On this day in Duluth in 1917, former Duluth Herald reporter John L. Morrison published the first edition of his newspaper, the Duluth Rip-Saw. Morrison had struck out on his own before he started the Rip-Saw, and published a booster book for West Duluth in 1916 which included histories of the various companies that made the community “The Pittsburgh of the Northwest.” He had fun with his paper’s name, which referenced the timber industry, calling a regular column of newsworthy tidbits “Sawdust and Shavings.” Another regular feature, in which he attacked his political opponents and competing newspaper editors, he dubbed “Knots and Culls.” Morrison was very pro-temperance, and his anti-alcohol stance was prominent throughout the paper’s history, particularly that first issue. He ran a poem about “The Death of John Barleycorn” and endorsed mayoral candidate C. R. Magney, a lawyer and future district court judge who also supported Prohibition. His style was hardly journalistic, most often laced with his opinion; he used colorful adjectives to describe his subjects and often mocked city officials and businessmen on the other side of the temperance issue. Morrison’s fast-and-loose style would eventually get him in deep trouble. Beginning in 1924 he was sued several times for libel and in April 1926 the paper was placed under a temporary restraining order. Morrison fell ill before he could appeal the case in court and died May 18, 1926. At his funeral, said to be “well attended,” Mayor Samuel Snively and City Commissioner W. S. McCormick both described Morrison as a “good man.” Read intrepid Duluth reporter John Ramos’ biography of Morrison here.
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