Mystery Photo: Daughter of Duluth

There are times when Perfect Duluth Day’s Mystery Photo isn’t very mysterious. And this is one of those times. We know who is in the photo and much of her biography, but the photography studio is one we haven’t seen another image from.

The photo is of Bernice Magnussan Edmondson, daughter of Herman Magnusson, Duluth maker of “concrete bird baths, seats, benches and clothes line poles” circa the 1920s. The photo was sent to PDD from Bernice’s daughter Jolee Edmondson of Savannah, Ga.

According to Jolee, the photo is about 100 years old and marks Bernice’s confirmation in the Lutheran church at age 14.

Jolee wrote:

If I were to attach a caption to this photo it would be “Daughter of Duluth.” Born in Duluth in 1910, my mother, who was of Swedish decent, grew up immersed in the city’s distinctive customs and way of life. Although she relocated to southern California after turning 30, she kept her Duluth roots close to her heart. Her memories of her time there were bountiful and rich.

I heard countless stories about her family’s home on West 12th Street, her early education at Ensign Elementary, the math teacher at Denfeld High School who taught her that algebra wasn’t so daunting after all and the mostly Scandinavian friends and neighbors who comprised her world.

In her early twenties, my mother enrolled St. Luke’s School of Nursing. While in training, she contracted tuberculosis and subsequently spent nearly two years at Nopeming Sanitorium. Despite her grave illness, her recollections of her stay there were remarkably positive. She spoke of the excellent care she received. One of her fellow patients became a lifelong friend.

After Nopeming, my mother worked at the original Glass Block downtown. I listened with wonder to her descriptions of its many departments — from millinery to confections. The Glass Block, she said, purveyed quality and refinement, treating customers with impeccable courtesy. It was the kind of proud, classic independent department store that would eventually be usurped by cookie-cutter retail chains.

In 1968 my mother embarked on a sentimental journey to Duluth, visiting the people and places of her youth. In 1976, she attended Denfeld’s gala all-class reunion — a huge, four-day event festooned with the school colors of maroon and gold and featuring then-sitcom star Gabe Kaplan (“Welcome Back Kotter”) as emcee.

She savored every moment of those four days. Duluth was her true home.

Usually our Mystery Photos offer some info on the photographer as a potential lead on finding out about the photo subject, but this time it’s the other way around. We know about Bernice, but this is the first Rosaas Studio photo we’ve come across.

According to the Minnesota Historical Society’s Directory of Photographers, there were two photographers with the last name Rosaas, and they both operated out of a studio at 2102 W. Second St., so perhaps they were husband and wife or father and daughter or some similar relation.

O.T. Rosaas is noted as active in photography in the 1910s and ’20s. Edna S. Rosaas is noted as working in photography circa 1932.

In addition to the 2102 W. Second St. address, O.T. Rosaas is listed as having had studios at 327 Central Ave. (circa 1913), 2030 W. Superior St. (circa 1917) and 2120 W. Second St. (circa 1927).

Below are descriptions of the modern-day state of those addresses:

2120 W. Second St. – Roughly the location of Schemmer’s Cleaning Services
2102 W. Second St. – Can of Worms freeway ramp
327 Central Ave. – south section of Park State Bank building
2030 W. Superior St. – northeast side of former Anderson Furniture building

3 Comments

Ghist1

about 11 months ago

Edna is indeed listed in the 1932 City DIrectory as a photographer under her own name. In the 1930 Census, she appears as the wife of Ole T Rosaas. As is fairly usual in the census, her profession is listed as "none" but Ole is listed as running a photography studio. She was 39 and he was 58 in 1930.

Ghist1

about 11 months ago

Aha. Ole Tobias Rosaas died in 1931. Edna became a businesswoman out of necessity/circumstance.

Chester Knob

about 11 months ago

I hope that long after my ashes are scattered in Lake Superior, like maybe in 2092, the future Perfect Duluth Day - which is now a bundled subscription of media inputs that is auto-uploaded into your cortexal reciever implant via a neighborhood-central 19G uplink - will ask, "Who is this Chester Knob character from 2023 who lived in what is now the Solar Collector Quadrant of Duluth (now renamed "Minnorth City") but what was once known as "Upper Chester"?

Then some sleuth will scour the Akashic Records Division of the Minnorth City archives for evidence of my past address and relations. It'll be great.

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