Mansfield, Frederick W., 1877-1968
Boston was led through the belt-tightening mid-thirties by a distinguished, outwardly-austere lawyer, Frederick W. Mansfield. The period of strife was punctuated by exchanges in his feud with predecessor mayor James Michael Curley.
Mansfield's administration had to face a mounting city welfare burden and declining real estate tax payments because of unemployment. He was forced to continue the previous mayor's cut in municipal pay scales and for a time instituted voluntary "payless furloughs" for workers making over $950 a year.
Nevertheless the Democratic mayor left significant additions to the municipal plant. Through Works Progress Administration federal aid projects he saw various capital additions, including the Huntington Avenue subway extension; the Huntington Avenue underpass; and parks upgrading.
In addition, the Mansfield term at City Hall saw construction of the nine-story City Hospital surgical building; Faneuil Hall reconstruction; seven new schools; opening of the George Wright public golf course in Franklin Park; reduction of the city's net debt; and modernization of city accounting and auditing systems. Mansfield reorganized and decentralized the Welfare Department but was unsuccessful in seven attempts to consolidate and cut in half the then forty-three separate city departments.
Mayor Mansfield frequently took his appeals for municipal reform and economies to the hard-pressed taxpayers, broadcasting from the radio room in the mayor's office suite at Old City Hall. Some of the broadcasts bitterly criticized Curley and charged a rash of abatements and hurried land damage settlements in the last weeks of the previous administration.
More than two decades later relations healed between the two antagonists. Mansfield sent a warm note acknowledging Curley's sympathy on the loss of his wife. The following year Mansfield died at age eighty-one. His death on November 6, 1958, came just six days before Curley's.
Mayor Mansfield was born March 26, 1877, in East Boston, son of immigrant Irish parents. He worked at a Maverick Square drug store, became a pharmacist, and enlisted in the Spanish American War. On return he took a law degree from Boston University Law School, and later became State AFL labor union counsel, championing labor legislation.
He became the first Democrat elected state treasurer in 1914, but twice was unsuccessful in his quest for the governorship in 1916 and 1917. He served twelve years on the State Judicial Council under five governors. He also served for twenty-nine years as counsel to the Boston Catholic Archdiocese and received various honors from his church.
Demanding high standards for himself and others in public life, Mansfield showed he could be "kindly and considerate," in the words of a later mayor, John B. Hynes.
Mansfield's first try for mayor in 1929 pitted him unsuccessfully as the Good Government Association endorsee against Curley.
In the 1933 election he defeated former Mayor Malcolm Nichols.
Mansfield, a Back Bay resident, proposed some ideas in government before his time. He advocated a sales tax on non-necessities and called for clearance of substandard residential areas and a housing program to create new low-income units. He urged, in addition, election of nine at-large councillors to serve the whole city instead of only a few of the twenty-two wards.
Mayor Mansfield also was among the first to call for elimination of county government, calling it a ''useless encumbrance."
Taken from "Boston's 45 Mayors from John Phillips to Kevin H. White," City Record, Boston, 1979.
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