August 7, 1910: Letter to newspaper asks, “Who was Jean Duluth?”

On this day in Duluth in 1910, a letter to the editor of the Duluth News Tribune asked, “Who was Jean Duluth?” The newspaper had been running a series of articles called “The Diary of Jean Duluth” written from the first-person perspective of Duluth’s namesake. But that namesake was named Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut, and the letter writer, using Kitchi Gammi Club stationery, wanted to know who was this “Jean” fellow. Despite the writer’s request that the letter was not for publication, the newspaper ran it anyway. The letter read in part, “I protest against educating the public into the false impression that Duluth, for whom this city is named, was called ‘Jean,’ when his name was Daniel Greysolon Duluth, and no such person as ‘Jean Duluth’ is known to history. The newspaper shot back with “We refrain from asking the writer what ‘Kitchi Gammi’ means, and by what authority these words are used, which are falsely educating the public.” “Kitchi Gammi” is an alternative spelling (and there are several) of “Gitchee Gumee,” Ojibwe for “Great body of water” and  used locally to refer to Lake Superior. So who was this “Jean Duluth”? Find out by clicking here.

Daniel Greysolon Sieur du Lhut depicted in his hometown of Saint-Germain-Laval, France, in this painting by Duluth artist David Ericson. (Image: Duluth Public Library)