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.
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