June 19, 1901: Superior Mayor arrested for slander, then sued for libel

On this day across the bay in 1901, Superior Mayor F. A. Parker was arrested for slandering alderman John Barry. Earlier in the month, Superior’s city council had passed a resolution, introduced by Barry, demanding that the mayor and police chief prepare a report on the city’s gambling dens and houses of prostitution. At a city council meeting on June 18, Parker stated that he did no think Barry’s request was made in good faith, then went on to say “[Barry] has had a gambling house or house of ill fame, or both, running in connection with his saloon almost continuously for several years, and he has kept in close touch with others in the same lines, so that he knows, without asking, how many there are.” Barry, Parker argued, was just trying to gain information to support his effort to reopen a brothel near his saloon—the brothel was good for his business and that of alderman Ennis, who sold liquor to Barry. Parker reminded the council that the year before a prostitute from that same brothel was shot dead in Barry’s saloon—the aldermen was not interested in anything other than the welfare of his business. Barry filed the libel suit the next day, asking for $500 in damage; the mayor was arrested and released on his own recognizance, and he promised to provide hard evidence against Barry. The case came to trial in September, and the newspapers promised scores of witnesses eager to “tell tales out of school” and give the “inside story.” Instead, the matter was settled out of court, and the two men released a joint statement, “We were both misinformed, and acted too hastily in the matter,” and “shook hands in good fellowship.” The Duluth News Tribune implied that the people of Superior were not buying this sudden cooperation: “To the general public,” it reported, “the settlement is really comical.”

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