Politician of the People


Pingree’s Potato Patches

Hazen Pingree was first elected as Mayor of Detroit in 1890 and then served as Governor of Michigan from 1896 until 1901 (Rubenstein and Ziewacz, p. 126).  Pingree’s political legacy was that of social reform, and earned him the reputation as a politician of the people (French, Pingree video) .  As a young, wealthy and progressive Republican, Pingree brought about reform by forging a coalition of businessmen and ethnic groups, which enabled him to accomplish several reform efforts, including the following (French, Week Six PowerPoint):

  • Lowered the city’s assessments of homes.
  • Attacked the gas company for their high rates.
  • During the economic depression of 1893, sold his prize horse to buy seed so citizens could grow vegetables in the city’s vacant lots.
  • Condemned the street railway company for failing to electrify its lines.
  • Established a municipal utility plant.
  • During the Spanish-American War, donated shoes for the soldiers.

With the possible exception of Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City, it is hard to find a politician like Hazen Pingree who is willing to use their personal financial resources for the benefit of those less fortunate members of society.  Too often, politicians are only worried about keeping their elected positions.  As a result, they rigidly vote their party line rather than enacting legislation to support the greater good.

Since many politicians today are not living up to their responsibilities, private citizens, foundations and corporations are having to take the lead in protecting the welfare of our society.


Documents Cited:

Michigan, A History of the Great Lakes State, Bruce A. Rubenstein and Lawrence E. Ziewacz

Week Six PowerPoint—MI Society in Latter 1800s, Dr. Amy French

Hazen Pingree Video, Dr. Amy French



12 thoughts on “Politician of the People

  1. I believe that Hazen Pingree did his job well and with humility. The people in the roles of Mayor and Governor are supposed to use their authority to guide the people in the right direction. They shouldn’t bias any of their decisions on personal gain. Pingree however used his time and resources both inside and outside of the office to help better the people he was charged with leading. He really was a great leader.

  2. I wish our Politicians would follow in the footsteps of Hazen Pingree. He truly was there for the people and city of Detroit. He fought for his people like he did with the gas companies on them raising their tax on gas so then it was hard for the people. Now in the twentieth century our politicians are out for power or pointing out what that person did wrong in their life verses trying to come up with a solution for our problems our country is going through. He truly was a genuine good person and a great leader.

  3. Hazen Pingree was A great mayor for the city of Michigan it seems from the information you provided. It seemed like he really took effort in meeting the public’s needs. He was very giving because when they went into the economic depression he sold his prize horse to buy seeds. This is a great example of what a mayor should be someone who is for the people. I totally agree with you about modern day Mayors not living up to their responsibilities. My home town of Flint, Mi still has dirty water, and the mayor hasn’t done anything about it.

  4. Pingree left a legacy of being for the people and creating a better tomorrow for his people. What more could be asked of a Mayor then to give of themselves and to look out for others, in every class of life. I wonder if those that voted for him saw this in him, knew the good he would bring, or if he rose to the occasion once in office. I agree that not many current elected officials have this outlook, however there are some. Today on CNN they spoke of a movement that the youth are trying to spur to bring generosity and belief to the youth, I think that is what this is about, being generous and kind, it is what wins the people.

  5. I am extremely impressed by the standards that the Mayor Hazen S. Pingree, set for the citizens of Detroit in the 1890’s. He proved that he had his citizens best interest at heart, by constantly fighting for the common man against all vested interests. (pg.126)
    He also was an amazing governor, fighting for equalized taxation, improved labor standards, and an end to corrupt business practices, just to name a few. But unfortunately, most of his plans were stopped by conservatives. (pg.128)
    I can honestly say that I wish we had more people like Pingree, fighting us in Michigan, today.

  6. I agree with your assessment of Hazen Pingree. He did not always take the party line but rather his own counsel in what was the write way to lead. He even had the audacity to ask his voters to vote for William Jennings Bryan, the democrat candidate for president, because of Bryan’s stand on currency. McKinley basically rode Pingree’s coat tails to win Michigan. Pingree suffered the loss of his societal status because of his beliefs in proper government. The people of Michigan loved him for his stance. I doubt that you would find a politician who was willing to commit political suicide because of his beliefs today. Pingree was a truly remarkable and brave leader of his time.

  7. Pingree was a great politician and genuinely wanted Detroit to be a great city. Pingree was not a man to take bribes and to help the people who paid him the most, he worked for the common people and did his best to help them anyway he could. I agree with many other comments when they say i wish we had politicians these days fighting for us as Pingree would have.

  8. It must have been very frustrating and discouraging for Hazen Pingree to constantly fight with his political opponents to enact social reform. I admire him for fighting to bring about economic relief to citizens during the depression of 1893, even selling his prize horse to raise funds when his Republican colleagues refused to do so.

  9. It still blows my mind to see such a selfless politician. Pingree was not only a great leader but also a great man. I think it is crazy because this man had never been introduced in any of my previous history classes, and he embodied what a leader should be. A man of the people. Even though he was extremely wealthy, I thought it was cool that he gave up some of his own belongings to help the people. Maybe that way he was showing the people that he was also sacrificing some of his personal things, just as the people of Detroit were doing.

  10. Pingree has proven to be a politician for the people. The amount of selfless acts that he performed for the less fortunate is staggering, as well as hopeful for how much good a politician can do for its people. One of the most impressive acts was that of attacking the housing market and lowering the prices for people he believed should have the houses. Pingree believed in making a better life for the people of his state and not the political status of himself.

  11. Even today, it seems to be extremely rare for these types of stories to be told about politicians. Not only did Pingree instate numerous social reforms during his time in office, but he did so out of his own pocket for several of them! I’m shocked that this was my first time hearing about Hazen S. Pingree and his numerous accomplishments in office. Moving forward, I hope that more politicians will learn to put the people’s interest over their own political position.

  12. I can only imagine what the state of Michigan would be like if we had politicians like Pingree currently in office. I feel that with his compassion and humility when it came to the people of Detroit, our current politicians could definitely learn a thing or two. I thing that we as voters need to pay more attention to the people running for office and try and get back to a system that has elected officials who truly care like Pingree did.

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