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Dayton proclaims July 31 as Iron Day in Minnesota

In Minnesota, July 31 has a new name: Iron Day.

Gov. Mark Dayton signed a proclamation naming the date after the abundant natural resource, which the state first started shipping to buyers 130 years ago. Tony Sertich, commissioner of the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board, presented the proclamation at a celebration in Soudan on Thursday.

According to the Lake County Historical Society, the first Lake Superior shipment of ore left Agate Bay in Two Harbors on July 31, 1894, marking the beginning Minnesota's iron ore industry. The Minnesota Iron Company bought 17,000 acres of land in order to build a track north to ore deposits. Different locations were considered for the railroad terminus and shipping port, but Agate Bay was chosen because it was closer to the iron ore site and provided a clay bottom bay, while most others were rocky. The contractor was told he would receive a bonus of $50,000 if the railroad was completed by Aug. 1. According to the society, because that date fell on a Friday, and construction workers had strong superstitions about Fridays, it became important that the construction be completed by July 31. The completion of the railway between Duluth and Two Harbors did not occur until 1886.

In 1890, the Merritt brothers discovered the Mesabi Range, further expanding the importance of iron mining on the economy of the region.

“It is an honor to be here to help celebrate and recognize the major impact of the iron mining industry" Sertich said in a statement.

In the proclamation, Dayton cited the importance of Minnesota’s iron industry in helping construct infrastructure projects across the country, providing material for armament and ships during World War II and creating thousands of jobs for state residents.