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June 22, 1893: Jay Cooke visits Duluth for the last time

On this day in Duluth in 1893, Philadelphia financier Jay Cooke visited Duluth for the fourth and final time. In the 1860s Cooke’s investments in Duluth spurred its first great population boom and helped turn a scattering of townsites into a city—historians would later write that “the lifeless corpse of Duluth…touched by the wand of Jay Cooke, sprang full-armed from the tomb.” Soon they were calling Duluth “Jay Cooke’s Town” and “Philadelphia’s western suburb.” But when Cooke lost his fortune in 1873, it sent the entire nation into a financial depression and devastated Duluth, eventually causing the Zenith City to lose it city charter. The 1893 visit was his fourth and last. On that day 100 prominent businessmen and community leaders joined Cooke for a train ride to Thomson, where his son-in-law James M. Butler owned and operated the St. Louis River Slate Brick Company. During his visit Cooke was described as “a man of almost heroic build, … quite gray, but retained a heavy head of hair and an ample beard.” Cooke told reporters that “I visited Lakeside and Lester Park today and I was never so surprised in my life. Nothing I have been told of Duluth had prepared me for the marvels I saw…I don’t believe any city in the country can show such growth as Duluth…. I feel now that every hope I have had for Duluth will be realized.” When Cooke died in 1905 the Duluth News Tribune wrote, “His was the foresight of a prophet and though at the outset disappointments came, he lived to see the practical fulfillment of his predictions of more than a third of a century ago.” It went on to say that after the 1873 crash, “Mr. Cooke did not yield to despair, but went bravely back to work…and in his declining years could look back upon a career rich in achievements and appreciated by his countrymen.” Learn more about Cooke and his visits to and influence on Duluth here.

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