December 10, 1901: Duluth actress Adelaide Thurston’s triumphant return to the Zenith City

On this day in Duluth in 1901, Duluth native and nationally renowned actress Adelaide Thurston returned to the city she grew up in to perform at the Lyceum Theatre for the first time as a professional performer. Born Adelaide Belle Sawyer in Wisconsin in 1871,  Adelaide moved to Duluth in 1889—the year the Lyceum was built—when she was 18. According to biographer David Ouse, she quickly became involved in local theater, and by 1894 newspapers were calling her “one of the most promising and brightest of the amateur performers of Duluth.” She was so full of promise, she left for New York City the next year and changed her last name to Thurston. When her performance at the Lyceum was announced, the Duluth News Tribune reported, tickets sold out in an hour and 15 minutes. Some people who didn’t get tickets charged that scalpers bought up many of the tickets and were selling them for as much as $2.50 each. The next day’s newspaper described the enthusiastic crowd at the play: “Adelaide Thurston was welcomed home last evening. The Lyceum Theatre was packed to its capacity… [and] her first appearance was the signal for a burst of applause, enthusiastic and genuinely affectionate.” But Thurston had other reasons to return home: She was seeking a divorce from her husband, who she claimed deserted her the year before. There’s much more to Thurston’s life and career, and you can read about it here.

Adelaide Thurston photographed for Cosmopolitan magazine, July 1905. (Image: Duluth Public Library)