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Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage

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The Music of Failure

Bill Holm

“The ground bass is failure; America is the key signature; Pauline Bardal is the lyrical tune that sings at the center; Minneota, Minnesota, is the staff on which the tunes are written.” So begins the masterful title piece from Bill Holm’s first book of essays, The Music of Failure. This collection introduced to many the singular vision and voice of literary giant Bill Holm, a writer who had traveled well and widely but came back to his hometown of Minneota—the town of his immigrant Icelandic ancestors—as, in his words, “for all practical purposes a failure.”
 
What emerges from these pages, and from Holm’s cherished writings over the next two and a half decades, is anything but failure. From his ruminations on life in Minneota, family history, and the “horizontal grandeur” of the Midwestern prairie to a poetry-reading tour of Minnesota nursing homes and an account of a naked man eating lilacs out of his garden, The Music of Failure is a lyrical and surprising compilation that finds Holm mining the stories and places that captivated him and continue to enthrall his many readers.
 
This 25th anniversary edition includes poignant portraits of Holm and the history of The Music of Failure by Jim Heynen and David Pichaske, along with an essay Holm requested be added to this new edition, “Is Minnesota in America Yet?” With beautiful black-and-white photographs by Tom Guttormsson, The Music of Failure is Bill Holm at both his early and quintessential best, an inimitable and much-missed writer who illuminates our private and common lives through both our quiet victories and our sublime failures.

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Old Times on the Upper Mississippi

Recollections of a Steamboat Pilot from 1854 to 1863

George Byron Merrick

George Byron Merrick chronicles the entire panorama of steamboat life he experienced in the mid-1800s, where he started as a cabin boy and worked up to cub pilot on the mighty Mississippi. Originally published in 1909, Merrickā€™s narrative matches lively stories about gamblers, shipwrecks, and steamboat races with rich descriptions of river life and steamboat operations. Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Series

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Portage Into The Past

J. Arnold Bolz

The wilderness of the Boundary Waters is as rich in history as it is in natural beauty. Almost three hundred years ago, French Canadian voyageurs traveled through this area, which straddles the border of the United States and Canada, paddling birch-bark canoes along the St. Lawrence-Superior route to northwestern Canada. In this work of travel and adventure, Bolz recounts a journey he took in 1958, retracing the voyageurs’ route from Grand Portage on Lake Superior through the Quetico-Superior country to Rainy Lake. His canoe and paddle served as a time machine as he re-created a trip first taken centuries ago. 
Beautifully illustrated by Francis Lee Jaques, Portage into the Past  draws from the journals and maps of the early explorers of the region. Today’s adventurers of the north country will treasure this classic, an ideal guidebook to the region’s remarkable past. 

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The Salvager

The Life of Captain Tom Reid on the Great Lakes

Mary Frances Doner

First published in 1958, The Salvager is both a narrative history of Great Lakes shipping disasters of 1880–1950 and the life story of Captain Thomas Reid, who operated one of the region’s largest salvaging companies during that era. 

The treacherous shoals, unpredictable storms, and sub-zero temperatures of the Great Lakes have always posed special hazards to mariners—particularly before the advent of modern navigational technologies—and offered ample opportunity for an enterprising sailor to build a salvage business up from nothing. Designing much of his equipment himself and honing a keen eye for the risks and rewards of various catastrophes, Captain Reid rose from humble beginnings and developed salvaging into a science. Using the actual records of the Reid Wrecking and Towing Company as well as Reid’s personal logs and letters, Mary Frances Doner deftly tells the stories not only of the maritime disasters and the wrecking adventures that followed, but also of those waiting back on shore for their loved ones to return.

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Shelter

Off the Grid in the Mostly Magnetic North

Sarah Stonich

In her search for land to call her own—among tall pines and on a lake—newly single mom Sarah Stonich seeks a sense of permanence, a legacy for her son, and a connection to her heritage. Along this way, Stonich recalls family lore, meets remarkable characters, considers another go at love, and, finally, builds a cabin. But when her precious patch of land is threatened, she discovers that family is no less treasured with or without a piece of earth.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Rune Stone Mystery

Larry Millett

Sherlock Holmes is bored between cases at 221B Baker Street. So when King Oskar II of Sweden—who has heard of the discovery of the Kensington Rune Stone by a farmer in Minnesota—asks to engage his services, Holmes jumps at the chance to decipher the runes and determine whether the find is real or a hoax. With Dr. John H. Watson by his side, faithfully recording every detail, Holmes makes his way to Minnesota for a third time. But, in the first of many strange and unfortunate coincidences, the farmer who found the mysterious stone is murdered, and the stone itself is stolen on the day the famous detective arrives.

With the help of one Shadwell Rafferty, now a friend and partner, Holmes must solve this baffling case to find both the stone and the murderer.

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Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Alliance

Larry Millett

As the city of Minneapolis prepares for a visit from President William McKinley, someone else prepares for murder. On the day before the visit, a union activist is found hanged, naked, outside a ruined mansion. A placard around his neck reads “THE SECRET ALLIANCE HAS SPOKEN.” Who is the alliance? What does it want? How was the victim involved with the city’s corrupt mayor? And why did he possess a photograph of a prominent citizen in a compromising position? Shadwell Rafferty searches for answers, encountering bribery, corruption, union organizers, anarchists, and conspiracy, putting himself in danger. But as luck would have it, his old friends Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson are on their way.

In this fourth installment of Larry Millett’s Minnesota Mystery series, Shadwell Rafferty commands center stage in a brand-new city. Packed with Millett’s signature historical and architectural detail, this book is deviously delightful.

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The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald

A Secret Boyhood Diary

F. Scott Fitzgerald

When F. Scott Fitzgerald was fourteen and living in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, he began keeping a short diary of his exploits among his friends, friendly rivals, and crushes. He gave the journal a title page—Thoughtbook of Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald of St. Paul Minn. U.S.A.—and kept it securely locked in a box under his bed. He would later use The Thoughtbook as the basis for “The Book of Scandal” in his Basil Lee Duke stories, and brief sections were copied over the years for use by scholars and even published in Life magazine. “Are you going to the Ordways’? the Herseys’? the Schultzes’?” Here, for the first time, is a complete transcription of this charming, twenty-seven-page diary highlighting Fitzgerald’s escapades among the children of some of St. Paul’s most influential families—models for the families described in The Great Gatsby. Presented in a simple format for both scholars and general readers alike, The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald includes a new introduction by Dave Page that covers the history and provenance of the diary, its place and meaning in Fitzgerald’s literary development, and its revelations about his life and writing process.

One of the earliest known works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Thoughtbook provides a unique glimpse of Fitzgerald as a young boy and his social circle as they played among the grand homes of Summit Avenue, making up games, starting secret societies, competing with rivals, and (at all times) staying up-to-date on who exactly is vying for whose attention.

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Voices of Rondo

Oral Histories of Saint Paul's Historic Black Community

Kate Cavett

In Voices of Rondo, real-life stories illuminate the northern urban Black experience during the first half of the twentieth century, through the memories and reflections of residents of Saint Paul’s historic Rondo community. We glimpse the challenges of racism and poverty and share the victories of a community that educated its children to become strong, to find personal pride, and to become the next generation of leaders in Saint Paul and beyond.

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The White Pine Industry in Minnesota

A History

Agnes M. Larson

“From the first logging operation to the closing of the last mill this book is so thorough, so comprehensive, so well organized, and so useful that it must take its place with the outstanding monographs of economic and western history.” —Journal of Economic History

 

The old-growth forests of Minnesota, at one time covering 70 percent of the state, played a major role in the development of the Upper Mississippi Valley. Telling the complete history of the white pine industry, Agnes Larson brings us back to a time when Minnesota’s lumber business was thriving. Larson recounts the development of the region with a wealth of information, including the building of the railroads and bustling mill towns; the daily lives of lumberjacks, loggers, river-drivers, and jam-breakers; and the final devastation of the forests.

 

“An excellent contribution to the regional history and historical geography of the Upper Great Lakes area and the upper Mississippi Valley.” —Geographical Review

 

Agnes M. Larson (1892–1967) was professor of history at St. Olaf College.

 

Bradley J. Gills is adjunct professor of history at Grand Valley State University.

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