North Star State
A Minnesota History Reader
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press
Title Page, Copyright
Minnesota is my adopted home. I grew up in New Jersey and Massachusetts, but in the 1960s I went to Carleton College in Northfield to major in mathematics. Instead I graduated as a history major.The history classes I took in college, especially those taught by Carlton Qualey and those in a Carleton-sponsored summer in Japan program after my sophomore year, gave me a lifelong...
Foreword: Discovering the Universe of Home
I believe that history is the primary act of the human imagination. Let me try to explain what I mean by telling you a story, a bit of my own history: What if one’s life were not a commodity, not something to be bartered to the highest bidder, or made to order? What if one’s life were governed by needs more fundamental than acceptance or admiration? What if one were simply to...
THE FUR TRADE
The Story of the Grand Portage
...Modern mapmakers have the disagreeable habit, in the interest of economy, of dismembering the state of Minnesota and depicting the northeastern corner separately on a little inset map. Few people today realize that this little triangle of land, so cavalierly treated by our draughtsmen,was during many years the scene of more human activities than took place in all the rest of the state...
George Nelson’s Fur Trade Reminiscences, 1802–1803
...The next day (I do not remember the date, in June) we reached the, to the inhabitants of Canada; the famed,“Grand Portage.” It is located, about the middle, of a bay, with a very handsome island before, the only obstruction to an immense & boundless view. The establishment of the N.W. Co, tho’ there was nothing superfluous or unnecessary, but was of an extent to prove at once the...
Gift Giving in the Lake Superior Fur Trade
...Gift giving was an essential custom followed by both Indians and Europeans to pursue trade and diplomatic relations in North America during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Historical studies of this custom, however, have concentrated on European motives and machinations: historians have equated it with bribery and have suggested that it was introduced by Europeans...
BECOMING A STATE
Territorial Imperative: How Minnesota Became the 32nd State
...The prairies and forests, the lakes and watersheds that surround the upper reaches of the Mississippi and Red Rivers,and the head of Lake Superior have been known and occupied by men and women for more than 10,000 years. During that span, the human and natural landscapes have been reworked several times by waves of climatic and cultural change. But none was swifter than...
The Sioux Sign a Treaty in Washington in 1858
...In the bitter cold of February, 1858, Indian Agent Joseph Renshaw Brown set out in a sleigh from his home town of Henderson in Sibley County on a long trip westward. He was following instructions he had evidently received on February 17 from William J.Cullen,superintendent of Indian affairs of the northern superintendency in St. Paul. Cullen in turn had been given orders by Charles...
The Power of Whiteness Or, the Life and Times of Joseph Rolette Jr.
...In March 1857 a short, merry, prank-loving member of the Minnesota territorial legislature made away with a recently passed bill in order to prevent it from going into law. For several days he stayed holed up in a local hotel where he ate sumptuous meals, drank fine wines and whiskies, played poker, and partied with his male and female friends. On the last day of the legislative session,...
“Indeed We Did Fight”: A Soldier’s Letters from the First Battle of Bull Run
...In the spring and summer of 1861,when the North went to war at least in part to preserve the Union, the First Minnesota Volunteer Infantry went with it— and with the First Minnesota went Jasper N. Searles of Hastings.An intelligent and precocious twenty-year-old when the Civil War broke out, Searles parlayed some rudimentary medical training into a brief stint as a hospital steward....
Myrick’s Insult: A Fresh Look at Myth and Reality
...Historians of the western frontier are generally familiar with the established causes of the tumultuous Dakota War, or Sioux Uprising, of August, 1862. Discontented with the treaties that forfeited lands in Minnesota and tired of the corruption inherent in the Indian bureau’s distribution of annuities, in retrospect the eastern Dakota, or Sioux, people seemed ripe for rebellion. In addition...
Anti-Germanism in Minnesota Schools, 1917–1919
...Of all the cases handled by the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety during its brief official life, more than 56 per cent concerned members of the state’s German population.The seven-man commission,which some historians have called dictatorial and fascist,was “an interim agency” designed to take swift and decisive action toward “suppressing disloyal outbreaks and possible disturbances...
A Minnesota Couple’s World War II Letters
...Late in the autumn of 1987,while engaged in the vexing annual chore of bringing some semblance of order to the congested contents of the cramped attic of our modest home, Georgiana and I decided it was show-down time regarding the final disposition of accumulated memorabilia. Stuff we had bumped into, stumbled over, and shunted about in that slant-ceilinged, tucked-away space...
TECHNOLOGY & INDUSTRY
A Pioneer Businessman: The Letters of Wenzel Petran
...Much of the literature of immigration is marked by the stereotype of the poverty and hardship of agricultural pioneering. An exception to this pattern is the career of a young German immigrant named Wenzel Petran, who disembarked from a steamboat at St.Paul in the late spring of 1855, accompanied by his wife and three young children. Petran had already been a resident of the...
The Historic and Geographic Importance of Railroads in Minnesota
...A new era began in Minnesota in 1862 when the state’s first train made its initial run between St. Paul and St.Anthony. Symbolically, the first locomotive, the “William Crooks,” arrived in Minnesota in 1861 by steamboat over the historic and well-traveled Mississippi River corridor.By the time the first railroad began operating within its boundaries, Minnesota had become a state, and its...
The Technology that Launched a City
...During the 1870s and 1880s several significant scientific and technological innovations were made to flour mills in Minneapolis.These developments greatly improved flour manufacturing and propelled the city into becoming the nation’s leading flour producer.The middlings purifier, the gradual-reduction process, and the Berhns Millstone Exhaust System were the most important...
Farmers,Warriors,Traders: A Fresh Look at Ojibwe Women
...Until recently in American history the only women from native or tribal cultures who mattered were those whose influences on past events were too important to ignore or those whose lives provided anecdotal filler in historical scenes both great and small, in which men were the primary actors. While this orientation is beginning to change as a result of a growing interest in the history...
In or Out of the Historical Kitchen?: Minnesota Rural Women
...Whether categorized as women’s history or rural history, the study of women in the American West is not only alive and well, but is extremely robust and vital. Its practitioners are numerous and its literature exceedingly rich.Yet one troubling question increasingly demands attention: should the history of western women be recounted in a way that is as scholarly and “objective” as possible...
Organizing for the Vote: The Minnesota’s Woman Suffrage Movement
...More than two centuries ago the Declaration of Independence extolled the equality of men and assigned to them—but not to women—certain inalienable rights. From that time onward, individual women protested this partial citizenship, but their protests did not bear fruit for nearly a century and a half, when they finally won the right to vote.Now, in 1995,Americans celebrate the...
POLITICS & LAW
The Origin of Minnesota’s Nonpartisan Legislature
...Only two states—Minnesota and Nebraska—select their legislators on a ballot without party designations. Minnesota’s unusual arrangement dates from 1913 and is largely the result of a political accident—of a series of events strongly resembling a comedy of errors.Nebraska acquired its nonpartisan legislature more than two decades later, in 1934,when that state’s lawmaking branch was...
The Minnesota Gag Law and the Fourteenth Amendment
...On June 1, 1931, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision which, according to one authority, represented “the climax of a striking evolution in our Constitutional law whereby freedom of speech and press is at last effectively ‘nationalized.’” In this decision, rendered in the case of Near v. Minnesota, the court for the first time used “the guarantee of liberty in the...
The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Schism of 1948
...Behind the lively events of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party schism of 1948 a long and complex background of political protest can be traced.As one writer has put it, Minnesota “through most of its history has shown symptoms of political schizophrenia. On the one hand, it was the staid dowager, as reliably Republican as its down-East Yankee sisters; on the other, it had skittish moments...
Revolt of the “Timber Beasts”: IWW Lumber Strike in Minnesota
...The brawny lumberjack who tells tall tales, fells giant trees, wears checkered shirts, and loves flapjacks is familiar in American folklore.This romantic image, though based partly on fact, glosses over dark and frightful features of the lumberjack’s life that in 1917 prompted Minnesota’s sons of Paul Bunyan to down their saws and axes and walk out of their camps. Led by the Industrial...
Father Haas and the Minneapolis Truckers’ Strike of 1934
...Father Francis J. Haas, a seminary professor of ethics and economics,was one of the New Deal’s best known and most successful labor mediators in the turbulent 1930s. Born in Racine,Wisconsin, in 1889, he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1913. He received a doctorate in sociology in 1922 from the Catholic University of America, studying under such liberal Catholic social thinkers as...
Labor, Politics, and African American Identity in Minneapolis, 1930–1950
...When Anthony Brutus Cassius walked into Minneapolis’s Midland National Bank in the fall of 1949 to borrow $10,000, he was greeted with skepticism and laughter. Like most banks, Midland considered black borrowers to be a poor risk and normally refused them loans.After a few minutes alone with the bank president, however, Cassius secured the money he requested for buying...
RACE & ETHNICITY
Race and Segregation in St. Paul’s Public Schools, 1846–1869
...For early St. Paul residents, the city’s venture into racially segregated schools was new. Before 1857, when the town’s board of education first decided that black children should attend separate schools, it was not unusual to find them seated next to white, Indian, or racially mixed students.Thomas S.Williamson, a physician-missionary seeking a teacher for his St.Paul school, wrote in 1846...
Indian Education and Bureaucracy:The School at Morris, 1887–1909
...Fifteen buildings sat empty on a wind-swept knoll in western Minnesota during the winter of 1910. Freshly planted trees and shrubs as well as the new brick facades on the two most substantial buildings gave the grounds an air of expectancy rather than abandonment.Yet both moods were appropriate.These buildings and the associated 292 acres of campus on the eastern edge of Morris...
Knute Nelson and the Immigration Question
...The career of Minnesotan Knute Nelson, the first Norwegian immigrant to serve in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate,exemplifies the personal dilemma that ethnicity has posed for foreign-born politicians. From the 1880s to the 1920s, during Nelson’s congressional tenure, millions of immigrants arrived in the United States. Minnesota attracted a significant number...
“Gentiles Preferred”: Minneapolis Jews and Employment, 1920–1950
...Minneapolis at the end of the twentieth century has the image of a liberal, progressive city. In the 1990s concerns about discrimination and racism focused on the African-American, Asian-American, American Indian, and Hispanic communities.No one thinks much about the Jews of greater Minneapolis who are, for the most part, economically comfortable, if not well off.Many are integrated...
Mirrored Identities: The Moys of St. Paul
...Objects can tell us many things if we know how to “read” them.An 1890s autograph quilt, for example, documents the materials, designs, and embroidery techniques common in its time. Beyond these tangibles, the quiltmakers’ embroidered signatures can send the researcher on a more intriguing—and challenging— journey to learn more about the lives of individuals who would otherwise...
Walk a Century in My Shoes:Minnesota 1900–2000
...My favorite shoes are flat, black tie shoes that remind me of Sister Francita,my seventh-grade teacher, and of Katherine Hepburn,my other fashion idol.My friends tease me because these shoes are so dowdy, but they’re comfortable. They don’t pinch my toes or slide off when I walk down stairs. I can run if I have to, and my feet stay dry. Most importantly, they’re “me.” I wonder what...
Searching for Florence
...For me,it was the eyes.With her hand resting easily on the piano, the girl gives the camera a piercing look of pride and self-possession, with just a hint of defiance. That look stirred up deep feelings in me—about music, about daughters (especially prideful, self-possessed,occasionally defiant daughters),about reaching back for the past. I admit—and it became even more plain later, when I...
Page Count: 512
Illustrations: 9 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2002
MUSE Marc Record: Download for North Star State