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June 25, 1913: Airplane flies “through” Duluth aerial bridge—for the first time

On this day in Duluth in 1913, the Lark of the Lake “flying boat” became the first airplane to fly beneath the top span of Duluth’as aerial bridge. The plane, owned by Duluth Boat Club financier Julius Barnes, was piloted by Tony Jannus, described as “a wiry, cool-nerved young man who gives one the feeling of confidence in his ability.” Barnes had named the plane to reflect the upcoming summer water carnival hosted by the club, the “Lark o’ the Lake.” Newspapers, however, reported that the plane was owned by W. D. Jones, likely because Barnes was considered far too valuable to be flying about in what was then unproven technology—his business partners did not want him risking his life with such foolishness. On that day, the Lark was taking select passengers on exhibition flights. With Jones aboard and Jannus at the controls, the Duluth Herald reported, “the boat sailed under the aerial bridge and along the lake shore to the curling club, being the first flying boat to pass under the bridge and the first to fly over Lake Superior.” The Lark was not only a big hit with Duluthians that summer, but it went on to become the nation’s first commercial airliner—and it wasn’t the only flying machine to fly “through” the bridge. Read a history of the Lark here, and about planes and helicopters barnstorming the bridge here.

This postcard, likely made in 1913, misidentifies the Lark of Duluth as the Lark of the Lake, and it is likely that Tony Jannus, not W. D. Jones—the Lark’s alleged owner—at the controls. (Image: Zenith City Press)rk