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.

March 1, 1939: Meet Northwest Airlines' first stewardesses

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Transportation Updated: January 16, 2015 - 11:45 AM
 
Northwest Airlines hired its first stewardesses – now known as flight attendants – in March 1930. In the beginning, these “feminine aids” had to be registered nurses, a requirement that was relaxed at the start of World War II.
 
 
  Dorothy Stumph

Stewardess Service Goes
With NWA’s New Planes

 
First Feminine Aids Represent Minneapolis, Chicago
 
The new Douglas DC-3, 21-passenger skyliner, placed in service by Northwest Airlines on its Chicago-Twin Cities run, features inauguration of stewardess service by NWA.
 
The first stewardesses to be selected represent the terminal cities of the DC-3’s maiden voyage to the northwest. They are Miss Virginia Johnson of Minneapolis and Miss Dorothy C. Stumph of Chicago.
 
Miss Stumph has been an airline stewardess for 2½ years, flying out of Chicago to New York and Cheyenne, Wyo. A native of Toledo, Ohio, Miss Stumph studied nursing in Toledo.
 
Five feet, two inches tall, Miss Stumph is an active young woman. Her hobbies are photography and outdoor sports. When not on duty, she may be found around the airports, photographing the planes on which she flies while on duty.
 
Miss Johnson studied nursing at St. Andrew’s hospital, Minneapolis. She practiced nursing at that hospital until she joined the NWA personnel. Five feet, one inch tall, she studies art and music during her leisure hours, and is an ardent sportswoman.
 
For the stewardesses’ uniforms, Northwest Airlines has selected tailored brown suits with topcoat to match.
 
Coffee, tea or earplugs: Organist Nan Bergin serenaded luxury-class passengers aboard Northwest Airlines’ New York-Chicago-Minneapolis-St. Paul flight in November 1959. (Associated Press photo)
 

Dec. 17, 1929: Miss Pillsbury scolds prowlers

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: January 14, 2015 - 5:41 PM
 
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.
 

KATHERINE PILLSBURY
CAPTURES AND SCOLDS
LAKE HOME PROWLERS

 
Two Lads Surprised as Girl Stops in From Skating Party
 
HOPES THEY WON’T BE SENT TO PRISON
 
House Found Ransacked; One of Pair Reported On Probation
 
When Miss Katherine Pillsbury, daughter of Charles S. Pillsbury, vice president of the Pillsbury Flour Mills company, captured two youthful prowlers in the Pillsbury home at Ferndale, Lake Minnetonka, she gave the two a severe scolding and then expressed the hope they “wouldn’t have to go to jail.”
 
  Dear old Dad
But the two lads, who had hidden in the basement of the home when they heard Miss Pillsbury open the front door, had ransacked the house quite thoroughly and had gathered up several articles of jewelry. So A.D. Cruickshank, constable at Wayzata, refused to release them. Today they are held in the county jail.
 
Had Attended Party.
 
Miss Pillsbury, prominent in Junior league and other younger society circles, had attended a skating party at the lake home of Edwin H. Brown at Ferndale. After the skating, members of the party started back to Minneapolis. They stopped a moment at the Pillsbury home while Katherine went inside to secure some small articles to bring into the city. As she unlocked the door and stepped inside she heard a noise in the basement. The electric current had been turned off so Katherine went back outside and summoned O. Christian, caretaker, and members of the pary.
 
Christian, followed closely by Miss Pillsbury and the party guests, went to the head of the basement stairs.
 
“Come on up, we’ve got you,” he shouted.
 
A moment later there was a scuffle of feet and two prowlers, who had entered the house by prying open a window, came up the steps. Then Cruikshank was summoned.
 
Lectures Boys
 
“I’m certainly surprised,” Miss Pillsbury told the two youths, who looked up shamefacedly at the skating party guests. “You boys should be ashamed of yourselves, breaking into houses like this. Now you’re caught. This should be a lesson to you and I hope you’ll not have to go to prison.”
 
An examination of the house showed drawers in several rooms had been opened and ransacked, many articles being tossed at random onto the floor. A gold watch and chain and a cigar lighter belonging to Mr. Pillsbury were found in the pockets of one of the boys, who said they were 14 and 15 years old, respectively.
 
Cruikshank took the lads to Wayzata and today brought them to the county jail. One is said to be on probation.
 
  A well-groomed Miss Pillsbury astride a well-groomed horse.
 

Dredging up Minnesota’s past

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Newspapers Updated: August 8, 2005 - 12:26 PM

Welcome, history lovers!

The Star Tribune newspaper archives, which date back more than a hundred years, are just about a hundred feet away from my perch on the copy desk. On slow nights, I head to the library, load up a roll of microfilm and take a look back in time.

How much did it cost to block and clean a bowler hat in 1898? How did the Minneapolis Tribune play the sinking of the Lusitania? What were the hot nightspots during Roaring ’20s? What movies were showing in Hennepin Avenue theaters in the ’50s? Did St. Paul’s “super mayor” of the early ’70s, Charlie McCarty, really use an electronic device to turn traffic lights in his favor?

If you’ve lived in Minnesota long, you probably have similar questions about the region’s history. (Well, some of you might!) If you do, send 'em to benedict.welter@gmail.com and I'll see what I can dig up. I try to post a couple of fresh items each week.

I hope that most of the articles (and occasionally photos and ads) will prompt readers to share observations, memories and links to additional resources. I’m striving to build a collection of enduring interest, snapshots that will, over time, paint an engaging portrait of Minnesota’s past.


A note on the format: I write an introduction for nearly every entry. These editor’s notes are indented and centered (like this paragraph). Some entries also include follow-up interviews, which are also indented.

A note on title dates: For the sake of consistency, the title of each post shows the newspaper publication date, not the date or range of dates of the event covered. Apollo 11, for example, landed on the moon at 3:17 p.m. CDT July 20, 1969 (Earth time!). The Yesterday’s News title, however, is the date of publication of the Minneapolis Tribune story about the landing, July 21, 1969. You can derive the date of the event — if any; some posts contain only advertising, or are editorials about an ongoing event — from that publication date.

A note on photos: Most of the photos posted here are from the overstuffed filing cabinets in the newsroom library or from the Minnesota Historical Society’s awesome online archive of digital images. Unless otherwise noted, the captions are mine.

A note on research: Are you looking for your great-great-aunt’s paid obituary? I don’t have time, unfortunately, to track down items of narrow interest. But you probably have easy access to the same resources I use. In Minnesota, most larger libraries carry the Minneapolis Tribune, Minneapolis Star and Star Journal on microfilm, dating back more than 100 years. Check with your friendly neighborhood librarian to locate the microfilm trove nearest you. If you live outside Minnesota, check the nearest university libraries, especially those associated with journalism schools.

Hard-copy indexes of these papers are sometimes available, covering content from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, when newspapers began archiving content in digital, searchable form. If you’re looking for content published prior to the mid-1950s, no indexes are available. You’ll have to do what I do: Pop in a roll of microfilm and start browsing.

July 2014 update: After 20 years at the Star Tribune, I'm taking a buyout and starting a new job as communications director for Entropy Solutions, a Plymouth company that's been making an extremely useful product, phase change material, for nearly as long as I've been blogging. I will continue to update this blog weekly and am planning to write a third book, "Minnesota Muscle," in 2015.

January 2015 update: Hundreds of Yesterday's News posts became history a few months ago, thanks to an unexplained cleansing of startribune.com servers that apparently cannot be undone. As time allows, I'll recover the best of these, using the Internet Archive's indespensible Wayback Machine, and repost them here.

Ben Welter
[Former] Star Tribune copy chief
benedict.welter@gmail.com

April 8, 1904: Gunmen catch Frank Pracna by surprise in his saloon

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: January 9, 2015 - 11:59 AM
 
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.  
 

HE LOOKED INTO
A BIG REVOLVER

 
Two Bold Robbers Hold up Frank Pracna in His Saloon.
 
During a lull in business last night, Frank Pracna, a saloonkeeper at 117 Main street SE, was suddenly awakened from a pleasant nap by two men, who pushed their revolvers in his face and commanded him to deliver his cash. Taken unawares, the saloon man was unable to resist and handed over the contents of his till — $60 in all. The men left before the astonished proprietor could secure their description.
 
Pracna's saloon is in a lonely district. When the robbers entered, there was no one but the proprietor in the place. He had a large revolver near, but so sudden was the entry that he was unable to use it.
 
The police think that the robbers are the same pair that have been holding up saloons and small grocery stores in various parts of the city. 
 
The Pracna building in 1974. (Hennepin County Library Minneapolis Collection)

The Pracna building in 1974. (Hennepin County Library Minneapolis Collection)

Feb. 8, 1971: Gump Worsley stops 63 shots

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Transportation, Sports Updated: January 7, 2015 - 4:09 PM
 
Lorne (Gump) Worsley, one of the NHL’s last unmasked goaltenders, died in January 2007 at age 77. As a young goalie growing up in the early 1970s, I marveled at this pudgy-looking old man who consistently frustrated the likes of Hull, Esposito and Cournoyer and kept the outmanned North Stars in many games.

I saw only a handful of NHL games at Met Center back then, and don’t recall ever seeing Worsley play in person. My memories are based on radio and TV and newspaper accounts. Minneapolis Star columnist Jim Klobuchar was one of my favorite writers. One week after surviving a Wyoming blizzard, Klobuchar witnessed one of Gump's memorable performances on TV — and managed to eke an amusing column out of it.

He is now
officially
impossible

 
FOR PEOPLE WHO GET their ice hockey over the air waves, the trick is to separate what is merely sensational from that which is truly unbelievable.
 
Hockey announcers tend to talk in code, particularly when they describe the agonized gymnastics of the goal keepers. I do not accuse them of insincerity or hambone theatrics. The trouble is the English language. There simply is not enough imagery in the old warwagons like “good,” “great” and “incredible.”
 
As a result, the hockey announcer faces the very real problem of trying to classify the level of incredibility at which the goalie is playing on this particular night.
 
  Worsley in 1971
  Long johns and a modest amount of padding were all that protected Gump Worsley from 100-mph slapshots back in 1971. Dig the groovy sideburns!
This requires an advanced degree of restrained professionalism and subtle shading. Thus, when the announcer describes the save Tony Esposito has just made – use the workaday “flabbergasting” as an example – we know that Tony may have had to stick out a toe rather strenuously, but that he really wasn’t breathing very hard.
 
If, on the other hand, the announcer discloses that the stop by Tony “bordered on the impossible and maybe even a little beyond,” we realize immediately that there was character there even if the defenseman wasn’t.
 
The ultimate challenge in the craft, however, is to make a superman out of Gump Worsely.
 
It’s not that Gump Worsley of the North Stars is not a good goalie or even a great goalie. On certain nights, in fact, you might very well classify him as an incredible goalie and maybe a little beyond.
 
The dilemma confronting the announcer is that Gump just does not look incredible. Further, he does not act incredible. Gump is 41 years old. Admitted, this barely gets him out of puberty on the goalies’ scale of longevity. To understand how productive hockey goalies may be at a mature age, you have to imagine Bernard Baruch in pads.
 
Gump, though, is a soul apart. There are goalies who cast a dramatic profile to the onrushing puck, such as New York’s Ed Giacomin, and others who stand before the onslaught in an attitude of tragic torment, such as Cesare Maniago.
 
Gump resembles an unfrocked butcher who got mixed up in the neighborhood broomball game.
 
One of the things Gump does well is to enjoy the bouquet of good rye whiskey, at the appropriate times, of course. This discriminating taste, coupled with his squat dimensions and preference for loose tailoring, gives the impression the Gump may have a faint trace of credit union belly.
 
I have always considered this a slander on a good man with a low center of gravity. It ill fits one who is required, as a specification of his job, to be astounding and perhaps even incomprehensible on short notice.
 
SO NOW HERE was Gump Worsley on the screen in Boston last night, and it was a spectacle I would conservatively describe as indescribable. The Bruins took 67 shots at Gump. He should have had a last smoke.
 
The narrator I listened to on TV was Hal Kelly, a moderate man in these things.
 
It was a joy to listen to an experienced tradesman at work. Hal opened by freely admitting that after 10 minutes of furious Boston attacks Gump Worsley was the master of the situation.
 
By the second period Gump was making a spectacular save now and then, and I frowned because I knew the Gumper was going better than that. “There’s one,” Hal erupted suddenly, “that was truly phenomenal.”
 
Well, now. It was good to see the Gumper finally hit stride.
 
By the end of the second period Hal was flatly describing Gump as “supreme.” This did tend to take a little of the edge off it when in the third period Gump made a stop on Derek Sanderson. Having used up supreme, Hal had to retreat a little and simply observe that it was the kind of stop not only you and I couldn’t believe, but that Sanderson couldn’t believe, either.
 
THIS TENDED to make disbelievers of us all, but coming after supreme it seemed something of a demotion for Gump.
 
Anyhow, Gump is the last of the holdouts against the face mask. So it’s possible to lip-read while he is lying there on the ice spewing and puffing. Hal has just called his last stop fantastic and I looked for a heroic quote from Gump.
 
“Balls,” he is saying, “of fire. I find it inconceivable.”
 
Worsley in 1972
Playing goal without a mask was dangerous business. Here, Worsley lay unconscious after taking a puck in the nose in 1972. It’s not clear where the puck ended up. (Minneapolis Star photo by Don Black)

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