Boats Docked at Duluth Harbor Circa 1875

Photographers William Caswell and William Henry Davy ran a studio in Duluth circa 1870-75 and were responsible for many of the stereographs circulated during the era. The image above shows boats docked somewhere in the Duluth Harbor.

The full stereograph is below.

13 Comments

Ramos

about 7 months ago

I haven't seen many pictures of Duluth's early, ill-fated attempts to build infrastructure on the big lake. I can just imagine how those wooden buildings fronting directly on the water would handle being slammed with Lake Superior waves. I would guess this is somewhere in the area of Fitger's.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 months ago

It's pretty difficult to make out landmarks we can recognize today, but my guess is this was shot more by Pier B Resort and the little hillside is part of Point of Rocks that was blasted out long ago. And what might appear to be Canal Park if this were shot by the lake would be Rice's Point if it were shot in the harbor. But just because the caption indicates its the "Duluth Harbor" doesn't necessarily mean its the harbor proper. It could be out on the lake. But yeah, if it indeed was out on the lake, that dock couldn't have held up long.

ethompson

about 7 months ago

Could this be up river perhaps, like Riverside?

Paul Lundgren

about 7 months ago

Possible, but I think the hillside would be taller, because from Riverside we would see Bardon Peak. Also, the land jutting out would then be Morgan Park, and there is some sort of tall structure -- like a silo or something -- on the left of the photo that probably wouldn't have existed in Morgan Park at that time.

Ramos

about 7 months ago

I base my guess on the date of 1875 and the general appearance of the hill in the background. The first railroad had only come in five years earlier, and it cut across the corner of the big lake to a freight depot at 3rd Avenue East. You can still see remains of foundations below the Lakewalk, and there was that big crib that washed up a few years ago in that area. 

But you're right--it could just as well be the inner harbor, with Rice's Point in the background.

Matthijs

about 7 months ago

Is this the same dock from a different perspective? Perhaps even the same boat? The angle of the dock seems to match up well. This photo was taken approximately 5 years earlier and the building on the far right in the stereograph might be the building under construction behind the boat here. If it is the same dock, this photo gives a much better sense of its location.

Matthijs

about 7 months ago

Here's a cleaned-up version of the whole photo that I worked on last year.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 months ago



I put together a side-by-side comparison of the photos above. The perspectives are so different that the side-by-side doesn't help a lot, but there seems to be enough similarity to conclude it's the same dock. Sketch maps of Duluth in 1887 and 1893 show a dock roughly where the Northland Vietnam Veterans Memorial is today.

Paul Lundgren

about 7 months ago



It's tricky to manipulate Google Earth to get solid comparisons, but this is sort of what a then-and-now comparison looks like of what we think is the location of the dock.

Ramos

about 7 months ago

Great photo, Matthijs. On the left side of your panoramic shot, I see what I assume to be the railroad causeway crossing the water. The only thing I was confused about was that the building in the picture does not match the pictures I have of the railroad freight depot at that location. But a shot that I found which was taken from the top of the grain elevator looking west seems to show that the freight depot office was an addition to the existing building.

Here's the photo I'm familiar with. The two boats docked behind the train engine almost look like they could be the same two boats from Paul's original photo. This photo is credited as being circa 1870. I think there may be some inaccuracies of dates on these various photos, because if the freight depot addition was already built in 1870, it would also show up in the 1875 photo.

Ramos

about 7 months ago

Here's the shot from the top of the grain elevator looking west. You can see what looks like the roof of the original building, with the freight depot office addition on the west end.

Ramos

about 7 months ago

Another angle. The sailing schooner in the original photo would be docked directly behind the engine here, probably using that wooden cleat (or whatever you would call that thing, since it looks more like a post than a cleat) to tie up.

Jim Richardson (aka Lake Superior Aquaman)

about 7 months ago

I love all this detective work! I think the difficulty in squaring times and distances comes from a dimensional rift in Lake Inferior (the lightless lake beneath Lake Superior). Admittedly the hypothesis is far-fetched unless evidence of giant monsters is given credence. In addition documentation survives of a time-traveler in Duluth as late as the 1880s which could result in mismatched dates and other contradictions. Be that as it may, eyewitness accounts of the docking structures in the photos include descriptions of smells and sounds emanating from within that reminded passersby of Lovecraft's Innsmouth scenes. Don't think the fires at the Orpheum were unconnected. The end is near. I hear a noise at the door, as of some immense slippery body lumbering against it. It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!

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