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April 28, 1905: Boys risk their lives playing on new Aerial transfer Bridge

On this day in Duluth in 1905, the Duluth News-Tribune reported that “half a dozen boys of various ages” dodged bridge operator Charles Adrian, climbed on the girders below decks of the ferry car, and rode the ferry clinging by their fingers just thirteen feet above the water. Alone at the controls, Adrian could do nothing to stop them. If they had lost their grip, the boys would certainly have drowned in the canal’s currents. The paper went on to report that various boys had been playing at this game for more than a week. “Watching for their chance, the boys stand on tiptoe on the parapet of the piers and are able to swing up to one of the steel girders which strengthen the ferry deck. A projection of three inches at the top and bottom of the girder offers the only seat and grip for the juvenile fingers, and their grasp may be weakened at any time.” Those boys were lucky the gondola car of the transfer bridge crossed the canal in less than a minute, as a person can support his or her body weight for only a very limited amount of time. In 1934, 17-year-old Melvin Halverson, about to begin his senior year at Denfeld High School, grabbed the edge of a beam on the bottom of the Aerial Lift Bridge’s span and held on as the bridge began to rise. His arms gave out when he was thirty feet in the air. He fell to the pier, hit his head on the concrete, and died instantly. Others have tried this as well, and you can read the results of their efforts and about more tragedies involving Duluth’s Aerial Bridge here and the ship canal it crosses here.

Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge photographed on its first day of operation in 1905. (Image: Duluth Public Library)