The title at the top of a newspaper’s front page, or the masthead, is the heart of that front page. It’s the first element one’s eye is drawn to, and it serves two functions. The first is the mundane and necessary task of displaying the paper’s name. The second function is to create the paper’s identity for a potential–or–current reader. Is this paper reserved and stately? Is it edgy and pushing boundaries, rattling cages along the way? It’s the job of the masthead to subtly (or sometimes not so…) convey this to a person.
Duluth in the mid-to-late nineteenth century was a place of newspaper competition, much like many other growing cities, back when the print news could be one’s only reliable, steady link to the rest of a community. Early papers often employed elaborate engravings or prominent typography to catch a potential reader’s eye and preview a small piece of its personality.
Below is a collection of early Duluth newspaper mastheads. Oftentimes, front-page graphics changed within the span of a few issues to a few years, reflecting the rapidly changing news landscape of the young Zenith City.
The Duluth Minnesotian holds the title of Duluth’s first newspaper. Published as a weekly, the Minnesotian ran from 1869 to 1875.
The Minnesotian’s primary competitor sprang up in 1873. In 1875, the Minnesotian was purchased by the Herald, forming the Duluth Minnesotian-Herald.
The Duluth Tribune was established in Duluth in 1870, though it began life across the harbor as the Superior Tribune. The Tribune purchased the Minnesotian-Herald in 1878, and the entire operation was purchased by the Duluth News in 1892. This formed the Duluth News-Tribune, laying the groundwork for the present-day Duluth News Tribune.
In addition to the larger competitive newspapers, a number of small special-interest publications dotted the early Duluth press landscape. These papers catered to needs of foreign language-speaking immigrants, those with opinions falling outside of the mainstream, and laborers seeking a voice in a booming city.
The beautiful engraving of French-language 1893 Voix du Lac, source of Lake Voice’s namesake.
The designs in these early newspapers provide a glance into a different era, when a young Duluth was pouring everything it could into creating the present-day city. Through them, one can see how publishers in Duluth’s early industrial days were striving to hammer out an identity, and in the process, created a snapshot for us to look back upon in our effort to understand how our community was forged.