April 16, 1870: Duluth’s first mayor delivers the city’s first inaugural address

J. B. Culver. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1870, newly elected Mayor Joshua B. Culver delivered his inaugural address not to a large gathering of citizens, but to the handful of men who made up Duluth’s first city council. Mayor Culver began his inaugural address by saying, “I fully realize the importance of the trust that I assume in accepting the office of first mayor of Duluth and sincerely regret that I cannot bring it more experience and ability.” He reminded the councilors that his nomination “was organized by the leading men of both political parties” and that his election “was the result of a determined combination of law and order abiding men, not seeking for loaves and fishes, nor personal aggrandizement; but whose sole object is an honest, economical system of city government…. Let us endeavor to satisfy their expectations by a faithful and impartial discharge of our duties.” He first addressed finances, calling for the city to issue bonds to be sold to “contractors and businessmen” so they can invest at home and at the same time fill the city coffers. He also called for taxes and other assessments on these same “investors.” Money raised, he said, should go to investments in infrastructure such as a Water Works and a Gas Works. He also stressed that the city’s “harbor and dockage” should be matters the city council addresses in great regard and that “our supremacy as the great City of Lake Superior must chiefly be maintained.” This would be done by dredging the bay, building more docks and piers, maintaining the outer harbor’s breakwater, and “cutting a canal through the Point.” He also said that “Immediate steps should be taken for the securing of property sufficient to meet all demands for public building for the use of the city.” That last item was not addressed; it wasn’t until 1889 that Duluth had its first city hall. Read Culver’s entire inaugural address here: CulverSpeech_4.23.1870_MN and discover other Duluth mayors here.

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