Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 6; Duluth: A Happy Place for a Lonesome Man
Didn't. You hear. They call it broadcasting service under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting present. Lois's Minnesota state of mind. You can't. Miss.
This there it was written by Dr James Blunt with native Minnesotan and author of several articles and a book on it. Come north and relax reads an advertisement circulated by the Duluth visitor bureau in the Minneapolis Chicago St. Louis Kansas City newspapers. Get out of the hustle and bustle the frantic pace the crowds and noise come to Duluth. Going is easy. The people are friendly and there's always plenty to do. Clear sunny skies and cool restful nights will bring back that old path and zest for living. You'll return refresh and relax right for details. Sinclair Lewis did more than write for details he attempted to make his home.
And it is the one place in Minnesota for which Lewis had been hesitant. Like you of course Lois looked at them through the same eyes with which he had looked at her. And Duluth did not escape that critical and often withering gaze. If Lewis was kinder to Devo than to most other cities in which he has lived as he did. It is because his critical sense found less to object to in Duluth than anywhere else. But how accurate was he in his evaluation of two lives. What reasons might he have had for admiring this one said he above all others. Is still the place Lewis thought it was. Our narrator Leslie Davis as he takes us on a visit of the Sinclair Lewis. And the Duluth of today will try to provide us with answers to these questions. The title of this program. Happy place for our lonesome at.
Sinclair Lewis is relationship with the loop goes back to the early years of his career extends off and on over most of his mature life and resulted in several of his novels cast member lane in King's blood royal being set in Duluth. It was in 1916 that Lewis and his first wife Grace Hager chugged into Duluth and a famous Ford which they would subsequently drive cross-country to Seattle. That adventurous journey which earned Lewis more fame than did any of his novels prior to Main Street. Duluth was a welcome sight to the Lewises for reasons other than its hillside architecture in blue harbor it seems while driving through him being Mrs Lewis was mistaken for Elizabeth Gurley Flynn the I.W.W. agitator and the police follow the Lewis car out of town. That car incidentally was a matter of more comment in the move than the arrival of that then relatively unknown author. Mrs Lewis later wrote this was no ordinary Model T Ford.
It may have looked the same to millions of other owners but to us it was our trustworthy companion bright eyed from constant polishing and with the elegance of a starter like a bicycle pump which spawn the motor and relieved us of the fear that Howe might break his slender wrist with the standard crank. Into its meager back seat we crowded to shovel and axe a steel cable extra gasoline router for the frequently boiling radiator spare tubes and a lantern. Only a fool would plan a long journey without these necessities. On the running board it was a homemade tent and there were blankets and other camping equipment. However eager the Lewises were to set out for the West in their miraculous Ford the Luth worked its influence on Sinclair and his stay was protracted enough for him to finish a novel entitled The job published in 1970. But it was not until 1944 that Lewis was to respond to the appeal Duluth had for him.
Margaret Culkin Banning the Duluth novelist recalls that upon visiting Louis in New York in 1944 she found him studying Duluth maps and books dealing with the city. When she returned to the loo with Mrs. Benning suggested to Kenneth Kent a real tory that he write Lois and offer him help in finding a house there. Louis replied. I want to place with three or four bedrooms two baths two bedrooms or servants and a servants bath along with a good view of Lake Superior. Can Ted just such a listing when Lewis arrived in Duluth on May 16 1944 can show the house known locally as the old John G Williams house at 26 0 1 East 2nd Street. The house was first rented by Lewis and then purchased early in the next year for the ridiculously low price of $15000 including the furniture the house is presently owned by the Dominican Sisters at its current value according to Mr Kant. It's well over one hundred thousand dollars and a letter to Marcella
powers Lewis described his house this way. This is my Prague new address. It's a kind of English manor house brick and a little courtyard a big drawing room paneled library furniture rather shabby but most comfortable five master bedrooms and three bad couple servants rooms in the basement. Jolly foolish miniature bowling alley and a game room helping right out through French doors and the secluded lawn. Wonderful for a summertime buffet supper. There's a fine terrace with a view on one side of the great open lake and on the other out to Pine Hills to the east Duluth runs east and west north and south as it should. It's also quiet with enough ground to walk about on the third story and unfinished vast attic which is the ball room now outside a balcony begging to be bathed in. I think I shall love my man or else blunder. The woman's editor of the Duluth News Tribune and Herald wrote in 1945 distinction in Grace Mark the atmosphere of the House which one of America's
eminent novelist is to have his permanent home in Duluth even before getting settled into his menorah all splendor. Lewis began developing a circle of admiring your intimate friends Mark Nolan the circuit judge Roy a Subhash the mine owner Victor Ritter the publisher of the Duluth newspaper and many attractive ladies. One Duluth matron recalled that he caused quite a ripple here wherever he visited a hot discussion followed. Some were for him and others against but they generally agreed on one thing. He was a character. His reputation as a character was amplified by the way in which he did research for a novel about racial problems. According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune Lewis inaugurated discussion meetings that were to become of local minor fade. His first guests were two negro couples whom he became acquainted with through a negro valet named Edward Nichols. Nichols was a
valet at a fashionable Duluth club and for several prominent families. Lewis had brought up from Minneapolis a negro housekeeper who also participated in the initial discussions from the original meetings stemmed other sessions in Duluth homes. Lewis requested that equal members of Jewish Negro and white Gentile guests be invited to discuss race and religious questions. There Vassily will fling down chocolates Louis would usually start the discussions this way. We have been a racial problems because we don't know each other. For instance we don't know negroes. Why because we don't make it a point to know them. Asking the guests directly Lois would then say Have you ever made it a point to be in a negro's home. You ask how do we go about getting into a negro. Have you ever invited negroes into your own home first and allow them to re separate. Ross launched the meeting would evolve into complex discussions of economic and political as well as social aspects of the problem. Then Lewis would quietly withdraw to
a neutral quarter and take the luminous notes later when king's blood royal was published. The discussion participants fancied themselves or their fellow guests in various characters in the novelists story of a family deeply involved in its own interracial problems. These discussions disturb a futile Lutyens but it was got along surprisingly well with the people of the loo. There was one to Lucy and recalls him Sinclair Lewis was a very interesting character tremendously intelligent always seeking for information always anxious to meet people very courteous and very inclined to be sociable but never attempting to make in my opinion close friends. His behavior here in Duluth to my knowledge was beyond reproach. He did not drink. He preferred to retire early and he loved aloof and we always hoped that he would become a permanent citizen. And we regretted very much when he decided to sell his home and leave here. It not only overall that he was going to make to lose his permanent residence he also made himself
available for public service of a sort. Delivering the commencement address at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus was then a State Teacher's College in 1906 giving a series of lectures that summer on the craft of writing and the art of reading and talking often about wanting to redesign dilute. Clarence and understand the Duluth newspaper even wrote that Lewis would frequently ask to be driven down to the ship canal where lein Great Lakes freighters steam in and out standing on the lawn of the U.S. engineers station. He would wave his lanky arms about as he talked his dreams for Duluth right here. The hotel should begin there should be a beautiful driveway beginning here and stretching all around the lake shore to the eastern edge of the city. In many ways Lewis's residency in Duluth seems like an idol in the midst of a life that was generally hectic and often unhappy. Lewis as are most residents of Duluth was stirred by the beauty of the city and the area. The perfect day so far this summer early AM blaze of glory and shadowy
woods purple sea. They are delicious and alive Stockley cool and brisk and irradiance and leaves grass stones tree trunks even the dull blue spruce and balsam shining. By noon the lake or once a deep true blue with purple streaks and small white caps. Later like a flawed blue gray steamer small can far horizon somehow point at people sailing to strange parts. Even on these likes a saw lions. The Duluth taxi cab driver who became Lewis's chauffeur recalled how Lewis would often make him stop the car and their drives up the north shore of Lake Superior so he could you the sparkling lake. But the Duluth area appealed to Lewis for reasons other than its beauty alone. To him it had to sophistication and culture that Sox center lacked. Watch at the same time. Duluth was small enough to seem less frantic and more friendly than a large city would be reading from New York City in one thousand forty five. Lewis pointedly stated the contrast between Duluth and the Eastern metropolis.
I remember those last few days in Duluth said gratefully. Coming back to New York it seems far too big too much of a senseless and jungle like proliferation of buildings and people and all the people seem too busy to get to see an old friend you first write to the governor and he sends you an application. And by the time you get to see your old friend he's died of delirium tremens two months before and his family hasn't yet very him. They all been too busy standing in line for tickets or Oklahoma for November 1945. A Sinclair Lewis's biographer Mark Shore writes of Lou which he loved Duluth and the extraordinary variations of its weather on bright days there's an open radiance about this city that seems to emanate as much from the great blue expanse of its freshwater Harbor as from the blue dome of sky shining above its hilltop Pines in and out of the uncluttered harbor great beautiful freighters loaded with or emptied of grain or a coal. And behind them
rises the whole swell of Lake Superior. There is a curious coalescence here of modern industry in commerce with the UN traffic to freedom of the front here north. It's business traits are is pockmarked is those of any town the United States but in its good residential sections handsome houses stand with proud elegance on great longs under great trees. It is a small city almost totally without the anonymous feel of a city and yet it breathes out a greatness that is beyond the merely herb and it is called the zenith city. Then Sinclair Lewis thought he could be happy in it with all its forthright genuine warm and unaffected people. Lewis's enthusiasm for Duluth apparently rubbed off on John Gunther when Gunther came to the loo to do research for inside USA. If you would look up the Luthern the index of Gunther's book and then turn to the appropriate page. Here is what you
would read. I drove up to Duluth from Minneapolis and it was the late Sinclair Lewis who was my host there. We looked at what is called Minnesota point from a tall bluff and watch the freighters come in with Coel and go out again with their mammoth the burdens of war against the swelling blue backdrop of Lake Superior. Duluth This is the end of the line. Here is the extreme western most tip of the Atlantic Ocean. Duluth together with Superior Wisconsin is a seaport but it is difficult up in this Piney stillness to appreciate the well-known fact that this is the second biggest port in the nation. There is something in Congress about its commercial activity. Port connotes smoke and slums and men hurrying down greasy cobbled streets whereas Duluth tangles with openness. The atmosphere of campfires placed sunshine and the free spirit of the Viking nor second
busiest American port. But if the local folklore is to be believed. Duluth is also a city where bears wander in from the woods every spring push their way into backyards and invade the lobby of the chief hotel. Greatest iron ore city in the world. But the booster pamphlets call it America's air conditioned city in the hay fever haven of America. There isn't a cut of the loop a sense of discovery as if you never thought that such an out-of-the-way place could be both so beautiful and so unique. This sense of discovery is common among first time visitors to Duluth possibly because for years Duluth has been the symbol of geographical obscurity. Perhaps the most infamous denigration of Duluth on this point occurs in the Congressional Record and 1871 a proposal for railway development in the Duluth region was being debated in the House of Representatives and Washington Representative Proctor not of Kentucky opposed the bill in the following manner
with the cute and indescribable charm like the gentle murmur of a low fat stealing forth in the roses or the soft sweet accents of an angel's whisper in the bright joyous dreamy sleep. The name for which my soul had panted for years for though was too long. Never in my limited reading had my vision been gladdened by seeing the sun in print. My hand I felt a profound humiliation in my ignorance that its syllables had never before ravish. And examined the maps but I could nevertheless I was confident that it existed somewhere that its discovery would constitute the crowning glory of the present century if not all the
time. I know. It was perhaps to lose a strangeness to most Americans that partly attracted Lewis to it. After all he was known as the anatomist of American civilization and it was only appropriate in his probings Lewis should turn up a home for himself that almost every commentator on life in the United States had overlooked. Besides Lewis found in Duluth the kind of climate surroundings and people with which he was most comfortable and he predicted a great future for the city. If the St. Lawrence Seaway were developed he once said Duluth could become a city of several hundred thousand population. The Seaway has of course gone through but what about the city of Duluth. Has it remained the city that Lewis lived as it developed in the way Louis thought it would. We visited Duluth in the hope of answering some of these questions when approaching Duluth from the south on the new four lane interstate. The view of the city spread out below is as striking as ever
except that the water in the harbor and Lake Superior beyond is no longer so shining and the cool air is somewhat hazy now with industrial smoke. Other however more positive signs of progress are evident looking Duluth and its sister city superior is a 20 million dollar high level two mile long toll free interstate bridge completed in 1961. A new hotel is going up in the middle of the city and on the waterfront is the new arena auditorium a multi-purpose complex consisting of a twenty four hundred three seat theater and a 70 500 seat sports arena. The downtown area has an atmosphere of compact business and unlike the loop areas of most cities the commercial section of Duluth seems to have lost comparatively little of its trade to shopping centers. Economically the biggest factor is the St. Lawrence Seaway the 10th birthday of which was celebrated in 1989. The Seaway has helped to make that elusive period Harbor one of the largest harbors in the nation in
tonnage and involved traffic it is the largest port in the world. Great things have always been promised for Duluth but the predictions have almost always fallen short of actual developments. For years Duluth gained much of its income as the mercantile hub of the Maasai Iron Range to the northwest but declining production from them a sobby cent dilute into a recession that the expanded taconite operation in recent years has not yet overcome even though the taconite mining was expected to rejuvenate the city and the great predictions that were made about the Seaway have followed a similar pattern. To be certain the Seaway has lived up to some of its expectations. Mississippi River tonnage tabulations indicate however that an increasing volume of grain has been moving in the last few years to Minneapolis St. Paul. Elevators and then by barge to the warden's other grain shippers particularly in western North Dakota and on into Montana became disenchanted with Great Lakes shipping uncertainties due principally to work stoppages
the shippers have taken to all rail movement of grain to the west coast now. With the pervasive failures of the hopes for delusion to materialize one would think that an air of gloom would hang over the city but not so really the loop has not gained significantly in population during the past 20 years the last culture of the population to be approximately one hundred ten thousand. But it has maintained itself nicely with that figure. Duluth possesses neither major slums nor urban sprawl either and the visitor soon notices the high percentage of nicely kept up older houses. But the attitude of the loser citizens toward their city is hardly that of the blind boosterism found in the zenith of Babbit. This attitude of being willing to face the facts both good and bad was reflected with surprising frankness by Bill Schoen. The dilute Chamber of Commerce executive officer here is Mr. Sharon's response to some questions we asked him about Bill who I think one of the most unique characteristics of Duluth is
that the Lou has not had a great deal of makes as far as population goes in comparison to other cities. There has not been as many new people moving in especially in the middle upper income level. The people here have sort of perpetuated themselves in a sort of father to son situation and therefore one of the really unique characteristics is the lack of outside influence that has been prevalent. This is breaking down to some degree now with a little more of a vibrant economic growth pattern. But it is still a factor to pick inserter. I think that the loop if it continues to build a momentum is going to ultimately be a community that is going to rate very high from the standpoint of livability. I think it's going to be large enough to offer many of the things that smaller communities can't offer. Not all of the Lutyens we questioned were willing to talk about subjectively as Mr. Schoen did but most seem to know their city well and most significantly new why they chose to live there. Wonder Luth resident could speak with an unusual kind of authority and clarity on living in Duluth. Heres Charles Lipscomb
an insurance executive who has lived in Duluth for all of his 89 years. Luther is a fine place to live in. I think that's been demonstrated by some of our citizens deciding to move to a warmer climate to retire after a few years. A great many of them return to Duluth and say that this is the one city in which they wish to reside and probably couldn't be happy and they were now past retirement age and Mrs. Lipscomb and I have no idea. Home other than in the loop. Because although our winter sun is dead life and I you know around climate is healthy. Sinclair Lewis was a less typical Duluth resident and Charles Liska Ms. Lewis is also less typical than most dilute peons for he chose to live in Duluth for a little over 15 months only in the short time he was there however. Lewis was able to see Duluth pretty much as longtime residents see it as a city with a kind
of beauty no other city possesses a city with a front here like openness to it yet a city that upon examination reveals itself to be remarkably stable and settled. These are the qualities that appealed to Lewis the most for his life was often a struggle between a heady desire for freedom and the need for the conditions that would permit him to work the security of a house. Understanding but not overly close friends and scenic vistas that seem to have a soothing effect on his sensibilities. All of these he founded would still find in Duluth what he would not find is the wild enthusiasm for the future that he satirised so roundly and Babbitt aloof businessmen seem more patient more realistic about the possibilities for their city now. It is just possible that Sinclair Lewis might find a little more civilized than when he last saw it and it still possesses what no other city in the world can claim a testimonial from Sinclair Lewis themself to the effect that he was happy in the loop.
You may be wondering why Sinclair Lewis left a lute if he was happier there than in any place else he ever lived. The main reason seems to have been his incurable restlessness. He was continually moving from one place to another all his life in the myth of a scape figured as prominently in his life. And so it does in his novels. It was most certainly contrary to rumor not frozen out by the people of Duluth even though he suggested it one Chamber of Commerce gathering that the community could stand. A few good old fashioned pin rolls. The reason why Lou was left alone with was most poignantly and perhaps most accurately stated by Eisa Lyons is to loop chauffeur when he said that Lewis was the lonesomeness man on earth.
Although Duluth was the Minnesota study Sinclair Lois love the most and for good reason as we have just learned. He also lived in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area an area which inevitably found its way into his writing. And an area which will be our next stop as we tour. Sinclair Lewis is Minnesota. You have been listening to Sinclair Lewis's Minnesota state of mind this 12 program series has been produced by the St. Cloud State College broadcasting service under a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Never speak to you and you cannot
hide. And with. That. I say. This. One. This series was written by Dr James Lundquist of the St. Cloud State College Department of English. The music composed and performed at Pylos like. This program was produced and directed by John Wright.
- Episode Number
- Producing Organization
- St. Cloud State College
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- In 1920, Minnesotan Sinclair Lewis published his novel "Main Street," an inciteful analysis of the American small town. This radio series, produced five decades after the novel was published, explores whether "Main Street" still holds true of small towns.
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Producing Organization: St. Cloud State College
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-9-6 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 6; Duluth: A Happy Place for a Lonesome Man,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-db7vrd38.
- MLA: “Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 6; Duluth: A Happy Place for a Lonesome Man.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-db7vrd38>.
- APA: Sinclair Lewis' Minnesota: A State of Mind; 6; Duluth: A Happy Place for a Lonesome Man. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-db7vrd38