History Posts

The Slice: Blake Romenesko’s Lake Gossip

Blake Romenesko talks about the new Twin Ports history zine Lake Gossip, the first edition of which tells the quirky story of Duluth ice houses.

In its series The Slice, PBS North presents short “slices of life” that capture the events and experiences that bring people together and speak to what it means to live up north.

Mystery Photo: Miss Norton

No fewer than five pennants hang on the wall in the photo on this undated postcard. Three are illegible, but one clearly indicates someone is a fan of Duluth. Another pennant represents the Withee Farmers Market of either 1912 or 1913. Withee is a village in Wisconsin, about 140 southeast of Duluth.

Build a Goddamn Bob Dylan Statue Already

For real, I think there needs to be more serious discussion about a Duluth Bob Dylan statue. He’s the (checks notes) greatest songwriter in the world (the Nobel Prize people compared him to Homer and Blake), and Duluth is his (checks notes again) literal birthplace. Where did I read — perhaps buried in the epic comments of this PDD Facebook post — that local/regional Dylan relatives disfavor statues, as opposed to a nice plaque or something? An MPR article cites “a Dylan family member” who states a preference for educational work instead. I get it. But Dylan must have dozens of relatives, did we ask them all? Do we have to ask any of them, since Dylan belongs to the world?

I also get that statues are falling out of favor and may become problematic. The meaning of a statue can change. Maybe it would be better to just name a street, or a music center, or erect a plaque — something you can quietly change up or take down in a hurry if history reverses on you. But respectfully, I worry that plaques and manhole covers are simply too boring to honor the greatest songwriter in the world besides Taylor Swift.

You think Taylor Swift will only get some nice manhole covers? You think they won’t build a statue in her hometown by the time she’s Dylan’s current age of 82?

Postcard from the St. Louis County Courthouse in 1924

This postcard was mailed June 1, 1924 — 100 years ago today. It shows the St. Louis County Courthouse in Downtown Duluth, which opened in 1909.

The Final Resting Place of Private John Matthew McGillis

Left: Private John Matthew McGillis, photo courtesy of Jasper van Kampen. Right: His burial place (Photo by Matthew James)

John Matthew McGillis, known to his family on Duluth’s Park Point as Jack, died on Christmas Day 1944, one day before the end of major fighting in the final German offensive of World War II. He wasn’t a combat soldier.

The Will and the Way

Judy Gibbs introduced me to The Will and the Way series of books about the creation of a number of Duluth institutions.

Postcards from Passage Island Lighthouse at Isle Royale

This undated postcard, published by the E.C. Kropp Company, shows Passage Island Lighthouse and the rugged shore at Isle Royale on Lake Superior.

WDSM 10 p.m. News Final: Walt Jensen and Don Wright

This 1964 newspaper clipping, for sale on eBay, shows Duluth television newscasters Walt Jensen and Don Wright at the WDSM-TV anchor desk.

WDSM was Duluth’s first VHF television station, launching in black and white on March 1, 1954. Color broadcasts started in 1965. In 1974 the call letters were changed to KBJR.

Train Day at the Depot

Saturday was National Train Day. The Depot was hopping, and I loved it. Picture of a very cool train set below.

Harley Race proposed to third wife on a drive to Duluth

Season five, episode five, of the Vice-TV documentary series The Dark Side of the Ring delves into “The Life and Legends of Harley Race,” a world champion professional wrestler whose early career included a run in the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association. At the 13-minute mark in the episode, Race’s third wife, Evonna Hedbávný, tells the story of Race proposing marriage on a trip from Minneapolis to Duluth in the early 1960s.

Apparently, even the toughest guy in the rasslin’ business can’t resist the romance of Duluth.

Mystery Photo: Little Rufus Milne in 1894

This cabinet card photo is marked “Rec’d May 5, 1894.” It’s not entirely clear what received might specifically refer to here, but with some confidence we can say this photo is at least 130 years old and someone received it precisely 130 years ago.

The Peoples Temple: A Unique Duluth Resource

My friend and colleague Elizabeth Nelson has donated some remarkable materials to the archives at the University of Minnesota Duluth.

The Elizabeth Nelson Peoples Temple Collection contains items relevant to the alternative religious organization founded by Jim Jones, best known for a mass suicide/murder in 1978 at its “Jonestown” settlement in Guyana.

DuluthiLeaks: Duluth Foghorn Facts

It’s been 100 years since Duluth’s original diaphone fog siren was installed at the Duluth Shipping Canal. That siren was decommissioned by the Coast Guard in 1968 and replaced by an electric whistle. In 1983 another old diaphone foghorn was acquired and installed. It was used on a ceremonial basis until 1995, then returned to regular service as a maritime aid to navigation. Community members immediately complained it was too loud. The controversy raged on until the horn was dismantled in 2006.

For the sixth edition of DuluthiLeaks — Perfect Duluth Day’s series in which public documents are presented as if they contain secret information leaked from an anonymous whistle blower — we present “Duluth Foghorn Facts,” a document and collection of images compiled by Jeffrey L. Laser of Bellville, Ohio. At some point after 1996, Laser put together the information below, delving into the nitty gritty of the diaphone foghorn that was housed in the Duluth South Breakwater Outer Light from 1983 to 2006.

Adas Israel: A Talk and a Book

During the Twin Ports Festival of History, my friend Phil Sher gave a speech about the history of the Lithuanian Jewish community in Duluth. Phil is the author of a recent book, Adas Israel, available on Amazon, that was a product of a unique partnership between the University of Minnesota Duluth and the community.

Fur Trade Nation: Linking Continents

One of Carl Gawboy’s earliest memories is seeing a muskrat skin hanging on the wall in his house. “My father trapped animals and sold them to a fur buyer,” Gawboy said. “That’s when my fascination with trapping began.” Decades later, that interest became the subject of Gawboy’s latest book, Fur Trade Nation: An Ojibwe’s Graphic History, published by Animikii Mazina’iganan: Thunderbird Press. The release date is April 30.