Philadelphia mayoral election, 1935

← 1931
1939 →
  Samuel Davis Wilson - Washington (1).jpg Johnbkellysr (1).jpg
Nominee Samuel Davis Wilson John B. Kelly Sr.
Party Republican Democratic
Popular vote 379,222 333,825
Percentage 53.18% 46.82%

Mayor before election

J. Hampton Moore

Elected Mayor

Samuel Davis Wilson

The Philadelphia mayoral election of 1935 saw the election of Samuel Davis Wilson.


Wilson was a strong candidate.[1] He had strong persuasive abilities, being able to take opposing positions on a topic while still seeming sincere.[1] For instance, Wilson, as a mayoral candidate, condemned "out of control" federal spending. However, once elected mayor, in 1936 he would later assist in guaranteeing that 40,000 of his constituents were on the Works Progress Administration payroll.[1]

Wilson was not completely loyal to the national Republican Party, as he had previously campaigned for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932.[1]

Wilson was prone to taking a bare-knucles approach to political discourse, not straying from referring to his opponents by pejoratives as “dirty rats” and “bare-faced liars.”[1]

Having registered 179,000 new voters after the 1932 election cycle, Philadelphia Democrats hoped to finally take the mayoralty.[1]

Democrats believed they had recruited the ideal candidate with millionaire contractor and gold medal Olympian John Kelly.[1] Kelly was an opponent of descrimination.[1] He had been himself blocked from joining the upper echelons of Philadelphia Protestant society.[1] Kelly reached out to Italians, Jews, and African Americans.[1] He also made an effort to slightly diversify the composition of individuals on the down-ballot positions the Democratic Party's ticket.[1]


The race proved to be the narrowest mayoral election that Philadelphia had seen in a long time.[1]

Despite Kelly's efforts, 56% of black voters and half of Philadelphia’s ethnic Italian electorate supported Wilson.[1]

1935 Philadelphia mayoral election (general election)[2]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Samuel Davis Wilson 379,222 53.18%
Democratic John B. Kelly Sr. 333,825 46.82%
Turnout 713,047


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "A Tale of Two Cities: Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and the Elusive Quest for a New Deal Majority in the Keystone State". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. CXXXII (4). October 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Mayors of the City of Philadelphia 1691-2000". City of Philadelphia. Retrieved 28 April 2019.