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Land of 10,000 Loves

A History of Queer Minnesota

Stewart Van Cleve

Publication Year: 2012

For too long, LGBTQ communities—including Minnesota’s—have been maligned, misrepresented, and often outright ignored. Myths regarding the queer experience have grown and become embedded in local and national consciousness. The absence of queer stories over time in local historical and popular writing only served to further this ignorance, but great strides have been made in recent decades to celebrate Minnesota’s vibrant queer history. Add to this rising chorus an enchanting new voice: Land of 10,000 Loves, Stewart Van Cleve’s wide-ranging and unprecedented illustrated history of queer life in Minnesota.

Drawing from the renowned Tretter Collection at the University of Minnesota—a vast collection of books, photographs, films, and other historical artifacts that Van Cleve calls “one of the most comprehensive accounts of international queer history in the world”—Land of 10,000 Loves blends oral history, archival narrative, newspaper accounts, and fascinating illustrations to paint a remarkable picture of Minnesota’s queer history. More than 120 concise historical essays lead readers from the earliest evidences of queer life in Minnesota before the Second World War—for example, Oscar Wilde’s visit to Minnesota and “rumors” at the Alexander Ramsey house—to riverfront vice districts, protest and parade sites, bars, 1970s collectives, institutions, public spaces, and private homes. More than 130 illustrations illuminate these histories with images of pride guides, archival photographs, and advertisements from local queer bars among other extraordinary pieces of ephemera and artifacts. Many of the stories and images are well known, while others have been all but forgotten, until now.

Building on foundational works of regional queer history such as The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s and Queer Twin Cities, the historical vignettes of Land of 10,000 Loves show us that Minnesota—from its biggest cities to its smallest towns—has been, as Van Cleve notes, “queer, to a certain extent, since the very beginning.” Land of 10,000 Loves honors this rich and diverse legacy and is a compelling testament to the sacrifices, scandals, and victories that have affected and continue to affect the lives of queer Minnesotans.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiii

This book begins with an end of sorts. As I finished the manuscript for Land of 10,000 Loves in May 2011, I watched live video-feed of a debate taking place in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Politicians from the state’s Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Labor parties discussed placing a constitutional amendment...

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pp. xv-xvi

To Jean-Nickolaus Tretter, for the many opportunities he eagerly provided; Barb Bazat, Kathy McGill, Kris Kiesling, Arvid Nelson, and other staff at Elmer L. Andersen Library, especially Tim Johnson, whose help was instrumental; Brenda Helt, whom I aspire to be like one day; Eric Colleary, whose descriptions...

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pp. 1-11

More than one and a half million books, photographs, films, and other historical artifacts rest eight stories below Elmer L. Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank, a campus near downtown Minneapolis. Below the surface, professional archivists keep the library’s holdings in twin caverns...

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1. What Is Queer Here? Looking for Experiences in Early Minnesota

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pp. 13-46

Having attracted the attention of a squabbling succession of world powers, the Upper Midwest region (often identified as the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) soon became the site of a race to secure the headwaters of the Mississippi River. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, existing...

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2. How We Kept Warm: Queer Life in the Vice Districts of the Twin Cities

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pp. 47-82

On October 23, 1953, a procession of bulldozers rolled onto Hennepin Avenue and passed aging theaters, seedy hotels, and old office blocks on the way toward Minneapolis’s riverfront.1 Stopping in front of a Beaux Arts pavilion in the wedge-shaped Gateway Park, the wreckers met a crowd that had gathered to...

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3. Act Up Here: A Legacy of Activism

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pp. 83-120

On July 17, 1974, the seven-member St. Paul City Council extended human rights protections in employment, housing, public services, and accommodation to include cases of sexual preference. Writing in the midst of the Watergate scandal, the St. Paul Pioneer Press dedicated one-quarter of the paper’s fifteenth...

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4. Erotic Cities: Urban Sexuality Explored

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pp. 121-162

In the fall of 1988, members of the Minneapolis City Council held a press conference on Hennepin Avenue’s “Block E,” a downtown block also bordered by First Avenue North, Sixth Street, and Seventh Street. Lined with dirty low-rise buildings, the block had been an epicenter of sin in the shadows of new skyscrapers...

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5. Come Outside: Queer People Out in the Open

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pp. 163-194

In the summer of 2002, one of Minnesota’s oldest gay organizations commemorated its thirtieth outdoor celebration with an extravagant parade down Hennepin Avenue. Thousands watched the Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade, a moving testament to the state’s struggles and victories. Dykes on Bikes led the...

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6. The Lavender Tower: Institutions of Art and Education

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pp. 195-231

Queer academic investigation and queer cultural production have dominated the headlines and airwaves for decades. In 1967, a groundbreaking study at the University of Minnesota represented one of the country’s first steps in the field of sex-reassignment surgery. Led by Dr. Donald Hastings, the University’s...

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7. Building Community: Life beyond the Gay Ghetto

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pp. 233-276

In 1986, a neighborhood organization in the southwest corner of downtown Minneapolis published a small collection of historical essays to celebrate Loring Park’s centennial. Citizens for a Loring Park Community turned to Robert Halfhill, a community historian and gay activist, to explain why gay men...

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Epilogue: Dust on the Weathervane

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pp. 277-281

Working with people who donated material to the University of Minnesota’s Tretter Collection taught me lessons in patience and diplomacy. But one donor was different. Out of the blue, I received a polite e-mail from a woman named Toni McNaron, who had already donated many of her professional papers...

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Note on Sources

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pp. 283-284

Unfortunately, direct source material about many queer experiences before the 1950s was difficult to find. Few living participants and eyewitnesses to queer life then are still alive. The loss of these memories poses a challenge in documenting this hidden history; old newspaper accounts and the recollection...


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pp. 285-316


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pp. 317-323

About the Author

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pp. 325-343

A History through Pride Guides

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pp. 327-334

E-ISBN-13: 9780816682140
E-ISBN-10: 0816682143
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816676453

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2012