Charles Henry Bliss

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Charles Henry Bliss
Born January 7, 1861
Shelbyville, Indiana
Died July 24, 1907
Occupation Mayor of Pensacola
Journalist, publisher
Spouse Matilda Wilcox Bliss
Sara Gertrude Herman Bliss
Parents Christian Henry and Caroline Fowler Bliss
Children Edwin S. Bliss
Maud Allen Bliss
Walter Henry Bliss
Charles Herman Bliss
Herbert Bryl Bliss
Bessie Leeds Bliss
Carlyse Genevieve Bliss
Ruby Lee Bliss

Charles Henry Bliss was Mayor of Pensacola from 1905 to 1907. He was also a publisher of a quarterly magazine called at various times Bliss' Magazine, The Bliss Magazine, and Bliss' Quarterly.

Early life[edit]

At birth, Bliss was given the name Abraham Lincoln Bliss. He was called by the nickname "Link", which he detested. Accordingly, upon entering school, Bliss began calling himself Charles. Once, when he missed school due to an illness, a schoolteacher came to the Bliss home and asked to see Charles; Bliss' mother replied that she had no son by the name. Thereafter, Bliss convinced his mother to consent to the name change.

At the age of fourteen, Bliss left home and headed west, first to Illinois, and then to Iowa. In Iowa he was acquainted with Mormon elders and converted to that faith. He later moved with the Mormon Williams family to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he lived with them as a member of their family. Near the age of eighteen he set out west again. By the time he arrived at Ogden, Utah, he had worn out the two pairs of shoes he owned; he had walked most of the trip, and all of it from Omaha, Nebraska onward. For a time he herded sheep in Morgan County, before heading to Salt Lake City, where he got a job with an agency which enlarged photographs.[1]

Bliss married Matilda Sophia Wilcox on April 17, 1879 in Salt Lake City. Soon after, the Mormon church called him on a mission to the Southern states. Upon returning to Utah, he attended the University of Utah, and there became disillusioned with Mormonism. Bliss and his wife, who remained a devout follower, later divorced, and Bliss returned to his home state of Indiana.[2]

Bliss settled in Kokomo, Indiana, where he taught school and edited a local newspaper. He remarried, on February 20, 1892, to Sara Gertrude Herman.[3]

In Pensacola[edit]

In December 1895,[4] Bliss and his second wife moved to Pensacola. Bliss worked as a reporter and newspaper editor, also publishing the Bliss magazines. He later was engaged in the concrete business, as well as in the design and manufacture of metallic launches.[5] Wrote a book about Pensacola around 1904 entitled: "Pensacola harbor, beautiful views and pertinent facts regarding the deep water city of the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola navy yards, Pensacola shipping and Pensacola fortifications"

Mayoral tenure[edit]

Bliss was elected Mayor of Pensacola in 1905, and was re-elected to a second term shortly before his death in 1907.

Although Bliss was elected in 1905 on the "White Democratic" ticket (a faction of the Democratic party which advocated white supremacy), he notably took a stand in vetoing Pensacola's 1905 "Jim Crow" ordinance, which provided for segregation on Pensacola's streetcars, calling the ordinance unconstitutional. The veto was overridden by a unanimous vote of the City Council.[6]

According to a political ad which Bliss ran in the Pensacola Journal on May 1, 1907, he accomplished much during his mayoral administration. Bliss claimed to have done much to beautify and improve the City's streets, parks, and other public works:

  • He has mounted the first cannons, planted the first palm trees, and done more to beautify the parks of the city than all former administrations, and would have done much more had the council sustained him.
  • He has built the only shell roads that Pensacola has.
  • He has hardened as many miles of streets as all the former administrations put together.
  • He has built all the cement curbs and gutters in the city.
  • He has doubled the miles of ditches for draining the streets and ponds and marshes.
  • He has cleaned up the city as it has never been cleaned before.

Bliss also claimed to have fought corruption and mismanagement while promoting transparency:

  • He is the only man who has persistently fought the extortions and unlawful dealings of the Pensacola Water Company and carried it to a successful ending.
  • He has faithfully kept his promises to the people, and as mayor has stood up for their rights against all opposition.
  • He abolished the practice of his predecessor of signing, or allowing others to sign, the mayor’s name to the city checks with a rubber stamp.
  • He established a rigid system of accounting in all city departments so that citizens may know where every cent of their money goes.
  • He is the first mayor in years to require the city treasurer to keep a set of books that the city may have an official record of its finances by the treasurer.
  • He has made “grafting” impossible in all departments under his control.
  • He has given his personal attention to all public works and has insisted upon all work being performed honestly and faithfully.

Scuffle with W. C. Jones[edit]

In 1905, during Bliss' tenure as Mayor of Pensacola, W. C. Jones, the former secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, accused Bliss of being corrupt and physically accosted him.

A Georgia newspaper published an account of the altercation:

Charles Henry Bliss
Another municipal sensation was sprung in Pensacola, Fla., late Monday afternoon when

Secretary W. C. Jones of the Chamber of Commerce, who was formerly city clerk, openly charged Mayor Charles H. Bliss with grafting, for the reason he had not signed the new ordinance, just passed, separating the white and negro races on the street cars. This occured on Palafox Street in the presence of quite a number of people and when the mayor called the secretary a liar, the latter struck at him with his clenched fist. Secretary Jones, then continued to talk to the mayor, saying that he was an accident in office, and always held his hand behind him to receive anything that might be placed in it.

Shortly afterwards, Jones went to the police station to surrender himself when he again met Mayor Bliss and the war of words continued. Jones stated that the mayor was crooked and he knew it from the manner in which he had acted. Receiving some reply, the secretary dealt the mayor a blow on the jaw, which felled him. The police interfered and arrested Jones.

Charles Henry Bliss

Schley County (Georgia) News, September 6, 1905.

1907 reelection campaign[edit]

In his campaign for reelection in 1907, Bliss was opposed in the Democratic primary by Walker Ingraham. At that time, the Democratic Party was by far the predominant political party in Pensacola, and accordingly, elections were quite often decided in the general election.

Mr. Ingraham, Bliss' opponent, was supported by many wealthy and powerful citizens of Pensacola, including William Alexander Blount, Sr., Evelyn Croom Maxwell, City Council member and future mayor Frank Reilly, and John B. Jones, the City Attorney. Bliss claimed that "although a poor man, [he] had done more work and spent more money to advertise Pensacola than all the entire gang of rich men who are now trying to defeat him."[7] Bliss claimed that rather than running against Ingraham, he was running against the First National Bank, and that if elected Ingraham would be merely a puppet.

Both the Pensacola Journal and the Pensacola Daily News endorsed Ingraham. The Journal was heavily critical of Bliss during the final days of the campaign, at one point calling Bliss a "common fakir."[8] The Journal claimed that Bliss had asked the Journal to run campaign advertisements "set in the regular news type of the paper, with a regular news head over it, so that it would have the appearance of coming from the paper itself" and that Bliss was upset that they would not do so. Bliss claimed that what he submitted was not an argument for or against anyone, but "true facts."

The Daily News was even more pro-Ingraham. The Daily News printed blatantly editorial front-page headlines such as "Better the City's Future by Electing Walker Ingraham" daily leading up to the election, and refused to run any of Bliss' campaign advertisements.

The election, held on May 2, was won by Bliss, who garnered 797 votes to Ingraham's 757. The Pensacola Journal recounted the celebrations of his supporters:

Charles Henry Bliss
When it became known that Mayor Bliss had received the nomination his supporters quickly procured Rentfrom's brass band and proceeded to parade the streets, giving vent to their enthusiasm. Later they visited the home of the mayor and heard a speech from Mr. Bliss.
Charles Henry Bliss

—"Bliss, Cahn, and Moyer the Winners in Second Primary", Pensacola Journal, May 3, 1907


Bliss died around 3 a.m. in the morning of July 24, 1907, just more than two months after winning a second term as mayor. He had long suffered from a heart condition brought on by an earlier bout of pneumonia. The Pensacola Journal reported his death that morning:

Charles Henry Bliss
Mayor Chas. H. Bliss, after an illness of six weeks, which had become critical in the past week, died at his home on South Florida Blanca Street at three o’clock this morning. Death was due to heart trouble, and a complication of diseases of which the mayor had long been a sufferer. The fatal collapse occurred this morning shortly before 1 o’clock. Prior to that time, he had been resting easy, and while his physicians held but little hope of his recovery, it was hoped that he would rally during the night and gain strength. With the last attack, about 1 a.m., when it became hopelessly obvious that the mayor was dying, intimate friends were telephoned, and many of them went to the home. Among them were President Goodman of the City Council, Chief Sanders, Henry Horsler, and members of the Danion Lodge No. 13, of which the deceased was a member.
Charles Henry Bliss

—"Mayor is Dead", Pensacola Journal, July 24, 1907.

Bliss' funeral was held July 26 at Armory Hall. Services were conducted by P. H. Whaley of Christ Church and J. B. Cummings of First Methodist. Mitch Jacoby, Alex Zelius, B. F. Wolfe, H. Paulsen, O. L. Bass, Henry Horsler, D. T. McSwain, and A. E. Kelly served as pallbearers. Also in attendance were Calvin C. Goodman, the new mayor, as well as all members of the City Council, and most city employees.[9]

Bliss was interred in St. John's Cemetery.

Other images[edit]

Electoral history[edit]

Mayor of Pensacola, 1907 (Democratic primary)[edit]

This election was held May 2, 1907.

Charles Henry Bliss 797 51.3%
Walker Ingraham 757 48.7%

Mayor of Pensacola, 1905 (General election)[edit]

This election was held June 6, 1905.

Charles Henry Bliss 1,229 58.1%
C. L. Shine 801 37.9%
Rix M. Robinson 68 0.3%
C. H. Wells 17 0.08%

Mayor of Pensacola, 1905 (Democratic primary)[edit]

This election was held April 4, 1905.

Charles Henry Bliss 526 57.2%
Frank Reilly 393 42.8%


  1. Allen, Maud Bliss. Biography of My Father, Charles Henry Bliss. Unpublished manuscript.
  2. Information provided by E. C. Bliss, Bliss' grandson.
  3. Information provided by C. Bozeman, a descendant of C. H. Bliss.
  4. "Mayor is Dead", Pensacola Journal, July 24, 1907.
  5. Bliss' Magazine, January 1899, p.90
  6. "The Mayor's Veto of Jim Crow Law", Pensacola Journal, September 28, 1905.
  7. Political ads, Pensacola Journal, May 1, 1907.
  8. "Bliss Plays Role of Common Fakir", Pensacola Journal, May 2, 1907.
  9. "Funeral of the Late Mayor to be Conducted Tomorrow", Pensacola Journal, July 25, 1907.

Preceded by:
Thomas Everett Welles
Mayor of Pensacola
Succeeded by:
Calvin C. Goodman