Marcus B. Cullum

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

Dr. Marcus B. Cullum, a three-term Duluth mayor, was an early resident living with his wife, Jane, his son Richard, and one servant at 2126-28 East Superior Street in 1896. By 1910 the family had moved eastward on Superior Street, to number 2730. Cullum was born in Laurel, Indiana and came to Duluth from St. Paul in 1886. He opened a dental practice and soon became interested in local politics, being elected to the aldermanic council during the mid-1890s when a major fight over a water system for Duluth was waged (in which Henry “Typhoid” Truelsen gained his reputation and won election as Mayor; when Truelsen died in 1931, Cullum served as one of the vice chairmen in charge of funeral plans for him.)  Cullum was “active in all phases of local legislation and in the campaign to change the form of city government from the aldermanic to commission and became the leader in the movement and helped make the move a successful one.” Indeed he was the last mayor to serve under the aldermanic form. Cullum was elected to his first mayoral term in 1904 following the retirement of T. W. Hugo who followed Truelsen. He was re-elected in 1906 but was beaten by R. D. Haven in 1908. However, Cullum ran again in 1910 and won. While serving his first term as mayor he was instrumental in founding Lakeshore Park (later rename Leif Erikson Park). His tenure as mayor was also known for his efforts to improve social conditions in the city. By 1919 Cullum entered state politics running and winning as a Democrat in what was then a Republican stronghold.  His time in the state legislature spanned more than a decade, where he dealt with land and iron ore taxation, public health and hospitals, and reorganization of the state government. Despite these achievements, or perhaps because of his drive to accomplish them, Cullum suffered a nervous breakdown in 1927. His 1937 obituary documents his legacy:

Dies at 81. Dr. M. B. Cullum Dies in Duluth. Former Mayor, Solon [sic] Succumbs at Age 81.  Dr. Marcus B. Cullum, mayor of Duluth for three terms, former alderman and state representative for the Fifty-seventh district, died shortly before noon today at his home, 1321 East First street.  He had been ill about a year. Born in Laurel, Ind. Dec. 3, 1856, he came to Duluth about 47 years ago, opening a dental practice. Dr. Cullum played an important role in the political life of Duluth for more than 30 years, and for 2 years later was active in state politics. From the time he first was elected to the aldermanic council in the days of Mayors Henry Truelsen and T. W. Hugo, he was active in all phases of local legislation, and in the campaign to change the form of city government from the aldermanic to commission he became a leader in the movement and helped make the move a successful one. Last in Old Form. He was the last mayor to serve under the old aldermanic form. Dr. Cullum was a dentist until recent years, when he gave up his practice to devote his talents to land valuation, a profession in which he was considered an expert. For many years he was affiliated with the Duluth & Iron Range railroad as a land valuation expert. He came to Duluth in 1886 and almost immediately became interested in the political life of the city. It was in the late ’90s when he first became a member of the city council, in the days when acquisition of the municipal water works was the political football of the day, when Mayor Truelsen made his game fight for municipally controlled water. In 1904 T. W. Hugo retired as mayor of the city, and Dr. Cullum was chosen chief executive for the city. In 1906 he again was elected mayor and served until 1908, when R. D. Haven was chosen for the post. However, Dr. Cullum came back in 1910 and once more headed the city government. Sought Charter Change.  In the last months of his administration he instigated the move for the charter change and headed the campaign which successfully culminated on April 14, 1912.

During his tenures as mayor he formulated many pieces of social legislation, most of which were designed to improve social conditions in the city.  He was also a former member of the charter commission. While serving his first term as mayor he was instrumental in founding Lakeshore park, now known as Leif Erikson park.  In 1919 Dr. Cullum entered state politics.  Although a Democrat, he was elected from a district reputed to be a Republican stronghold. He was regarded as having progressive views in all legislative matters. Taxation Issues. While serving in the state legislature he was especially interested in problems dealing with land and iron ore taxation. He was one of the leaders in the movement to reorganize the state government under the ‘Big Three’ at the 1927 session. Among the committee chairmanships he held were those of the public health and hospitals, cities of the first class and state buildings. He was chairman of the St. Louis county delegation to the legislature.

Since 1927, when he suffered a nervous breakdown, Dr. Cullum has been somewhat inactive, although he did not relinquish his legislative post, and was reelected in 1929 and 1931. Dr. Cullum was born in Laurel, Ind., in 1856, and came to Duluth from St. Paul in 1886.  He was married in Winona.

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Marcus Cullum, Duluth Mayor 1904 – 1908; 1910 – 1912

Born in Laurel, Indiana, Marcus Cullum eventually moved to St. Paul and became a dentist, relocating to Duluth in 1886. Here he set up shop and soon became interested in local politics. He was elected city alderman (similar to a city councilor) in the late 1890s spent the next 30 years in local and state government while maintaining his dental practice almost to the end. A Democrat, Cullum was elected to two consecutive terms as mayor in 1904 and 1906. He lost the 1908 primary election, but was back on the stump two years later and again took the mayor’s office. This time he became a reformer of the very system that had thrice elected him mayor. He pushed to replace the old “Ward & Boss” system of a strong mayor and dozens of representative aldermen to a commission system of five commissioners—which included the mayor—overseeing different aspects of local government. At the polls, his issues succeeded—but he failed to win reelection. 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. In 1919 Dr. Cullum entered state politics as a Democrat representing a district then reputed to be a Republican stronghold and was regarded as a progressive. In 1927 Cullum suffered a nervous breakdown and essentially withdrew from public life. Despite this, he did not resign his legislative post and was reelected in 1929 and 1931. Cullum died in 1937.

Copyright © Zenith City Online

Sources:

  • Larson, Jill. Intensive Survey of Historic Resources in Duluth’s East End (Part 1). City of Duluth, Duluth Heritage Preservation Commission, Duluth, Minn.: August 2007.
  • Copyright © Zenith City Online
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