March 5, 1905: First woman to cross the canal using the Aerial Transfer Bridge

The gondola car of Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

On this day in Duluth in 1905, Mrs. Emil H. Borth became the first woman to cross the canal in the gondola car of Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge. Mrs. Borth, who the newspaper said lived near the ferry on Park Point (at 706 Lake Ave South, today the second house south of the bridge on the lake side) and had “watched its construction with the deepest interest all winter,” became determined to be the first person across. So she approached workers and asked for a ride, and they obliged her, telling the newspaper that, “she was alone in the car and thoroughly enjoyed the little thrill of being part of so tremendous and important an enterprise.” The paper went on to claim that, since the ferry’s inaugural run didn’t actually deliver anyone across the canal, Mrs. Borth was not just the first woman to cross the canal in the ferry car, but technically the first person period to cross via the aerial bridge. However, the story failed to mention that bridge workers already used the gondola car regularly and an operator was on board during all crossings, so Mrs. Borth was never truly the first person to cross in the ferry, and she was not alone when she did. The News Tribune opined that “it is quite in keeping with the fitness of things that a resident from the other side should have this honor” of the first person to cross in the gondola. Twenty-four years later, on July 1, 1929, Borth would join Duluth officials and dignitaries on the gondola car’s last trip across the canal before it was dismantled and the bridge was converted to an aerial lift bridge. Also aboard that last trip was Duluthian Ann Murray, who reportedly rode the ferry bridge more times than any other person outside of an operator. And here’s a little calendar serendipity for you: On this same day, March 5, in 2001, Paula Hanela became the first female operator in the history of Duluth’s Aerial Bridge—transfer and lift.

2 Responses to March 5, 1905: First woman to cross the canal using the Aerial Transfer Bridge

  1. Great piece of history for this person who lives on the other side of the bridge. Thanks so much.

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