August 16, 1919: Over 100,000 greet returning troops and Red Cross nurses in Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1919, the steamship Octorara arrived in Duluth, carrying hundreds of servicemen and Red Cross nurses returning home from serving in Europe. Newspapers reported that over 100,000 celebrated in the streets of the Zenith City, many traveling from Wisconsin and the Iron Range to honor those arriving on the Octorara and also those who wouldn’t be coming home. Many arrived by trains, and automobiles clogged the roads bound for Duluth. Some of the revelers got out of hand, and police arrested six individuals and had their hands full with “drunks, disorderlies [sic], and thieves.” Police arrested Fred Dahl, who had dressed himself up as a cowboy (complete with revolver), rented a horse, and rode it in and out of restaurants and hotels. One man was even injured by celebratory fireworks, yet a two-mile long parade went off without incident. Charity groups set up five temporary “canteens” where “pretty maidens and matrons” handed out surplus cigars, cigarettes, candies and cakes to anyone in uniform. Read more about the Octorara and her Anchor Line Triplet sister ships, Juniata and Tionesta, here.

The passenger steamship Octorara, which carried Minnesota and Wisconsin troops home after the First World War. (Image: Library of Congress.)torara

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