During the depression of 1893, Pingree expanded the public welfare programs, initiated public works for the unemployed, built new schools, parks, and public baths. He gained national recognition through his "potato patch plan," a systematic use of vacant city land for gardens which would produce food for the city's poor. He was also an advocate of economist Henry George's single tax.
In 1896, Pingree was elected Governor of Michigan. After taking office on January 1, 1897, he intended to also fill the last year of his term as mayor of Detroit, which would have lasted until elections in November 1897. However, his right to hold the two offices simultaneously was contested, and after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against him, Pingree resigned as mayor (see Catlin p. 628). During his four years in office, the direct election of U.S. senators was promoted; an eight-hour workday was endorsed; a regulated income tax was supported; and railroad taxation was advocated."