Sample Minnesota's rich history, courtesy of a microfilm archive of newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted once or twice a week. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Or visit the Yesterday's News archives, a searchable library of more than 300 articles.
Follow the blog on Twitter.
NEW: "Minnesota Mayhem," a book based on the blog, is a collection of stories about disasters, accidents, crimes and bad behavior.
E-mail Ben with your questions or suggestions.
Twelve-mile-long Bassett Creek once meandered unfettered through marshlands from Medicine Lake in Plymouth to the Mississippi River near Nicollet Island. In the late 1800s, developers began filling in the wetlands near the river, but the homes were prone to flooding, and, thanks to widespread dumping of garbage upstream, the creek became little more than an open sewer. After the spring floods of 1913, described in the Minneapolis Tribune story below, the Legislature approved funding to divert the creek into a storm sewer. By 1923, the final mile and a half of the creek was underground.
|This image, taken from microfilm, accompanied the Tribune flood story. The caption provided no address or names, only this: "Preparing to move."
A link between brain damage and anti-social behavior has been well-documented. It’s unclear how well-documented the link was in 1920, when a court sent a robbery suspect to a St. Paul hospital for a bit of cranial surgery to cure his “criminal tendencies.” Did it work? That's also unclear. There’s no mention of the scofflaw in subsequent issues of the Minneapolis Tribune, and no record of a Nobel prize for the surgeon.
|St. Joseph's Hospital, Ninth and Exchange, St. Paul, in 1912. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)
Frank Halsted, a New Jersey native, settled on Lake Minnetonka in 1855. He served in the Navy during the Civil War, commanding a Union gunboat on the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers in 1863-65. After the war, he returned to Lake Minnetonka and built a cabin that came to be known as the Hermitage. Some years later he went into debt to build a steamboat, but the stress of owing money apparently was too much for this “man of erratic habits,” as the Tribune described him upon his death. In July 1876, a few days after he was last seen at his cabin, a fishing party found his body floating in the lake, a stone-filled sack tied around his neck. The coroner ruled it a suicide. Abiding by his will, the citizens of Excelsior buried him on his property, not far from the cabin.Which brings us to his brother, George Halsted, who is profiled in the Minneapolis Tribune story below. The elder Halsted traveled from New Jersey to Minnesota to take care of his brother’s affairs. George Halsted apparently found Minnetonka much to his liking. He moved into his brother’s cabin and assumed his brother’s title, the Hermit. But George wasn’t a recluse. He welcomed paying guests who came by steamboat to tour the curio-filled cabin and chat with its well-read and well-spoken occupant. By the 1890s, thousands were visiting the Hermitage every summer.You will notice an extra "a" -- Halstead -- in one of the subheads atop this 1897 profile. It’s a common misspelling, or perhaps even the correct spelling. In story after story published after the brothers arrived in Minnesota, the Tribune alternated between the two spellings. Google searches produce similar results today. But Halsted seems to be the dominant spelling, despite the extra vowel in the Lake Minnetonka bay named for the two men.George Halsted died four years after this story was published. A fire consumed the Hermitage, with him inside, in 1901.
|George Halsted at home at the Hermitage in about 1890. The cigarette in his mouth and plenty of flammable clutter suggest possible causes of the fire that took his life. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)
|The Hermitage drew big crowds during the summer. Here, Minneapolis members of the Ohio Association lounged on the grass outside the cabin in 1898, listening to a speech. (Courtesy of Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Photo Collection)
This Minneapolis Tribune report is packed with names and addresses. Have at it, genealogists!
Mrs. C.B. Cooper Speeds 25 Miles, Stops Car Within 60
Feet, Winning First Prize in Careful
|A well-heeled and well-gloved driver of 1918. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)
|The Lake Harriet Pavilion in 1920. The numbers "1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9" are visible atop the building. Does anyone know what they were for? (Image courtesy mnhs.org)
Thousands flocked to 31st and E. Lake Street in May 1905 for a preview of a new 10-acre amusement park called Wonderland. A Tribune reporter in attendance somehow captured the glittery excitement of the day without getting a single quote from the park’s owners, visitors or employees.
Jump to the section headlined “How To Raise Babies” for a description of the park’s most unusual feature, a building where premature infants were on display, along with their doctors and nurses.
By 1911, the park had grown to 20 acres, 200-some buildings and a new boardwalk. But the land was apparently worth more than the revenue generated each year. The buildings were razed the following summer, and the land was divided into 99 residential lots and sold. One of the original structures – the Infant Incubator Institute at 3101 E. 31st Street – was converted to apartments and still stands.
|The park's “toboggan slide” was more than 50 feet tall. Riders plunged nearly 200 feet down into a lagoon. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)
|The park's "scenic railway" soared more than 50 feet in the air; cars reached top speeds of 40 miles per hour. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)
|Some babies in the park's Infant Incubator Institute were more premature than others. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)