A Timeline of Duluth Civic History

The seal for the City of Duluth, established (for the second time) on March 2, 1887.

1854 | Second Treaty of La Pointe opens settlement of United States citizens and European immigrants on the “Minnesota side” of Lake Superior beginning in 1856—and eventually forces local Ojibwe population to move to the Fond du Lac Reservation (Nagaajiwanaang) in Carlton, Minnesota.

1855 (March 3) | Minnesota’s Superior County is renamed St. Louis County.


1856 (May 26) | Plat of original Townsite of Duluth completed by  Richard Relf. Borders: Between Third Avenue East and Eighth Avenue West at the base of Point of Rocks, from First Street south to just above Buchanan Street in today’s Canal Park business district.

1857 Population: 1,560 in all of St. Louis County (state census estimate)


1857 (May 19) | An expanded Duluth incorporated as a townsite by George E. and William Nettleton, J. B. Culver, Orrin W. Rice, and Robert E. Jefferson. Borders: Between Third Avenue East and Eight Avenue West from Fifth Street to Thirty-Eighth Street South (Oatka beach).

1858 | The expanded townsite of Duluth is officially platted.

1860 Population: 80 (federal census estimate)

1865 Population: 126  (state census estimate)

1868 Population: “Fourteen families” (roughly estimated at less than 200)

1870 Population: 3,129 (federal census estimate)


1870 (March 6) | Duluth officially becomes a city for the first time. It adapts a Mayor/Council system of government in which a Common Council was made up of two aldermen representing each of the City’s (then) four wards. One alderman would be elected for one year, the other for two. Each ward also had its own Justice of the Peace and a constable. City officials also included a mayor, treasurer, city Justice of the Peace, City Clerk, City Comptroller, Street Commissioner, City Engineer, City Assessor, and City Attorney. Borders: Roughly between Twenty-first Avenue East and Thirtieth Avenue West  from Fifth Street to Thirty-Eighth Street South.

1870 Mayor: J. B. Culver (D)

1871 Mayor: Clinton Markell (R)

1872 Mayor: Sidney Luce (D)

1873 Population: 5,000 (unofficial estimate)

Mayor 1873: Vespasian Smith (R)

1873 (September 18) | Panic of ’73 caused by the failure of Jay Cooke’s banks. Most of Duluth businesses fail.

1874 Population: “1,300 souls” (unofficial anecdotal estimate; likely closer to 2,500)

1875 Population: 2,415 (state census estimate)

1875 Mayor: Peter Dean (D)

1876 Mayor: John Drew (R)


1877 | Heavily in debt, Duluth city officials allow its city charter to expire. City leaders submit legislation to reorganize as a village; it includes provisions to refinance its debt to pay bondholders twenty-five cents on the dollar and reduce its borders; as the village paid of its debts, it would regain parts of the 1870 city. It was overseen by an elected president who was advised by trustees. Borders: between Third Avenue East and Fourth Avenue West from Fifth Street to Oatka Beach.

1877 (March 4) | Duluth reorganized temporarily as “The District of Duluth.”


1877 (October 22) | Duluth becomes the Village of Duluth.

1877–1888 President of Village A. M. Miller (D)

1879 President of Village: John Drew (R)

1880 President of Village Peter Dean (D)

1880 Population: 3,483 (federal census estimate)

1880  | Village government drops its president/trustee form and adopts a mayor/councilor government similar to that of the 1870 city.

1880–1881 President and Mayor of Village J. D. Ensign (R)

1881 Population: 7,800 (village census estimate)

1881 (March 7) | Property owners of land south of the Duluth Ship Canal cede from the Village of Duluth and reorganize as the Village of Park Point.

1882 Mayor of Village C. H. Graves (R)

1882 Population: 12,000 (village census estimate)

1883 Mayor of Village J. B. Culver (D, died in office)

1883 Population: 14,000 (village census estimate)

1883 Mayor of Village C. H. Graves (R)

1884 Mayor of Village J. D. Ensign (R)

1884 Population: 16,690 (village census estimate)

1885 Mayor of Village H. B. Moore (D)

1885 Population: 18,036 (state census estimate)

1886 Mayor of Village J. B. Sutphin (R)

1886 Population: 26,000 (village census estimate)


1887 (March 2) | Duluth pays off the last of its debt and regains its status as a city. It adapts a Mayor/Council system of government as it had in 1870, in which a Common Council was made up of two aldermen representing each of the City’s (then) seven wards. In this system, the mayor appointed many city officials, from the City Engineer to the Chief of Police; often when a mayor was elected, he replaced any city official that did not belong to his political party with someone who did. Borders: Roughly between Twenty-Sixth Avenue East and Thirtieth Avenue West from Fifth Street to the Ship Canal.

1886–1890 Mayor J. B. Sutphin (R)

1890–1892 Mayor Marcus J. Davis (D)

1890 Population: 33,115 (federal census estimate)

1890 | The Village of Park Point is annexed by the city of Duluth, becoming a neighborhood.

1891 | Duluth annexes “streetcar suburbs” to the north: Woodland, Hunter’s Park, Kenwood, Duluth Heights, Piedmont Heights

1892-1894 Mayor Charles d’Autremont (D),

1893 | Duluth annexes city of Lakeside, including Lester Park

1894-1896 Mayor Ray T. Lewis (R)

1894 | Duluth annexes Village of West Duluth, including today’s neighborhoods of Oneota, Denfeld, Cody, Irving, and Fairmount

1895 | Duluth annexes “western suburbs” including Bayview Heights, Ironton, Smithville, Spirit Lake, New Duluth, and Fond du Lac

1895 Population: 59,396 (state census estimate)

1896–1900 Mayor Henry Truelsen (D)

1900–1904 Mayor Trevanion W. Hugo (R)

1900 Population: 52,969 (federal census estimate)

1900–1910 | “Gaps” are filled in as more neighborhoods develop in the “East End” (Longview, Congdon Park, Crescent View, etc.), to the north (Homecroft Park) and Park Point (Hartman Park)

1904–1908 Mayor Marcus B. Cullum (D)

1908–1910 Roland B. Haven (R)

1910–1912 Mayor Marcus B. Cullum (D)

1910 Population: 78,466 (federal census estimate)

1912 Mayor John A. McCuen (R)

1913 (April 14) | Duluth begins its era of a Commission Form of government in which the mayor and four elected commissioners were in charge of different aspects of city government: public affairs, public works, public safety, public utilities, and finance. The mayor served as commissioner of public affairs.

1913–1917 Mayor William I. Prince (R)

1915–1920 | Industry-influenced changes: Spirit Lake Park becomes Morgan Park, portion of New Duluth becomes Gary, Ironton becomes Riverside, portion of Hunter’s Park becomes Morley Heights, Norton Park developed.

Mayor 1917– Clarence R. Magney (R, resigned to become a judge))

1920 Population: 98,917 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1920: Trevanion W. Hugo (R, appointed to serve out Magney’s term)

Mayor 1921–1937 Samuel F. Snively (R), elected to five terms, Duluth’s longest-serving mayor)

1930 Population: 101,463 (federal census estimate)

1930s | USS gives Morgan Park and Gary to city, city acquires beachfront and southern end of Minnesota Point and tax-forfeited properties above Skyline Parkway throughout city.

Mayor 1937–1941 C. Rudy Berghult (D)

1940 Population: 101,065 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1941–1944 Edward H. Hatch (R)

Mayor 1945–1953 George W. Johnson (R)

1950 Population: 104,511 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1953–1956 George D. Johnson (D)

1956 (March 20) | Duluth abandons the Commission form of government and adapts a Mayor/City Councilor form of government still in use today.

Mayor 1956–1959 Eugene R. Lambert (R)

Mayor 1959-1962 E. Clifford Mork (D; died while in office)

1960 Population: 106,884 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1962–1966: George D. Johnson (D)

Mayor 1967–1973: Ben Boo (R)

1970 Population: 100,578 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1975–1979: Robert Beaudin (D)

1980 Population: 92,811 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1979–1991: John Fedo (D; elected at age 29, Duluth’s youngest mayor)

1990 Population: 85,493 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 1992–2004 Gary Doty (D)

2000 Population: 86,319 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 2004–2008 Herb Bergson (D)

Mayor 2008–2016 Don Ness (D), 2008

2010 Population: 86,265 (federal census estimate)

Mayor 2016–present: Emily Larson (D)

2018 Population: 86,083 (federal census bureau estimate)

2019 Population: 87,213 (state demographer’s office estimate)

2020 Population: 86,697 (federal census estimate)