October 22, 1877: Duluth Incorporated as a Village

On this day in Duluth in 1877, the Zenith City was a city no more, and was incorporated as a village. Actually, it had not technically been a city since March 14 of that year, when it had lost its city charter due to its financial debts and had become the District of Duluth. It was established as a town in 1857 and in March of 1870 was granted a city charter by the State of Minnesota. The Panic of 1873 left Duluth in a desperate financial state, as the man who had invested so heavily in Duluth, Jay Cooke, had lost his vast fortune, which in turn started the financial depression. By 1877 the city was more than broke—it was in no position to repay its debts, including a $50,000 bond from Cooke’s Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad to pay for the digging of the Duluth Ship Canal. According to historian Walter Van Brunt, “The last official acts of the city executives were the transference of its empty safe and the city’s ownership of the fire apparatus used by the Duluth Hose Company, No. 1, to the village. And then $51,000 worth of cancelled bonds and coupons were offered up as a burnt offering. So, passed away the first City of Duluth, and the fringe of the city outside of the village had no government for a while.” Later in 1877 A. M. Miller was elected President of the Village of Duluth. Duluth regained its city status in 1887. Read more about Duluth’s civic development here.

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