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New book sheds light on Duluth's forgotten past

What started as a hobby finished as a book about some of the most famous Duluthians you've probably never heard of, or know little about. "Forgotten Duluthians" summarizes the lives and claims to fame of 39 people who spent at least part of their...

What started as a hobby finished as a book about some of the most famous Duluthians you've probably never heard of, or know little about.

"Forgotten Duluthians" summarizes the lives and claims to fame of 39 people who spent at least part of their lives in the Zenith City. The book chronicles actors, writers, vaudeville stars, Joe DiMaggio's first wife, and a national champion blind golfer. Others include newsman Roger Grimsby, artist David Ericson and Lorenzo Music -- the voice of Garfield and Carlton the Doorman from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Written by Duluth native David Ouse, the book is literally an extension of what Ouse does for a living.

Being the manager of the reference and information services department at the Duluth Public Library, a position he has held for 25 years, Ouse is often tasked with helping people find information on the genealogy and history of various subjects.

To find this information, Ouse used online databases and the library's biography files. These files contain information, often newspaper clippings, on a single person. Although still in use, biography files have become somewhat obsolete with the creation of computers and the Internet.

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Ouse first published biographical information on past residents for the library's reference blog. He said about a handful of the people in the book were also included in the blog, but the book entries are written in more depth. The blog was halted in 2007 because of staffing cuts, but Ouse continued to work on the biographies in his free time.

Working almost exclusively by himself, Ouse gathered information on his subjects from local newspapers and online databases to access media from all over the country.

Ouse acknowledges the book isn't an exhaustive list of famous Duluthians and that it leaves out famous people that area residents already know about. He did this to educate readers on people and facts they didn't know, which is evident in his writing.

Although each biography is relatively short (two or three pages), Ouse strives to get as much information into the book as possible instead of telling anecdotal tales about each person.

"I didn't write (the book) trying to make it interesting. I tried to cram as many facts in as I could," he said.

Like most writers, Ouse is his biggest critic. Although he's happy with how the book turned out, he has a couple of minor gripes.

The first is that he wishes he could have found some better-quality pictures. He also found more people than he could include in the book. However, he admits he had to stop somewhere and finally publish the book.

Originally, Ouse planned to make just a few copies of the book for people to use as a reference source at the library. Instead, Ouse chose a route that would reach more people and help the library at the same time.

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Ouse, along with the help of Tony Dierckins at X-communication, published 250 copies of the book while paying for the printing himself. Ouse then donated about 200 copies of the book to the library to serve as a fundraiser and gave away the rest to friends and organizations such as local historical societies.

Most people at the library had no idea Ouse was working on the book, and its publication came as a surprise. But the book has been embraced, and the library has set up a display of the book along with some of the literary works of people featured in the book.

This is Ouse's first book, but it may not be his last.

"I've got a couple of ideas for another book. One of them is about more forgotten Duluthians," he said.

"Forgotten Duluthians" is available for sale at all Duluth Public Library locations for $14.95, with all proceeds going to the library. A limited number of copies are also available for check-out using your library card.

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