May 21, 1969: Duluth Celebrates “Margaret Culkin Banning Day”

On this day in Duluth in 1969, Duluth celebrated “Margaret Culkin Banning Day” in celebration of the author, a Duluth native and resident. The celebration coincided with the release of her newest book, Mesabi (published by Harper & Row, it was Banning’s 30th title). The Duluth News Tribune’s editorial page gushed over her, saying that Banning “has given Duluth many kinds of service as a loyal citizen, a hard worker in community efforts and a gracious speaker. No pressure of demands on her time and energy has ever forced her into anything resembling token participation.” Praise for her literally work mentioned that she had “helped people to understand their problems better” and “has even given help to the male minority which still hopes to understand the woman’s view of changing problems.” The book’s dust jacket includes this description of the novel: “Twenty years after Hugh Champlain arrives as a fledgling mining engineer at the vast open pits of the ore-rich Mesabi Iron Range, he is president of Greysolon, and one of the men who matter in Duluth, Minnesota. The prerogatives of his position delight him. He occupies a stately house on the lakefront. The powers who run Consolidated Steel, the parent corporation in New York, esteem him highly and show it when he goes East to attend the annual meetings. His work engrosses him as much as when he started—and as war in Europe comes closer, he can take special pride in the fact that it is work vital to his country’s survival. Only in his personal life have there been any shadows—a mistaken marriage, ended a few years before by his wife’s death. But even that has given him a much-loved daughter, now eighteen. Solidity, security, satisfaction…all achieved and all soon to be shattered. His young daughter’s elopement with a man he disapproves of represents to Hugh a rejection of everything he stands for. His business colleagues’ insistence that Greysolon look into converting low-grade taconite into useful iron goads him to futile obstinacy. One great compensation does come to him. He falls in love with and marries a lovely and worldly woman, whose affection for him is deep, as is her perception of his strength and integrity. But even this solace proves impermanent. Mesabi is a novel of the life and times of Hugh Champlain, a deeply moving story that is also the story of a complex business world, and a peculiarly American city formed by that world.” Read more about Margaret Culkin Banning here.

The cover of Margaret Culkin Banning’s novel Mesabi. (Image: Zenith City Press)