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Curt Brown

Reporter | Minnesota History
Recent content from Curt Brown
Dr. Martha Ripley established Maternity Hospital for unwed and destitute pregnant women, offering them social support, and also helped care for their

Suffragist, pioneering obstetrician was never silent to injustice

Martha Rogers Ripley didn't arrive in Minnesota until she was 40, but her 28 frenetic years here were frenetic ones.
Mark and Lorraine Hertz honeymooned in Florida in 1944 before he shipped out to serve as a bombardier in World War II. The pair had met as students at

Hope helped Jewish POW endure ordeal in WWII

Despite the squalid conditions, Marcus Hertz knew sticking it out as a prisoner of war was his best chance to get home.
Nick Cullop, left, of the Minneapolis Millers shoot hands with local legend Elmer Ellsworth Foster in 1930.

Minneapolis-born baseball star was a most colorful character

Elmer Ellsworth Foster, who played in the 19th century, is maybe the best Minnesota baseball player you never heard of,
Henry Carlson, above, quit his accounting job in Duluth 100 years ago and rode an early Harley-Davidson motorcycle 1,400 miles to Spokane, Wash., in 1

Pair of Duluth men dropped everything in 1919, hopped a Harley and headed west

At age 21, bookkeeper Henry Carlson got a crazy idea 100 years ago.
Busy St. Paul streets are named for Harwood Iglehart, above,and cousin Charles Mackubin, both from slaveholding families.

New book traces slavery's reach into early Minnesota

It is a complex legacy for a state that prided itself as an anti-slavery bastion and outlawed the practice in its territorial and state constitutions.
Volunteer researcher Carol Kissner helped solve the mystery of a broken headstone at Eden Prairie Cemetery. It turns out, it belonged to a soldier who

Tireless volunteer unravels graveyard mystery in Eden Prairie

Some people play pickleball when they retire. Others knit or play cribbage. Carol Kissner had a different idea. She became a volunteer cemetery sleuth, poking…
John Leslie and Jean Savage The couple were married in 1929, after exchanging dozens of ardent letters. Their granddaughter recently rediscovered a tr

Letters from 1927 an echo from lost era of communication

Handwritten during a couple's courtship, the 100-plus letters were laced with their beliefs, passions and dreams.
Nurses Elizabeth Gearson, left, and Beda Danielson prepared food trays in the Swedish Hospital’s diet kitchen, 1902.

Low-profile HCMC museum holds medical gems

It’s a museum hiding in plain sight. Take the elevator down from the chaotic lobby to the basement of Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown…
Engla Schey devoted her life to reforming state hospitals as an attendant in the 1940s. Her father had entered Fergus Falls State Hospital, setting th

Minnesota state hospital worker used angel's touch to bring reforms

Engla Schey was determined to make life better for 10,000 Minnesotans locked in seven state institutions in the 1940s.
Dorothy Swenson, right, with Victors teammate Jan Norton Berkland in July 1952. The team enjoyed great success.

Softball, Sears filled Dorothy Swenson's active, lively life

Until her retirement in 1987, she spent nearly 45 years as a cog in that giant Sears retail machine, taking her frustration out on the field.
A Sonnen has worked at the pet store for the past 88 years. The business actually started in 1892, and its continuous operation makes it one of downto

Downtown St. Paul pet store is one for the ages

Sonnen's Pet Shop oozes history at 408 St. Peter St. in the Hamm Building.
Myrtle Cain 1894-1980
This is from 1923, just after her election, along with three other women, as the first of their gender to be seated in the Legis

Trailblazing legislator fought fiercely for equality

Not surprisingly, Myrtle Cain's dark brown hair had gone gray. After all, she'd been waiting 50 years for this moment.Now 78, she sat in the…
After becoming the first woman elected school superintendent in Mower County, Gertrude Ellis Skinner continued her trailblazing work to become co-edit

Gertrude Ellis Skinner, trailblazing educator and editor, honored by Austin

When her southern Minnesota hometown came calling in 1890, she faced a career quandary rare for women of the era.
Clarence Penaz was stationed aboard a “tin can” destroyer in World War II. “The job of the destroyers was to go in harm’s way,” he said, “

World War II Navy veteran survived a kamikaze attack

"I was one of the lucky ones," Clarence Penaz said of the day when 19 sailors died and more than a dozen were injured.
Kathy Krotz Finn still flies the vintage 1940s Piper Cub her family used to shuttle anglers to their resort.

Grand Marais' first fly-in resort is just part of this family's high-flying legacy Up North

Clarence Krotz's postwar dream was lofty. And then his family took off as well.
This 1890 image of Mary Colter, as displayed in the book “Mary Colter, Architect of the Southwest,” was painted by her art teacher, Arthur Mathews

St. Paul architect Mary Colter 'ahead of her time'

It's the 150th anniversary of the birth of "one of the world's best-known unknown architects."
George Engesser 1889-1962
George Engesser, right, stayed off the circus road one summer in the early 1900s to help his father make bricks for a new ho

Minnesota History: Recalling St. Peter's circus couple with elephant at grave

Something quirky caught William Pedersen's eye as he pedaled past Greenhill Cemetery during a bike ride along Sunrise Drive in his hometown of St. Peter,…
In August 1991, a march and rally was held at Minneapolis City Hall in response to attacks against gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Rick Simon, left,

Minneapolis murders in 1990s targeted gays

Six months of heightened fear and friction between cops and the gay community followed.
In 2003, Raspberry Princess Beth Williams and Raspberry Queen Renee Drinkwine of the Hopkins Raspberry Festival greeted their fans during the Torchlig

Passion for the past shines in Hopkins and Waverly

They lead the way with upcoming nostalgic celebrations.
Cass County Attorney Ed Rogers in the 1960s

The remarkable life of Ed Rogers, Ojibwe and Cass County leader

Growing up, Greg Larson knew little about his grandfather Ed Rogers’ vast accomplishments. How could he? “He hardly ever talked,” Larson, 72, recalled from his…
U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, second from left, in 1928 in Cuba. His wife, Grace, is at right, with Cuban President Gen. Gerardo Machado y Morales.

Rare-stamp auction recalls Calvin Coolidge event in Minnesota

Two 100-stamp sheets of Coolidge-signed 2-cent and 5-cent stamps will be auctioned off Tuesday.
From the left, Elsa Robinson, Lela El Fundi, and Evie Tanner, all of Duluth, reflected during the Clayton Jackson McGhie Lynching Memorial unveiling i

Vigilante injustice killed 3 in Duluth nearly 100 years ago

It was an appalling prelude of things to come 25 years later and 150 miles to the north. Early on June 2, 1895, a 15-year-old…
Vera Johansen 1911-2008
Vera Johansen popped popcorn in Northfield’s Bridge Square starting 40 years ago after husband died and, in the process, bec

Vera Johansen's popcorn wagon became a Northfield landmark

The rat-a-tat sound of popcorn popping punctuated the farm kitchen of Lewis and Vera Johansen near Coulter, Iowa."Dad loved his popcorn," said Jeanine Landswerk, 82,…
Thomas Montgomery emerges as one of the memorable characters in “The Children of Lincoln” by William Green (University of Minnesota Press, 2018),

Civil War's veteran's letters show paradox

More than 150 of Thomas Montgomery's dispatches have been digitized on the Minnesota Historical Society's website.
Minneapolis undertaker and furniture salesman Joseph Brown kept two World War I journals as a mortar man. Photos courtesy of Paul Brown, his son.

Minneapolis doughboy kept diary, poems during WWI

Joseph Brown juggled two jobs in the early-1900s: undertaker and furniture salesman. A licensed embalmer, Brown studied mortuary science at the University of Minnesota —…
Herb Schaper, creator of the Cootie game, got the idea for it while carving fishing lures. When he deployed plastic in the manufacturing process, his

Robbinsdale toy innovator Herb Schaper gave the world Cooties

"It's pretty simple," Schaper said in 1953. "Everybody who sees it asks 'Why didn't I think of that?' "
Rose Totino’s pizza persuaded bankers to give her a loan to open Totino’s Italian Kitchen. In 1975, she sold her frozen pizza business to Pillsbur

Rose Totino brought pizza to masses: 'Money never changed her'

A 4-foot-11 dynamo, Rose learned about pizza from her dad's relatives in Pennsylvania and started serving it to friends and at church meetings.
Justine Kerfoot, above left, and a friend showed off a huge catch of trout in a photo from the 1920s or ’30s. Far left, Kerfoot in a Star Tribune ph

'She lived her life like age and gender didn't matter': North Woods icon started out as just a 'city girl'

Justine Kerfoot spent 60-plus years fixing plumbing, snowshoeing, welcoming visitors, servicing vehicles, guiding fishermen, building furniture, hunting moose, trapping mink, mushing sled dogs and writing about the woods and lakes in newspaper columns and books.
Eloise Butler spent 37 years teaching history and botany, mostly at South and Central high schools.

Botanist Eloise Butler left a living legacy at Theodore Wirth Regional Park

Both of Butler's parents had been teachers in Maine, and teaching was about her only option in the late 1800s.
William Rose was shaved and photographed the day before he was hanged in Redwood County in 1891. He steadfastly professed his innocence in the shootin

Questions still shadow 1891 hanging in Redwood County

Nearly 130 years later, Patricia Lubeck won't let William Rose's case rest.
Marian Le Sueur addressed the Democratic-Farmer-Labor convention in 1948 with convention chairman Paul Tinge at her side. She was the vice chairwoman

Early DFL leader Marian Le Sueur was feminist, educator and socialist firebrand

Seventy-five years after the merger that formed the modern DFL, several men are credited as architects. But it wasn't an all-boys network.
Lt. Charles Woehrle, standing second from right, with bunkmates at Stalag VIIA near Moosburg, Germany, where they were sent toward the end of WWII.

Watch brought timely hope to Minnesota POW during WWII

It's the subject of a film that premieres this month at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.
Melissa Smith, with her son, Eugene and husband, 2nd Lt. DeWitt Clinton Smith. Melissa became the state librarian, a post her husband had held previou

Two Civil War widows became pioneering librarians

Pay equity for women probably wasn’t a burning issue in 1865 for Louisa Goodwin. The 33-year-old widow from Owatonna lost her husband, 2nd Lt. James…
Carlos Ellis raced cars and motorcycles in Rochester’s early auto era, when he wasn’t chauffeuring Dr. Charlie Mayo from 1907 to 1918.

Mayo chauffeur had front-seat view of history

A part-time bank clerk at 16, Carlos Ellis became a Rochester race-car driver and Dr. Charlie Mayo's chaffeur.
Albin Johnson was the target of a widespread manhunt, with an award offered by the Pinkerton detective agency after his wife and seven children were f

Minnesota family's 1933 slaying is still unsolved

The deaths of Alvira Lundeen Johnson and her seven children are the topic of a new book.
Lawrence E. LaLonde, seen in 2010

'I was not a patriot': Iron Range WWII vet reflects on his enlistment, life

Larry LaLonde's stories provide an unvarnished history.
Married for 58 years, Tolly and Betty Kizilos forged impressive careers at Honeywell in the 1960s and later delved into Christian activism.

He was from Greece, she was from Ely and together they added up

There are power couples, and then there are brainpower couples such as Apostolos Kizilos and his late wife, Betty Ahola Kizilos.
Harriet Scott, along with her husband, Dred, were at the center of an infamous 1857 Supreme Court case that helped precipitate the Civil War. The cour

Harriet Scott played her own pivotal role in landmark 1857 Supreme Court case

The ruling, denying rights to free and enslaved black people, is widely considered among the triggers that sparked the Civil War.
Lydia Torry, with a harp her husband made for her, lived for more than 50 years on Kubel Island in what became Voyageurs National Park.

Finnish émigré made Minnesota island her home

Kubel Island is one of the rocky outcrops dotting the lakes way Up North along the Canadian border in what became Voyageurs National Park.
Airship inventor Ferdinand von Zeppelin, touting a rifle, explored northern Minnesota by canoe before making his first balloon ascent in St. Paul in 1

Balloon ride over St. Paul fueled Count Zeppelin's dream

Considered the father of so-called rigid dirigibles, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin at age 25 made his first flight above downtown St. Paul.
Global ambassadors: This 1957 Plainview basketball team photo shows three Peace Corps pioneers from the area: Phil Mahle (second row; second from left

Four from Plainview, Minn., served as Peace Corps pioneers in early 1960s

They defied the odds: Nearly 60,000 people applied to join, but only 3,000 were selected and dispatched abroad.
Elizabeth Hughes was on hand on July 31, 1994, for the dedication of a monument at Fort Snelling National Cemetery honoring women who have served in t

The first Duluth woman to answer the call in WWII

Elizabeth Hughes enlisted right after President Franklin Roosevelt created WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).
The Rev. Malchior Falk Gjertsen, photographed circa 1870, enjoyed a long career as an influential pastor and Minneapolis school board member, but a 19

Steamy love letter tarnished the legacy of a late-1800s Minneapolis pastor

The Rev. Malchior Falk Gjertsen became ensnared in a scandal that would cleave his congregation and cloud his legacy of good deeds.
Railroad porter John Blair, second from right, posed about 1895 with other crew members in front of their locomotive that was caught in the vortex of

Train porter risked his life to save others during deadly Hinckley fire of 1894

The death toll, far greater than the Chicago fire 23 years earlier, would have been even worse without John Blair's calm heroics.
From unlikely beginnings, George Wandzel became a celebrated chef, first at the Nicollet Hotel and later at the Hollywood-chic Blue Horse in St. Paul,

Minnesota history reveals an unlikely culinary climb to fame

Built with thick stones in the late 1800s, the Red Wing reformatory provides the setting for an obscure Bob Dylan song — first performed in…
A portrait of Hector Skifter, who in 1922 launched the first broadcast on WCAL, the St. Olaf College radio station, which operated for 82 years. It wa

St. Olaf tinkerer went on to radio, military breakthroughs

On the first day of 1924, a little St. Olaf College radio station broadcast New Year’s greetings in 19 languages. WCAL’s feel-good message from Northfield,…
Woodbine 1887- The octagonal home in North St. Paul is the last eight-sided house in Ramsey County. The shape, popular in the 1850s, was thought to of

Story of 1887 North St. Paul house has eight sides

The discovery of a fading image kindled a 15-year plunge into the history of Ramsey County's last eight-sided house.
Lillian Yates, shown in her Waseca studio in the 1880s, holds a copy of “Photographer Review.” She and her sister Margaret ran their own shop, a r

Minnesota sisters were photography pioneers

Lillian and Margaret Yates plied their trade in Waseca, Waterville and later Worthington.
DFL pioneer Theodor Slen, left, discussed merging the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties with national Democratic Party honcho Oscar Ewing at a fundr

Theodor Slen helped bring Democrats, Farmer-Labor together in 1944

Alvhild Sherve of Northfield, 91, is a living link to a largely forgotten but quietly influential pioneer of progressive politics in Minnesota.
After being mistakenly declared dead after the Pearl Harbor attack and serving nearly 20 years in the Navy, Herbert Brand returned to Wanda to work at

A Pearl Harbor nightmare turned miracle for tiny Wanda, Minn.

Herbert and Nicholas Brand, both crew members on the warship U.S.S. California, were left for dead after the attack. Except they weren't.
Genevieve “Gene” Ritchie Monahan’s painting of grain elevators in her hometown of Duluth.

Gene Ritchie Monahan made mark in New York art world, but called Rainy Lake home

She opened an art colony and caught the attention of renowned nature writer Sigurd Olson.
Wilhelm Muelbe and Fred Keller, from a 1927 Minneapolis Daily Star clipping, with the French horn abandoned by Muelbe and recovered by Keller during f

Once World War I enemies, Minneapolis musicians shared bond over French horn left on battlefield

Wilhelm Muelbe and Fred Keller fought and played in military bands on opposite sides of World War I a century ago.
Albert Cassidy 1883-1960 World War I courier Al Cassidy with his “Own Darling Sweetheart” Marie and their first three children just after the war

Minnesota history: St. Paul army courier 'affected the entire course' of WWI

Al Cassidy, a St. Paul candy salesman in the 1920s, played a sweet but little-known role in world history.
Ralph Sylvester Mayer, with his son Noel, around 1908, was among the soldiers who went to war at the end of the 19th century in Cuba and the Philippin

From war to whiskey, St. Paul 'scallywag' Ralph S. Mayer played varied roles

Mayer, who died in 1949, sported all sorts of hats in his 70 years in St. Paul.
A cartoon depicting women conservationists who fought the logging industry appeared in the Courant in January 1902.

Remembering two women who helped save Minnesota forests

Florence Bramhall and Maria Louise Sanford came together in the early 1900s to preserve what is now known as the Chippewa National Forest.
Wayne Brabender took an improbable journey from the soybean fields of west-central Minnesota in the 1960s to Spanish national fame as a two-time Olymp

A basketball star's journey, from Milan (Minn.) to Madrid

Wayne Brabender is the greatest Minnesota basketball player you've never heard of.
Bernie Lieder, shown in 2006, served moonshine in the Depression, served in the Army in WWII and, more recently, served in the Legislature from Crooks

From Dillinger to World War II: Retired Minnesota legislator has witnessed history

Bernie Lieder was the last WWII vet to serve in the Minnesota House.
John Albert Erickson 1874-1963
Erickson, seated at right, with his father Bernt and his sisters, was a longtime night watchman at the Duluth grain ele

Cigar butts spark memories of grandfather, a night watchman in Duluth

The life of a first-generation Norwegian offered few comforts.
Bayer Ross went from stitching clothes as a tailor in Mountain Lake, Minn., to patching wounds as an Army medic on front lines in North Africa, Sicily

Mountain Lake, Minn., tailor shares his WWII memories

Paul Arneson will discuss his book about Bayer Ross next month at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.
Hoofhower cabin New Prague, minn.
Catherine Hoofhower’s 1870s-era cabin was moved in 1956 from Lydia to Memorial Park in New Prague. Later, it was f

New Prague holds on to a vital piece of its past

Writing optimistically in her native German, Catherine Hoofhower poured her heart out in an 1877 letter from her log cabin in Lydia, Minn., to her…
Ruby Cora Webster

St. Cloud State honors first black graduate

She rolled her own cigarettes, played guitar, painted with oils and watercolors and insisted her grandchildren mind their manners and use proper English. “She was…
Edina delegate Ed Schwartzbauer, left, and Minnesota State Chairman Warren Spannaus discussed a problem at the Democratic National Convention in Chica

Edina delegate to Democratic National Convention remembers fateful summer of 1968

Edward Schwartzbauer found himself at the center of mayhem 50 years ago this week.
Wally Orsund's father signed papers that allowed him to enlist in the Navy at 17. While at sea, he often prayed to “let us get them before they get

World War II vet from Aitkin looks back on life aboard USS Alabama

Two years before the Alabama victoriously led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay in 1945, the 45,000-ton ship was anchored off Trondheim, Norway.
France Lafranque was 20 years old in 1918 when her father arranged a tennis match near Bordeaux for her and an American serviceman, Francis Meany, spa

A French-Minnesota connection forged by tennis and war

The friendship is going strong four generations after it was forged by a Minnesota dentist and a French professor's daughter.
Margaret and Joe Meglen were married in 1936 — 21 years after her harrowing immigrant journey from Slovenia to Eveleth in the midst of World War I.

How one woman journeyed from Slovenia to Iron Range — twice

Margaretha Sevshek's immigrant story is tinged with pain and perseverance.
Protesters at Woolworths in St. Paul in 1960 picketed for integrated lunch counters. Racist policies and exclusionary practices — in Minnesota and e

Book, website track history of racist 'sundown towns' in Minnesota, U.S.

Although far from the violent racism that erupted in the South, Minnesota's racial history is punctuated with chilling tales of hate.
Bob Bergstrom Korean War flight crew member Bergstrom — front row, far right — with his B-29 bomber crew during the Korean War. He grew up in Bock

Bock, Minn., veteran carries his war memories back home

While Bob Bergstrom's days are sweet, his nights have been wracked with nightmares from a 1951 bombing mission over North Korea.
Jordan brewery 1866-present A look at a handful of brewery workers from about 1934, only a year after the end of prohibition.

Historic Jordan brewery's future is connected to its rich and colorful past

Built with limestone blocks near hillside cooling caves in the 1860s, the 152-year-old brewery operated until 1949.
Joseph Graham arrived in Eden Prairie around 1870 and spent his last 30 years there.

Freed slave now has a place in Eden Prairie history

Joseph Graham arrived in Eden Prairie around 1870 and spent his last 30 years there.
The Gray Line 1853-PRESENT Amos and Susan Gray, flanked by some of their children and grandchildren, settled in Minnesota near what is now Grays Bay i

Pioneering women helped settle Minnetonka in the 1850s

Talk about a rocky start.Betsey Streeter Chowen was born on a ship in the mid-1790s as her family emigrated across the Atlantic Ocean from England.…
Yoshiko Akamatsu with her son, Toshio, and daughter, Hideko, who turned 6 a month before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. The people of St. Paul rallied o

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, St. Paul family was exiled by country, not community

U.S. Secret Service agents seized the family's store as part of a Treasury Department effort to freeze all Japanese funds in the country.
Joseph J. Ollinger

Cop and convict both died in 1911 shootout

Minneapolis cop Joseph Ollinger had an eerie feeling when he headed to his beat on the night of July 15, 1911.
Ossie Bluege as a 1937 Senator.

Ossie Bluege: Important but forgotten figure in Twins history

He just might just be the most influential person in Twins history you've never heard of.
On this Memorial Day weekend, it’s time to lift Carl Knutson, a teacher from Redwood County and fallen WWI Marine, from obscurity.

Marine Cpl. Carl Knutson: Not just another war statistic

His name is among 144 engraved on a bronze tablet listing Minnesota Marines who died in World War I.
Millerville farmer Henry Schecher was involved in a shootout over property ownership that left a neighbor dead. Schecher was later exonerated, but not

Evidence was buried in 1888 murder in Millerville

By the time word of the buried gun finally surfaced, a young, hard-luck, one-armed farmer had been locked up in Stillwater prison for seven years.