(Apr. 23, 1858-Mar. 6, 1942). Born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, John W. Holtzman moved with his family to White County, Indiana, around 1864. In May 1883, he came to Indianapolis, read law, and was admitted to the bar, in 1885. After an unsuccessful bid for city council, Holtzman was named county attorney for the poor in January 1886 but resigned in November to accept appointment as assistant county prosecutor, 1886-1890. He was elected and reelected prosecutor in 1890 and 1892, leading the ticket both times. He became Democratic county chairman in 1894.

The mayoral elections of 1903 and 1905 between Holtzman and Charles A. Bookwalter were notable for their bitterness. During his term Holtzman began a systematic Railroad Track Elevation program (delays and deaths were the bane of the city from the many downtown trains operating at street level); established the first filter beds of the water company, thus ensuring purer drinking water; and fought successfully to create the city-owned gas company.

Additionally, his police chief experimented with the “Paris system” of controlling vice by registering prostitutes and adopting a policy of non-interference with orderly houses. Doubtless, Holtzman is the only Indianapolis mayor to be decorated by the Emperor of China, in 1904 when Prince Pu Lun visited the city. Holtzman also served on the state conservation commission, 1917-1924, and as city corporation counsel, 1928.

Revised February 2021

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