A Historic Look at Duluth Winter Weather

A Look at Duluth Winter 100+ Years Ago

We love Duluth history and we love Duluth winters. It seems like you never really know what winter will bring these days. Winter weather impacts all of our lives here in The Northland and after a recent winter weather discussion at The Duluth Experience Headquarters in Downtown Duluth, we decided to look back 100 years to see what Duluth winter was like in 1916.

In order to find out, we took a trip to the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Kathryn A. Martin Library and dove into some old Duluth News Tribune (DNT) articles looking for weather reports from March 1916.

While sifting through a pile of DNT papers, it became readily apparent that there was a lot going on in early 1916. In fact, the front page was dominated by stories from World War I – The Battle of Verdun and President Wilson’s attempts to seize Poncho Villa in Mexico. Then, in the local news section, we found what we were looking for.

Duluth Winter Weather In 1916

Irate Duluthian Shovel Snow or Go to PrisonOne article described a West Duluth citizen, known only as “a tax payer”, who was irate with a prominent neighbor who hadn’t shoveled the sidewalk in front of his home for years. So irate was this tax-paying Duluthian that he felt his lazy neighbor should be sent to prison. To quote this frustrated fellow: “To the pen with him. Cleaning his walks and taxing the cost against the property, is too easy for him.” Another short article, described a man who had fallen on an icy sidewalk and sustained a severe face injury. An injury that prompted the man to stay house ridden for a chunk of the winter.

Duluth Winter Survival Tips

Winter weather poses a challenge but Duluthians are well equipped to survive – and even enjoy – Duluth’s winter weather. Image: The Duluth Experience.

Related: 5 Pro Tips For Winter Survival In Duluth

It appears that the winter of 1915-1916 was a doozy. On March 5, for example, the DNT reported that the city had spent $10,000 on snow removal during the months of January and February which would amount to $230,000 today! And the snow, it appears, would continue to pile up. On the evening of March 6, Duluth was hit with a furious snow storm. Although the previous day’s forecast called for mild weather and possible snow flurries, Duluthians were caught off guard when a heavy gale blew in from Lake Superior and dumped nearly a half of foot of snow.

winter Survival Gear

A water bottle, headlamp, pocket knife, storm-proof matches, tinder (in the orange tube), a basic first aid kit, and a bit of paracord or rope are great items to carry with you on any adventure. Image: The Duluth Experience.

Related: 5 Winter Safety Tips

There seems to be a positive side to the heavy snow fall that winter though. An article from the March 3rd (which quoted the opinion of ship captain – Captain Massey) reported that the thick snow covering Lake Superior, would help to quickly melt the lake ice once spring arrived. Ships would be able to smash through the melting ice much earlier and it would be, said the Captain, a great year for shipping on the Great Lakes.

Despite Captain Massey’s optimistic forecast, the lake ice must have been quite thick. Just like Duluthians today who don’t shy away from winter recreation (e.g., skiing, snowshoeing, fat tire biking, etc.), hearty Duluthians held a 20-mile automobile race on Lake Superior in 1916.

Duluth automobile ice race 1916According to reports, citizens lined up along the shoreline to watch the race despite the wind picking up throughout the day.

Just like today, Duluthians are hearty folk who love to brave the elements for fun – Duluthians… you rock!

Check out our Winter Adventures and have some winter fun in Duluth!

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