December 25, 1914: First municipal Christmas trees in Duluth and Superior

On this day in Duluth—and across the bay in Superior—a municipal Christmas tree was raised to the delights of large crowds which had gathered to witness the events. In Duluth, a “huge spruce” was erected in the square in front of the St. Louis County Courthouse, and at 5 p.m. Mayor William Prince threw the switch that illuminated the 3,500 light bulbs that had been strung on the tree. A group of “thousands”—warmed by several by fires—had gathered in temperatures that hovered at the “20-below mark” to watch and sing Christmas carols to the accompaniment of the Third Regiment Band. The News Tribune reported that when the band started in, “everyone took up the music each in his own tongue, English Norwegian, German, Swedish, Slavic—people from the New England states and the newer citizens from many lands overseas joined in the carols and hymns of the Nativity.” There were also more organized performances, including a rendition of “Noel” by the 250-member German Club choir. Over in Superior, it was a similar scene with a smaller crowd. Abut 250 people gathered in front of the Hotel Superior beginning at 5 p.m. along with the Superior City Band and a choir of schoolchildren led by Mrs. Anna Williams. The 25-minute event ended with the band playing the University of Wisconsin’s fight song, “On, Wisconsin!” There was no mention which type of tree or whether it was decorated at all, let alone with lights.

Duluth’s first municipal Christmas tree, photographed December 25, 1914, by Hugh McKenzie. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)