Dr. John A. “Doc” McCuen

Dr. John A. “Doc” McCuen. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

Dr. John A. “Doc” McCuen (1864–1927) served Duluth longer as county coroner than as mayor. The physician was born in 1864 at Guelph, Ontario. He arrived in Duluth in 1892 and took an active interest in civic affairs. He was a trustee of New Duluth and signed off as Village Recorder when Duluth annexed the village in 1894. An avid baseball fan, McCuen owned the Duluth White Sox professional baseball team during a period that included his term in office, but he was best known as the St. Louis County Coroner. His fellow Republican friends pressed him into launching his campaign for office, on which he spent just $249 (a little over $6,000 today). Doc McCuen surprisingly defeated incumbent Marcus Cullum with what the press called “one of the largest pluralities in the history of Duluth”—this despite the fact that the issues Cullum championed had overwhelmingly passed, including a radical reform of local government by replacing the “strong mayor” aldermanic form with a commission system. And so McCuen lost the war over issues yet won the battle for the mayor’s office. As an opponent of the Commission system, which Duluth was set to convert to in April 1913, McCuen chose not to run for a second term, becoming the last mayor to preside over the alderman system. When asked by the press to make a statement on the new form of government he told them, “I have nothing to say on the question. Having had nothing to say, and will have nothing to say.”

Story by Tony Dierckins. Originally published on Zenith City Online (2012–2017). Click here for more stories by Tony Dierckins.