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May 23, 1921: Mayoral portrait presented 20 years late

On this day in Duluth in 1921, the city of Duluth accepted Thomas Merritt’s gift of a portrait of former Duluth mayor Henry “Typhoid” Truelsen painted by celebrated Duluth artist David Ericson twenty years earlier. The painting, commissioned by Truelsen’s friends, had been made in 1901, the year after Truelsen ended his four years as mayor—but it had never been displayed in public. It seems no one had ever paid Ericson for the painting, valued at $1,100, so it had been kept safe by Ericson’s friend J. Johnson. When Sam Snively became mayor in April 1921, Johnson approached Snively, explained the painting’s history, and said that Ericson had reduced his price to $600. Upon hearing the mayor planned to raise funds so the city could purchase the portrait, Thomas Merritt—who also donated land to Duluth’s park system—offered to pay for the painting himself. The painting, encased in a gilded frame, was then hung in City Hall. Read a biography of David Ericson—and view many of his paintings—here; read about Thomas Merritt’s contributions to Duluth’s park system here, and discover how Mayor Truelsen earned the nickname “Typhoid” here.

C. Henry “Typhoid” Treason’s mayoral portrait by Duluth artist David Ericson. (Image: Duluth Public Library)