November 11, 1966: Fundraising efforts to light Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge meet goal

On this day in Duluth in 1966, organizer’s reached their goal of raising $21,000 for lighting that would illuminate Duluth’s famous Aerial Lift Bridge at night. The effort, led by the project Duluth Committee, was explained by chairman John Grinden: “The Aerial Lift Bridge is the symbol of Duluth [and] we want to do everything possible to promote it to dramatize Duluth to tourists.” The previous year the city had already introduced “bridge rides,” public rides on the bridge as it raised and lowered from June to Labor Day. (It was an unsafe practice and lift bridge operators hated it.) The cost of lighting the bridge spurred the creation of another organization: the Aerial Bridge Club, chaired by Jack Arnold, public affairs director for WDSM-TV, along with former University of Minnesota football great Billy Bye, Annabelle Gallagher, and Rena Pearson. Membership was obtained by donating one dollar or more to the lighting fund, and each member’s card entitled its holder to one free bridge ride. Northland Sign donated a thermometer-style sign that marked the fund drive’s progress and posted it at Lake Avenue and Superior Street. By early September the group had collected $2,300, and nearly double that by the fifteenth of September. At that time Arnold and Bye suggested that names of each person who donated should go on a scroll to be encased in glass and permanently affixed to the bridge. That spurred a few more donations, and by early November the group had $14,000 in its coffers with donations still rolling in. On Friday, November 11, they had brought in all $21,000 from 10,000 donors. Six days later the lights were in place and ready to go. Read about the first time the bridge was lit, and much more about the life of Duluth’s Aerial Lift Bridge, here.

An unsigned Bridge Club membership card from the 1966 campaign to light Duluth’s Aerial Bridge. (Image: Zenith City Press)