About Hazen Stuart Pingree
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).
Early life in Maine and Massachusetts
Pingree was born in Denmark, Maine, to Jasper Pingree and Adeline (Bryant) Pingree and attended the common schools in Maine. 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 factory.
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, D.C. 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 19–21).
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 partisan 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.
He 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 out.
Life in Michigan
Pingree was a cobbler by trade and, following the war, moved to Detroit and briefly worked for H. P. Baldwin & Company. He soon moved on to join Charles H. Smith in a produce business, but when H. P. Baldwin & Co. closed their doors and sold their machinery, an opportunity presented itself. In December 1866, with Charles H. Smith, he established the Pingree and Smith Shoe Co. with the used machinery. Although the original operation was small, it grew steadily year-by-year, eventually having sales of over $1,000,000 per year.
In 1883, Smith retired from the firm and J. B. Howarth and Pingree's son Joe joined the partnership. In March 1887, a fire destroyed the entire plant, yet they were able to recover. By the 1890s, the firm had become the West's largest shoe manufacturer. When Pingree became governor, the company branded one of its styles "Governor."
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 19.
Pingree 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 competitors. 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 Constitution.
During the 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," a systematic use of vacant city land for gardens which would produce food for the city's poor. He was also an advocate of economist Henry George's single tax.
In 1896, Pingree was elected Governor of Michigan. 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 mayor. During his four years in office, the direct election of U.S. senators was promoted; an eight-hour workday was endorsed; a regulated income tax was supported; and railroad taxation was advocated.
Retirement and death
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 U.S. King Edward VII, Pingree’s famous look-a-like, even sent his own physicians to London's Grand Hotel to assist in his recovery. Just before his wife and daughter embarked from New York City to visit him, they received news that he had died.
Pingree was interred at the Elmwood Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan, and later reinterred at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Detroit. There is a statue of Pingree standing in the Grand Circus Park in Detroit, commemorating him as "The Idol of the People." The sculpture was made by Austrian sculptor Rudolph Schwarz.