December 3, 1856: Birth of Duluth Mayor Marcus B. Cullum

On this day in 1856, future Duluth mayor Marcus B. Cullum was born in Laurel, Indiana. Cullum, a dentist by trade, first came to Duluth and established a practice in 1886. He was elected city alderman (similar to a city councilor) in the late 1890s and spent the next 30 years in local and state government while maintaining his dental practice almost to the end. A Democrat, Cullum was elected  mayor in 1904, 1906, and 1910. While mayor he also pushed legislation designed to improve social conditions and was instrumental in founding Lakeshore Park, which was initially referred to as Cullum Park and is now known as Leif Erikson Park. He was defeated in the next election by Roland D. Haven, but Duluthians voted him back into City Hall in 1910. During his last term as mayor he successfully lead an effort to replace Duluth’s form of municipal government, an aldermanic model known as the “Ward & Boss” system, which included a mayor with the power to appoint city officials as he wished. Under this old system, which elected a mayor every two years, the mayor could essentially replace his predecessor’s entire staff with men who belonged to the same political party. Cullum was the last mayor to serve under that system. While he won the effort to change city government, he lost reelection to John McCuen. McCuen was against the new plan and  served for just one year, refusing to run for reelection as mayor under the new system, which severely restricted the chief executive’s powers. Discover more about many of Duluth’s mayors here.

Dr. Marcus B. Cullum. (Image: Duluth Public Library)