April 4: 1870: Duluth’s first mayoral election

On this day in Duluth in 1870, Colonel Joshua B. Culver was elected the city’s first mayor. Historic accounts of this event differ. Walter Van Brunt, future historian and Duluth’s first City Clerk, soberly recorded that the election was held, “in the schoolhouse at Portland, and the candidates for election to mayoral office were Col. J. B. Culver, Democrat, and John C. Hunter, Republican. [Judge] Carey records that 448 votes were cast, 241 being in favor of Culver, and 205 in favor of Hunter, two being scattered.” Jerome Cooley, writing in 1922 about an event he did not witness, wrote that in the election, “a grand total of 448 ballots were cast, without troubling to get out the woman vote. The 448 citizens were secured in a truly western style…. On election day they would take an Indian into a back room, give him a drink, have him put on a pair of pants and tell him his name was Joe LePort and for him to go out and put the slip of paper into the box and come back and get another drink. When he came back they stripped the pants off and called the next Indian in line and did the same with him. They had so many Joe LePorts that the inspector afterwards thought that there was some fraud, but he was convinced to the contrary and no trouble came of it.” Minnesotian editor Thomas Foster, who considered Culver a criminal, reported improprieties in the fledgling city’s second ward, but made no mention of natives conned into committing voter fraud.