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Earl O. Olson papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: S4518

Scope and Contents

The collection reflects some of the basic development and operations of the Duluth Municipal Airport when Earl Olson was manager. There are a number of unidentified groups of people, unidentified aircraft, snowplows, and photographs of the airport's physical site from the ground as well as a few aerial views. There is a 1941 brochure about the Duluth Junior College's flying program and a 1958 award (it looks like a spoof among friends) to Earl Olson as an "Unsung Hero." A scrapbook kept by Olson also includes newspaper cuttings. The collection also includes a biographical scrapbook compiled by Alvin Grady about Earl O. Olson covering 1893-2012.

Airplanes that have some identification include: Trans-Canada Air Lines CF-T?; prop plane with a 3 on the tail and AMSOIL on its side (photo by Bill Mollet); young man standing next to a prop plane NC23052 holding what looks like a canvas parachute bag and harness; prop plane NG-539, NG 415?; a prop plane inscribed with Congratulations on your Salo May 7, 1939 Rudy Billberg; hand-colored photo of a prop plane with a 2 on the tail and the name Fred J. or T and a name beginning with a Z; four-engine plane on a runway with BF-077 and a star on the side, 2077 on the nose and 462077 on the tail surrounded by five prop planes; North Central Airlines plane in the snow facing the control tower with door open two men.

A group of people include Martin Harney, Roy Moeler ?, an unidentified man, and Earl O. Olson with two uniformed stewardesses accepting a framed certificate that says North Central. The Premier of Sweden and Earl Olson at the baggage claim area. Beechcraft model D18S and Guilford Hartley, May, 1946 (Beech Aircraft Corporation public relations department, Wichita, Kansas). Two photographs from January 30, 1950, with City of Duluth Airport snow plows, six men and one woman standing in front of the control tower. The control tower under construction in winter; four aerial views, one identified as 1941 WPA Project installing drainage.


  • 1939-1958


Conditions Governing Access

Open for use in the Kathryn A. Martin Library, Archives and Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

Earl Omar "Ole" Olson (1898-1972), was manager of the Duluth airport for 25 years. In November 1939, a municipal airport board was selected. The five members were John J. Woodfill, Halvar Haugen, Howard D. Bush, George Wells Jr., and Harold Lindberg. Also in that year, Earl “Ole” Olson became the first airport manager. Olson ran successfully for a Minnesota senate seat for district 60 in 1964. He retired from the airport on July 1, 1965, succeeded by Robert Ion as manager. Mr. Olson died October 23, 1972.

The airport Mr. Olson managed has it beginnings in the late 1920s. In 1927, not being satisfied with the Twin Ports flying field located at the entry of the Arrowhead bridge, a bill was passed by the state legislature for the issuance of city bonds to finance a Duluth municipal airport. In 1928, A $100,000 bond issue was passed on June 4th and an airport committee including Julius M. Nolte, F. G. Germaine, A. B. Horowitz, John A. Wilson, and J. A Scott was appointed. In 1929, several areas were suggested for the airport: near 63rd Avenue West, Wheeler Field, Maple Grove and Haines Roads, Vercellini, Proctor, and the present site, then known as the [St. Louis county] Work Farm site. A mass of 640 acres of land was purchased for $70,000 and Duluth Mayor Samuel F. Snively broke ground on August 2. On September 13, 14, 1930, the field was officially dedicated and named the Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport. Harvey Francis Williamson, Jr., was a pioneer of commercial aviation in the area who crashed into St. Louis Bay Aug. 23, 1928, and Conrad Gilbert Johnson was Duluth's first flier to be killed in WWI.

In 1940 Northwest Airlines began the first regularly scheduled air service to Duluth using Lockheed twin engine Ultras. The City purchased a D4 Caterpillar tractor, snow rollers and drag used to compact the snow so aircraft could land using wheels in the winter. In 1941, a weather bureau was established at the municipal airport and the Duluth Airport spent $691,000 on blacktopping two 3,900- foot runways, each 100 ft. wide. On January 9, 1947, a Northwest Airlines DC-3 becomes the first scheduled airliner to land in Duluth after dark and with the aid of a new lighting system at the airport. In 1951, Duluth got a control tower. With $30,000 in equipment, it was considered one of the most modern in the country.

In 1955, hoping for a more cosmopolitan look, the Duluth Airport Board moved to rename the Williamson-Johnson Municipal Airport the Duluth International Airport. 1956, a KLM Royal Dutch Jetliner became the first direct overseas flight, leaving Duluth and landing in Finland. 1974, about 6,000 people turn out to see the dedication of the new airport terminal building.


23.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The collection reflects some of the basic development and operations of the Duluth Municipal Airport when Earl Olson was manager.

Physical Location

This collection is located at the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives. For more information about this collection or to make an appointment, contact us at or 218-726-8526.


This collection is part of the Northeast Minnesota Historical Collections, which are housed in the University of Minnesota Duluth Archives at the Kathryn A. Martin Library.

Guide to the Earl O. Olson papers
Finding Aid Authors: P. Maus.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collecting Area Details

Contact The University of Minnesota Duluth Archives and Special Collections Collecting Area

Kathryn A. Martin Library
University of Minnesota Duluth
416 Library Drive
Duluth MN 55812-3001
(218) 726-8526