This Day in Duluth Archive

December 6, 1938: Death of Duluth native and arctic explorer Jack O’Brien

On this day in 1938, Duluth native and antarctic explorer and author Jack O’Brien died in New York City. O’Brien was born to Irish immigrants in Duluth in 1897 and attended Central High School, where he played football and earned the accolades “Kingpin of the backfield and tower of defense; a line hitter par excellence.”…

December 4, 1963: Ceiling of Central High Cafeteria Collapses 

On this day in Duluth in 1963, the ceiling of Central High School’s cafeteria collapsed at about 2:20 in the afternoon, 90 minutes after students completed lunch. No one was injured by the falling plaster and acoustic tiles, which ripped a drinking fountain from the pillar it was mounted to and crushed several chairs. But…

December 3, 1865: The beginning of the Vermilion Gold Rush

On this day in 1865, the Minnesota Gold Mining Company was established, marking the start of the Vermilion Gold Rush. Earlier that summer, geologist Henry Ames traveled to Lake Vermilion to look for valuable minerals. By the time he arrived in St. Paul on October 28, 1865, rumors were already swirling about a valuable gold…

December 2, 1918: Opening of U.S. Grant Elementary 

On this day in Duluth in 1918, the U.S. Grant Elementary School opened at Eight Avenue East and Eleventh Street. The building cost $200,000 and was considered “one of the best” such facilities in the city—at least the “most modern and best equipped.” Seven teachers greeted 245 students that day under the direction of principal…

December 1, 1941: Former Duluth police chief killed in gun battle

On this day in Duluth in 1941, Lieutenant Oscar G. Olson of the Duluth Police Department was shot and killed during a gun battle with John Handris, who may have been experiencing a psychotic episode. Olson, along with sergeants Robert Johnson and Walter C. Johnston, had been summoned to a house at 2212 West First…

November 30, 1923: Death of aerial bridge engineer William Patton

On this day in Duluth in 1923, engineer William Patton died at the age of 63. Patton played an instrumental role on the building of Duluth’s Aerial Transfer Bridge. While engineer Thomas McGilvrary came up with the idea for a transfer bridge, he and Patton were partners in the Duluth Engineering Company. Patton had also…

November 29, 1915: Construction begins on Engine House #8

On this day in Duluth in 1915, construction began on the Duluth Fire Department’s Engine House #8 at at 601–603 N. 55th Avenue West (now Central Avenue)—a building better known as the West Duluth Municipal Building, which also held a police station and municipal court. According to DFD historian Jarry Keppers, “The two-story brick building…

November 28, 1915: Death of Frances Woodbridge, Duluth’s “Foremost woman civic leader”

On this day in Duluth in 1915, Duluth pioneer and “foremost woman civic leader” Frances Woodbridge died at 74 years old. Woodbridge was born Frances Poole in Portland, Maine, in 1841 and was educated in Boston. She taught at Mississippi’s Holy Springs seminary before returning to Massachusetts to marry William S. Woodbridge in 1870. Shortly…

November 27, 1886: Fire Destroys Grain Elevators A & Q

On this day in Duluth in 1886, fire destroyed Duluth’s first  grain elevator, Elevators A, located along the lake at the base of Third Avenue East, and the adjacent Elevator Q. Elevator A was built in 1869 by Jay Cooke’s Union Improvement and Elevator Company with wood purchased from Roger Munger’s sawmill on Lake Avenue.…

November 26, 1843: The birth of Duluth pioneer George Spencer

On this day in 1843, future Duluthian George Spencer was born Westminster, Vermont. After attending high school in Boston, Spencer came to Duluth in 1870 to manage the Union Improvement Elevator Company. In 1880 he entered the grain shipping business with Melvin J. Forbes as Spencer & Co. In 1889, he and Forbes parted company…