Back when he was a student at East High School, Ben Marsen acquired a collection of photo negatives of scenes from around Duluth. The one above appears to have been shot on the 200 block of West Michigan Street, maybe where the rear entrances to R.T. Quinlan’s Saloon and Minnesota Surplus are located today — the proper addresses being 220 and 218 W. Superior St.
But we know A&E Supply was at 212 W. Superior St. from at least the late 1940s until a fire destroyed the building on May 19, 1968. So, is the scene in the mystery photo the presently standing buildings at 220 and 218, or buildings that burned at 214 and 212?
It sure looks like 220 and 218, shown at the top of the comparison image below.
And of course the bottom image, showing 214 and 212, wouldn’t match even if it’s correct, because of the 1968 fire, right? The 212 building was constructed in 1973. But the 214 building must have survived the fire, because property records show the year it was constructed as 1901, which means it would have been there when the mystery photo was shot … and it’s clearly not a match.
So the prevailing theory must be that A&E started at 218 W. Superior St. and after the mystery photo was shot it moved to 212.
Which brings us to clues for dating the image: The cars, the guy outside the store holding what looks like a tripod, and the Kodak Panatomic film the image was shot on — which was first made in 1933.
Below is an example from the same roll.
What happened to the rest of the negative collection? “I printed off many of them, saved some rolls for myself and then foolishly donated the rest to the East High photo lab for future kids to experiment with,” Marsen writes.
So, we might see more from the Marsen collection in the future. Where the rest of the rolls of film ultimately ended up is another mystery altogether.
Above are two ads that appeared in the UMD Statesman newspaper. The first is from 1967, the second is from 1949.
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