Harboring a proud place in history.
It's where the St. Louis River, after plunging through pine-lined cliffs of Jay Cooke State Park, fans out to create a huge natural harbor, sheltered from Lake Superior by a narrow, sandy peninsula of land that stretches nine miles from Duluth, Minnesota into Superior, Wisconsin. The harbor rim weaves in and out of 49 miles of shoreline, containing 19 square miles of fresh water.
But this port's legacy began long before the two cities and states shared a common harbor.
Centuries ago, native peoples navigated these waters in search of food, shelter, and trade. Later, French-Canadian voyageurs and other Europeans paddled the same channels. By the mid-1800s, American and Canadian mining companies were capitalizing on this inland trade route and, just before the turn of the century, the Duluth Ship Canal was developed. The first commercial vessel to transit the Canal was the steamer Norman in 1896.
Legend. Lore. Legacy.
When you ask old-timers which opened first, Duluth's ship canal or the Superior Entry - you're likely to hear more fiction than fact. They'll tell you citizens dug Duluth's shipping canal by hand, overnight, to become a recognized shipping leader in what would eventually be known as the "Twin Ports."
The real story, however, begins long before that legend.
For generations, Native Americans-and, later, French-Canadian voyageurs-used Lake Superior as a transportation artery. Commercial marine traffic wouldn't become a reality until 1855, when the first locks were opened at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
Among its earliest cargoes was lumber, harvested from the region's great white pine forests. The first shipment of bulk grain was made in 1871, the same year as the first significant inbound cargoes of eastern coal. Walking cargo also became important, as European immigrants, eastern businessmen, and affluent tourists arrived on passenger ships.
Iron ore began to flow through the Port in 1892, and its shipments grew at an amazing pace: five million tons in 1900; 15 million tons by 1905; 30 million by 1913. Minnesota iron ore shipped via Duluth-Superior (and neighboring Two Harbors) made the majority of steel that built America in the 20th Century.
Like all world-class ports, Duluth-Superior has undergone tremendous change over the years.
When the Seaway opened to deep-draft navigation in 1959, this marine corridor became the world's largest inland waterway, and our nation's fourth seacoast. Its opening introduced new trading opportunities, and the Duluth-Superior name instantly became known among the world's grain traders.
While iron ore and grain remain vital commodities, low-sulphur western coal from the Powder River Basin has recently emerged as the fastest-growing domestic cargo on the Great Lakes. Likewise, wind energy components have become this port's fastest growing international payload.
Quickly changing and always expanding, new and renovated Port facilities have replaced the docks of yesteryear, and a new generation of ships can load and unload at speeds unheard of just a few years ago. The Port is evolving, growing, and will continue to do so as it adapts to the ever-advancing technologies and market forces of the 21st Century.
One for the history books.
Set against a backdrop of the key industries that helped build North America: iron and steel, forest products, grain, and coal, Pride of the Inland Seas tells the fascinating tale of the development of the Twin Ports during three centuries of economic, technological, political, and social change. This is the story of the people at the Head of the Lakes who built, loaded, and sailed the ships that have made Duluth-Superior synonymous with Great Lakes maritime commerce.
Authors Bill Beck and C. Patrick Labadie bring lifetimes of Great Lakes experience to the pages of Pride of the Inland Seas: An Illustrated History of the Port of Duluth-Superior, published in collaboration with the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, July 2004. Foreword by former Port Director Davis Helberg.
Pride of the Inland Seas: Companion Stories
The authors of "Pride of the Inland Seas," published in August 2004 by Afton Historical Society Press, accumulated material for more stories than could be accommodated by the book's 288 pages. Consequently, 20 additional stories are available on this Web site.
For readers, these stories provide more detailed information about larger themes covered in the book. For persons who have not yet read Pride of the Inland Seas, these stories are intended to be enjoyed as they are, but ideally they will also pique interest in the full-length book. The stories are in chronological order and, in most cases, correspond to the time periods covered by the book's 19 chapters. The complementary publication of a quality history book in printed and electronic formats may be unique in the publishing industry. Readers who wish to copy these website stories for future enjoyment or reference are encouraged to do so, but the Duluth Seaway Port Authority must also point out that the stories and images are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced in any form for personal gain.
More stories about the Great Lakes' greatest port are yet to be told. And, in a figurative sense, more are being written every day, every week, every year within the Port of Duluth-Superior.