The Social Networks of Grand Rapids

I have created several visualizations of the social networks of Grand Rapids and the water scandal. By exploring these networks, I hope the meanings of the political corruption become clearer. They are all hands on and customizable so I encourage you to look for connections between the men of Grand Rapids. I also list the sources used to construct the visualizations here. For more information on my sources, please visit my archive.

The Elite

In this visualization, I have selected figures and institutions of the Grand Rapids social and business community to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the community's elite. Though not an exhaustive analysis, this small sample is meant to illustrate the intertwined nature of the city's social networks.

Even a heated political atmosphere could not deter the elite of Grand Rapids from mixing socially and financially, a fact reflected in the bipartisan nature of the water scandal.

These social connections helped faciliate corruption, but also made reform complicated when the city began prosecuting leaders for involvement in the water scandal, as these men, and their wives, were accustom to socially mingling.

I created this visualization with tools designed by JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit and from many sources:

Peninsular Club Yearbooks 1897, 1904.

Ladies Literary Club Membership lists.

Lydens, Z. Z. The Story of Grand Rapids.

Goss, Dwight. History of Grand Rapids and its Industries.

Baxter, Albert. History of the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Fisher, Ernest B. Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan: Historical Account of their Progress from First Settlement to the Present Time.

Leonard, John William. Who's who in finance and banking. Who's Who in Finance Inc., 1922.

Grand Rapids City Directories, 1891, 1898, 1900, 1902

Ransom, Frank Edward. The City Built on Wood: A History of the Furniture Industry in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1850-1950.

Several items from the Grand Rapids Herald including Nominations Made, Are in Favor of Grand Jury, and the Grand Rapids Illustrated: Supplement to the Grand Rapids Herald, 1902.

The Politicians

This sortable map and table add a spatial element to the Grand Rapids water scandal. Here I focus on politics, specifically the aldermen in office at the time of the beginning of the water scandal (1900-1902), to demonstrate the bipartisan nature of the water scandal's bribery scheme and the importance of space.

The map, created from MIT's SIMILE tool Exhibit, was constructed from a variety of sources including:

Lydens, Z. Z. The Story of Grand Rapids

Goss, Dwight. History of Grand Rapids and its Industries

Grand Rapids City Directories, 1898, 1900, 1902

Proceedings of the Grand Rapids Common Council

The Grand Rapids Herald

The Scheme

In this visualization, I present the water scandal's main bribery scheme, as confessed to by Grand Rapids city attorney Lant K. Salsbury in November of 1903. Because Salsbury's story changed much over the years, I chose his confession in 1903, which became the foundation for the large scale prosecution of the men involved in the bribery scheme. While Salsbury also claimed to have been involved in schemes involving men from other cities, the legal punishments of the water scandal were connected to this plot.

I used tools designed by JavaScript InfoVis Toolkit to create this visualization.