Duluth: An Urban Biography

Tony Dierckins

Paperback | 192 pages | 45 b&w photos | 6x9 inches | Reg. $20, On Sale $20



Winner of the Northeast Minnesota Book Award for Non-Fiction

Written by Zenith City Press’s Tony Dierckins, Duluth: An Urban Biography (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2020) covers the entire history of Duluth, from the Precambrian lava flows of 2.6 billion years ago that formed the bed of Lake Superior through the November 2019 mayoral election, just months before Duluth’s 150th anniversary as a city.

In this richly textured urban biography, Dierckins highlights the fascinating stories of Duluth, Minnesota, the “Zenith City if the Unsalted Seas”: Its significance as the final stop in the Ojibwe’s legendary westward migration. The cycle of booms and busts that shaped its early civic history. The natural port on St. Louis Bay that made shipping its first and most important business. The legends surrounding the digging of its ship canal, and the unique and iconic aerial bridge that spans it. The industries, industrialists, and immigrants that drove its commerce. The city’s boundless natural beauty, displayed through its unparalleled and expansive park system. The 1920 lynching of three African American circus workers. The 1977 Glensheen murders. Duluth’s contributions to popular culture—and popular culture’s long history of disparaging Duluth. And throughout the years, how Lake Superior and the St. Louis River have driven and sustained Duluth’s economy, offered its residents unlimited recreational opportunities, attracted tourists who flock to their shores—and created an east-west sociopolitical split that divides the city to this day.

Praise for this book:

“With Duluth: An Urban Biography, Tony Dierckins provides the book we’ve been missing for years—a reliable, brisk narrative history of Minnesota’s most distinctive city. The author’s clear, engaging style conveys tragic and comic events with equal ease. I recommend this book to residents and visitors alike.”

— Barton Sutter, author of Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map and Duluth poet laureate, 2006

“A Duluthian at heart and a historian by passion, Dierckins brings Duluth’s past alive in a conversational narrative about our city at the Head of the Lakes. With intriguing old photos and painstaking research, Dierckins delivers a compelling portrait of this city loved by its residents and millions of visitors.”

— Sam Cook, award-winning author and columnist for the Duluth News Tribune

“Like an actor with a weathered and scarred face, Duluth has a roughhewn and authentic character that fascinates us all. But those scars didn’t come cheap. Dierckins’s engaging history tells the unvarnished stories of a city forged by grit and resilience in the face of hardship. There is a direct through line from the rough and rugged early years and the entrepreneurial, problem-solving ethos that defines Duluth today.”

— Don Ness, mayor of Duluth, 2008–16