History Posts

What’s the deal with the stairway at Birchwood Park that leads down into a ravine?

On the edge of Birchwood Park, a small playground park at 222 W. Heard St. in the New Duluth neighborhood, is an old stairway down to a ravine that I’m guessing runs into Sargent Creek. The existence of this stairway is probably common knowledge in New Duluth, but it is kind of tucked away so that others visiting the park are unlikely to notice. And it raises the question of what used to be down there.

Video Archive: Gap ad with Low’s “Little Drummer Boy”

Few would expect Perfect Duluth Day to present a Gap television commercial as content, but it’s pretty Duluthy. Twenty years ago the global clothing and accessories retailer featured music by Duluth band Low in its holiday ad. The song appeared on Low’s Christmas EP, released a year prior.

Mystery Photo #127: Miss Victoria Benson

Often we don’t know who is the subject of these old studio photos, but this time it’s written on the back. So we know this is Marie Victoria Benson of 2801 W. Second St. in Duluth’s friendly West End. (Or is it 2301?) She later became Mrs. Edward Cluett.

PDD Video Lab: On the Great Lakes

In this edition of the PDD Video Lab we’ve taken mid-20th Century Duluth footage from the National Archive and set it to the title track from the 2017 Ingeborg von Agassiz album O Giver of Dreams.

Postcard from a Warship in the Duluth-Superior Harbor

This undated postcard, published by Zenith Interstate News Company, shows the USS Forrest Sherman Destroyer-931 docked on Rice’s Point in Duluth, with the Peavey grain elevator in the background.

Avant-Garde Women: The Shakespearean Tragedy of Peggy and Pegeen Guggenheim

The story of Peggy and Pegeen Guggenheim, as told by the Situationist painter Ralph Rumney, reads like Shakespeare: court intrigue, backstabbing, madness, and suicide. Rumney’s book The Consul provides a critical point of view on this fraught mother-daughter relationship cracking up at the cutting edge of the art world.

On Board a Great Lakes Freighter

The film above was discovered with no info such as who shot it, or when and where the scenes were captured. It clearly features Duluth at the beginning and end, however, and appears to be circa 1937.

Eastman Johnson in the Arrowhead Region

I stumbled on the fascinating story of Eastman Johnson’s time in the Arrowhead Region, and thought Perfect Duluth Day’s historians might weigh in on him. The above landscape, in charcoal, chalk and gouache on paper, shows Superior as viewed from a trading post on Park Point in 1857. After painting portraits of luminaries such as Hawthorne, Emerson, Longfellow and Abe Lincoln, then studying art in Europe, Johnson traveled to Superior, where he had relatives. In 1856 he lived in a log cabin on Pokegema Bay, in what is now the Superior Municipal Forest.

Postcards from U.S. Naval Reserve Training Ship Gopher

The undated postcards here show the USS Gopher at Duluth. The vessel had a 34-year history on the East Coast as the USS Fern before being renamed Gopher on Dec. 27, 1905, when it began duty with the Minnesota Naval Militia in Duluth.

Herman Magnusson’s Reinforced Concrete Clothes Poles

Duluthians who have clothesline poles like the one in this advertisement are displaying the work of a gig-economy pioneer. There’s probably not a lot of this type of century-old ornamental concrete lawn stuff still hanging around, but it was certainly made to last and would be likely to survive just about anything except falling out of fashion.

The advertising flier dates to the mid 1920s and comes to Perfect Duluth Day via Jolee Edmondson of Savannah, Ga. She’s a granddaughter of Herman Enoch Magnusson, Duluth maker of “concrete bird baths, seats, benches and clothes line poles.”

Avant-Garde Women: Eliane Brau, the Invisible Icon

Born Eliane Papai around 1935 in Spain, Eliane married her way into a couple other last names; she is mostly referred to as Eliane Brau, using the last name of her second husband. I think of her simply as Eliane, in deference to her singularity. Below I argue that her role in the “Letterist” movement of early 1950s Paris has been diminished; conversely, the achievements of the Letterist men have been overblown. It has been too easy to write her off as a passive “muse” for these men who indeed loved her fiercely. She deserves parity. Sadly, unlike her lovers, there is a distinct lack of information about her on the internet. I cannot even determine if she is still alive. Eliane is an invisible icon.

Unexpectedly Delayed in Duluth

The date of the written message on this relic appears to be either Dec. 2 or 3, 1905. It is postmarked from Duluth on Dec. 5 and arrived in St. Paul the next day.

Duluth photos repaired and colorized: 19th Century people/places

Streetcar Barn (1882)
Superior Street and 11th Avenue West

All of the photos here come from the University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library through the Minnesota Reflections website. While most of the pictures on the site have been well preserved, some have been damaged over the years. For six of these photographs, I digitally repaired any damage and then added color.

Adventures of the Bigger-Than-Weather Boys

This series of advertising postcards by artist and writer Peter Newell promotes the Patrick-Duluth Woolen Mill.

Postcards from the Wreck of the Steamer Crescent City

The steamer Crescent City was driven into rocks on the shore of Lake Superior northeast of Duluth 115 years ago today — Nov. 28, 1905. It was one of numerous wrecks during a storm that was most famous for sinking the Mataafa near the Duluth Ship Canal. Nine of 24 Mataafa crew members perished; everyone on Crescent City survived.

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