July 30, 1881: Birth of Emil Olson

On this day in 1881, future Duluthian Emil Olson was born in Minnesota’s Chippewa County. In 1902, when he was just twenty-one years old, Olson struck out for Duluth with Norwegian immigrant Hagbert “Bert” J. Enger and together the two purchased a small stock of furniture in the Zenith City and set up shop at 1722 West Superior Street under the name. Enger & Olson. A year later they moved to 2012 West Superior Street and, five years after that, to 2012 West Superior Street, which still bears the Enger & Olson name. According to one source, the business prospered because “They were complementary to one another. Hagbert was cautious and conservative, and Olson was enthusiastic and impulsive. Enger was slow of speech, deliberate, and retiring. Olson was quick in speech and action, and enjoyed being in the public eye. In essence, the two men formed a perfect partnership, and they used an intermediary (a friend) very effectively when unable to agree on something. Both were extremely honest, intelligent and loyal.” In 1927, a year after Olson’s death, the firm of Enger & Olson purchased the Leif Erikson replica Viking boat and donated it to the city of Duluth on the condition that the vessel would be displayed in Lake Place Park and that the park be renamed “Leif Erikson Park.” Bert Enger also donated the money that created Enger Park and funded the construction of the Enger Memorial Tower, built in his honor.

This postcard of the Leif Erikson resting in Leif Erikson Park was made between 1928 and 1939. (Image: Zenith City Press)