Posts by Heidi Bakk-Hansen

The mysterious “Jean Duluth” of Jean Duluth Road

Go ahead and ask Duluthians about where the name of Jean Duluth Road comes from, and they will squint their eyes and answer you after a moment’s thought… “It’s that French voyageur, right? I guess we don’t say his name the French way anymore.” Sure, Jean Duluth. Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, except now we’ve Americanized it…

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The Victims of the 1920 Duluth Lynchings

If We Must Die If we must die—let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursed lot. If we must die—oh, let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be shed In vain; then…

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Duluth’s 1920 Lynchings

They’re selling postcards of the hanging They’re painting the passports brown The beauty parlor is filled with sailors The circus is in town Here comes the blind commissioner They’ve got him in a trance One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker The other is in his pants And the riot squad they’re restless They…

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The Drowning of Richard White

Editor’s Note: This article includes historically accurate but racist language and discusses violence against children. It was a hot July in the summer of 1934. The Midwest sweltered under a heat wave, and the ongoing nationwide manhunt for John Dillinger dominated daily headlines. On July 3, a man reported an abandoned car with Indiana plates…

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False Gold Rush uncovers Iron Ore

According to legend, in the summer of 1865, a slow motion birch bark canoe chase played out on the rivers and in the woods near Lake Vermilion. One group was led by a geologist named Henry H. Eames, who had recently staggered into Duluth with a nail keg full of iron ore specimens and big…

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Tale of Two Midwives

The story of the Zenith City’s birth cannot be told without including the tale of the midwives who ushered most native-born Duluthians into the world before World War I. While Duluth boasted medical doctors as early as the 1870s, and the wealthiest of its expectant citizens might call upon these physicians to attend births, the…

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Duluth’s Red Scare: The Wobblies

The evening scene was straight out of a civil libertarian’s nightmares. One hundred uniformed National Guardsmen marched in perfect formation through downtown Duluth to an office at 530 West First Street and abruptly came to a halt. One of them yelled, “Left wheel!” Then, according to a Duluth News-Tribune article describing what happened, the troops…

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Rumble on the St. Louis River

The boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin in the St. Louis River appears inexplicable when you gaze upon it from the Google Earth god’s eye, and where and how it meanders through the channel seems even more mysterious from the seat of a canoe or kayak. History details the political border sketching and surveying, back-and-forth court…

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Gamblers, Tramps & Thieves

In 1890 mineralogist Edward J. Hoppmann and the city of Duluth alike were riding high on mining money and a real-estate investment boom. Hoppmann commissioned ever-popular architect Oliver Traphagen to build him a fine four-story brownstone office building on the site of the former Minnesota House hotel at 421 West Superior Street. He undoubtedly hoped…

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The Notorious Madame Gaine

When Madam Mary Gain took the stand on November 20, 1913, the Zenith City sat riveted. After thirteen years of dramatic arrests and raids on her various “houses of ill fame,” reports of drunken debauchery, violence and flippant retorts to the authorities, the Queen of Duluth’s Underworld would finally tell all. The gallery expected salacious…

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