William I. Prince

William I. Prince. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

The first mayor of the city under the commission form of government, William I. Prince (1867–1941) was born at Camden, Ohio, in 1867. He attended Oberlin College and found work there, first in the post office and later at the Citizens National Bank before striking out for Escanaba, Michigan, to work for the First National Bank. After two years he moved on to the First National Bank in Bessemer. There he not only rose to become the bank president, but was also elected Bessemer’s mayor three times. He won his first election by a two-to-one margin, ran unopposed in the second, and took the third by just six votes—without campaigning. He kept the bank position in Bessemer even after moving to Duluth in 1902 to establish the City National Bank and work with the Duluth Commercial Club, predecessor of today’s Chamber of Commerce. He sold his interest in the Duluth bank in 1911, prior to his campaign for mayor of Duluth. His mayoral predecessor and fellow Republican John McCuen chose not to run for reelection, opening the doors for Prince to run against Democrat William E. McEwan. The results were so close the winner had to be determined in court. The case dragged on until August 1913, nearly four months after the new mayor was to take office. Prince was declared mayor by a margin of six votes. After his single term in office Prince continued his work with the Commercial Club; he also held interests in several banks, manufacturing concerns, mining companies, and land corporations.

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