February 10, 1920: Former President Taft speaks in Duluth

Judge Cant, Taft, and Thomas Wood outside the Kitchi Gammi Club in February, 1920. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1920, former President William H. Taft spoke at Duluth’s First Methodist Church. The event was sponsored by the David Wisted American Legion Post as one of 100 speaking engagements Taft would make that winter. The legion committee that brought Taft to the Zenith City included F. Rodney Paine, son of W. Rodney Paine; Robert McGonagle, son of William McGonagle; Cavour Hartley, son of Guilford Hartley); and Hubert d’Autremont, son of Charles d’Autremont and son-in-law of the late Chester Congdon. Taft arrived on the Soo Line at 10 a.m., having traveled from Chicago. After a rest and a greeting by the Commercial Club, it was off to lunch at the Kitchi Gammi Club before a car ride along the Boulevard (Skyline Parkway) and a tour of the Minnesota Steel Plant. The Duluth News Tribune complained that Taft spent too much of his time promoting the League of Nations, formed exactly one month before Taft’s Duluth visit. He had been promoting the idea for two years and, the newspaper pointed out, had lost a lot of weight staying in shape for his campaign. Mr. Taft, the newspaper said, was not “thin in comparison to other men, but exceedingly thin in comparison with the former Mr. Taft” and noted he walked for 90 minutes on Woodland Avenue as part of his fitness regime. While in town Taft stayed at the home of Thomas S. Wood at 1927 East Superior; the two had met when both were part of the Cincinnati Law School’s Class of 1880. At the church, Taft’s topic was “Signs of the Times,” and again he pushed for America to join the new league. “The wound made by the world war will heal, but it must be healed from the bottom clean to the surface…. We are a healthy body politic. The wounds of war, unrest, and Bolshevism will heal, but they must heal slowly. They must not be permitted to close over the surface, to foster underneath. We are suffering from a reaction from the war, but it is not really serious.” Of Duluth he said, “I felicitate you upon your climate. This day, I understand, is an average day, just as your lowest score in golf is your average score…. Nine inches of snow in New York simply paralyzed it. Such an event would not be noticed by a city like Duluth.”

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