The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Johnson, Thomas Loftin

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JOHNSON, Thomas Loftin, American capitalist and municipal reformer: b. Georgetown, Ky., 18 July 1854; d. Cleveland, Ohio, 10 April 1911. He was clerk in a street railway office (1869-75), and invented several street railway devices, included the Johnson rail and a fare box; became owner of a street railway in Indianapolis and later acquired large interests in Cleveland, Detroit and Brooklyn; he was also interested in iron manufacture in Cleveland. He disposed of his railway properties and became prominent in politics as a member of the Democratic party, and known as an advocate of the single tax and public ownership of public utilities. His plans for municipal ownership attracted nation-wide attention. Though opposed to the free coinage of silver, he supported Bryan in 1896 and 1900, and the State convention which he controlled unanimously endorsed the Kansas City platform. He was a member of Congress, 1891-95. In 1901 he was elected mayor of Cleveland, and was re-elected 1903, 1905 and 1907. He transformed the city government by introducing several radical reforms. He was an advocate of three-cent street railway fares. In 1903 he was the Democratic candidate for governor of Ohio, but was defeated. He quitted public life in 1910. Consult his autobiography, ‘My Story,’ edited by E. J. Hauser (New York 1911).