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June 11, 1876: Birth of Edward J. Filiatrault

On this day in 1876, future Duluthian Edward J. Filiatrault was born in Faribault, Minnesota, and moved to Duluth ten years later with his parents. He became an electrical engineer took a job with the Northern Steamship Company as chief electrician on the steamer Northland before returning to Duluth to work for the Burgess Electric Company in 1898. In 1901 he and Emil A. Nelson started the Mutual Electric and Auto Company, “engaging in electrical contracting and engineering and in the automobile business.” The business split in 1908; Nelson took the electrical business and Filiatrault continuing the automobile business as the Mutual Auto Company—the first car dealership in Duluth. Filiatrault was a great promoter, and his name was widely known in the Zenith City the day after the Aerial Transfer Bridge made its first public crossing in 1905: Filiatrault’s car was the first to cross the bridge—and he made sure he gave his car to all the reporters gathered. Subsequently, he became the first person to operate an automobile on Park Point (and then lobbied to turn the beach into a racing course, like Daytona Beach, Florida). In 1910 as a publicity stunt, he drove a new car up and down the steps of the St. Louis County Courthouse. He was also civic minded, and when the Department of Justice formed the American Protective League, a secret service volunteer division created “to assist the department in investigating pro-Germanism and all organizations or individuals who were working against our Government” during World War I, Filiatrault was named director of the Duluth Division.

Edward J. Filiatrault drives a car up the stairs of the St. Louis County Courthouse in a publicity stunt, ca. 1910. (Image: Zenith City Press)