February 16, 1905 Death of Jay Cooke

On this day in 1905, pioneering Duluth benefactor Jay Cooke died in Philadelphia. Cook was born in Sandusky, Ohio, in 1821. Cooke made his fortune with the E. W. Clark Banking House in Philadelphia before setting up his own banks in 1858. Cooke and his agents travelled to Europe to sell most of the $2 billion of bonds sold by the United States to finance the Civil War. Following the war he turned his focus to creating the Northern Pacific Railroad, a venture that brought him to the Head of the Lakes in the late 1860s. He decided to terminate the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad at Duluth rather than Superior, and soon his agents (including noted Duluth pioneers George Sargent and Luther Mendenhall) arrived in Duluth, financing and directing Duluth’s first building—and population—boom. But Cooke over-invested, ushering in a depression called the Panic of 1873, and Duluth suffered greatly. On his death, the Duluth News Tribune wrote “To many residents of Duluth who knew him intimately, and to hundreds who knew him through the growth of the city in the days preceding the Panic of ’73, the death of Jay Cooke will bring sincere regret. His memory will command the respect of all in his community, to which he proved a friend when it was in need and, therefore, as the adage has it, is a friend indeed.” The Zenith City Press archive contains more information about Cooke, and you can find it here, here, and here.

The Jay Cooke statue in Duluth, located along Superior Street at the foot of Ninth Avenue East. (Image: Zenith City Press)

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