Michigan Transportation History

Samuel W. Beakes

Public Historian Person Ann Arbor

Samuel W. Beakes (1861 - 1927) was an Ann Arbor newspaper publisher, politician, and U.S. bureaucrat.

Early Life

Samuel W. Beakes was born on January 11, 1861, in Sullivan County, New York. His early education was at Wallkill Academy, at nearby Middletown. In the late 1870s, he attended the University of Michigan? graduating with a law degree in 1883. He then moved to Westerville, Ohio, outside Columbus. He passed the bar exam that year, but it is not clear that he ever practiced law because he soon bought his first newspaper.


Beakes's first newspaper was the Westerville Review, of which he was both publisher and editor. He sold this newspaper later in the year and moved back to Michigan.1 He had bought the Adrian Daily Record and was, again, both publisher and editor. After about two years, he sold the Daily Record (in June 1886) to purchase the Ann Arbor Argus?. Beakes held control of the newspaper, sometimes acting as editor, for almost twenty years and through it became influential in local politics. In 1898, he acquired, through merger, both the Ann Arbor Democrat? and the Ypsilanti Weekly Times? forming the Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat?. In 1905 he sold the Argus-Democrat and retired from publishing. (It was at this time he was compiling his history of Washtenaw County and serving in local government, so it seems he was over-committed.)


An indication of how quickly Beakes became a force in Ann Arbor politics is shown by the fact that within two years of moving to Ann Arbor, and using the Argus as his political mouthpiece, Beakes was elected to the mayoralty. This was in 1888. Following his two-year term, he was elected for a two-year term as city treasurer in 1891. Following this, Beakes, a Cleveland Democrat, was appointed postmaster in 1894, a position he held into the McKinley administration before resigning in 1898.2 He returned to his newspaper for a few years, remaining an active voice in local affairs until, in 1903, he again entered politics getting elected again as city treasurer. It was during this time that Beakes was compiling and editing his history of Washtenaw County and probably felt that it was time to sell the newspaper. After both the newspaper was sold and the book was published, Beakes was appointed city assessor, a position he held until his election to Congress.

In 1912, Beakes was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the 2nd District (which included Washtenaw County). He was re-elected in 1914 and 1916. He was defeated for re-election by Earl C. Michener? in the 1918 election. As representative, he was a delegate to the national Democratic Convention in 1916 that re-nominated Woodrow Wilson for a second term.

Following his re-election defeat, Beakes was appointed to be the assistant chief of the U.S. Department of Commerce Industrial Cooperation Service.3 The service was shut down by Congress on June 30, 1919, and Beakes found employment with the Veterans Bureau. He died February 9, 1927, while still working in Washington. He is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.

Past and Present of Washtenaw County

During his second tenure as Ann Arbor City Treasurer, Beakes took on the compilation and editorship of Past and Present of Washtenaw County (S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1906), which is today a principal source (along with Chapman) for the 19th century history of Washtenaw County.


Doll, Louis W.? A History of the Newspapers of Ann Arbor, 1829-1920. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1959.

Beakes, Samuel W. Past and Present in Washtenaw County, Michigan. Chicago: S. J. Clark, 1906.

UM Library — • — Internet Archive — • — Internet Archive — • — Hathi Trust — multiple copies available, too.


1. Michigan Bulletin, Big Rapids, January 1916, p. 8.

2. Patronage positions, such as postmaster, were being reclassified as regular jobs as a result of civil service reform in the 1880s. So it is likely that the McKinley administration could not remove Beakes from the postmaster office if it had tried.

3. In December 1918, Congress assigned some of the functions of the War Industries Board to the Industrial Cooperation Service. The service was terminated on June 30, 1919. United States, Department of Commerce, Reports of the Department of Commerce, 1919, Report of the Secretary of Commerce and Reports of the Bureaus (Washington: USGPO, 1920), p. 71

Citation: When referencing this page please use the following citation:

R. D. Jones, "Samuel W. Beakes," Michigan Transportation History (Ypsilanti, MI: 2020), www.michtranshist.info/.

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Page last modified on January 10, 2020, at 09:26 PM EST

Page last modified on January 10, 2020, at 09:26 PM EST