February 15, 1947: Death of optician and author Thomas Shastid

On this day in Duluth in 1947, eighty-year-old optician and author Dr. Thomas Shastid, once called “America’s forgotten historian of ophthalmology,” died at St. Luke’s Hospital. Shastid grew up in Pittsfield, Illinois, where his grandfather was friends with Abraham Lincoln. By the time he arrived in Duluth in 1908, he had graduated Harvard Medical School and wrote two memoirs, A Country Doctor and Practising in Pike, and also began a side career as a legal and science writer. Between 1906 and 1936 the years he wrote three books on medical malpractice, three on ophthalmology, and was a major contributor to the eight-volume American Encyclopedia of Ophthalmology. During the latter half of the 1920s he turned his thoughts to ending war, giving speeches and turning those talks into five small books. In 1937 he published How to Stop War-Time Profiteering (1937) and an autobiography titled Tramping to Failure. The well-travelled Dr. Shastid liked to consider himself a hobo of sorts. In the memoir he refers to himself as “The Tramp” and called his home, “Tramp’s Rest.” He published another autobiography in 1944 under the title My Second Life. But perhaps what is of most interest to Duluthians today is his two-volume 1926 novel The Duke of Duluth. It was to be the first in a quartet of novels titled “The Nobility of the Midwest” that would include The Earl of Superior, The Marquis of Minneapolis, and The Sieur de St. Paul. The Duke was the first and last published. You can read much more about Shastid, including a description of his Duluth novel, here. (And you will find copies of The Duke of Duluth in the Duluth Public Library.)

Duluth’s Thomas Shastid in 1940. (Image: Zenith City Press)