A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men of the City of Detroit

Edited by Albert Nelson Marquis


A. N. Marquis & Company


Copyright, 1908 by Albert Nelson Marquis

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Pages 18 - 20

Special Thanks to Bonnie Pattok for transcribing these pages.

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Page 18


The census tables in Detroit present an interesting study. The population according to the United States enumeration at the end of the different decades, and the state enumeration in 1904, with the percentages of increase, were as follows:

*Decrease Percent

Year Population Increase
1810 1,650 --
1820 1,442 *7
1830 2,222 54
1840 9,102 311
1850 21,019 123
1860 45,619 117
1870 79,577 74
1880 116,340 46
1890 205,876 77
1900 285,704 39
1904 317,519 11

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Page 19

From 1810 to 1820 the population of the state increased 87 per cent., while that of the city fell off. Between 1820 and 1830 the population of the territory increased 256 per cent., while that of Detroit increased only 54 percent. In the next decade the territory increased 577 per cent. and the city 311. Since then the city has gained steadily on the rest of the commonwealth in which it is situated. In 1840 it had one twenty-third part of the population of the state; now it has about one-seventh. These variations in the percentage of increase in population and its relation to that of the state are easily explainable. Between 1810 and 1820 occurred the British occupation of Detroit and losses by ware in this vicinity, and the people became scattered. The decade from 1820 to 1830 was the period in which the opening of the Erie Canal started a rural migration westward, and the settlement of the interior of Michigan received its first impulse. The newcomers did not tarry in the city. Between 1870 and 1880 occurred the panic of 1873, and the business depression which lasted for over four years. The demand for manufactured goods diminished, with corresponding falling off in consumption and in the demand for labor. Foreign immigration and the rush of men from the country to the cities declined, and a low percentage in the increase of urban settlement was the result. Between 1880 and 1890 business was more prosperous, labor was in great demand, building revived and the current of population again set toward the industrial centers. In this decade also there was a large annexation of adjacent territory to Detroit. Between 1890 and 1900 occurred another long period of business depression, commencing with the panic of 1893, aggravated by the legislation of 1894 and by tariff uncertainties for three years longer. Since the present decade opened all conditions have been favorable. Everything indicates a larger actual increase in population in the present than in any previous decade and a larger percentage of increase than in any period since 1860. More new industries have been added to the city in the last seven years than in the preceding fifteen. The amount of building done in the city in 1906 was unprecedented; in 1907 it was larger yet and still rents are scarce. On the east and west

both manufacturing and residence have for some years extended in such continuous line that a person in passing would not guess where the city ended and the villages began. Four of these villages, with a present population of over 25,000, have been annexed to the city since 1904. These annexations, the number of new dwellings erected and the water board enumeration unite in indicating a population of about 407,000 in June 1907. In 1830 Detroit stood fifty-third in population among the cities of this country; in 1840 it was thirty-first; in 1850, twenty-third; in 1860, eighteenth; in 1870 and 1880 it was seventeenth; in 1890, fourteenth, and in 1900, thirteenth. It is now ninth.

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Page 20


Good municipal government has been an important factor in promoting the growth of the city. The most valuable feature of this is the management of the municipal finances, which is unique and conservative. The charter limit of its bonded indebtedness is 2 per cent. of the assessed valuation, and even that moderate amount is rarely approached. All measures for raising money, whether by the tax levy or by issuing bonds, must be approved by a Board of Estimates, which has acted as an effectual check upon excessive demands by the departments. This board consists of two members from each ward and five members at large, who are elected upon a general ticket. They hold office for two years. The heads of departments are members, ex officio, with the privilege of speaking, but not of voting. The Board has no patronage and its members must not be interested in any city contracts. It has been in existence for twenty years. A majority of its members have always been substantial, tax paying citizens, and its influence has been almost invariable favorable to a judicious economy. The charter provides that itemized estimates of the different departments must be sent annually to the controller, who must forward them, with his recommendations to the common council on or before the last day of February. The council takes a month for their consideration and then sends them to the Board of Estimates, which may decrease or disapprove any item, but cannot increase any. The budget is divided among a number of committees, which usually have been very thorough in their examination of the municipal needs. Their reports are considered in committee of the whole, item by item , and are again gone over in general session before their final adoption. By reason of the triple examination o f the budget required by the charter, closing with the careful scrutiny given to every item by the Board of Estimates, frauds have been almost unknown in Detroit’s financial affairs and the tax levy has been remarkably free from extravagant appropriations, and no moneys shall be transferred from one fund to another. Under this system the tax levy has been kept down to the moderate figures shown in the following table, covering the past five years;

Year Assessment Tax Levy Rate Mills
1903 $271,868,920 $4,270,392 16.57
1904 277,962,370 4,083,401 15.33
1905 287,268,670 4,051,463 14.70
1906 305,656,900 4,317,506 14.72
1907 335,759,980 4,996,786 15.49
In the last two years the annexation of new territory added a larger percentage to the cost of the city government than it did to the assessment roll. Additional amounts for schools, the boulevard and other permanent improvements ere raised by the issue of bonds. But even with this the appropriations are believed to be less in proportion to the population than those of any other large city in the country.

The net debt of the city July 1, 1907, was $5,184,054, and there were besides $824,000 in bonds authorized but not issued. If these are all used, the debt will still be $712,000 within the prescribed 2 per cent. limit. It may be remarked the debt is only about one-third that of Buffalo and one-fourth that of Cleveland, lake cities of the same class as Detroit.

For payment of that portion of the debt that was incurred previous to 1902 the current receipts of the sinking fund make ample provision. For payment of the later bonds a sinking fund is provided by a tax of 2 percent. of the face of the bonds in each annual tax levy.

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In brief space may be summed a few additional facts.
*** The city has an area of 41 square miles, with 670 miles of street, of which
     340 miles are paved. It has 190 miles of public sewers and over 400 miles of
     lateral  sewers.
*** Public parks and parkways, 28; 1,181 acres; value, $7,428,900.
*** Police Department, 604 men, 6 matrons, 14 police stations; value of buildings and
     lots, $318,900.
*** Fire Department, 537 men, 28 engine houses, 11 ladder trucks and houses; cost of
     buildings and lots, $643,735.
*** School buildings, 85; public school pupils, 44, 800; teachers in public schools,
     1,084; value of school buildings and lots, $4,739,770.
*** Public library, 228,500 volumes.
*** Electric lighting plant owned by city; arc lights, 3, 241; incandescent lights, 17,527;
     cost of plant, $1,034,128.26.
*** Water works owned by city; supply brought from Lake St. Clair; capacity,
     152,000,000 gallons; daily average pumped, 61,357,019 gallons; cost of plant
*** Street railways, city and interurban, owned or operated by one company, 741 miles.
*** Building permits 1903, calendar year, 2,894; estimated cost, $6,912,600; in 1906,
     permits, 4,705; cost, $13,282,350.
*** Post office receipts 1903, $1,011,571; in 1906, $1,515,407.

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