May 20, 1910: Halley’s Comet disappoints Duluthians

On this day in 1910, Halley’s Comet passed over Duluth—but no one saw it. The headlines for the next day read “Aged Wanderer is Fickle Thing” and “Halley’s Comet Again Disappoints Duluth people—Was Invisible Here Last Night.” The report went on to say that Duluthians “restless” due to the comet’s approach would gather along Boulevard Drive (today’s Skyline Parkway), to get a glimpse of the “shooting star.” Smoke from forest fires and clouds were blamed for the poor visibility. But on May 20 the Duluth sky was clear, and the moon shone bright—still, even astronomer John Darling failed to see the comet. None of that stopped renown Duluth photographer Hugh McKenzie from publishing the photograph seen below as a picture postcard. He likely made the stars and comet by scratching the negative. He may even have used a photograph taken during the day and made the print from a film positive rather than a negative. By this action we assume Mr. McKenzie, if he were with us today, would be a proponent of Photoshop. Read about astronomer John Darling and his lost Duluth observatory here.

A postcard made from Hugh McKenzie’s highly edited photograph supposedly showing Halley’s Comet in the night sky over Duluth, 1910. (Image: Zenith City Press)