July 31, 1869: Local newspaper not happy about Philadelphians in Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1869, Dr. Thomas Foster—editor of the Duluth Minnesotian—bemoaned the fact that hundreds of young men from Philadelphia had flocked to Duluth for work and instead caused more trouble than they were worth. The Philadelphians’ presence in Duluth was a direct result of Duluth’s reliance on Jay Cooke. The Philadelphia financier was building the northern terminus of the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad in Duluth and, according to Duluth historian Heidi Bakk-Hansen, “there had been an influx of roughnecks [from Philadelphia], initially nicknamed the ‘Immortal 300,’ who had been persuaded by smooth-talking boosters in Philadelphia into coming to work on the LS&MRR. Unfortunately, according to the Minnesotian, these “Philadelphia roughs” were not only unsuited to the hard work required by railroad builders, but simply unneeded. A July 31 editorial complained that their arrival was a “blunder of the most serious and expensive description” and decried their “unruly character.” Many of the men soon abandoned Duluth, finding their way to St. Paul. Those who stayed became the sort of newcomers locals have always dreaded—loud, drunk, and eager to occupy every empty spot at the rail of every saloon in town. Out of this tension came the inevitable bar fights. And out of those bar fights came Duluth’s first official murder.” You can read Bakk-Hansen’s history of that first murder here.

This undated and unattributed sketch is one of only two known images of Dr. Thomas Foster, editor of the Duluth Minnesotian, Duluth’s first newspaper. (Image: Zenith City Press)