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Hazen S. Pingree

hazen s. pingree, mayor hazen s. pingree's nickname
Hazen Stuart Pingree August 30, 1840 – June 18, 1901 was a four-term Republican mayor of Detroit 1889–1897 and the 24th Governor of the US State of Michigan 1897–1901 A Yankee who migrated from New England, he was a Georgist social reformer who battled corporations and was an early leader of the Progressive Movement

A businessman with no political experience, Pingree was elected mayor in 1889 after a colorful campaign in which Pingree revealed his tolerance by making a circuit of saloons Pingree added to the old stock Yankee Republican base by making large inroads into the German and Canadian elements He was reelected in 1891, 1893 and 1895 Warning repeatedly against the dangers of government by corporations, he launched nationally visible crusades against Detroit's streetcar, gas, electric, and telephone companies He successfully forced rate reductions that won him widespread popularity He won public approval for a citizen-owned electric light plant, and became a national spokesman for municipal ownership and close regulation of utilities and street railways When the nationwide Panic of 1893 caused a severe depression, Pingree gained support by opening empty lots to garden farming – people called him "Potato Patch Pingree" Pingree was a Republican, and had nothing to do with the Populist Party that had considerable support among labor union members He supported the gold standard in 1896, and worked to carry Michigan for William McKinley over silverite William Jennings Bryan in the intensely competitive 1896 US presidential election Pingree was on the ballot, too, and was elected governor of Michigan As governor, he fought a strong conservative opposition, but did succeed in forcing passage of the nation's first major statewide reappraisal of railroad and corporate property, with an eye to raising their taxes This led to a rational basis for railroad regulation and taxation, emulated by Progressive reformers in other states and nationwide1 A survey of scholars in 1999 ranked Pingree as the fourth best mayor in all of American history2


  • 1 Early life in Maine and Massachusetts
  • 2 Civil War
  • 3 Business in Michigan
  • 4 Mayor of Detroit
  • 5 Governor of Michigan
  • 6 Death
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
    • 91 Primary sources

Early life in Maine and Massachusettsedit

Pingree was born in Denmark, Maine, to Jasper Pingree and Adeline Bryant Pingree and attended the common schools in Maine3 At the age of fourteen, he moved to Saco, Maine, where he worked at a cotton factory Two years later, he moved to Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and worked several years as a cutter in a shoe factory3

Civil Waredit

In 1862, Pingree enlisted in the Union Army to serve in the Civil War with the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery Regiment Company F He fought on the front line during General Pope’s Northern Virginia Campaign and the Second Battle of Bull Run The regiment he fought with was then ordered to defend Washington, DC until May 15, 1864, and then was sent to the front again He fought with the Second Brigade of Tyler’s Division, Second Corps, which participated in battles at Fredericksburg Road May 18, Harris Farm May 19, and Spotsylvania Court House May 19–213

His regiment was then assigned to the Second Corps, Third Division, in the Army of the Potomac and fought at North Anna May 24–25 where he and some other men were captured by a detachment of John S Mosby’s command Pingree was confined in Confederate prisons at Gordonsville and Lynchburg, Virginia, and at Salisbury, North Carolina He was then taken to Andersonville prison and, while General Sherman was on his march to the sea, he was taken to Millen, Georgia, where he later escaped by pretending to be someone else during a roll call for a prisoner exchange in November 1864 Pingree rejoined his regiment, fought in many more battles, and was present at Appomattox Court House when Robert E Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 A few months later, on August 15, his regiment was mustered out3

Business in Michiganedit

Pingree was a cobbler by trade and, following the war, moved to Detroit and briefly worked for H P Baldwin's shoe company3 In 1866, Pingree and his accountant, Charles H Smith, purchased Baldwin's shoe-making machinery and formed the Pingree and Smith company In 1883, Smith retired from the firm and J B Howarth and Pingree's son Joe joined the partnership3 By 1886, it was a 1 million dollar company with 700 employees turning out a half-million shoes and boots a year It was the second biggest shoe manufacturer in the US In March 1887, a fire destroyed the entire plant, yet they were able to recover 45

In 1872, Pingree married Frances A Gilbert of Mount Clemens, Michigan They had three children – Joe, Hazel, and Gertrude, who died in 1894 of tuberculosis at age 196

Mayor of Detroitedit

Pingree had never been active in politics As a citizen reformer he was elected mayor of Detroit in 1889 on a platform of exposing and ending corruption in city paving contracts, sewer contracts, and the school board He soon turned to fighting privately owned utility monopolies He challenged the electric and gas monopolies through municipally owned competitors5 His largest struggle, however, was with Tom L Johnson, president of the Detroit City Railways, over lowering streetcar fares to three-cents Pingree again attempted to create a competing municipally owned company, but was barred from creating a railway by the Michigan Constitution7

During the severe nationwide depression of 1893, Pingree expanded the public welfare programs, initiated public works for the unemployed, built new schools, parks, and public baths He gained national recognition through his "potato patch plan," which allowed poor people to use vacant city land for growing food He was also an advocate of economist Henry George's single tax7

Governor of Michiganedit

In 1896 Pingree was nominated as the GOP candidate for Governor of Michigan He campaigned on a platform of pluralism, inviting the Germans and other ethnics to join a grand coalition that would bring prosperity to everyone, unlike the false prosperity promised by the silverites He carried the state both for himself and Republican presidential candidate William McKinley8

After taking office on January 1, 1897, he intended to also fill the last year of his term as mayor of Detroit, which would have lasted until elections in November 1897 However, his right to hold the two offices simultaneously was contested, and after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against him, Pingree resigned as mayor5

During his four years in office, Pingree promoted the regulation of railroad rates, equal taxation, and municipal ownership of public utilities He also supported the direct election of US senators; an eight-hour workday; an income tax; primary elections; the power of "referendum," the abolition of child labor, and compulsory arbitration of labor disputes Opposition from Democrats and business-oriented Republicans blocked most of his proposals Pingree expressed the Progressive fear of corporate power, saying, "I do not condemn corporations and rich men," he said, "but I would keep them within their proper spheres It is not safe to entrust the government of the country to the influence of Wall Street"9


Pingree did not run for reelection in 1900 In 1901, Pingree arrived in London, England, while returning from an African safari with his son He was stricken with peritonitis and was unable to return to the US King Edward VII, Pingree’s famous look alike, even sent his own physicians to London's Grand Hotel to assist in Pingree's recovery6

Pingree was interred at the Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan, and later reinterred at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit10 There is a statue of Pingree standing in the Grand Circus Park in Detroit, commemorating him as "The Idol of the People"11 The sculpture was made by Austrian sculptor Rudolph Schwarz

See alsoedit

  • United States Army portal
  • American Civil War portal
  • Grand Circus Park


  1. ^ Melvin G Holli, Reform in Detroit: Hazen S Pingree and Urban Politics 1969
  2. ^ Melvin G Holli 1999 The American Mayor: The Best & the Worst Big-City Leaders Penn State University Press p 35 
  3. ^ a b c d e f = Western Publishing and Engraving Co 1900, CYCLOPEDIA OF MICHIGAN: HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL, COMPRISING A SYNOPSIS OF GENERAL HISTORY OF THE STATE, ABD BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF MEN, Western Publishing and Engraving Co, pp 144–146 
  4. ^ Bill Loomis, "Hazen Pingree: Quite possibly Detroit's finest mayor" 2013
  5. ^ a b c Catlin, George B 2005 1900 "Chapters CI through CVII" The story of Detroit pp 585–630 
  6. ^ a b Don Lochbiler June 11, 1998 "The Shoemaker Who Looked Like a King" The Detroit News Archived from the original on July 9, 2012 
  7. ^ a b Holli, 1970
  8. ^ Richard J Jensen 1971 The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 U of Chicago Press pp 292, 295 
  9. ^ Russel B Nye, Midwestern Progressive Politics: A Historical Study of Its Origins and Development, 1870-1950 1951 p 205
  10. ^ "Index to Politicians: Pincus to Pingry" Political Graveyard Retrieved October 30, 2010 
  11. ^ Pat Zacharias September 5, 1999 "The monuments of Detroit" The Detroit News Archived from the original on July 8, 2012 
Statue of Pingree in Grand Circus Park, Detroit

Further readingedit

  • Holli, Melvin G The American Mayor: The Best & the Worst Big-City Leaders 1999 pp 35–75
  • Holli, Melvin G "Mayor Pingree Campaigns for the Governorship," Michigan History 1973 57#2 pp 151–173
  • Holli, Melvin G Holli 1969, Reform in Detroit: Hazen S Pingree and Urban Politics, Oxford University Press 
  • Holli, Melvin G 1966, Hazen S Pingree: urban and pre-progressive reformer, U of Michigan PhD dissertation 
  • Loomis, Bill "Hazen Pingree: Quite possibly Detroit's finest mayor," The Detroit News Jan 6, 2013'
  • Marden, Orison Swett, Hazen S Pingree: A Good Shoemaker Becomes Detroit's Best Mayor and Michigan's Greatest Governor, Kessinger Publishing 
  • Sych, Lawrence "Political Clubs In Michigan Election Campaigns: A Comparison of the Pingree and Griffin Campaigns," Michigan Academician 2002 34#2 pp 143–162 compares 1896 and 1978

Primary sourcesedit

  • George Fuler ed, Messages of the Governors of Michigan, Volume 4, Michigan State University Press, ISBN 978-0-87013-723-5, archived from the original on June 27, 2007 
  • Hazen S Pingree 1895, Facts and opinions: or, Dangers that beset us, F B Dickerson Co 
  • Hazen S Pingree 1897, Message of Governor Hazen S Pingree to the thirty-ninth legislature of Michigan: Delivered Jan 6, 1897; Volume 8 of Pamphlets on US history and politics, R Smith Printing Co 
  • Hazen S Pingree 1900, Message of Governor Hazen S Pingree to the fortieth legislature convened in extra session: Upon the subjects of equal taxation, constitutional amendment, and repeal of special charters of railroads October 10, 1900, Wynkoop Hallenbeck Crawford co, state printers 
Political offices
Preceded by
John Pridgeon, Jr
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
William Richert
Preceded by
John T Rich
Governor of Michigan
Succeeded by
Aaron T Bliss

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