History Posts

Mystery Photo: Nye’s Studio Couple

One thing that gets weird about photos shot with costumes, props and a fake background is that eventually the photo will become old, and then it’s more difficult to tell whether the people in the photo are dressed in their normal clothing, were being photographed to promote a play, or just having a novelty photo taken. So the image above might seem like an 1890s version of what a photo of someone in 2024 wearing disco clothes might convey in the year 2156.

Another Postcard from the Duluth-Superior Hi Bridge

This early 1960s postcard, published by Gallagher’s Studio of Photography, shows the Blatnik Bridge before it was called the Blatnik Bridge. From 1961 to 1971 the bridge was called the Duluth-Superior Bridge and known colloquially as the “High Bridge,” though the name was often rendered as “Hi Bridge.” It was later named for Congressman John A. Blatnik.

Postcard from the Soldiers and Sailors Monument

This undated postcard, published by Duluth Photo Engraving Company, shows the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Priley Circle at the Duluth Civic Center. The monument honors soldiers who served during the American Civil War. Designed by architect Cass Gilbert, it was completed and dedicated on Memorial Day in 1919.

WIGL Radio 97

In 1963 I was a student at St. Clement’s Parochial School in Duluth’s West End. I entered a radio contest on WIGL. The first postcard to properly identify the translation of “Minoi, Minoi” would win a year-long pass to the Granada Theatre in Downtown Duluth. Even though 11 years old then, I knew it would relate to the radio station, so I sent in a postcard saying “Wiggle, Wiggle,” which was correct! I was interviewed by Lew Latto or Tac Hammer when I returned home from school. Got them to increase the free pass to “Mike Chase and guest.”

The Lark of Duluth in Flight

It was 110 years ago today that the first commercial air-ship line took its inaugural flight. The Lark of Duluth didn’t lift off from Duluth that day, however. Tony and Roger Jannus brought the small hydro-aeroplane to St. Petersburg, Fla. by rail with the mission to develop the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The Lark arrived there on Dec. 31, 1913, and the inaugural flight was on Jan. 1, 1914.

The photo accompanying this post is presumably not from that historic flight in St. Petersburg, but rather from the previous summer in Duluth.

NFC Championship Game of 1973: Vikings vs. Cowboys

It was 50 years ago today — Dec. 30, 1973 — when the Minnesota Vikings defeated the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium to win the National Football Conference Championship, sending the team to its second of four Super Bowl appearances in the 1970s.

The 27-10 upset of the Cowboys preceded a 24–7 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VIII at Rice Stadium in Houston.

Mystery Photo: Westberg

The identity of the woman in this photo is likely lost to history, but the photographer’s last name is right there in print — Westberg. The Minnesota Historical Society’s Directory of Minnesota Photographers lists two Westbergs who operated in Duluth more than 100 years ago.

Postcard from the Aerial Life Bridge (Basgen Photography)

This undated postcard, published by Northern Minnesota Novelties, shows the Aerial Lift Bridge and parts of Canal Park and Park Point circa maybe 1960. The back of the card credits the aerial photo to maritime photographer Jean Basgen.

The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall (and Rise and Fall?) of Downtown Duluth’s Fifth Avenue West

Looking down Fifth Avenue West toward Duluth’s Spalding Hotel in 1889. University of Minnesota Duluth, Kathryn A. Martin Library, Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections

A few weeks ago, David Beard wrote a post on the future of the plaza next to the Ordean Building, noting plans for it to be sold to a private developer in conjunction with a future housing project. I recently wrote a rather long post about Gunnar Birkerts, the architect of the Duluth Public Library, and because his firm also designed the plaza, I ended up with enough information about this project that I thought it might be worthy of a follow-up post on the history of the Fifth Avenue Mall, a name so forgotten that a 2015 Perfect Duluth Day post referencing the mall clarifies that the word ‘mall’ as used here is “not about a shopping mall, but instead something like the decorative median with trees that stands in the middle of the avenue today.”

Postcard from Three Ore Carriers at DM&IR Docks

This undated postcard from Gallagher’s Studio of Photography shows the ore carriers Wm. B. Schilier, Peter A. B. Widener and Henry Phipps at the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range docks in West Duluth.

All three vessels were built for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company. The Schilier was sold for scrapping in 1978 in Duluth. The Widener was sold for scrapping in 1986 and towed to Lisbon, Portugal in 1987. The Phipps was sold for scrapping in 1976 in Duluth.

Ripped at Miller Hill Mall 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. Twenty years ago the Sultan of Sot paid a visit to the Miller Hill Mall and composed this article for the Dec. 24, 2003 issue of the Ripsaw newspaper. Historical footnote: This was Slim’s last column for the Ripsaw before it switched from a weekly newspaper to a monthly magazine. Neither were ever the same. Additional footnote: The Great American Bar & Grill closed in 2011; the space is now occupied by Noodles & Company and Chipotle Mexican Grill.]

With all the recent abductions and alleged abductions going on in the region, now is an excellent time to prey on people’s paranoia. That’s why I’m at the Miller Hill Mall, picking out people at random and following them around. It’s just before Christmas, so there are plenty of targets to choose from.

My first victim is Sean Baker. I know his name because he just registered to win a Sea-doo powerboat and 500,000 World Perks miles. I also know now that he is gullible. You don’t have to read the fine print on the entry form to know that the odds of winning are miniscule and the odds of being contacted by annoying telemarketers for the rest of your life because you just signed away your do-not-call list status are equal to the odds of whether or not you have a phone.

Postcard from Isle Royale, Lake Superior, Near Duluth

This undated postcard shows a scene from Isle Royale National Park, the fourth-largest lake island in the world, located about 150 miles northeast of Duluth.

Superior Street 1963/2023 – Part Two: Change

The Providence Building, 332 West Superior Street, 11:11 a.m.

The first post in this series looked at locations along Superior Street that have gone largely unchanged over the past 60 years. This set of 10 photos looks at locations where the difference between 1963 and 2023 are a bit more evident. In some cases, that is because of major developments like the Gateway Renewal Program, the Holiday Center, the Skywalk system or the I-35 extension. In other instances, it is simply because at some point the building acquired a new façade.

Superior Street 1963/2023 – Part One: Continuity

In 1963 an unknown photographer systematically photographed Superior Street, capturing downtown buildings and businesses on both sides. Ninety-five of these images have been preserved on the Minnesota Reflections website.

Postcard from the Lamplighter in 1963

Not to be confused with the former Lamplighter strip club in Superior, the Lamplighter in this 60-year-old postcard is the piano bar in Duluth’s old Fifth Avenue Hotel, which was located where the Duluth Public Library stands today. It was torn down in the 1960s.