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Superior reeks with booze and filth

This headline and illustration are from the August 18, 1917 issue of the Duluth Rip Saw. The story is without a byline, but was no doubt written by the paper’s publisher, John L. Morrison.

Morrison abhorred alcohol and political corruption, and railed against both in nearly every issue of what he called “The Great Family Journal.”

The complete text of the story follows. To put this in historical context: Before the national Prohibition, Duluth and Superior each had their own alcohol bans. This story follows the lifting of Superior’s ban.



32 Comments

cork1

about 9 years ago

Questions:

+ "Stevens Six"? What kind of car is that? I can't find anything about this vehicle online.

+ Before the Bong and Blatnik Bridges existed, how did one get between Duluth and Superior? Ferries?

+ Why is the leading and kerning so weird in that typeset?

+ How ironic is it that the people who worked at the most modern incarnation of the Ripsaw drank like fishes?

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

One got between Duluth and Superior on the old Interstate Bridge.



But Cork, your ferry theory isn't off the mark at all. In 1906, the steamer Troy knocked the draw span of the Interstate Bridge into St. Louis Bay. Ferry service connected the cities for two years until repairs were completed.

The Blatnik Bridge was built in 1961. In the picture below, both bridges are shown together.



And, of course, the Oliver Bridge had just been built a year before the Ripsaw story above was published, but that bridge was a pretty roundabout way of connecting Duluth and Superior.

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

You left out the Arrowhead Bridge, which was built in 1927 and dismantled in the mid-80s after the Bong Bridge went up. I realize that it was built 10 years after the Ripsaw story, but it still answers Cork's question as he phrased it.


(Photo stolen from the News Tribune Attic -- the Arrowhead Bridge is in the foreground, with the newly built Bong Bridge in the background)

The Arrowhead was an old wooden drawbridge and I loved crossing it as a kid, especially when the drawbridge was up, mainly because it allowed for some great Dukes of Hazzard fantasies about jumping it.

Part of the bridge still exists on the Superior side and is used as a fishing pier.

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

And Paul, I believe that the Interstate Bridge was the one to the left of the Blatnik in your photo, a portion of which also stands as a fishing pier on the Minnesota side today.

Old/New

Sam

about 9 years ago

I come here hoping to find an intelligent discussion of booze and filth, only to find a discussion of the history of Duluth-Superior bridges!

Come on, people! Stay on topic!

udarnik

about 9 years ago

Cork1, I'm guessing the Stevens Six is the six-cylinder model from Stevens-Duryea, which made cars in Massachusetts in the first quarter of the last century.

Tony D.

about 9 years ago

With or without "Old John Barleycorn," Superior didn't change much, if this quote attributed to Al Capone (supposedly made during Prohibition to a "female friend") can be believed: "Superior is full of speakeasies and brothels...the law won't give you any trouble there."

Cork, I think the type issues you point out may be caused by a typesetter in a hurry to put out a paper using hand-set lead type. The literal leads of the leading may be of slightly different widths. The kerning is indeed inconsistent, but it looks like the typesetter was more concerned with a nicely justified column than with consistent letter spacing. They did this using led and copper slugs of varying width and their eyes--no computer typesetting logarithm.

Tony D.

about 9 years ago

Cork, I forgot to mention: One took Garfield Ave to the Interstate Bridge (a portion of which also remains as a fishing dock, but in Duluth), and that made the intersection of Garfield, Superior St., and Piedmont Ave. the busiest in town until the 1960s. The Garfield News (that little yellow art deco building on the corner, with the hexagonal window) was one of the most popular businesses in town until that bridge closed.

And yes, ferries were used before any bridges were built. The Wheeler family ran an early service in the late 1860s/1870s, and Tom Wheeler has suggested to me it may have been one or two of his ancestors who tried to blow up the dike built between MN Point and Rice's Point in 1871 as part of Superior's lawsuit(s) to have the Duluth Ship Canal filled in. The dike literally blocked traffic between the two cities, which hurt the Wheeler's business!

And I believe there was a streetcar line that crossed the Bay somehow--I have photos of it, but haven't gotten to the research yet to pin down any specifics.

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

Returning to the subject of booze and filth -- not just to appease Sam, but also the average person -- I wonder what the general state of drunkenness is in Superior these days.

Other than the Thursday night of Homegrown and a few trips to the Anchor and Thirsty Pagan, I almost never go to Superior for drinking purposes anymore.

Once Duluth started allowing bars to stay open until 2 a.m., the main reason to cross the bridge was gone.

Add in the fact that Duluth bars are smoke free and Superior bars are nicotine chambers (until the ban is in place) and it becomes really difficult to justify going there.

But Superior does have some things working in its favor. It has a high concentration of drinking establishments in a small area, for people who like to hop. All of the gay bars in a 100-mile radius of the Twin Ports are in Superior (unless there's a gay bar in Ashland or something that I don't know about). 

Maybe when the smoke clouds lift I'll go back over to good ol' Soup Town.

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

So what you're saying is, in 2010, Superior reeks of nicotine and filth.

Resol

about 9 years ago

"Redlight Ladies Hold High Carnival" 

What a great euphemism!  Was holding high carnival a common phrase or Morrison's creativity? Does it only apply to whores or can married people have their own high carnival?

Sam

about 9 years ago

lol.  Just kidding about the booze and filth.  But as long as we're discussing it, the younger bar patrons still seem to prefer Superior, since the bars are clustered together, their friends often smoke (although that is ending in WI), there are big, popular beer-soaked places to dance, and the drinks are generally cheaper.  And they like the late night drunk n' greasy food in Superior.  

Can an area of downtown Duluth beat Superior on the magical combination of all these items so important to young bar hoppers?

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

I don't think "high carnival" is a euphemism, but more of an expression. I've heard the phrase used many times, and I think it refers to the person at a carnival who would stand on a barrel or something similar and shout to the crowd to get them interested. "Laaaadies aaaand geeeentlemen! See the man born without a face!" That kind of thing. But I'm kind of guessing.

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

So, what are the late-night food options these days?

Superior, of course, has Frank's Fast n' Fresh Deli -- a/k/a "Chicken Spur." I think that place at the Androy where "Elizabeth welcomes you" closed, didn't it? Amigo's Mex Express is long gone. I don't think Erbert & Gerbert's qualifies as greasy, but it is open late. Anything else?

Pizza Luce and Burrito Union have late night food in Duluth. What else is there?

Both cities have Taco John's and Perkins, of course.

Barrett Chase

about 9 years ago

As far as the smoking goes, ever since the ban in Minnesota took effect, I've always been shocked that Fon-du-Luth hasn't opened a swanky nightclub. Seriously. You'd think that being the only smoke-legal establishment in town, that they could clean up. I guess they'd rather literally nickel-and-dime the semi-homeless gambling addicts to death.

Bret

about 9 years ago

So Douglas county used slave labor to drive down wages?  Well, I'm not surprised as this is all too common, but it was striking to see the self-righteous John Morrison brag about the intent so openly.  I wonder if he was later picked up one night as a "filthy solicitor"?  The more things change the more they stay the same!

Hotrod

about 9 years ago

Lundgren is forgetting about all of his trips to Centerfolds for 2/1's at Happy Hour.

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

Hotrod, I haven't been to Centerfold's since the last time I was there with you, which must have been ... oh ... maybe two years ago. And that was the first time I'd been there since maybe 2004.

I think the only time I was there for a reason other than you being in town was the bachelor party where I bought the groom-to-be a shot of Wild Turkey which he quickly vomited on a stripper.

Ah, booze and filth.

cork1

about 9 years ago

Thanks udarnik --

What's vaguely odd to me is that Stevens-Duryea wasn't producing cars in 1917 (at least, according to this Wikipedia article. Maybe at that stage of automobile dealership history, model years (and even whether or not the vehicles were still in production) didn't matter. Or, perhaps, a Stevens-Duryea was just a fancy car Morrison used to illustrate how bribery could be occurring. 

"... I bought the groom-to-be a shot of Wild Turkey which he quickly vomited on a stripper" is the quote of the day.

cork1

about 9 years ago

Oh yeah, thanks for the bridge info as well, history nerds. I have to assume they were riding horses across those bridges, or taking livery cab rides, right?

Adam

about 9 years ago

I think Fon-du-Luth is waiting for the skywalk to add two stories, I'm guessing.

Heavily increased DWI enforcement in the early 2000s (I think the highway patrol may have received increased funding for overtime) put a damper on many people going to Superior before the 2AM Duluth bar close took effect (before this, of course, it was rush hour at 12:30AM for the last hour across the bridge). Those two things combined put a death nail in most people kicking it over to Souptown. D-town smoking ban didn't really have a noticeable effect in the land of speakeasies and brothels.

mrashley

about 9 years ago

This article is really interesting because it neatly summarizes the core ideals of the Progressive movement.  The Ripsaw was a Progressive paper, not progressive literally, but part of the Progressive movement.  By using alcohol as it's hook, it draws readers into learning about some other core Progressive ideals such as labor rights, gov't corruption, and reforming criminal punishment.  These weren't the most popular views at the time around here.  Don't forget a couple of years later a Finnish labor leader was lynched for his connections to communism.  With a war in Europe and a revolution in Russia, labor rights was a touchy subject.  Notice how the topic is wrapped in the more family friendly guise of Prohibition.  Good propaganda.

Next, in all fairness to Superior, the vice and immoral stuff was confined to a rather small area.  The city relied on young workers and sailors for it's economy.  This wasn't a farming town with deep roots.  This was still a young community that needed a constant supply of cheap labor.  That labor mainly came from young, single men who did not have families.  They needed the support system the taverns supplied for food, lodging, entertainment, postal services, etc.  Notice where the bars are located on Tower and follow Tower all the way north past the Cedar Lounge.  You arrive right at the docks.  The family neigborhoods...the BP, EE, Allouez, South Superior, have a few local places, but not a thick concentration like the north end of Tower.

I think this should tell us something about Superior.  The community lines were strictly drawn between workers frequenting the bar district and the larger, permanent community that sprouted around it.  I think the vice problems were tolerated more as a necessary evil to attract and accomodate a work force, but not something that was systematic to the culture of Superior as a whole.  The hook of alcohol is really being used to discuss other Progressive ideas that may not have been as accepted by the larger population.

Cool article Paul.

mrashley

about 9 years ago

Cork1-I believe the bridge before the Blatnik was a toll bridge as well.

Claire

about 9 years ago

You guys should write a book! BTW, Barrett, did you take the pic of the fishing pier you posted? It's gorgeous.

c-freak

about 9 years ago

Carnival and crime and a flood of moral filth! Where do I sign up?

akjuneau

about 9 years ago

Stephens Six / Stephens Salient Six: http://www.genealogytrails.com/ill/stephenson/stephens.html

[img]http://www.kenmcgeeautobooks.com/images/11-13-2009IMG_0843.jpg[/img]

Jude

about 9 years ago

I was in Superior today and I looked at it differently.  It is not hard to imagine the migration from the ships (in a straight line) to bars on the left and bars on the right.  Were there wooden sidewalks then?

Mary

about 9 years ago

My grandma still talks about crossing from Superior to Duluth on the toll bridge in the...well, I'm not sure if her stories date to the 40s/50s or a little sooner than that?  Or later? In those days, most people living over by Ashland only went to Duluth maybe once a year (if they went at all)--in her case, she & my grandpa would drive there with a couple from the neighboring farm, and when they approached the bridge, they'd pull over and have the wives get in the trunk of the car so they wouldn't have to pay as much to cross the bridge.  That's how she tells it, anyway.

@ndy

about 9 years ago

Mary, I've heard a similar tale many times, but usually I've heard it as kids being put in the trunk to avoid the $0.05 per person toll.

Paul Lundgren

about 9 years ago

Speaking of famous moments in drunken Superior history, let's not forget Nov. 8, 2008, outside Stargate -- "She's fucking tasered as fuck." 

It's strange that Stargate can get away with charging a cover, but it's free to stand outside and watch the show.

Adam

about 9 years ago

She's a kicker!

forthetime_being

about 7 years ago

That settles it. If I have kids, they will never travel to Soup Town. But I'm definitely bringing this article to class for my students to read!

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