Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Pingree, Hazen S.

Born on a rocky farm in Denmark, Maine on August 30, 1840, Hazen Stuart Pingree would go on to become one of the great mayors in American history. His election signaled the beginning of the Progressive Era, a major period of reform that attacked problems created by rapid urban and industrial growth.

Pingree came to Detroit after serving in the Union army during the Civil War. In 1866, he teamed with Charles Smith to start the Pingree and Smith shoe company and by the 1890s, the company was the largest shoe manufacturer in the American West.

As he prospered, Pingree became part of Detroit’s elite, though politically active only as a donor to the Michigan Republican Club. It was therefore surprising when his Republican friends nominated him for mayor of Detroit in 1889. The reluctant candidate-shoemaker won in a landslide against a corrupt political machine, taking office in 1890.

Once in office, Pingree recognized the need for significant reforms. With unexpected energy and a ferocious temper, he broke up monopolies, fought corruption and special interests. The four-time elected mayor lowered utility and street car rates, built public schools and improved roads, among other things. He fought on behalf of the working poor and was known for creating “potato patches,” vegetable gardens on vacant land to help feed families during the 1893 Depression.

In 1896, while he was still serving as mayor, he was elected Governor of Michigan. He tried to hold both offices, but when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against him, he resigned as mayor and moved to Lansing. He served two terms as governor, leaving office in 1900.

Hazen Pingree died in England on June 18, 1901, at the age of 60 and his body returned to Detroit where it lay in state at old City Hall for two days. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery. A monument in his honor stands in the northwest corner of Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit. His papers are in the Burton Historical Collection of the Detroit Public Library.



Photo of Hazen Pingree, 1890 - 1958.232.001

Hazen S. Pingree Monument in Grand Circus Park, 1979 - 2008.033.469

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