April 24, 1930: The F. E. Taplin becomes first large vessel to pass beneath the Aerial Lift Bridge

On this day in Duluth in 1930, the freight carrier Frank E. Taplin became the first large Great Lakes vessel to pass beneath the newly converted Aerial Lift Bridge. The 420-foot Taplin had been launched in 1907 as the Charles W. Kocher and rechristened in 1920 and retired from service in 1968. Several days after the Taplin passed beneath the bridge Duluth’s City Council adopted an extensive set of rules for the bridge’s operation that covered right of way, loitering, warning signals, special consideration for emergency vehicles, how close a car could come to the bridge when it was raised, and others mostly to do with safe operation. Pedestrian rides were strictly forbidden, and violating any of the rules was a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100 or eighty-five days in jail. A few days later the Kansas City Bridge Company, who converted the 1905 Aerial Transfer Bridge into the lift bridge, notified the Council that they considered their job complete. A contingency of city officials including the mayor, the four other city commissioners, the city attorney, and the city engineer followed up their biweekly meeting with an inspection of the bridge. It took nearly a month to work out some minor issues based on requests of the War Department, but on June 5, 1930, Duluth took possession of its aerial lift bridge. You can learn much more about Duluth’s famous Aerial Bridge here.

The F. E. Taplin. (Image: Great Lakes Vessel Index)