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June 3, 1896: Harbors of Duluth & Superior Unified

On this day in Washington, DC, in 1896, an act of Congress declared that “the harbors of Duluth and Superior [are] unified.” It was the culmination of fifteen years of planning for improvements to the canal and harbor: the old fourteen-foot channel wasn’t up to par, not since the locks at Sault Ste. Marie (or “The Soo”) on the other end of the lake were enlarged back in 1881. And the iron ore industry had finally arrived in Duluth by way of mines on the Merritt brothers’ newly opened Mesaba Iron Range, creating more shipping traffic through Duluth. But the canal’s and the harbor’s shallow depth prevented bigger ships from carrying larger, more profitable loads. So in 1893 Captain McDougall set about forming the Duluth-Superior Harbor Improvement Committee, whose first task would be to petition Congress for funds. In 1896 Congress “appropriated $3 million…to make Duluth-Superior harbor the most modern in America.” The project called for twenty foot channels throughout the bay, a connecting channel between the Duluth Bay and the Superior Bay, and an “immense anchorage basin” behind Park Point. Both the Superior Entry and the Duluth Ship Canal would receive new concrete piers. The appropriation also brought Duluth and Superior together. Read about reconstructing the ship canal here.

This perspective map of Duluth and Superior in 1910 was made by Henry Wellge. (Image: Zenith City Press)