November 9, 1872: Birth of Duluth master stone carver George Thrana

On this day in 1872, Ole Georgurious Thrana was born in Steinkjer, Norway, where he apprenticed as a stone carver. Thrana—who went by “George”—moved to Duluth in 1889, when he was just 17 years old and had no friends or relatives in America. His first job in Duluth was working on the First Presbyterian Church, and his second was carving the gargoyles and other decorative elements on the brownstone façade of Duluth’s Central High School. According to William D. Coventry, “Thrana’s carvings were usually made by mallet and chisel, especially on the softer stones such as sandstone. Harder stone such as granite and Bedford limestone and marble he resorted to pneumatic powered tools. He also sculptured in clay and modeled plaster from pre-formed molds. Such works were usually applied to ceilings, designs in relief such as we see in the Hotel Duluth.” Perhaps his most noted work in Duluth today is the marble fountain he carved for the formal garden of Chester and Clara Congdon’s Glensheen estate. As the only stone carver in Duluth and one of only a few in Minnesota, Thrana kept busy almost until his death in 1939. The cause of death was silicosis, commonly known as “dust on the lung” or “Stone Cutter’s Disease.” Read a much more complete biography of Thrana, including a list of where his work in Duluth can be found today, here.

O. George Thrana. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)