Ohio History Journal

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In an earlier article published in this Quarterly the present author

made an attempt to summarize the accomplishments of Cleveland's

Tom L. Johnson and to point out his contributions to the growth

and development of the lake city.1 As mayor of Cleveland from

1901 to 1910, Johnson established and maintained high admini-

strative standards while pushing through a broad program of

municipal reform. He attracted wide attention and was emulated

by many other mayors, similarly caught up in the floodtide of


The successful battle for a three-cent street railway fare was

perhaps Johnson's most celebrated achievement, although the fare

itself was not too important then and seems utterly ridiculous today

when fares are approaching the twenty-five cent mark. Yet it had

meaning in that here Johnson compelled privileged groups, chiefly

the public utility corporations, to provide cheap and efficient services

for the people; he caused them to think not only of their own

interests but also of the citizens' welfare. The principle was the

same in his fight for natural gas, where he opposed powerful

artificial gas companies; the principle was the same in his fight

for municipal electric power, where he broke the monopoly of the

over-charging Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. Having

learned the techniques of the monopolist when in the street rail-

way business himself, Johnson employed this know-how against his

former fellows. Why did he do it?

As students of Johnson are well aware, it was his conversion to

the humanitarianism of Henry George which prompted this change.

From the apostle of the single tax he learned that monopolists had

caused a great social imbalance, which had to be rectified. With


* Eugene C. Murdock is chairman of the department of social science and assistant

dean of the college at Rio Grande College, Rio Grande, Ohio. Tom L. Johnson was

the subject of his doctoral dissertation (Columbia University, 1951).

1 "Cleveland's Johnson," Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, LXII

(1953), 323-333.