Thursday, January 15, 2015

On this day in Detroit history: Beloved mayor Hazen S. takes office

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 1:45 PM

  • Wikimedia Commons

While may not be one of the top, say, five mayors you might think of when you think of Detroit mayors, Hazen S. Pingree left quite a legacy. On this day in 1890, the mayor who would become known as the "Idol of the People" took office.

Over at The Free Press, Dan Austin takes a look back at the life of Pingree, following his life from the time he fought for the Union in the Civil War, to earning a fortune as a shoemaker, to a political career that was so successful that he tried to serve as both mayor of Detroit and governor of Michigan simultaneously. The article outlines the Republican mayor's forward-thinking leadership, which saw him slash taxes, reform utilities companies, and, famously, feed Detroit's hungry by developing potato patches. "When it came to social reform in the 1890s, Pingree had few, if any, equals," Austin writes. 

Pingree has admirers even today (check out his statue in Grand Circus Park). For the past year, local artist Michael Burdick has imagined the former mayor as a reincarnated "weird, little mutt dog" who tries to fix Detroit in a web comic that Burdick writes and illustrates. We interviewed Burdick about his comic last month — read all about it here, or check out a slideshow of five of our favorite Pingree comic strips here.

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