I've been developing an idea for a Duluth/Superior history column called "Back in the Day." You might see it in a local periodical at some point, or maybe you won't. I'm publishing the pilot here and now, because it's specific to this month.
Back in the Day - February 1908
By Paul Lundgren
The average suicide is something media tends to ignore. As a rule, it’s acceptable to report the suicide of a public figure, or about suicide as a general subject, but when common people decide to take their own lives, it’s not news.
Back in the day, however, newspapers had a lot less apprehension about reporting things that now seem utterly distasteful. Take for example two articles from the February 5, 1908, Duluth Weekly Herald, and it becomes obvious what a difference 100 years can make.
Not only does the Herald report the suicide of a young girl named Hazel Rogers, but it does so under the headline: “Ends Life of Shame.” According to the story, the girl offed herself by overdosing on laudanum, a narcotic which consists of an alcohol solution of opium.
“Treated as if it were carrion, the body of Hazel Rogers … lies at Durkan & Crawford’s (morgue) unclaimed and unidentified by any of her former companions,” the Herald reports, noting the location of the suicide was the “disreputable resort run by Lucille Wells.” The story also speculates that the girl chose to commit suicide because she was “tired of the life of the under-world.”
Six days earlier, according to the Herald, Louis Ronning, a fisherman, was traveling from Duluth to Grand Marais aboard the steamer Moore when he climbed a rail and plunged into the icy waters of Lake Superior. “Jesus wants me; I am going to Him,” were reportedly his last words.
“He was not right in his mind, and recently has seemed to be insane on religious subjects,” the story points out. “The man has been more or less demented since being struck on the head by the limb of a falling tree about two years ago.”
Also in the news 100 years ago this month:
Feb. 3 | Bills were introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to authorize Interstate Transfer Co. to construct a double deck bridge from Duluth to Superior across the St. Louis River at Spirit Lake.
Feb. 4 | Roland Haven defeated Emil Tessman to become Duluth’s 21st mayor.
Feb. 5 | Duluth Street Railway Co. filed its annual report for 1907, disclosing that 12,645,634 nickel fares were collected.
Feb. 7 | Robert E. Denfeld, superintendent of Duluth Public Schools, was granted a three-year contract extension at the regular meeting of the Board of Education.
Feb. 14 | Duluthian John Evenson set the new American ski jumping record, clearing 116 feet in the national tournament at Chester Park. The Duluth News Tribune estimated the crowd on hand at 9,000.
Feb. 21 | Superior was granted a franchise in minor league baseball’s Northern League.
Feb. 22 | John Evenson broke his own ski-jumping record, clearing 122 feet in Ishpeming, Mich. During the same competition, fellow Duluthian Ole Feiring jumped 119 feet.
Feb. 26 | Members of the West Duluth Rod and Gun Club met with members of the Central Gun Club to discuss merging. The West Duluth club members were not in favor of the proposal.