July 3, 1907: Gypsies set up camp in Duluth’s West End

On this day in Duluth in 1907, the Duluth News Tribune reported that a band of gypsies had set up camp in Duluth’s West End (aka Lincoln Park). “King Joe Smith and His Gypsies Are Here,” blared the News Tribune headline, which was followed by, “Romany Folk Camp on Hillside at West End and Make Life Miserable for West End Merchants.” The paper went on to report that about thirty “of the world’s most interesting vagrants” had established a camp “about a mile up the hill from 13th Avenue West. The group was made up of six families, including children, who had three wagons and eight tents. Led by “Joe Smith” and his wife Maude. The paper that despite their many infractions of the law, they “seldom come under the eye of the law…because of their almost uncanny shrewdness and cunning.” The paper went on to say that “hard work seems to be the only thing the gypsies as a people are afraid of.” The men, the paper implied, did little work at all; the women were the breadwinners, and they had been annoying West End merchants and residents alike trying to make money telling fortunes. At least one of the women had already been arrested after being found “in a state of maudlin drunkenness.” Smith explained they had come to Duluth to try to sell their services at the White City Amusement Park on Minnesota Point, but the management had turned them away. The reporter mentioned in his story that he had to shell out some cash to get Smith to speak with him—and to take Maude’s photograph.

A grainy photo from the Duluth News Tribune of July 3, 1907. (Image: Zenith City Press)