History Posts

Obituary of Peter S. Svenson, Minnesota’s Rogue Historian

August 23rd 1947-January 24th(?) 2022. The historian Peter Sven Svenson died without heirs sometime last week according to his autopsy. He will be buried in Forest Hills cemetery in Duluth after the spring thaw. Speaking as one of his only friends, I have penned this obituary.

A document hoarder, Svenson was practically the state’s analog back-up brain for decades, and its conscience.

He was a popular history professor at UMD from 1973-2002. However, he tussled with the university over the legitimacy of his sources. Then they disavowed his work altogether when issues arose about his statistical analyses. Under pressure, he took early retirement, but sued the university for defamation. He lost.

Svenson went on to self-publish books, monographs, and articles, but struggled to find a paying audience. His most important work was produced during this period. Being his friend enabled my access to his research and unpublished manuscripts.

Duluth Incline Magic Lantern Glass Slides from 1893

Car on the Seventh Ave Incline Duluth Minn. 1893

Images here of the Duluth Incline Railway are from three lantern slides, also known as “magic lanterns.” According to the website of the Magic Lantern Society of U.S. and Canada, the slides generally “consist of two sheets of glass, one of which has the image on one side of it and the other which covers the image, and bound all around by a black paper tape.”

The Story of Grace

Austin McConnell delves into the backstory of Grace, the official state photograph of Minnesota. Photographer Eric Enstrom shot the image in 1918 at his home in Bovey, about 60 miles northwest of Duluth.

List of Duluth Authors from Duluth Public Library Vertical File

It used to be, a library committed to local information had to keep it in a “clippings file” or “vertical file.” The local history room at the Duluth Public Library still has one and has a master entry on clippings about authors from/in Duluth.

Ripped at Molly’s in 2003

[Editor’s note: For this week’s essay we’ve once again pulled out a relic from the archive of Slim Goodbuzz, who served as Duluth’s “booze connoisseur” from 1999 to 2009. One of Slim’s favorite old stops was Molly’s Tavern in Superior, which had a sign outside promising “dancing & sandwiches,” neither of which could be found inside. The bar closed in 2005 and later became Tower Avenue Tavern. Twenty years ago the Sultan of Sot paid a visit to Molly’s and wrote the article below for the Jan. 22, 2003 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper.]

Whenever I find myself at Molly’s, I’m usually there to “finish up.” Usually, it’s late, I’m half in the bag and I have little interest in anything other than the square foot of bar top directly in front of me — the magical zone in which I lay down money and it miraculously turns into booze. But tonight Sean the Locksmith and I end up at Molly’s relatively early in evening. And I’ll be damned if Molly’s isn’t a pretty sweet place.

This doesn’t really surprise me. I’ve heard many tales of the coolness of this bar: the cheap booze, the weird and amazing antiques scattered about, the mother of Darryl Hall’s child pouring drinks. But maybe it’s to its credit that I’ve never really analyzed it. I go to Molly’s because I want to drink undisturbed. The appreciation of the bar among homosexuals and its seedy location at the very end of Tower Avenue help to keep away most of the local dillweeds.

Ladies’ Literature Class of Duluth

The Duluth Ladies’ Literature Class leaves few electronic traces outside the local collection at the Duluth Public Library.

Cut- and Burned-over Timber Land near Duluth

This image is from a stereograph published circa the early 20th century by the Keystone View Company of Meadville, Pa.

Lester Park Literary Club

In visiting the new local history librarian at the Duluth Public Library, I am uncovering even more gems about the history of writing and literature in Duluth.

One of those gems is the Lester Park Literary Club.

Mystery Photo: The Ritcheys

This cabinet card photo of the “Ritcheys” is listed for sale on eBay. Who were the Ritcheys? Well, that’s our primary mystery. The photo was presumably shot in Duluth, being marked with the logo of the Robinson Studio … although the “and New York” below the address is a little confusing. Anyway, it’s supremely likely the Ritcheys either lived in or near Duluth, or visited Duluth about 125 years ago, and that’s about all there is to go on.

Seasonal Leif Erikson statue update

PDD Video Lab: Visit to Duluth, June 1967

This edition of the PDD Video Lab features a panoply of Duluth film footage from the summer of 1967. The segments were made by taking scenes from an 18-minute silent film titled “Visit to Duluth,” breaking them up and adding music.

The first segment features scenes from Chester Bowl Park and Skyline Drive, with views of Peace Church, the Aerial Lift Bridge, Minnesota Point, Enger Tower and so on, set to Marvin Gaye’s mid-1960s hit song “Wonderful One.”

Historical Documents of the Vista Fleet

Old adverts for Vista excursion-boat tours of the harbor tell us something about why people would visit Duluth and take the boat tour — to see the ships from around the world. The lake and the city skyline mattered less than the almost cosmopolitan dimensions of the Vista experience.

Postcard from the Spalding Hotel Lounge

This undated postcard shows the stylish design and furnishings in the lounge at Duluth’s Spalding Hotel circa the early 1900s.

Video Archive: Students return to Grant Elementary in 1983

On Jan. 6, 1983, Grant Elementary School reopened after a six-month, $1.4 million renovation project. WDIO-TV’s Nancy Taggart has the report.

Duluth Antenna Farm

Does anyone have pictures from the early days of the towers at the antenna farm? Pictures from the 1950s to 1960s? I remember years ago seeing pics of the KDAL-TV tower being erected in 1954. The more pics, the better!

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!