October 3, 1938: Pranksters blow off Central High cannon

On this day in Duluth in 1938, pranksters set off the cannon that was on display in front of Duluth’s historic Central High School. The cannon was a relic of the Spanish-American War, a Spanish artillery piece taken from the Spanish cruiser Oquend and sent to Duluth in 1899. Its barrel had been filled with concrete to make it inoperable. But the breech was not sealed shut, so pranksters were able to load it with all sorts of materials. According to the Duluth News Tribune, it had been loaded with a charge of blasting powder and packed with beer bottles, horseshoe calks, short iron bars, stones and a wad of dampened paper. When the blast was set off by a time-delayed fuse at approximately 9:35 p.m., the makeshift ordnance blasted out the rear of the cannon—and broke about 15 windows in the school. A crowd of 2,500 converged on the building to see what had happened. In 1942 the cannon was donated for scrap as part of the war effort, but never made it out of Duluth in time. According to some, the cannon sat in the scrapyard that is now the parking lot north of Grandma’s restaurant in Canal Park.

The cannon that stood in front of Central High School can be seen in this lithographic postcard made between 1900 and 1915. (Image: Zenith City Press)