What: A politician gave a speech.

 

When: Jan. 27, 1871

 

You’re kidding, right? J. Proctor Knott, a Kentucky congressman, delivered a speech for which he’d be known the rest of his life. A bill before the U.S. House of Representatives was intended to encourage the westward expansion of the railroads by giving land and money to railroad syndicates. Knott, who opposed the bill, delivered a comic oration on “The Untold Delights of Duluth,” the small harbor town where one of the railroad lines would have gone.

Let’s just say he really poured it on.

“I see it represented on this map that Duluth is situated exactly halfway between the latitudes of Paris and Venice, so that gentlemen who have inhaled the exhilarating airs of the one or basked in the golden sunlight of the other may see at a glance that Duluth must be a place of untold delights [laughter], a terrestrial paradise, fanned by the balmy zephyrs of an eternal spring, clothed in the gorgeous sheen of ever-blooming flowers, and vocal with the silvery melody of nature’s choicest songsters. [Laughter.]

“In fact, sir, since I have seen this map I have no doubt that Byron was vainly endeavoring to convey some faint conception of the delicious charms of Duluth when his poetic soul gushed forth in the rippling strains of that beautiful rhapsody.”

A bill becomes a name: The speech was distributed nationwide to the amusement of many — including Duluthians, who invited the congressman to visit. He did. In 1894, a village near Duluth incorporated itself as Proctorknott, shorting the name to Proctor in 1904.

The bill, by the way, was defeated. Proctor, however, still thrives.

James Lileks