Term: Frank, Michael 1804 - 1894
reformer, newspaperman, politician, b. Virgil, N.Y. He was educated in the common schools, and as a boy developed a keen interest in social reform. In 1836 he moved to Preble, N.Y., and in 1839 to Southport (Kenosha), Wis. There, in partnership with C. L. Sholes (q.v.), he published the Southport Telegraph (1839), the first newspaper in Kenosha County. He served as editor or publisher of this paper intermittently through most of his life, and under Sholes and Frank the paper became a vehicle for temperance, anti-slavery, and free-soil sentiments. Energetic, popular, and expansive, Frank was the first village president of Southport (1840), and helped launch the first literary magazine in Wisconsin, the Garland of the West (1843). He experimented for a time with Fourierist socialism, and in 1844 was president of the local abolitionist society. Known as the father of Wisconsin's free-school system, he served in the territorial upper house (1843-1846), where, after several attempts, he succeeded in passing a bill (1845) to establish a free school in Southport. He persuaded his fellow townsmen to ratify the measure, but it was not until 1849 that funds were secured to build and operate a completely tax- supported school. Meanwhile, other state leaders joined Frank in spreading the free-school idea and the provision was incorporated in the state constitution of 1848. In the same year he was selected to revise and codify the state school laws. Frank remained active in politics, served as mayor of Kenosha (1850), and later joined the Republican party. He was state assemblyman (1861), a university regent (1861-1866), and postmaster of Kenosha (1861-1866). He was co-editor of the Beloit Journal (1869-1870), and from 1870 to 1882 lived in Washington, D.C., where he held a position in the U.S. Treasury Department. After leaving Washington, he returned to Kenosha, and in 1889 retired from active public life. Wis. Mag. Hist., 9, 10, 19; J. I. Clark, Educ. in Wis. (Madison, 1958); Kenosha Union, Jan. 3, 1895; M. Frank Diaries; WPA MS.
The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Michael Frank Diaries for details.
View a related article at Wisconsin Magazine of History Archives.
View newspaper clippings at Wisconsin Local History and Biography Articles.
[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]