Duluth Street Scene, 1909

Street scene, Lake & Superior Streets 21 July 1909 (Minnesota Reflections)

I ran across this photo last year on Minnesota Reflections.

It was the people who caught my interest though. Looking into the faces of people caught in a random freezeframe of Superior Street traffic from 101 years ago grabbed me for whatever reason. I guess the fact that they’re gawking at a ruined street gives it a timeless quality.

Proper-looking Capitalist and various other persons

Proper-Looking Capitalist and various other persons gawking.

Boys being boys

Urchins in the street, Superior & Lake, 21 July 1909

street scene in front of Scott's Drug Store, Superior Street, 21 July 1909

Street scene in front of Scott's Drug Store, Superior Street, 21 July 1909


Keith Murphy

about 12 years ago

Those are some really sweet photos! I love looking at historical photos, especially ones from Duluth and Minnesota. If you guys haven't seen Shorpy Historic Photo Archive, I recommend checking it out.

Tony D.

about 12 years ago

That isn't a random scene. Those photos are of folks cleaning up from the aftermath of a heavy rain that resulted in a mudslide.

And not that I want to make an issue out of this, but does donning a nice suit, hat, and a mustache always render someone a Capitalist? Couldn't he be a minister, doctor, lawyer or just any average Joe wearing a nice suit? Does every child from that era need to be declared an "urchin"?

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

I missed the part where proper-looking folks are always capitalists and children are always urchins. I just see one instance of each, written seemly tongue-in-cheek. So, yeah, let's not make an issue out of it. Pretty please.


about 12 years ago

Good day for this post. I think the picture is actually from July 22. The flood came at 9:30 p.m. July 21.

The July 22, 1909 News Tribune front page (headline, all capped, three lines, across seven columns):

Terrific cloudburst visits Duluth entailing
$50,000 damage; two babes torn from mother's
Arms drown; Superior St. stores most affected


Sewers all over city are choked: Waters run riot

It's a great read.

Here's a PDF of the next day's cover story:

Mother of dead babes describes storm tragedy; Duluth's thoroughfares and parks badly damaged

The Big E

about 12 years ago

It is just a moment in just another day in the lives of all of the people in the photo, all of whom are long gone.  And yet the photo remains, and it affords us a glimpse into that moment, and a tiny peek at the people who happened to be caught in it--the photographer was probably more interested in what is now a fairly meaningless event, but it's their humanity, accidentally preserved, that makes it interesting 100 years later.  In my judgment at least.

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

A few other good wind and rain storms from Duluth history:

Oct. 13-15, 1920 | In a storm spanning three days, 3.18 inches of rainfall soaks the city.

1946 | Rain sweeps trucks and cars into the Lester River, where they are carried downstream into Lake Superior.

May 2, 1964 | A thunderstorm with hurricane-force winds and torrential rains hits Duluth. The wind is clocked at 88.61 miles per hour. The Oatka Boat Club building on Park Point explodes. 

Aug. 20, 1972 | In just over two hours, nearly three inches of rain falls in the Central Hillside neighborhood. Furniture, telephone poles, bricks, lumber and mud are sent down the hill. President Nixon declares the area a Federal Disaster. Damages total $18 million.

Sept. 19, 1972 | Just 30 days after a rainstorm floods the Central Hillside, a second storm dumps another 3.42 inches in eight hours. The storm causes two deaths. Nearly 100 graves are washed up. Damages exceed $22 million.


about 12 years ago

Nice! So that's what was going on at 1 W. a hundred years back, huh?


about 12 years ago

I think sometimes a person can't seem to write anything right.... The pictures are awesome... so interesting and haunting at the same time.. thanks for taking us back in time...

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

So, yeah, not exactly "just a moment in just another day."

To summarize:

Seven billion gallons of water fell on the area in two days. Grass, trees, timbers, paving blocks, mud and debris were washed down Duluth's hillside during the torrential rainfall. Two children drown after being swept out of their mother's arms. Water filled one downtown store to a foot above the countertop before breaking through the plate glass front window.

Paul Lundgren

about 12 years ago

Regarding Progressive Medical Association, the business occupying the building in the top photo of this post:

Today's Vocabulary Word: Varicocele

PDD's fairy research prince wonders if, in addition to the problems created by the flood, the men in the pictures are having some scrotal issues.


about 12 years ago

Oh great, so that storefront used to be a doctor that specialized in scrotal issues?

The Big E

about 12 years ago

Perhaps that explains why the woman in the bottom photo is in such a hurry.

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