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An Urban Biography

Author Tony Dierckins

Minnesota Historical Society Press (April 15, 2020)

Cities, like people, are always changing, and the history of that change is the city’s biography. This new series illuminates the unique character of each city, weaving in the hidden stories of place, politics, and identity that continue to shape its residents’ lives.


Duluth, the beautiful city at the head of the world’s largest freshwater lake, has gone from boom to bust to boom and back again.

In this richly textured urban biography, author Tony Dierckins highlights fascinating stories of the city: Its significance as the final stop in the Ojibwe’s legendary westward migration. The failed copper rush along Lake Superior’s North Shore that started the city’s growth. The natural port on the St. Louis River that made shipping its first and most important business. The legend of the digging of the ship canal. The unique aerial transfer bridge and its successor, the lift bridge. The city’s remarkable park system. The 1920 lynching of three African American circus workers. The Glensheen murders. How Duluth has been dissed in popular culture. The evolution of the city’s east-west divide. And throughout the years, the big lake and river have sustained Duluth’s economy, shaped its residents’ recreation, and attracted the tourists who marvel at the city’s beauty and cultural life.

Author information

Tony Dierckins is the publisher of Zenith City Press and the author of a dozen books about Duluth and western Lake Superior, including Lost Duluth and Duluth’s Historic Parks.

Reviews and news

Winner of the 2022 Northeastern Minnesota Book Award for Nonfiction

Duluth News-Tribune articles by Tony Dierckins

TPT's Almanac (36:37)

Almanac North

Duluth News-Tribune


Wisconsin Public Radio

Lake Superior Magazine Notes (scroll down for author interview)

Perfect Duluth Day

Fox 21 Duluth

Advance Praise:

“A Duluthian at heart and a historian by passion, Dierckins brings Duluth’s past alive in a conversational narrative about our city at the Head of the Lakes. With intriguing old photos and painstaking research, Dierckins delivers a compelling portrait of this city loved by its residents and millions of visitors.”
Sam Cook, award-winning author and columnist for the Duluth News Tribune

“Like an actor with a weathered and scarred face, Duluth has a roughhewn and authentic character that fascinates us all. But those scars didn’t come cheap. Dierckins’s engaging history tells the unvarnished stories of a city forged by grit and resilience in the face of hardship. There is a direct through line from the rough and rugged early years and the entrepreneurial, problem-solving ethos that defines Duluth today.”
Don Ness, mayor of Duluth, 2008–16

“With Duluth: An Urban Biography, Tony Dierckins provides the book we’ve been missing for years—a reliable, brisk narrative history of Minnesota’s most distinctive city. The author’s clear, engaging style conveys tragic and comic events with equal ease. I recommend this book to residents and visitors alike.”
Barton Sutter, author of Cold Comfort: Life at the Top of the Map and Duluth poet laureate, 2006

  • Paperback
  • 192 pages
  • 45 b&w photos
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • ISBN: 9781681341590

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