January 18, 2011

Fact-checking is Good

Detail of postcard from c. 1910, Minnesota Historical Society collection.
It's never too early to start fact-checking. While working on a children's story about Duluth, I paused to check a couple of facts about Duluth's iconic Aerial Bridge. I began with using the great online resource of the Minnesota Historical Society, and local resources such as the Duluth Public Library and the wonderful Lake Superior Maritime Museum. These led me to talk to Tony Dierckins, author of Crossing the Canal: An Illustrated History of Duluth's Aerial Bridge and to read his fabulous book.
The bridge is the centerpiece of Duluth's tourist attractions, and has been since it was completed in 1905. Until the harbor freezes up each winter (the lake is so big that it doesn't freeze except along the shore), the bridge goes up and down many times each day—halfway up for the Vista Queen and other small but tall-masted craft. But when the big shiphorns exchange salutes with the bridge operator and the lift bridge goes up all the way, that's when crowds gather to see the huge oreboats and "salties" go through the canal.
These days, the bridge is commonly called the "Lift Bridge." My research taught me that one should, however, never make assumptions. If you look closely at this photo, maybe you can see what I mean.

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