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Please add profiles of those who were born, lived or died in Duluth, Minnesota.

Duluth is the county seat of St. Louis County and lies on Lake Superior.

Official Website

History

Situated on the north shore of Lake Superior at the westernmost point of the Great Lakes, Duluth is accessible to oceangoing vessels from the Atlantic Ocean 2,300 miles away via the Great Lakes Waterway and the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Duluth forms a metropolitan area with neighboring Superior, Wisconsin; together they are called the Twin Ports. The cities share the Duluth–Superior harbor and together are the Great Lakes' largest port, transporting coal, iron ore (taconite), and grain.

A tourist destination for the Midwest, Duluth features the United States' only all-freshwater aquarium, the Great Lakes Aquarium; the Aerial Lift Bridge, which spans the Duluth Ship Canal into the Duluth–Superior Harbor; and Minnesota Point (known locally as Park Point), the world's longest freshwater baymouth bar, spanning 6 miles. The city is also the starting point for vehicle trips along Minnesota's North Shore.

The city is named for Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, the first known European explorer of the area.

The Anishinaabe, also known as the Ojibwe or Chippewa, have inhabited the Lake Superior region for more than 500 years. They were preceded by the Dakota, Fox, Menominee, Noquet and Gros Ventre peoples, whom they pushed out of the area. Already established as traders, after the arrival of Europeans, the Anishinaabe found a niche as the middlemen between the French fur traders and other Native peoples. They soon became the dominant Indian nation in the region, forcing out the Dakota Sioux and Fox and winning a victory against the Iroquois west of Sault Ste. Marie in 1662. By the mid-18th century, the Ojibwe occupied all of Lake Superior's shores. For both the Ojibwe and the Dakota, interaction with Europeans during the contact period revolved around the fur trade and related activities.

The Ojibwe are historically known for their crafting of birch bark canoes, use of copper arrow points, and cultivation of wild rice. In 1745, they adopted guns from the British for use against the Dakota nation of the Sioux, whom they pushed to the south. The Ojibwe Nation was the first to set the agenda with European-Canadian leaders for signing more detailed treaties before many European settlers were allowed too far west.

The settlement in Ojibwe is Onigamiinsing ("at the little portage"), a reference to the small and easy portage across Minnesota Point between Lake Superior and western St. Louis Bay, which forms Duluth's harbor. According to Ojibwe oral history, Spirit Island, near the Spirit Valley neighborhood, was the "Sixth Stopping Place", where the northern and southern branches of the Ojibwe Nation came together and proceeded to their "Seventh Stopping Place" near the present city of La Pointe, Wisconsin. The "Stopping Places" were the places the Native Americans occupied during their westward migration as the Europeans overran their territory.

Several factors brought fur traders to the Great Lakes in the early 17th century. The fashion for beaver hats in Europe generated demand for pelts. French trade for beaver in the lower St. Lawrence River had led to the depletion of the animals in that region by the late 1630s, so the French searched farther west for new resources and new routes, making alliances with the Native Americans along the way to trap and deliver their furs.

Étienne Brûlé is credited with the European discovery of Lake Superior before 1620. Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers explored the Duluth area, Fond du Lac (Bottom of the Lake) in 1654 and again in 1660. The French soon established fur posts near Duluth and in the far north where Grand Portage became a major trading center. The French explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, whose name is sometimes anglicized as "DuLuth", explored the St. Louis River in 1679.

After 1792 and the independence of the United States, the North West Company established several posts on Minnesota rivers and lakes, and in areas to the west and northwest, for trading with the Ojibwe, the Dakota, and other native tribes. The first post was where Superior, Wisconsin, later developed. Known as Fort St. Louis, the post became the headquarters for North West's new Fond du Lac Department. It had stockaded walls, two houses of 40 feet each, a shed of 60 feet, a large warehouse, and a canoe yard. Over time, Indian peoples and European Americans settled nearby, and a town gradually developed at this point.

In 1808, the American Fur Company was organized by German-born John Jacob Astor. The company began trading at the Head of the Lakes in 1809. In 1817, it erected a new headquarters at present-day Fond du Lac on the St. Louis River. There, portages connected Lake Superior with Lake Vermillion to the north, and with the Mississippi River to the south. After creating a powerful monopoly, Astor got out of the business about 1830, as the trade was declining. But active trade was carried on until the failure of the fur trade in the 1840s. European fashions had changed and many American areas were getting over-trapped, with game declining.

In 1832 Henry Schoolcraft visited the Fond du Lac area and wrote of his experiences with the Ojibwe Indians there. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow based the Song of Hiawatha, his epic poem relating the fictional adventures of an Ojibwe warrior named Hiawatha and the tragedy of his love for Minnehaha, a Dakota woman, on Schoolcraft's writings.

Natives signed two Treaties of Fond du Lac with the United States in the present neighborhood of Fond du Lac in 1826 and 1847, in which the Ojibwe ceded land to the American government. As part of the Treaty of Washington (1854) with the Lake Superior Band of Chippewa, the United States set aside the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation upstream from Duluth near Cloquet, Minnesota.

As European Americans continued to settle and encroach on Ojibwe lands, the U.S. government made a series of treaties, executed between 1837 and 1889, that expropriated vast areas of tribal lands for their use and relegated the Native American peoples to a number of small reservations. Interest in the area was piqued in the 1850s by rumors of copper mining. A government land survey in 1852, followed by a treaty with local tribes in 1854, secured wilderness for gold-seeking explorers, sparked a land rush, and led to the development of iron ore mining in the area.

Around the same time, newly constructed channels and locks in the East permitted large ships to access the area. A road connecting Duluth to the Twin Cities was also constructed. Eleven small towns on both sides of the St. Louis River were formed, establishing Duluth's roots as a city.

By 1857, copper resources were scarce and the area's economic focus shifted to timber harvesting. A nationwide financial crisis, the Panic of 1857, caused most of the city's early pioneers to leave. A history of Duluth written in 1910 relates, "Of the handful remaining in 1859 four men were unemployed and one of those was a brewer. Capital idea; build a brewery. The absence of malt and hops and barley did not at all embarrass those stout-hearted settlers." The water for brewing was obtained from a stream that emptied into Lake Superior that came to be called Brewery Creek, as it is still known today. While the brewery "was not a pecuniary success", a few decades later it became the Fitger Brewing Company.

The opening of the canal at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855 and the contemporaneous announcement of the railroads' approach had made Duluth the only port with access to both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Soon the lumber industry, railroads and mining were all growing so quickly that the influx of workers could hardly keep up with demand, and storefronts popped up almost overnight. By 1868, business in Duluth was booming. In a Fourth of July speech Dr. Thomas Preston Foster, the founder of Duluth's first newspaper, coined the expression "The Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas".

In 1869–70, Duluth was the fastest-growing city in the country and was expected to surpass Chicago in only a few years. When Jay Cooke, a wealthy Philadelphia land speculator, convinced the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad to create an extension from St. Paul to Duluth, the railroad opened areas due north and west of Lake Superior to iron ore mining.

In 1873, Cooke's empire crumbled and the stock market crashed, and Duluth almost disappeared from the map. But by the late 1870s, with the continued boom in lumber and mining and with the railroads completed, Duluth bloomed again. By the turn of the century, it had almost 100,000 inhabitants, and was again a thriving community with small-business loans, commerce and trade flowing through the city. Mining continued in the Mesabi Range and iron was shipped east to mills in Ohio, a trade continuing into the 20th century.

During the 20th century, the Port of Duluth was for a time the busiest port in the United States, surpassing even New York City in gross tonnage. Lake freighters carried iron ore through the Great Lakes to processing plants in Illinois and Ohio. Ten newspapers, six banks and an 11-story skyscraper, the Torrey Building, were founded and built. As of 1905, Duluth was said to be home to the most millionaires per capita in the United States.

In 1907, U.S. Steel announced that it would build a $5 million plant in the area. Although steel production did not begin until 1915, predictions held that Duluth's population would rise to 200,000–300,000. Along with the Duluth Works steel plant, US Steel developed Morgan Park, as a company town for steel workers. It is now a city neighborhood within Duluth.

The Diamond Calk Horseshoe Company was founded in 1908 and later became a major manufacturer and exporter of wrenches and automotive tools. Duluth's huge wholesale Marshall Wells Hardware Company expanded in 1901 by opening branches in Portland, Oregon, and Winnipeg, Manitoba; the company catalog totaled 2,390 pages by 1913. The Duluth Showcase Company, which later became the Duluth Refrigerator Company and then the Coolerator Company, was established in 1908. The Universal Atlas Cement Company, which made cement from the slag byproduct of the steel plant, began operations in 1917.

Because of its numerous jobs in mining and industry, the city was a destination for large waves of immigrants from Europe during the early 20th century. It became the center of one of the largest Finnish communities in the world outside Finland. For decades, a Finnish-language daily newspaper, Päivälehti, was published in the city; it was named after the former Grand Duchy of Finland's pro-independence leftist paper. The Finnish community of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) members published a widely read labor newspaper Industrialisti. From 1907 to 1941, the Finnish Socialist Federation and then the IWW operated Work People's College, an educational institution that taught classes from a working-class, socialist perspective. Immigrants from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, England, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine, Romania, and Russia also settled in Duluth. Today, people of Scandinavian descent constitute a strong plurality of Duluth's population, accounting for more than one third of the residents identifying European ancestry.

In September 1918, at the beginning of U.S. involvement in the Great War, a group calling itself the Knights of Liberty dragged Finnish immigrant Olli Kinkkonen from his boarding house, tarred and feathered him, and lynched him. Kinkkonen did not want to fight in World War I and had planned to return to Finland. His body was found two weeks later hanging in a tree in Duluth's Lester Park.

Another lynching in Duluth occurred on June 15, 1920, when three innocent black male circus workers: Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie, were attacked by a white mob and hanged after allegedly raping a teenage white girl. The Duluth lynchings took place on First Street and Second Avenue East. In the late 20th century, journalist Michael Fedo wrote The Lynchings in Duluth (1970), which began to raise awareness of the event. Community members from many different groups began to come together for reflection and education. The men's unmarked graves were located and in 1991, gravestones were erected with funding from a local church. Vigils were held at the intersection where the men were lynched. In 2000, a grassroots committee was formed, and began to offer speakers to groups and schools. It decided to commemorate the event with a memorial. The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, which includes a corner wall and plaza, was dedicated in 2003. It includes three 7-foot tall bronze statues of the three men. The CJMM Committee continues to work for racial justice through educational outreach, community forums, and scholarships for youth.

In 1918, the Cloquet Fire (named for the nearby city of Cloquet) burned across Carlton and southern St. Louis counties, destroying dozens of communities in the Duluth area. The fire was the worst natural disaster in Minnesota history in terms of the number of lives lost in a single day. Many people died on the rural roads surrounding the Duluth area, and historical accounts tell of victims dying while trying to outrun the fire. The News Tribune reported, "It is estimated that 100 families were rendered homeless by Saturday's fire in the territory known as the Woodland District... In most cases, families which lost their homes also lost most or all of their furniture and personal belongings, the limited time and transportation facilities affording little opportunity for saving anything but human life." The National Guard unit based in Duluth was mobilized in a heroic effort to battle the fire and assist victims, but the troops were overwhelmed by the enormity of the fire.

Retired Duluth News Tribune columnist and journalist Jim Heffernan writes that his mother "recalled an overnight vigil watching out the window of their small home on lower Piedmont Avenue with her father, her younger sisters having gone to sleep, ready to be evacuated to the waterfront should the need arise. The fire never made it that far down the hill, but devastated what is now Piedmont Heights, and, of course, a widespread area of Northeastern Minnesota." In the fire's aftermath, tens of thousands of people were left injured or homeless; many of the refugees fled into the city for aid and shelter.

For the first half of the 20th century, Duluth was an industrial port boom town dominated by its several grain elevators, a cement plant, a nail mill, wire mills, and the Duluth Works plant. Handling and export of iron ore, brought in from the Mesabi Range, was integral to the city's economy, as well as to the steel industry in the Midwest, including in manufacturing cities in Ohio.

The Aerial Lift Bridge (earlier known as the "Aerial Bridge" or "Aerial Ferry Bridge") was built in 1905 and at that time was known as the United States' first transporter bridge—only one other was ever constructed in the country.[36] In 1929–30, the span was converted to a vertical lift bridge (also rather uncommon). The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

In 1916, after Europe had entered the Great War (World War I), a shipyard was constructed on the St. Louis River. A new workers neighborhood, today known as Riverside, developed around the large operation. Similar industrial expansions took place during the Second World War, as Duluth's large harbor and the area's vast natural resources were put to work for the war effort. Tankers and submarine chasers (usually called "sub-chasers") were built at the Riverside shipyard. The population of Duluth continued to grow in the postwar decade and a half, peaking at 107,884 in 1960.

Economic decline began in the 1950s, when high-grade iron ore ran out on the Iron Range north of Duluth; ore shipments from the Duluth harbor had been critical to the city's economy. Low-grade ore (taconite) shipments continued, boosted by new taconite pellet technology, but ore shipments were lower overall.

In the 1970s the United States experienced a steel crisis, a recession in the global steel market, and like many American cities Duluth entered a period of industrial restructuring. In 1981, US Steel closed its Duluth Works plant, a blow to the city's economy whose effects included the closure of the cement company, which had depended on the steel plant for raw materials (slag). More closures followed in other industries, including shipbuilding and heavy machinery. By decade's end, unemployment rates hit 15 percent. The economic downturn was particularly hard on Duluth's West Side, where ethnic Eastern and Southern European workers had lived for decades.

During the 1980s, plans were underway to extend Interstate 35 through Duluth and up the North Shore, bringing new access to the city. The original plan called for the interstate to run along the shore on an elevated concrete structure, blocking the city's access to Lake Superior. Kent Worley, a local landscape architect, wrote an impassioned letter to then mayor Ben Boo asking that the route be reconsidered. The Minnesota Department of Transportation agreed to take another look, with Worley consulting. The new plan called for parts of the highway to run through tunnels, which allowed preservation of Fitger's Brewery, Sir Ben's Tavern, Leif Erickson Park, and Duluth's Rose Garden. Rock used from the interstate project was used to create an extensive new beach along Lake Superior, along which the city's Lakewalk was built.

With the decline of the city's industrial core, the local economic focus gradually shifted to tourism. The interstate brought new people into the community. The downtown area was renovated to emphasize its pedestrian character: streets were paved with red brick and skywalks and retail shops were added. The city and developers worked with the area's unique architectural character, converting old warehouses along the waterfront into cafés, shops, restaurants, and hotels. Combined with the new rock beach and Lakewalk, these changes developed the new Canal Park as a trendy tourism-oriented district. Duluth's population, which had declined since 1960, stabilized at around 85,000.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Duluth has become a regional center for banking, retail shopping, and medical care for northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and northwestern Michigan. It is estimated that more than 8,000 jobs in Duluth are directly related to its two hospitals. Arts and entertainment offerings, as well as year-round recreation and the natural environment, have contributed to expansion of the tourist industry. Some 3.5 million visitors each year contribute more than $400 million to the local economy.

More recently a collection of like-minded businesses in Lincoln Park, an old rundown blue-collar neighborhood with high unemployment and poverty rates, was cultivated by a group of entrepreneurs who have begun rebuilding and revitalizing the area. Since 2014 at least 25 commercial real estate transactions have occurred and 17 businesses have opened, including restaurants, breweries, coffee shops and artist studios. Due to the neighborhood's revitalization, many developers are also investing in housing projects in anticipation of further growth.

Duluth in Popular Culture

Battleground Minnesota (2005) – documentary film about the 2004 presidential elections in Minnesota

Minnesota: Land of Plenty (1942) – documentary short film by James A. FitzPatrick

Iron Will (1994) – Walt Disney Pictures movie filmed in Duluth substituting as 1917 Winnipeg.

You'll Like My Mother (1972) – feature film shot on location in and around Duluth, principally at Glensheen Historic Estate.

Far North (1988) – feature film shot on location in and around Duluth.

The short lived 1996 sitcom The Louie Show was set in Duluth. Louie Anderson played psychotherapist Louie Lundgren. The opening title sequence featured downtown Duluth buildings.

The 1983 Gore Vidal novel Duluth was set in a stylized version of Duluth.

The 2008 American sports comedy film Leatherheads, starring and directed by George Clooney, was set in Duluth. (Leatherheads was actually filmed in North and South Carolina.) The film featured a fictitious professional football team called the Duluth Bulldogs.

In the television series Starsky & Hutch, the title character "Hutch" Hutchinson (played by David Soul), is portrayed as a being a native of Duluth.

A series of suspense novels by author Brian Freeman featuring the fictional police lieutenant Jonathan Stride take place in and around Duluth and feature real locations from the city.

In The Great Gatsby, the title character is said to have been taken to Duluth by Dan Cody, the millionaire who'd taken him under his wing. There, Cody had bought the ambitious seventeen-year-old "a blue coat, six pair of white duck trousers, and a yachting cap."

The first season of the FX TV series Fargo is mainly set in and around Bemidji and Duluth.

Links

Wikipedia