History Posts

Minnesota Historia: The Duke of Duluth

The Duke of Duluth opened on Broadway in 1905. But who was the Duke of Duluth? And what happens when he finally visits his namesake city?

Minnesota Historia is a PBS North web series dedicated to Minnesota’s quirky past. It is hosted by Hailey Eidenschink and produced/edited/written by Mike Scholtz.

Fred W. Erickson, Duluth Grocer

This postcard image shows the Fred W. Erickson grocery store at 2029 and 2031 W. Third St. in Duluth.

PDD Geoguessr Challenge #13: Duluth’s Sister Cities – Ohara Isumi, Japan

The bell given to Duluth by Ohara. Photo by Matthew James.

Duluth has five sister cities. The next five Geoguessr challenges will take a look at them one by one. The first one in this mini-series has what I consider to be the most interesting story: Ohara, Japan.

Ripped at the Incline Station in 2004

[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. Twenty years ago the Sultan of Sot paid a visit to the Incline Station and composed this article for the March 2004 issue of the Ripsaw magazine.]

Bowling is a game that was devised for drinkers. You get up, you roll a ball, you sit down, you pound some beers and watch other people do the same. Then you do it again, and all the time you’re wearing stupid shoes and knocking stuff down. It’s like alcoholic heaven.

In some sports, drinking is detrimental to one’s performance. Those are the sports that I like to call “watchin’ sports.” There are precious few games where alcohol is a performance-enhancing drug. Bowling, billiards and curling are about it.

Tonight I’m bowling at the Incline Station in Downtown Duluth. This dude who used to bartend at the NorShor Theatre is showing me his bowling technique, which is totally screwed up. He uses the last two fingers of his hand instead of the middle two, because, as he puts it, “If I bowled the normal way, my middle finger would come right off my hand and stay in the ball.” True enough, the first two fingers of his hand have obviously been reconstructed by a surgeon. “I got ‘em caught in an industrial grater,” he says. “I had to climb across the machine to shut it off, then I dug my fingers out of the machine and wrapped them up in a napkin.”

Postcard from a Rest Point Overlooking the St. Louis River

The text on the front of this undated postcard, found listed for sale on eBay, reads: “St. Louis River from Beautiful Rest Point 1/2 mile from Kum Bak Tourist Camp, Duluth, Minn.”

Anyone who has ever heard of Kum Bak Tourist camp, please enlighten in the comments.

Postcard from the Duluth Boat Club

This undated postcard, published by E.C. Kropp Company, depicts a sailboat race on Duluth’s waterfront with the Duluth Boat Club in the background. This version of the club building was on the bay side of Minnesota Point at South Tenth Street. It was built in 1903 and destroyed by fire in 1951.

Minnesota Historia: Alexander Miles, Elevator Action Man

In the 1800s, elevator doors were often left open to chance. The last person to use those doors might remember to close them. Or they might not. Then a real estate developer in Duluth invented automatic elevator doors and made the whole world a safer place to elevate. But that was just another day in the incredible life of the richest black man in the Midwest, Alexander Miles.

Minnesota Historia is a PBS North web series dedicated to Minnesota’s quirky past. It is hosted by Hailey Eidenschink and produced/edited/written by Mike Scholtz.

The most prestigious flagpole in Duluth. Or perhaps anywhere.

The Soldiers and Sailors Monument. (Photo by Matthew James)

A few weeks ago a postcard of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument appeared on Perfect Duluth Day that included the text “by the noted sculptor Paul W. Bartlett of Paris.” That didn’t seem like a particularly French name to me so I decided to see if he was actually a noted sculptor and actually from Paris. Both counts proved accurate.

Bartlett was from Connecticut, but grew up in France and spent a considerable amount of time in Paris. But Bartlett only designed the statue in front of the monument. The architect Cass Gilbert designed the base that supports the flagpole. And both of these people gained considerable attention during their respective careers. Their most prominent works are within a few minutes walk of each other in Washington D.C. And when I learned this, I was attending a conference in Washington D.C., so I paid a visit to those works.

MPR Archive: Crew Jones in 2004

As Duluth mourns the loss of Ben Larson, aka Burly Burlesque of the bands Crew Jones and Southwire, we point to a nearly 20-year-old Minnesota Public Radio piece that introduced listeners to the hot new “north woods rap” group. The segment was produced by Chris Julin and features Chris Godsey interviewing Crew Jones.

Minnesota Historia: Lost Train of Pine City

According to local legend, a train derailed in Pine City in the 1800s. It plummeted down a steep embankment into the impossibly deep Devil’s Lake, where it disappeared forever. There is no evidence this ever happened, but that hasn’t stopped people from looking for the train. How does a legend like this persist? And grow? And add circus animals for some reason?

Minnesota Historia is a PBS North web series dedicated to Minnesota’s quirky past. It is hosted by Hailey Eidenschink and produced/edited/written by Mike Scholtz.

PDD Quiz: Iron Will

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Disney’s Iron Will hitting theaters, this edition of the PDD Quiz tests your knowledge of places and faces that appear in the film, which was largely shot in the area. Head over to this PDD post if you want to cheat study up ahead of time!

The next current events PDD quiz races your way on Feb. 25. Submit question ideas to Alison Moffat [email protected] by Feb. 22.

Mystery Photo: Western Duluth and God’s Favorite Band

Twin/Tone Records, a Minneapolis-based record label active from 1977 to 1994, has an artist page for God’s Favorite Band that features the image above.

Good boy, Jerry

The message on the back of this 113-year-old postcard reads:

Dear Edwin-
This not a very good picture of Jerry but you can tell what he looks like. -KM

Mystery Photo: Boy behind the wheel circa 1924

The postcard photo above is dated 1924, making it 100 years old. It shows a boy driving a car with a sign on the grill that reads “Western Steel Products Company, New Duluth, Minn.” That doesn’t technically mean the photo was shot in the New Duluth neighborhood, however, so the primary mystery of the photo’s location perhaps hinges on whether the houses in the background match any present-day Duluth homes. The identity of the people in the car is the longshot mystery to solve.

Minnesota Historia: Inventing Pizza Rolls

Scandinavian cookbook author Bea Ojakangas developed pizza rolls while working for Jeno Paulucci in Duluth. But she hasn’t tasted one for 50 years. This video reveals what she thinks of pizza rolls today.

Minnesota Historia is a PBS North web series dedicated to Minnesota’s quirky past. It is hosted by Hailey Eidenschink and produced/edited/written by Mike Scholtz.