Sample Minnesota newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted weekly. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Follow the blog on Twitter. Or check out "Minnesota Mysteries," a new book based on the blog.
E-mail your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.
As efforts to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol gained steam in the early 1900s, liquor interests banded together to tell their side of the story. One group, the South Dakota Retail Liquor Dealers Association, published a newspaper supplement, Both Sides, which appeared in the Minneapolis Journal in October 1914. The eight-page insert consisted of essays, light feature stories ripped from the wires and lots and lots of liquor ads. This piece by G.K. Chesterton, the celebrated British writer and lay theologian, originally appeared in the Illustrated London News.
The Famous English Essayist Ridicules the American Form of Prohibiting the Use of Liquors.
I am glad to see that the protests are beginning to rise against those crazy exaggerations of the philanthropists, who are always wanting us to sacrifice the natural to the unnatural and the certain to the possible. Our social reformers have a wonderful way of manufacturing fifty fresh vices in the pretence of suppressing one.
For instance, there is the maze of immorality that spreads whenever a state attempts the ridiculous experiment called 'total prohibition." I was told by a friend who had traveled in what the Americans called a 'dry state," that his innocent request for a glass of whisky in a hotel had been answered by radiant and animated directions as to where he would find "the hat room." His first feeling was that the hat room was the headquarters of the Mad Hatter, who evidently ran the hotel. His second was a dim speculation as to how whisky tasted when drunk out of a hat. At last it occurred to him that "hat room" was American for what we commonly call "cloak room," but even then he could not imagine what it had to do with whisky.
He soon found out; for everything was quite ready, and the custom was clearly in full swing. In the cloak room were stored a number of strapped trunks and suit cases labeled in the name of various fictitious American citizens and crammed with bottles of beer, wine or spirits. From these he was handsomely regaled; and the trunk was then strapped up again, so that if the police entered that temple of abstinence, the management could profess ignorance of the contents of luggage left in its charge. Now, suppose my friend had drunk four times as much whisky as he wanted and rolled dead drunk down the front steps of the hotel, could he have fallen lower than the lowness of that exquisite legal fiction?
See what a number of new sins the "dry state" succeeds in creating in the course of failing to cure that of drunkenness. The man going to the hat room has all the drunkenness he wants with the following agreeable additions:
1. He has become a liar; calling things by false names and doing one thing while pretending to do another.
2. He has become a rebel and bad citizen, intriguing against the law of his country and the efficiency of its public service.
3. He has become a coward, shrinking through personal fear of consequences from acts of which he is not morally ashamed.
4. He has become a seducer and a bad example, bribing other men to soil their own simplicity and dignity.
5. He has become a most frightful fool, playing a part in an ignominious antic from which his mere physical self respect would hardly recover.
6. He has, in all probability, come much nearer than he would in any other way to having a craving for alcohol. For anything sought with such horrible secrecy and pertinacity has a great tendency to become magnetic and irresistible in itself; a sort of fetish. And all that brought about in order to prevent a man getting a glass of whisky — which he gets after all. People who support such prohibitions can have no care for human morality at all.
The Minneapolis Star of the late 1920s was full of sex, crime, fatal accidents and breathless reports on the lives of the rich and famous. The paper was fueled by a fat classifieds section, reams of legal notices and page after page of ads offering treatments for abdominal gas, bowel difficulties and piles.
This report on an unusual confrontation at the Charles S. Pillsbury home on Lake Minnetonka landed on Page One. It’s unclear whether the paper spelled Miss Pillsbury’s first name correctly. A Time magazine report on her wedding the following year spelled it “Katherine”; her husband’s New York Times obituary 61 years later spelled it “Katharine.” Perhaps one of her descendants can write to me and set the record straight.
|Dear old Dad|
|A well-groomed Miss Pillsbury astride a well-groomed horse.|
Sorry to hear that Pracna on Main, a saloon that swung open its doors for the first time more than 120 years ago, has suddenly gone dark. Here’s a snapshot of one scene in the bar’s colorful past, as reported in the Minneapolis Journal.
In June 1931, Arthur and Edith Lee bought a two-bedroom bungalow at 4600 Columbus Av. in south Minneapolis. The Lees were black; the neighborhood white. Despite threats from the neighborhood association, they moved into the home in July, along with their 6-year-old daughter. A group of neighbors offered to buy the home back for $300 more than the Lees had paid. The family declined.
“Nobody asked me to move out when I was in France fighting in mud and water for this country,” Arthur Lee, a World War I veteran, told the Tribune. “I came out here to make this house my home. I have a right to establish a home.”
In mid-July, thousands assembled nightly at 46th and Columbus in protest, many hurling taunts and rocks at the home. Friends gathered in the Lee home to show their support. Police stood outside, urging the crowds to disperse as tensions rose. On Friday, July 17, an end to the “race row” appeared near. The Tribune reported “definite progress” in negotiations over the sale of the house, and said it appeared Lee would move soon, perhaps within a week. The protests waned, but neighbors continued to pressure the Lees to move. Years later, they finally sold the house and moved to another part of the city, but only after waiting long enough to prove they could not be forced out.
The “Miss L.O. Smith” mentioned near the end of the Tribune’s dramatic account below is Lena Olive Smith, then president of the Minneapolis branch of NAACP. Smith, the first black woman licensed to practice law in Minnesota, advised the Lees through much of the conflict. Before earning her law degree, she had practiced dermatology, studied embalming, owned a hair salon and sold real estate. Ann Juergens, a professor at William Mitchell College of Law, wrote about this fascinating civil rights pioneer for the school’s law review in 2001.
[Reposted in November 2014 to note the passing of Pearl Lindstrom, who owned the home for more that 50 years and embraced its recognition as a historic site. Scroll to the end to read a brief interview with her in 2006, the year this was originally posted.]
April 2006 update: 4600 Columbus Av. is now owned by Pearl Lindstrom, 84. She is white. I stopped by to photograph the house and spotted her holding the front storm door open, peering out at the intersection where I stood, camera in hand. I climbed the steps to the house and introduced myself. She said she had learned about the 1931 protests only a few years ago when another man stopped by to take pictures.
Lindstrom and her first husband bought the house from a white family for about $12,800 in 1958. Were there any black families in the neighborhood when she moved in? “None whatsoever,” she said. How about now? “Probably about four,” she said. How about race relations? “There’s no problem,” she said, with a surprised tone that suggested that such a thing would be an impossibility in 2006.
Filthy. Crowded. Chaotic. The Deadwood of 1876-77 was in some ways even more unpleasant than the violent Gold Rush town depicted in HBO’s exemplary series. The Canton Advocate, published 400 miles to the east, published this eyewitness account of the stench and hopelessness that awaited fortune seekers headed to the Black Hills.
RELATED: Also on the front page of the Advocate that day, under “ODDS AND ENDS,” was this one-sentence report: