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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:
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.
You won’t find the word “marijuana” in the Minneapolis Tribune in the paper’s first 55 years. An alternate spelling, “mariguana,” appeared just once: in this somewhat confusing story about the war on the “deadly” weed at California’s San Quentin prison.
You might be surprised how many times the word “opium” appeared in the Tribune in that span: 6,399.
Bicycling was booming in the 1890s, fueled by improved bike design and demand for cheap transportation. In the wrong hands, however, the new “safety bike” was anything but. Careless young “scorchers” pedaled furiously up and down urban streets, startling horses and pedestrians alike. Newspapers of the era regularly reported collisions that resulted in serious injuries and, on occasion, death. Across the country, bicycle speed limits were established to protect the population. In Minneapolis, the speed limit was 10 mph. And, as you’ll see in the Tribune story below, police were serious about enforcing the law.
|NIce rides: A man and a woman showed off their wheels in front of the Wallof house, 2200 Sheridan Ave. S., Minneapolis, in 1898. (Photo courtesy of Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Collection)|