background.
Pin it. Photos courtesy of Ina Pinkney.

Special pins: Ina Pinkney, who ran the erstwhile Ina's on Randolph, shared the 40th anniversary pin (left photo) that Burke gave her "when his family was in to eat," she tells Axios.

  • "Next time he gave me a second, because it had his photo on it!"
  • That one (right picture) says: "You'll never remember the words of your enemies. But you'll never forget the silence of your friends."
ID card in white, next to gold badge in black leather wallet.
Special credentials. Photo courtesy of Neil Steinberg.

VIP badge: On his Every Goddamn Day blog, Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg recounts the day Burke showed up at a book signing with this offering.

  • "I won't lie — when Burke gave me his 'Special Aide' badge, there was something flattering, sweet and Old Chicago about it. A welcome-to-the-club pat on the head by the broken-down, wheezing yet somehow still running remnant of the Democratic Machine," Steinberg tells Axios.
  • "I wasn't going to flash it to anybody or use it to try to get out of a speeding ticket. But of course I wrote about it, and did display the badge on a shelf in my office, alongside my Stick-o-Type Award and a headstone-shaped honor from the Society of Professional Obituary Writers."

Burke was also known for sending constituents branded winter hats, baseball caps, keychains and ice scrapers, Block Club reports.


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