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.
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From Worcester, Mass., to Redlands, Calif., cities across the country declared war on disease-carrying houseflies in 1911. Children competing for cash prizes killed flies by the millions that summer. One Georgia boy alone turned in 2,199,200 dead flies to win the top prize of $10 in Savannah’s “Swat the Fly” contest.
“All the intense activity directed toward the destruction of the musca domestica,” the Jefferson Jimplecute declared with bemusement, “is the discovery that the fly – the common house fly, once treated almost as a pet – is one of the most deadly of all menaces to the human race."
The Texas newspaper was not alone in poking fun at the public health initiative, but for kids it was a chance to stave off summer boredom, kill helpless creatures and compete for cash. In Minneapolis, the top prize was a nothing-to-swat-at $50. The Morning Tribune, which sponsored the two-week contest, put up the money, laid out the rules and offered fly-killing tips.
“Entrants must be children under 16 years of age. Flies caught in any manner except by the use of sticky fly paper will be taken in the contest. Flies may be swatted, caught in traps, poisoned, exterminated by drowning, the use of sulphur fumes or other means.
“Boxes, made especially for the Tribune Campaign contest and given free by the Standard Paper box company of 501 Third street south, in which all flies are to be sent to the health department to be counted, will be given all entrants.
“The name and address of the contestant must appear on the box. The box must be tied securely. All flies delivered for the contest must have been killed by the persons to whom they are credited.”
What a disgusting task, you might be thinking, counting all those fly carcasses. The task was disgusting, I’m sure, but the flies were not counted one by one. Flies turned in around the country, and presumably in Minneapolis, were measured by volume. The calculation: 1,600 flies to the gill, or a quarter-pint. Happily, no recounts appear to have been demanded.
Minneapolis Children Ready for Campaign Against Disease Carriers.
Sub-Stations Open at 10 o’Clock to Receive Dead Pests.
Boys and Girls Devise Many Schemes for Trapping Victims.
FOLLOW-UP: For two weeks, updated standings were published daily in the Tribune. The competition for the top three spots was especially fierce and full of strategizing, with the eventual winner holding back thousands of flies until the final day. When the carnage, er, contest ended on Sept. 2, more than 3 million flies had been killed. The death toll was less than that of contests in Eastern cities, according to health officials, because of a superior garbage-collection system. Minneapolis required that garbage be wrapped in paper before being placed in cans, eliminating a major breeding ground. In its final report, the Tribune, perhaps caught up in the excitement, declared Minneapolis to be “practically flyless.” And 13-year-old George Knaeble was crowned lord of the flies.
The top prize-winners, along with the number of flies killed:
First prize, $50: George Knaeble, 13, 515 Plymouth Av., 266,340.
Second prize, $25: Theodore Bedor, 12, 4114 Blaisdell Av., 264,660.
Third prize, $15: Henrietta Beck, 10, 2218 Aldrich Av. N., 189,480.
Fourth prize, $10: Edward Hirt, 11, 1909 Fourth St. N., 154,340.
Dr. Caryl B. Storrs, a "natural born storyteller," interviewed fascinating men and women of the region in a series of stories published by the Minneapolis Tribune in 1916. His story about Minnesota pioneer John Daubney resulted in this correction.
This Minneapolis Journal editorial about the impact of censorship on boys and girls reminded me of a feature in the Catholic Bulletin – now the Catholic Spirit – many years ago. Each week, the archdiocesan newspaper listed the movies being shown on TV and in theaters, along with a one-letter rating for each. The list was intended as a guide to parents about which movies should be avoided. But I can attest that many young people used it the opposite way. The “O” rating – morally objectionable in whole or in part because of strong language, violence or sexuality – indicated a TV movie that was not to be missed.
This early example of a child-in-peril story, a staple of American newspapers in the middle decades of the 20th century, has a familiar ending: The wayward tot, reunited with "its" relieved parent, gets a “well directed and well meant” spanking. Note the pronoun used for the child. Perhaps the baby’s gender was unknown to the reporter, who most likely learned of the incident second-hand.
From the Minneapolis Tribune:
After more than 125 years, an “armchair detective” claims to have used DNA evidence to solve one of history’s most grisly killing sprees. The story below marked the first time that “Jack the Ripper” appeared on the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune.
Warning: The detailed descriptions of the murder scene are not for the squeamish. Or even the near-squeamish.
Jack the Ripper Startles London with Another Whitechapel Murder.
As Usual, the Victim Is from the Lowest Strata of Society, and the Body is Horribly Mutilated.
A front Room on the Ground Floor of a Dwelling the Scene of the Murder, the Ninth Recorded.
Sir Charles Warren’s Bloodhounds a Failure, as Predicted – No Clue to the Fiend of Fiends.
London, Nov. 9. – (United Press Cable.) – The murder fiend has added another to his list of victims. At 11 o'clock this morning the body of a woman, cut into pieces was discovered in a house on Dorset street, Spitalfields. The police are endeavoring to track the murderer with the aid of blood hounds. The remains were mutilated in the same horrible manner as were those of the women murdered in Whitechapel.
The appearance of the remains was frightful and the mutilation was even greater than in the previous cases. The head had been severed and placed beneath one of the arms. The ears and nose had been cut off. The body had been disemboweled and the flesh was torn from the thighs. The womb and other organs were missing. The skin had been torn off the forehead and cheeks. One hand had been pushed into the stomach.
The victim, like all the others, was a prostitute. She was married and her husband was a porter. They had lived together at spasmodic intervals. Her name is believed to have been Lizzie Fisher, but to most of the habitues of the haunts she visited she was known as Mary Jane. She had a room in the house where she was murdered. She carried a latch key and no one knew at what hour she entered the house last night. Therefore it is hardly likely that her assassin will ever be identified. He might easily have left the house at any time between 1 and 6 o'clock this morning without attracting attention. The doctors who have examined the remains refuse to make any statement until the inquest is held.
Three bloodhounds belonging to private citizens were taken to the place where the body lay and placed on a scent of the murder, but they were unable to keep it for any great distance, and all hope of running the assassin down with their assistance will have to be abandoned.
The murdered woman told a companion last evening that she was without money, and would commit suicide if she did not obtain a supply. It has been learned that a man, respectably dressed, accosted the victim and offered her money. They went to her lodging, on the second floor of the Dorset street house. No noise was heard during the night, and nothing was known of the murder until the landlady went to the room early this morning to ask for her rent. The first thing she saw on entering the room was the woman’s breasts and viscera lying on a table. Dorset street is short and narrow, and is situated close to Mitre square and Hanbury street.
The murder is undeniably a continuation of the series which was for a time interrupted for want of opportunity or inclination. In this case the murderer worked leisurely, as is made evident by the fact that the murder was done in a room fronting on the street, on the ground floor and within a few yards of a temporary police station, whence officers issued hourly to patrol the district. Although the metropolitan police system is not yet discredited, the bloodhound theory is entirely thrown out, since the murder was not discovered until 10 o'clock in the morning while the streets were teeming with people and traffic was going on uninterruptedly.
Gen. Sir Charles Warren [head of the London Metropolitan Police] was early on the scene and told a reporter that all the precaution in the world could not prevent the work of such murderers. The sole chance remaining to the police, he said, was to catch them red-handed, and their change of tactics increased the difficulty. In the open air, where the killing had been done hitherto, the chance of their apprehension was slight, but in the case of an indoor murder, such as the last, the hope of arresting the perpetrator was almost barren of fruition. This latest murder will undoubtedly cause a large number of arrests on suspicion. But the monster will be brought to bay is a matter of extreme doubt, since he has left no clues not worked over by the officers investigating the previous cases.
The most annoying feature of the case is that the arrest of a number of innocent persons on suspicion will have to be repeated. The opinion of Archibald Forbes and Mr. Winslow that the assassin is a homicidal maniac is confirmed by the latest murder, and the prediction had become general that another murder will soon follow. The brutality of the mutilation to which the last body was subjected surpassed all the others. In the room to which the corpse was taken chunks of flesh and portions of the viscera were strewed upon the floor, and the dissecting table and the stomach of one of the surgeons gave way at the spectacle.