John H. Harmon

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John H. Harmon
Mayor of Detroit
In office
Preceded by Zachariah Chandler
Succeeded by Oliver Moulton Hyde
Personal details
Born June 21, 1819
Portage County, Ohio
Died August 6, 1888 (1888-08-07) (aged 69)
Detroit, Michigan
Spouse(s) Sarah S. Rood

John Hanchett Harmon (June 21, 1819 – August 6, 1888) was an American politician who was a member of the Democratic National Committee, the mayor of Detroit, and the publisher of the Detroit Free Press.

Early life[edit]

John H. Harmon was born in Portage County, Ohio on June 21, 1819.[1] His father, John Harmon, was a printer and published a newspaper in Ravenna, Ohio. The younger Harmon joined his father and learned the printer's trade. In 1838, the younger Harmon travelled to Detroit as the aide-de-camp of "General" Lucius V. Bierce, a leader of the Hunter Patriots, a group dedicated to ridding North America of the British Empire.[2] In December 1838, Harmon took part in the Battle of Windsor, personally burning the British barracks and the steamer Thames.[2]

After the Battle of Windsor, Harmon stayed in Detroit, obtaining a job at the Detroit Free Press. He became an editor and one-third owner of the paper in 1841, and in 1853 sole owner of the paper.[3] Harmon sold the Free Press the next year.[3]

In 1841, Harmon married Sarah S. Rood.[1] The couple had three children: John Harmon, Emma Harmon, and Mrs. S. H. Bell.[1]


Harmon was a prominent Democrat, serving as an alderman of the city of Detroit in 1847 and two years as mayor, in 1852 and 1853,[1] as well as representing Michigan on the 1848 Democratic National Committee.[4] He was also a member of the state militia, being appointed a Colonel in 1850.[5] Following his stint as mayor, he was appointed by President Franklin Pierce as Collector for the Port of Detroit, where he served until 1857.[1] After he left the office of Collector, Harmon spent much of his time in Washington, DC, during congressional sessions.[6]

During this time Harmon, as one biographer put it, "became a victim to the bad habits created by the customs of hospitality then existing in Detroit."[6] Through generosity to his friends, his fortune declined, and Harmon spent some time again working for the Free Press.[7] However, he later "conquered [his] habit" and became a total abstainer,[7] a "silent but eloquent example of a permanently reformed man."[6] John H. Harmon died August 6, 1888 in a hotel in Detroit.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e Silas Farmer (1889), THE HISTORY OF DETROIT AND MICHIGAN, p. 1040 
  2. ^ a b Samuel Alanson Lane (1892), Fifty years and over of Akron and Summit County, Beacon Job Department, pp. 598–601 
  3. ^ a b Z. L. White (1888), "Western Journalism", Harper's magazine, 77, p. 690 
  4. ^ The Democratic National Committee, 1830-1876, University of Wisconsin--Madison, 1919, p. 63 
  5. ^ Michigan. Legislature (1851), Joint documents of the Legislature of the State of Michigan for the year 1851, p. 203 
  6. ^ a b c F. A. Barnard (1878), American biographical history of eminent and self-made men: Michigan volume, Part 1, Western biographical publishing co., p. 71 
  7. ^ a b William E. Quinby (1881), "Reminiscences of Michigan Journalism", Michigan historical collections, vol. 4, p. 511 
  8. ^ Robert B. Ross (1890), The patriot war, p. 44 
Political offices
Preceded by
Zachariah Chandler
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Oliver Moulton Hyde