May 20, 1910: Halley’s Comet Disappoints Duluth

Noted Duluth photographer Hugh McKenzie faked this photograph of Halley’s Comet over Duluth in 1910. (Image: X-Comm)

On this day in 1910, Halley’s Comet passed over Duluth—but no one saw it. The headlines for the next day read “Aged Wanderer is Fickle Thing” and “Halley’s Comet Again Disappoints Duluth people—Was Invisible Here Last Night.” The report went on to say that Duluthians “restless” due to the comet’s approach would gather along Boulevard Drive (today’s Skyline Parkway), to get a glimpse of the “shooting star.” Smoke from forest fires and clouds were blamed for the poor visibility. But on May 20 the Duluth sky was clear, and the moon shone bright. But even Duluth astronomer John Darling failed to see the comet. None of that stopped renowned Duluth photographer Hugh McKenzie from publishing the photograph seen here as a picture postcard. He likely made the stars and comet by scratching the negative. He may even have used a photograph taken during the day and made the print from a film positive rather than a negative. By this action we assume Mr. McKenzie, if he were with us today, would be a proponent of Photoshop.

4 Responses to May 20, 1910: Halley’s Comet Disappoints Duluth

  1. I was fortunate to be in Australia in 1985-1986 and saw Halley’s comet out over the Southern Ocean with my dad. Tonight, I am watching the lunar eclipse in Michigan with my oldest son (youngest in bed). Amature star-gazing continues in our family 🙂

  2. Love the fake picture, haha. I remember when this comet came by in 1986, we couldn’r see it either.

  3. My parents talked about Halley’s Comet quite a bit. My mother would have been 13, my father 19. I had the impression from them that it made quite a splash in Duluth, something akin to that doctored photo. Maybe they were talking about that. When it came back last time, I expected to see it roar down Superior Street just above the buildings. No such luck. Maybe next time.

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