January 29, 1918: Trial of “Rip-Saw” newspaper publisher postponed

On this day in Duluth in 1918, Duluth newspaper publisher John Morrison’s trial for trespassing and “conspiracy to subvert the public morals” was postponed for a week. Morrison and his newspaper, the Rip-Saw, were highly critical of Police Chief Robert McKercher. Morrison biographer Jon Ramos writes that Morrison had been arrested in the Spalding Hotel for trespassing, released, and arrested again on the conspiracy charges. Morrison pled not guilty to both charges. McKercher said he had received a tip that Morrison was going to try to frame him by promising a prostitute $100 “if she could get Chief McKercher into a compromising position.” Morrison’s attorney argued that it was actually McKercher who was trying to frame Morrision. The trial resumed on February 6 and ended two days later with the jury “hopelessly divided.” Morrison “wrote a lengthy piece on brothels that were protected by Chief McKercher, as well as a few more anecdotes about the chief’s sexual indiscretions. On February 11, McKercher dropped all charges against Morrison.” On February 23 Morrison wrote about his trial in the Rip-Saw, saying McKercher had been seen in the company of the prostitute the day before the arrest and that the chief had bugged the newspapers office. This set off an official probe into McKercher, but he resigned before it began. John Morrison really liked to stir up trouble, and you can read more about his exploits in John Ramos’s biography of Duluth’s most notorious newspaper man here.

John Loyal Morrison. (Image: Duluth Public Library)