September 17, 1883 Former president U. S. Grant visits Duluth

On this day in Duluth in 1883, former president U. S. Grant and other distinguished visitors arrived in the Zenith City on the Northern Pacific Railroad at 2:15 p.m. and were “properly greeted” by a committee of civic leaders at the original Union Depot. The greeters included Mayor C. H. Graves, Duluth Board of Trade official George Spencer, attorney J. D. Ensign, and others. General John Hammond, who later developed much of Superior, Wisconsin, introduced the former President and his party, which included ex-secretary of state William Evans and federal engineer John “Hell-Gate” Newton, who oversaw improvements of the New York Harbor and was interested in the Duluth’s harbor. Grant’s son Jesse and other relatives joined them as well. The party toured Duluth in carriages, and as word got it citizens began lining the streets. The carriage drive ended at the dock of the St. Paul & Duluth Railroad, where the party boarded the steamer Eliza Williams and toured the harbor before landing at Superior, where a similar committee met them and squired them around town. By 6:30 they were back in Duluth, boarding their special cars Yellowstone and Northern Adirondack. While the visit was brief, the Duluth Tribune pointed out that the president and his company had gone several hundred miles out of their way to make the unplanned stop in Duluth to see for themselves the “wonder of Duluth” they had been reading about. The paper reported that during a boat trip around the harbor, Grant had “gauged everything” and when he left “one could well believe he could have sat down and drawn an engineer’s chart of the entire situation. The paper said Grant had a “high opinion” of Duluth as the key to both the Great Lakes and the nation’s “vast Northwestern interior.” Another item reported that Grant may move to Duluth, as the former president had inquired as to the price of town lots. He did not.

U. S. Grant photographed in 1880, three years before his visit to Duluth. (Image: Public Domain)