JFK’s Three Visits to Duluth

President John F. Kennedy visited Duluth three times, both before and while he was President. All three visits were in the autumn.

September 26, 1959

Kennedy first came to Duluth on September 26, 1959, for a visit of just one day. He was then a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, serving in his second term. On this trip he was accompanied by Mrs. Kennedy. The main purpose of the Duluth trip was to visit Superior prior to the Wisconsin presidential primary. Kennedy hadn’t yet

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Sen. John F. Kennedy, from JFL Museum and Library

declared himself a candidate for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and he was traveling the country trying to gauge the support he might have should he decide to run.

The Duluth/Superior visit was the last stop on a three-day tour of Wisconsin. He arrived at the Duluth International Airport at 3:45 p.m. on September 26, where he was greeted by about 100 supporters. He took part in a press conference and a television interview in Duluth, and then toured the harbor on his way to Superior. That evening in Superior he spoke at Superior Central High School, focusing on the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, which he said he had supported when he was in the House of Representatives.

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Billy Sunday’s Duluth Tabernacle

Billy Sunday was a professional baseball player who became an evangelist in the early part of the twentieth century. He toured around the U.S., drawing big crowds wherever he preached. His style of preaching was very physical, befitting a former athlete—he would jump up on tables, chairs, or the podium; run back and forth across the stage; and even sometimes smash furniture to emphasize his point.

Billy Sunday preaching

Billy Sunday, from thegospelcoalition.org

It was big news for a community when Sunday brought his evangelical team to town. Early in 1918, he announced a six-week visit to Duluth starting that May. Sunday expected any community he visited, especially the churches in that community, to form a planning committee and take responsibility for some duties. One local responsibility was to raise money to cover expenses. It was determined that Duluth needed to raise $45,000. The largest portion of that money went to the building of a tabernacle.

Ever since Sunday’s large tent had collapsed under the weight of a snowstorm in 1906 in Colorado, he required the communities he visited to build a large, one-story building where he could hold his worship services. He called the building his tabernacle.

The city agreed to have Duluth’s tabernacle built on a site on the west side of Fourth Avenue West, between First and Second Streets, on a green space called Courthouse Square. That’s the present-day site of the Duluth City Hall, which was built eleven years later in 1929.

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From the Duluth Herald May 2, 1918

The Duluth Herald at the time published a floor plan of the building, which would measure 224 feet by 183 feet and would be equipped with electric lighting, plumbing, and heating. It would have 4,500 seats for the public, 1,000 seats for the choir, and standing room for 1,500 to 2,000 more people. To make the tabernacle level, since it was being constructed on a slope, the First Street end, at 42 feet high, would be taller than the Second Street end, at 21 feet.

Ground for the tabernacle was broken on April 20, 1918, and workers immediately began laying timbers for the foundation. The building was completed in three weeks, on May 11. Billy Sunday arrived in Duluth on May 25, and the next day he preached three sermons in the tabernacle. A total of 18,000 people attended those first three sermons.

After Sunday left town in July, the tabernacle was purchased by a local contractor to be taken down. The contractor planned to use the lumber to build houses in West Duluth.

A 1926 Description of a Ride on Duluth’s Seventh Avenue West Incline Railway

In Volume I of his two-volume 1926 novel The Duke of Duluth, author Thomas Shastid, a Duluth physician, depicts a scene in which the main character, John Gridley Smith, who is visiting Duluth, is walking on West Superior Street and comes upon the entrance to the Incline Railway on Seventh Avenue West. On pages 74 to 80, Shastid describes the Incline and John’s ride up to the top:

Following his lonesome way, he came, after an interminable time, to a place on West Superior Street where a high fence was, composed of tall, slender pickets of red-painted iron. In the middle of the fence squatted

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From Duluth Public Library Slide Collection

a little red house, with a closed door. Of a sudden, there came rushing down from upper space—it must have been an airship. A moment later John saw that it was really a funny little car coming down a steep track of wide-set iron rails.The car came to a stand almost against the fence at the left of the little red house, or station, and, a few moments later, the door of the station opened, and people began passing into the street. When they had all got out, John went into the station, and thence, by a sliding side-door, into the car. Continue reading

Why dig into the past?

Library staff member, Gina Temple-Rhodes, digs into the history of the new Duluth Folk School building at 1917 W Superior Street and explores our fascination with local history in this blog post she wrote for Perfect Duluth Day. The Duluth Public Library thanks Gina for her permission to re-post the article here.

Duluthian Phillip Merritt and the Manhattan Project

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Unofficial emblem of the Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project, named for the Manhattan District (the U.S. Army’s designation for the project), ran from 1942 to 1946. It was a research and development project undertaken by the United States with the assistance of Canada and Great Britain with the goal of defeating Germany in the race to develop an atomic bomb. It led to the production of the first nuclear weapons during World War II. Bombs were tested in the desert of New Mexico in July of 1945 and then dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9 respectively, leading to the surrender of Japan and the end of the war. Duluth native Phillip Merritt played a key role in the success of the project.

 

Phillip Merritt

Phillip Merritt —  image from the Geological Society of America

Phillip Leonidas Merritt was born in Duluth on February 8, 1906. His father was Alva L. Merritt, the son of Lucien F. Merritt, one of the eight Merritt brothers whose discovery of iron ore in the 1890s opened up mining on the Iron Range. His mother was Ruth Merritt, the daughter of Leonidas Merritt, the undisputed leader of the “Seven Iron Men.” Lucien and Ruth were married in Duluth on November 12, 1895. Phillip grew up in a home at 4603 Oneota Street. He

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Childhood home of Phillip Merritt

attended Denfeld High School for his freshman year and then attended a private school for the remainder of his high school years.  He began as a student at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in 1924 and completed an undergraduate degree in geology in 1928. Continue reading

Duluth’s bid to become headquarters of the U.N

In June 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization. They worked together to write the United Nations Charter, which the conference members approved on June 25, and on June 26, 1945, in a ceremony at the Veterans Building, all 50 representatives signed the Charter. Then, when the Charter was ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries on October 24, 1945, the United Nations (then known as the United Nations Organization or UNO) officially came into existence. Continue reading

Riding Duluth’s Hills on Moving Sidewalks

The invention of moving walkways or sidewalks dates back to the late 1800s. An inventor named Albert Speer of New Jersey received the first patent for an “Endless-Traveling Sidewalk” in 1871. Speer planned to revolutionize transportation in New York City, but his idea was never adopted.

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Scientific American, Jan. 16, 1892, p.1.

It wasn’t until the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago that one was built in the U.S. Continue reading

German Prisoners of War in Northeastern Minnesota

As World War II continued into 1943, some U.S. industries were experiencing shortages of workers. In Minnesota, the pinch was felt especially acutely in agriculture, food processing, and logging. Women and even children often stepped up to help with the labor shortage in agriculture and food processing. One notable local example was Life09274317-year-old Duluthian Shirley Armstrong, who appeared on the cover of the September 27, 1943, issue of Life magazine because she was working in corn fields near Fairmont, Minnesota. She and several other young women from Duluth were featured in an article about the Women’s Land Army.

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Alexander Miles

Users of early elevators were responsible for opening and closing the doors manually, and sometimes the doors were left open, creating a hazardous situation with the shaft exposed. As Andreas Bernard writes in his 2006 history of elevators:

. . .in the 1880s, manually operated or hinged doors. . .on each floor still frequently misled careless passengers wishing to enter the cab into opening them and falling into the shaft. (Andreas Barnard, Lifted: A Cultural History of the Elevator, p.31)

Duluthian Alexander Miles helped solve this problem by inventing an improved mechanism for opening and closing elevator doors when the car arrives at or departs the floor. This is just one accomplishment of this successful and creative businessman who lived in Duluth in the late 1800s and was thought at the time to be the wealthiest black man in the Midwest.

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Babe Ruth visits Duluth

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Duluth News Tribune11/7/1926

Following the 1926 baseball season, in which the New York Yankees won the American League pennant and lost the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals, Yankee slugger Babe Ruth went on a twelve-week vaudeville tour. The tour started in Minneapolis, and the next stop was Duluth. Ruth arrived in Duluth early on the morning of Saturday, November 6, 1926, and attended a breakfast in his honor at Hotel Duluth. He was greeted by Mayor Samuel F. Snively, Police Chief E.H. Barber, and Ruth’s friend, Superior resident, and player-manager of the Boston Braves Dave Bancroft.

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Duluth News Tribune11/7/1926

BabeRuth5At 10:30 that morning, Ruth appeared for about 2,000 young fans from the Twin Ports at the Lyric Theater, 213 West Superior Street, in a program sponsored by the Duluth News Tribune. He told them stories of his baseball career, gave them the inside picture of the life of a big league ball player, and passed out fifteen autographed baseballs—maybe some Twin Ports resident still has his or her autographed ball?

On Saturday afternoon, Ruth did the first of four performances for adults at the Lyric—2:30, 4:30, 7:10, and 9:20. He repeated the four performances on Sunday, his last day in Duluth. His vaudeville act usually consisted of him telling stories about his career with the Yankees.

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Duluth News Tribune11/7/1926

The next day, Ruth reportedly went duck hunting in northern Minnesota with three friends from the Detroit Tigers—outfielders Harry Heilman and Heinie Manush, and Tigers manager George Moriarity. He then continued his vaudeville tour in Fargo, ND.


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Duluth Public Library collection

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Duluth Public Library collection

Ye Olde Corner Grocery

Brown's Grocery Store, Duluth

Brown’s Grocery Store, Duluth
Photo: Minnesota Reflections
(http://reflections.mndigital.org/)

At one time, you could find a corner store in just about any Duluth neighborhood.   The 1973 Duluth City Directory lists 69 stores under the Groceries and Meats—Retail heading.  The list includes a few large chain markets like Super Valu, National Food Stores, and Piggly Wiggly, but the vast majority at that time was one-of-a-kind family owned neighborhood shops.  From east to west, smaller markets like Tonkin’s Grocery, London Road Market, Taran’s Food Market, Seventh Street Groceries, Plets Grocery, Tony’s Market, Ideal Market, and Mac’s Grocery dotted the map.

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Cathedral High School/The Marshall School

The Duluth Public Library doesn’t just collect books, it collects memories! Take a trip down Memory Lane by looking at some  old yearbooks. Check out the fashions and relive your carefree youth.

We have yearbooks from Cathedral/Marshall, Central, Denfeld, East, Harbor International, Hermantown, Morgan Park, and Proctor. Be sure to check the catalog to see if we have your years. Click on the “Full Display” tab to see the years owned by the library.

Check out some of the local celebs who attended CATHEDRAL AND MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOLS.

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Denfeld High School

The Duluth Public Library doesn’t just collect books, it collects memories! Take a trip down Memory Lane by looking at some  old yearbooks. Check out the fashions and relive your carefree youth.

We have yearbooks from Cathedral/Marshall, Central, Denfeld, East, Harbor International, Hermantown, Morgan Park, and Proctor. Be sure to check the catalog to see if we have your years. Click on the “Full Display” tab to see the years owned by the library.

Check out some of the local celebs who attended DENFELD HIGH SCHOOL.

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East High School

The Duluth Public Library doesn’t just collect books, it collects memories! Take a trip down Memory Lane by looking at some  old yearbooks. Check out the fashions and relive your carefree youth.

We have yearbooks from Cathedral/Marshall, Central, Denfeld, East, Harbor International, Hermantown, Morgan Park, and Proctor. Be sure to check the catalog to see if we have your years. Click on the “Full Display” tab to see the years owned by the library.

Check out some of the local celebs who attended EAST HIGH SCHOOL.

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Central High School

The Duluth Public Library doesn’t just collect books, it collects memories! Take a trip down Memory Lane by looking at some old yearbooks. Check out the fashions and relive your carefree youth.

We have yearbooks from Cathedral/Marshall, Central, Denfeld, East, Harbor International, Hermantown, Morgan Park, and Proctor. Be sure to check the catalog to see if we have your years. Click on the “Full Display” tab to see the years owned by the library.

Check out some of the local celebs who attended CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL.

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Minnesota Digital Library

Historical Duluth documents from the Duluth Public Library’s Duluth Collection, including atlases, maps, and books, are now included in the Minnesota Digital Library’s Minnesota Reflections web site. Below are a few sample images.

The entire collection can be viewed at: http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16022coll6

From the book Souvenir of Duluth, MinnesotaFrom The Booster Book : West Duluth in 1916

 

From The Booster Book : West Duluth in 1916

  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

From the 1890 Atlas of the City of Duluth, St. Louis Co., Minnesota, and Vicinity

From the book Have a Look at Our City : Postcards of Duluth and Advertisements of Duluth Businesses