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Posts about Government

Sept. 3, 1901: Roosevelt 'Big Stick' speech at State Fair

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: September 2, 2014 - 6:08 PM
Vice President Theodore Roosevelt delivered his “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” speech at the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 2, 1901. He was 42 years old; in less than two weeks he would become the youngest U.S. president in history in the wake of President William McKinley’s assassination.
Undated Star Tribune file photo
Minneapolis Tribune coverage of Roosevelt’s speech is an early example of unintentionally nonlinear storytelling. The disorganized arrangement of stories and photos spread across several pages makes it difficult to quickly figure out who he was, when he arrived, why he came and what he said. Of course, a contemporary reader keeping up with the events of the week probably would have been able to scan the paper more quickly than a 21st-century reader coming to it cold.

On the front page, there are just two references to Roosevelt’s visit: a photo of him and Gov. Van Sant reviewing National Guard troops, and an editorial cartoon showing Roosevelt tipping his hat to “Minneapolis labor” (in the form of a thinly smiling, oversize steel milk can). No mention is made of the exhaustive coverage inside. Inside, there’s a blow-by-blow account of his arrival in Minneapolis, where thousands of citizens lined Hennepin Avenue and other streets to greet him as he passed. There’s a blow-by-blow account of the vice-presidential procession to St. Paul. A transcript of Roosevelt’s lengthy speech at the grandstand takes up nearly a third of a page. You have to feel sorry for the poor sap who had to transcribe the opus without a recording device. Or perhaps Roosevelt's remarks were provided to the local newspapers in advance.

Helpfully, Tribune editors provided a highlights box — “Extracts from Vice-President’s Speech” — for readers too busy to plow through the sea of 8-point text. The highlights do not include the signature phrase for which the speech became known, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” This oversight is an example of why newspapers are known as the first draft of history.

Here are excerpts from Roosevelt’s 5,300-word speech, as reported in the Minneapolis Tribune dated Sept. 3, 1901. (Originally posted here in August 2005; reposting to clean up design, update links and allow fresh comments.)

‘We Must Raise Others While
We Are Being Benefited.”

Keynote of the Opening State Fair Address Delivered Yesterday by Vice-President Roosevelt.
The Duties of One Citizen to His Neighbor Not more Important, However, Than the Duties of the United States as a Nation to Other Nations.
The vice-president delivered his address at the opening of the state fair yesterday to a larger crowd than has ever been seen on the grounds on the first day of this annual event.
The hundreds who listened to him felt they had profited by the experience. His address was an inspiriting encouragement of the right and the strength in the individual as well as the nation. The duties of the citizen of the United States to his neighbor was not more important, according to the vice-president, than the duties of the United States as a nation to the other nations of the earth. He emphasized the fact that “we must raise others while we are benefiting ourselves.”
The strength of the address appealed to the crowd, whose appreciation of its sentiments was shown time and again by the warm applause which it elicted. [sic]
Following is Vice-President Roosevelt’s address in full:
In his admirable series of studies of Twentieth century problems Dr. Lyman Abbott has pointed out that we are a nation of pioneers; that the first colonists to our shores were pioneers, and that pioneers selected out from among the descendants of these early pioneers, mingled with others selected afresh from the old world, pushed westward into the wilderness, and laid the foundations for new commonwealths. They were men of hope and energy; for the men of dull content or more dull despair had no part in the great movement into and across the new world. Our country has been populated by pioneers, and therefore it has in it more energy, more enterprise, more expansive power than any other in the wide world.
You whom I am now addressing stand, for the most part, but one generation removed from these pioneers. You are typical Americans, for you have done the great, the characteristic, the typical work of our American life. In making homes and carving out careers for yourselves, and your children, you have built up this state; throughout our history the success of the homemaker has been but another name for the upbuilding of the nation. The men who with ax in the forest and pick in the mountains and plow on the prairies, pushed to completion the dominion of our people over the American wilderness have given the definite shape to our nation. They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all they have recognized the practical form the fundamental law of success in American life – the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor. We have but little room among our people for the timid, the irresolute and the idle, and it is no less true that there is scant room in the world at large for the nation with mighty thews that dares not to be great. …
Front page cartoon The caption on this front-page cartoon: “Teddy takes his hat off to Minneapolis labor.”
Every father and mother here, if they are wise, will bring up their children not to shirk difficulties, but to meet them and overcome them; not to strive after a life of ignoble ease, but to strive to do their duty, first to themselves and their families and then to the whole state; and this duty must inevitably take the shape of work in some form or other. You, the sons of pioneers, if you are true to your ancestry, must make your lives as worthy as they made theirs. They sought for true success, and therefore they did not seek ease. They knew that success comes only to those who lead the life of endeavor. …
No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force.
It is not only highly desirable, but necessary, that there should be legislation which shall carefully shield the interest of wage workers, and which shall discriminate in favor of the hones and human employer by removing the disadvantages under which he stands when compared with unscrupulous competitors who have no conscience, and will do right only under fear of punishment.
Nor can legislation stop only with what are termed labor questions. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital which have marked the development of our industrial system, create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of state and the nation toward property. …
Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.” If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power.
Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not which prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people. …
This is the attitude we should take as regards the Monroe doctrine. There is not the least need of blustering about it. Still less should it be used as a pretext for our own aggrandizement at the expense of any other American state. But most emphatically, we must make it evident that we intend on this point ever to maintain the old American position. Indeed, it is hard to understand how any man can take any other position now that we are all looking forward to the building of the Isthmian canal. The Monroe doctrine is not international law, but there is no necessity that it should be. …
1901 front page Four days after Roosevelt spoke at the fair, President McKinley was shot by an assassin in Buffalo, N.Y.
Our dealings with Cuba illustrate this, and should be forever a subject of just national pride. We speak in no spirit of arrogance when we state as a simple historic fact that never in recent times has any great nation acted with such disinterestedness as we have shown in Cuba. We freed the island from the Spanish yoke. We then earnestly did our best to help the Cubans in the establishment of free education, of law and order, of material prosperity, of the cleanliness necessary to salutary well-being in their great cities. We did all this at great expense of treasure, at some expense of life, and now we are establishing them in a free and independent commonwealth, and have asked in return nothing whatever save that at no time shall their independence be prostituted to the advantage of some foreign rival of ours, or so as to menace our well-being. To have failed to ask this would have amounted to national stultification on our part.
In the Philippines we have brought peace, and we are at this moment giving them such freedom and self-government as they could never under any conceivable conditions have obtained had we turned them loose to sink into a welter of blood, and confusion, or to become the prey of some strong tyranny without or within. The bare recital of the facts is sufficient to show that we did our duty, and what prouder title to honor can a nation have than to have done its duty? We have done our duty to ourselves, and we have done the higher duty of promoting the civilization of mankind. …
Barbarism has and can have no place in a civilized world. It is our duty toward the people living in barbarism to see that they are freed from their chains, and we can only free them by destroying barbarism itself. The missionary, the merchant and the soldier may each have to play a part in this destruction, and in the consequent uplifting of the people. Exactly as it is the duty of a civilized power scrupulously to respect the rights of all weaker civilized powers and gladly to help those who are struggling towards civilization, so it is its duty to put down savagery and barbarism. As in such a work human instruments must be used, and as human instruments are imperfect, this means that at times there will be injustices, that at times, merchant, or soldier, or even missionary may do wrong.
Let us instantly condemn and rectify such wrong when it occurs, and if possible punish the wrong-doer. But, shame, thrice shame to us, if we are so foolish as to make such occasional wrong-doing an excuse for failing to perform a great and righteous task. No only in our own land, but throughout history, the advance of civilization has been of incalculable benefit to mankind, and those through whom it has advanced deserve the higher honor. All honor to the missionary, all honor to the soldier, all honor to the merchant who now in our own day have done so much to bring light into the world’s dark places.
Roosevelt at 1901 fair
The vice president found time to saddle up near the grandstand during his visit to the fair. (Photo courtesy
Let me insist again, for fear of possible misconstruction, upon the fact that our duty is two-fold, and that we must raise others while we are benefiting ourselves. In bringing order to the Philippines, our soldiers added a new page to the honor-roll of American history and they incalculably benefited the islanders themselves. Under the wise administration of Gov. Taft the islands now enjoy a peace and liberty of which they have hitherto never even dreamed. But this peace and liberty under the law must be supplemented by material, by industrial development, to the introduction of American industries and products; no merely because this will be a good thing for our people, but infinitely more because it will be of incalculable benefit to the people of the Philippines.
We shall make mistakes; and if we let these mistakes frighten us from work, we shall show ourselves weaklings. Half a century ago Minnesota and the two Dakotas were Indian hunting grounds. We committed plenty of blunders, and now and then worse than blunders, in our dealings with the Indians. But who does not admit at the present day that we were right in wresting from barbarism and adding to civilization the territory out of which we have made these beautiful states? And now we are civilizing the Indian and putting him on a level to which he could never have attained under the old conditions.
In the Philippines let us remember that the spirit and not the mere form of government is the essential matter. The Tagalogs have a hundred-fold the freedom under us that they would have if we had abandoned the islands. We are not trying to subjugate a people; we are trying to develop them, and make them a law-abiding, industrious and educated people, and we hope, ultimately, a self-governing people. In short, in the work we have done, we are but carrying out the true principles of our democracy. We work in a spirit of self-respect for ourselves and of good-will toward others, in a spirit of love for and of infinite faith in mankind. We do not blindly refuse to face the evils that exist; or the shortcomings inherent in humanity; but across blunderings and shirking, across selfishness and meanness of motive, across short-sightedness and cowardice, we gaze steadfastly toward the far horizon of golden triumph.
If you study our past history as a nation you will see we have made many blunders and have been guilty of many shortcomings, and yet that we have always in the end come out victorious because we have refused to be daunted by blunders and defeats—have recognized them, but have preserved in spite of them. So it must be in the future. We gird up our loins as a nation with the stern purpose to play our part manfully in winning the ultimate triumph, and therefore we turn scornfully aside from the paths of mere ease and idleness, and with unfaltering steps tread the rough road of endeavor, smiting down the wrong and battling for the right as Greatheart smote and battled in Bunyan’s immortal story.

June 28, 1964: Minnehaha Falls pumped up for LBJ visit

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: June 26, 2014 - 4:39 PM
Barack Obama isn't the first U.S. president to visit Minnehaha Falls. The falls were barely a trickle the week before President Lyndon Johnson visited the Twin Cities in June 1964. His itinerary included a brief stop at the falls, prompting the Minneapolis  Park Board to arrange for water to be pumped into the creek and embellish the scene. Here's the resulting Kodak moment, shot by the Tribune's Duane Braley:
LBJ looked unimpressed with the view. If only the Park Board had thought to hire a daredevil kayaker.

Feb. 16, 1882: Judge’s defense boils down to … boils

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 19, 2013 - 10:51 PM
Within three years of his appointment as a Hennepin County district judge, E. St. Julien Cox stood accused of “almost uninterrupted drunkenness” while on the bench. During his impeachment trial in the Minnesota Senate, 10 saloonkeepers and 22 lawyers took the stand in his defense. Most testified that Cox was always perfectly sober in court, that he was never seen drunk and that he drank nothing but beer. But two testified that his weary and fatigued demeanor was the result of the damned boils that were known to plague him. This "boil defense" prompted a sarcastic editorial in the Minneapolis Tribune.


  E. St. Julien Cox in about 1873. (Photo courtesy of
It was boils. Whiskey had nothing to do with it. St. Julien Cox was never drunk on the bench. He had boils on the bench. And it is boils alone that have hurt both Cox and the bench. Murphy and Lansing have said so, and, what is better, they have sworn to it. Here is the official report of the evidence:
H. Lansing, of St. Peter, testified that Judge Cox was sober during the trial of the Powers case. “I knew of his boils. He was subject to them. He seemed to suffer.” … Samuel Murphy, of Waseca, testified that respondent was sober all through the term; had no doubt of it. “I knew he was suffering from a boil. He seemed to suffer from it all through the term. He appeared weary, but not drunk.”
Here we have it. This fragment of testimony, like a flying chunk of old red sandstone, takes the managers in the abdomen, as it were, and doubles up the prosecution like a Barlow jack-knife. The case is practically ended before it is fairly begun, and the remainder of the impeachment trial will be in fact only a triumphant procession for Cox, the discomfited managers being chained to his victorious chariot wheels.
Juvenal somewhere remarks that the best place to have a boil is on another fellow’s nose. But Juvenal wrote in the days of the effete Roman empire, and probably referred exclusively to a Roman nose. Besides, Juvenal didn’t know Cox. He didn’t even know Lansing and Murphy. Modern civilization with Cox as its interpreter has discovered that a boil is a boon, and a boon which no one, certainly no judge, can afford to enjoy by proxy, as the ribald Juvenal suggested should be done. Cox having had two boils during every term of court, had two boons, in fact his boils were his boon companions. He slept with them –especially when he slept with his boots on. Cox has often been heard to murmur to Lansing and Murphy and [defense attorney J.W.] Arctander, that no district judge can afford to be without an assortment of healthy boils. To judges (like Cox) they are a solace in solitude, a comfort amid obloquy and – a defense under impeachment. If brutally drunk on duty the lucky judicial offender simply leers at the jury and whispers “boils,” when all is forgiven. If caught in open lewdness he winks at Murphy, Lansing and Arctander and remarks, “boils,” when criticism is disarmed and the “purity of the judiciary” is vindicated. If profane, maudlin and helpless, while nominally hearing a case, his advocates sigh “boils,” and then he looks “weary,” and all the donkeys bray their sympathy.
But seriously, there is something in this conical, protuberant and inflammatory ground of defense on which Cox relies for acquittal. It has philosophy and sense behind it. For example: (1.) All know that there is something exhilarating in the idea of having a regular out-and-out boil. Now if the boils are sufficiently big, sufficiently numerous and sufficiently ill-placed, that exhilaration may imperceptibly reach the stage of mild intoxication, and this gives us the analogy between boils and drunkenness. (2.) If the curious reader – Arctander, for instance, as he is every way curious – will turn to the article, “Boils as Intoxicants,” in the Encyclopedia Britannica, he will find the following pertinent passage:
In connection with the doctrine of the correlation of forces and the now well-established principle of the interconvertibility of energy, it has been discovered that in certain conditions of the human system, and certain states of the atmosphere, precisely identical physical and mental symptoms and phenomena may be may be produced by two agencies, apparently so dissimilar and unsympathetic as boils and alcohol. Sir Thomas Merchison has shown by an elaborate series of experiments that all the phenomena of inebriety, including the usual accompaniments of “weariness,” combativeness and profanity, can be produced by from one to three fully developed boils (carbunculosus infernalus.) And on the other hand a protuberance of portentous magnitude and volcanic aspect technically known as carbunculosus nasalus, can be produced upon the gable end of a human nose by regular and persistent imbibition of alcoholic stimulants. It is found, in fact, that a climate where ozone dominates the atmosphere, as, for example, in Southern Minnesota, in North America, is best adapted to the development of robust symptoms of inebriety (kats jammer) through the sole agency of boils.
In the face of such high authority, sustained by Lansing and Murphy, Col. Hicks and his Herodian band of persecutors may as well release Cox from the rack and prepare to accept the odium they deserve. Their case is rendered all the more desperate, and Cox’s all the more secure, by a fresh outbreak of boils in the judge’s favor on Saturday and Sunday last. This new eruption of boons, just at the critical moment in the trial, proving again, as it does beyond question, that boils can make a judge appear drunk, even to Arctander, will be equivalent to an acquittal, and if next Sunday can only furnish a similar episode a triumphant vindication will be assured. The august senate will ask to be relieved from listening to closing speeches, and each senator, as his name is called on the final vote, will rise with solemn mien and make answer:
“Boils, but don’t have ’em any more.”
On March 22, 1882, Cox was found guilty of conduct unbecoming a judge. He was removed from the bench and disqualified “for all judicial offices of honor, trust or profit” for three years. He eventually left Minnesota and died in Los Angeles in 1898.
The Minnesota Senate chamber in about 1885. (Photo courtesy of


May 15, 1915: City jobs will go to married men

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 15, 2012 - 10:27 PM
Social engineering – policies aimed at influencing behavior by carrot and/or stick – has been going on almost as long as humans have been gathering carrots and/or sticks. Here’s an example from 1915, as reported in a page one story in the Minneapolis Tribune.

City Jobs Will Go
to Married Men

Council Gives Preference to Common Laborers With Dependents.
After Them Will Come Citizens – Non-Citizens to Be Third Choice.
Rule Will Take 300 “First Paper” Residents Off the Payroll.
Outlining a new policy which is to govern the employment of crews on city construction work in the future, the City Council yesterday afternoon decided that married men and those with relatives dependent upon them should be given preference over all others by heads of departments employing common labor. Men who have lived in the city for over one year and who are citizens of the United States will have no difficulty in getting work under this system.
As many laborers in the employment of the city have their homes outside the city limits, the Council decided these men should be second choice in the selection of construction crews. Non-citizens who have taken out their first papers will be third choice and those who have no papers at all must wait until all others have found work before they can be employed in the different crews. Married men will be given preference over the single workers in each class.
300 Will Lose Jobs.
The new rule will put 300 first paper men out of jobs and will be the means of the same number of citizens and residents getting work. In the former group are many men who have worked for the city for over 30 years, but who have neglected to get their first citizenship papers. Many are home owners and taxpayers with large families, but they will be dropped from the payrolls next week to make room for the married citizens now out of work.
Alderman Dight refused to vote on the resolution setting forth the new system, declaring he could not conscientiously vote to throw men out of their jobs. He offered a motion directing the Minneapolis Street Railway company to build an extension from Twenty-fifth street and Thirty-sixth avenue south to Forty-second avenue and Fortieth street, saying this work would relieve the condition of unemployment which now prevails in the city, but the motion was sent to the committee on street railway matters along with another motion for an extension on Crystal Lake avenue north from Twenty-sixth avenue to the city limits. The Dight motion asked that work be started at once and the new line be completed within six months.
Car 1389 of the Como-Harriet line in Minneapolis about 1911. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)


Oct. 14, 1914: Dight Avenue's Hitler connection

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: May 26, 2012 - 6:06 PM
What does it take to get Minneapolis to name a street after you? Serving on the City Council might put you in the running, especially if you work tirelessly to pass an ordinance to improve food safety. A distinguished teaching career at a local university can’t hurt. And living in a “tree-top house” near Minnehaha Falls might endear you to the public as a charming eccentric.
  Dr. Charles F. Dight
But you’re probably not going to win wide acclaim if you push for laws to prevent “mentally subnormal” and “obviously unfit” adults from reproducing. And writing a letter to the editor of the local paper in support of Adolf Hitler’s plan “to stamp out mental inferiority among the German people” will more likely get you run out of town than get your name on street signs.
So how did a nine-block stretch of road just east of Hiawatha come to be named Dight Avenue? Dr. Charles Fremont Dight, a Socialist, pasteurization advocate and treehouse dweller, was granted the honor by the Minneapolis City Council in 1918, at the end of his four-year stint as an alderman. But don't be too harsh on the City Council: This was some years before Dight advocated sterilization for the “feeble-minded” and praised Der Fuehrer in a letter to the Minneapolis Journal.  
Below are three snapshots of Dight. In the first piece, the Minneapolis Tribune introduced readers to the “avowed Socialist” on Oct. 14, 1914. 

12th Ward Aldermanic Candidate
Has Dwelling Among the Treetops

Dr. Charles F. Dight Tells Why He came to Build Home Where and How He Did.

Socialists Choose Former University Professor to Stand for City Hall Honors.

 “Truth Shall Triumph:
Justice Shall Be Law.”
This legend, neatly painted on a board, adorns what might be the cornice of the oddest residence in Minneapolis, or the state.
It adorns the unique home of Dr. Charles F. Dight, 4818 Thirty-ninth avenue south, and presumably it is his motto. Dr. Dight is a socialist, and he is the socialist candidate for alderman of the Twelfth ward. In a sense, he is a vicarious sacrifice. He says he never had any particular beat for aldermanic honors and work. He did not seek the office, or to become a candidate. Members of the socialist party in the Twelfth took a referendum vote on candidates for the office, and without consulting Dr. Dight, spotted him to make the race at the primary.
He modestly accepted the post, made the run, and was second highest candidate at the primaries. Alderman Barr was the only man in a field of a half dozen or so who go more votes than Dr. Dight. Hence the voters of the ward will have to choose between Alderman Barr, who was elected four years ago as an independent, and Dr. Dight, who is an avowed Socialist.
Home That Is Unique.
Dr. Dight’s home is hard to describe. It is the second story of a one story house. If that description falls short, here is another: It is a house on stilts. Again, it is a house in the trees; it is a house on the general lines of a crane.
Once Minnehaha parkway swerved off just before it reached the west bank of Minnehaha creek at Forty-eighth street, and traversed Thirty-ninth to Forty-ninth, and then skirted the brow of the bluff across the creek from what is now the Longfellow Zoo, and connected with the Minnehaha park drive near the Minnehaha station of the Milwaukee road. The park board bridged the creek, and the parkway was then continued east along Forty-eighth street. There was so little travel on Thirty-ninth avenue after that it became grassed over and is now little more than an abandoned woodland trail. In winter it is more popular, for one of the best coasting hills in that part of the city is down the slope from Forty-ninth to the parkway, and any good coasting sled can easily glide from one street to the other. On a winter afternoon or evening the hill is alive with youngsters and their shouts drown the howls of the coyotes across the creek.
Longs to be Physician.
Dr. Dight is a bachelor and a physician. He has lived in Minneapolis for 16 years and in the ward for six years. He is of Scotch German parentage. He was born in Pennsylvania, where he grew up and did all kinds of farm work.
When 13 years of age he decided to study medicine, and at the age of 22 he graduated in medicine, second in scholarship in his class at the University of Michigan.
During the years of his medical study he earned every cent that he expended. After two years of private practice he became one of the medical faculty of the University of Michigan, and two years later a professor in the American Medical school in [Beirut], Syria, Asia, and was in charge of the hospital there, where from 10,000 to 12,000 patients were treated yearly.
Many Years a Teacher.
Since he returned to this country he has been occupied chiefly in teaching medicine, in Hamline Medical school for nine years, and for several years in the University of Minnesota.
He is author of “The Human Body, a Co-operative Commonwealth,” “Sanitary Progress” and other pamphlets found in the university library. He severed his connection with the university about a year ago, when the rule was adopted requiring professors to devote all their time to the university. He had been medical director of an insurance company as well as a teacher, so when he had to make the choice between his two jobs he took the insurance work. Now he devotes all his time to that.
He has traveled extensively in the orient and in Egypt, as well as in Europe. He has always been a close observer and a student, and has a store of practical knowledge on municipal affairs.
Dight's "tree-top" house in about 1930. (Image courtesy of


 About One House.

But about Mr. Dight’s House: A man’s house is his castle: moreover, it is his own private business. If a man chooses to live in the treetops, who should worry as long as the man himself does not? And apparently Dr. Dight is well satisfied. There may be an impression that he obtained the idea of his house from foreign countries, but he dispels that.
Dr. Dight planned the house himself. This is said in justice to him and to the members of the architectural society of Minneapolis. No architect had a hand in it. This is the way Dr. Dight explains it:
Reasoning it Out.
He was a bachelor and alone. He owned the lot facing Minnehaha creek on Thirty-ninth avenue and had owned it for several years. He generally went away somewhere to spend the summers, and was getting tired of it. He thought he would put [up] a house of some sort, good enough for a summer cottage. But his lot was in the woods, with higher ground around it. The autumn and winter winds would wantonly pile all the leaves from all the trees around his summer house, and since it would stand unoccupied for nine months of the year, there would be great danger from fire. Moreover, the lot was rather low, and a house built on or near the ground would be liable to dampness.
Up in the Air.
Then Dr. Dight advanced a peg in domestic architecture. He figured that since he could occupy a summer house only a few weeks, he might as well build an all the year house, and live in it all the time if he cared to. And in order to get drainage, and air, and a better view of Minnehaha creek which flows just across the road, and prevent the leaves from piling around him, he decided to build on stilts.
The house is supported on iron pillars imbedded in concrete. The walls are of hollow tile, and floors and ceilings are made with air space. There are two small rooms, and a sort of cupola room, really a kitchenet, still higher. A large hard coal stove supplies heat, and kerosene lamps give light. Rugs and draperies make the rooms cozy enough for any bachelor. Around the rooms are stray bits of laboratory apparatus, and on the walls are X-ray photographs of bits of the human anatomy. Books, pamphlets, and papers are scattered around promiscuously. One can not expect a scientific bachelor to be too prim.
Scenery Is Restful.
The house is reached from the ground by a spiral iron stair such as one sees in a large vault. This stair reaches to a very small porch at the side of the house. In front is a larger porch built around trees, where the resident and his friends may look into the tree tops, or down into the brimming creek where the ducks disport, or across at the Longfellow garden with its flaunting flags. There are a half dozen or so near neighbors, but their houses are not much larger than Dr. Dight’s and some of them are almost as high above the earth. In the trees around Dr. Dight’s home are many boxes for the birds, some of wood, others improvised from earthen pots, others, still, of tiles left from the house walls. Rabbits nibble the brush along the creek, and other wild creatures share the woodsy dingle with the human nature lovers.
One Big Advantage.
Strictly speaking, Dr. Dight’s house is not big enough for ward meetings. If a delegation should call on the alderman to discuss needed improvements, the meeting would have to be under the house, or among the trees, or over at Forty-fifth street in the town hall. The alderman might address his constituents from his front balcony, but he could not entertain many at a time in his residence. There might be valuable advantage in that.
Dr. Dight is a Socialist of the more conservative sort. He has no sympathy whatever with the violent type of Socialism. He accepts the theories of the Socialist party, but he is a believer in the step by step attainment of those theories. He believes in putting public ownership and other ideas into effect only as fast as the public is educated up to them, and in no case would he do violence to public opinion by too abrupt methods. He believes in educating the people up to the accepted ideas of his party.
Willing to Be Shown.
If he were elected alderman, he says he would be guided in his official acts on great and important matters, such as renewing franchises or taking over public utilities, by the consensus of opinion of his recognized party leaders, determined in conference. But he says these conferences are not executive nor are they confined to the Socialists. Anybody interested in bringing about better conditions for the common people is welcome to attend these councils and to participate in them. He would accept the suggestions of these councils on big matters, he says, on the broad theory that two or a half dozen heads are better than one. On matters of routine business, minor ward improvements, and business on which there could be no party question, he would act on his best judgment. But always, he says, he would put the interests of the common people first.
The political pot is already simmering in the Twelfth. Party leaders are announcing meetings, and literature is being distributed. The Barr forces are not asleep. Soon the engagement will become general along the whole front. If Dr. Dight is elected, he doubtless will be the only alderman in the United States who has his abode among the birds in the tree tops. In that respect he will be unique.
Dight won the 12th Ward seat and served for four years. He helped pass an ordinance whose aim was to ensure that all milk sold in Minneapolis was “a fresh, clean, lacteal product, free from a high bacterial count, objectionable odor, flavor and color, produced, pasteurized and bottled under the most sanitary conditions.” According to an Oct. 25, 1917, report in the Tribune, dairies were required to label every bottle with this information:
[The] kind of milk contained in the bottle, -- milk, cream, skimmed milk, buttermilk, etc.; it must show the class of milk, whether it be certified raw or pasteurized; it must show the amount of fat content; it must show the day of intended sale, which must be not later than 24 hours after bottling, and it must bear the name of the firm bottling it.”
Consumers also bore some responsibility under the ordinance: “The housewives must see to it that the milk bottles are washed thoroughly before returning them to the deliveryman.”
Dight’s dairy initiative was well-received, and the City Council voted to rename Railroad Avenue in his honor in 1918. He quit the council that year to focus on his job as medical officer at a Minneapolis  insurance company. By the early 1920s his interest in public health turned sharply from support for government rules on food safety to support for government rules on human breeding. Dight helped found the Minnesota Eugenics Society in 1923 and began to campaign at the Minnesota Legislature for a sterilization law. In this piece, published in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune on March 19, 1921, he argued for government involvement to “check the breeding of incorrigibles.”
Young men tended to livestock at the Faribault School for the Feeble-Minded in 1904. (Image courtesy of


The Public Pulse

Remedy for Incorrigibility

To the Editor of The Tribune:
In The Minneapolis Tribune of March 13, under the heading “Juvenile Delinquency Through the State is Branded as Alarming,” it was said that the report of the members of the State Board of Visitors of Public Institutions states that “Some remedial measures must be taken which will diminish the number of incorrigibles.”
The measures urged by the board, as you state them, are superficial as remedial measures. They are confined to matters which have to do with poolrooms, dance places, and moving picture shows which young people attend, and with parental negligence in bringing up children.
These are all environmental conditions and do not at all touch a more important preventive measure, namely, that of checking the breeding of incorrigibles.
There are just two causes which produce incorrigibles, heredity and environment, and neither one should be overlooked in the study of prevention.
Every person who has anything to do with this big question brought up by your article should read Luther Burbank’s book called “The Training of the Human Plant.” In a striking way it brings out how children are great imitators of their elders and how example and environment have much to do with their behavior and with determining their future character. But Mr. Burbank and geologists generally with most careful students of heredity and eugenics are agreed that human character is determined less by environment than by inherited mentality. Such high authority as Prof. Karl Person believes that heredity as a determiner of character is five to ten times as great as is environment.
Of course, it is understood by studious and thoughtful people that most boys as they grow up naturally pass in their behavior though a period of savagery. But it is soon outgrown by the normal boy. It does not constitute incorrigibility, which means depravity beyond the power of reform. That is generally due to mental abnormality that is constitutional and inherited in most cases.
Is it any wonder that there should be so many incorrigibles as to excite alarm when we consider the poor human stock from which they come? It can no doubt be safely asserted that the parents of most incorrigibles are chiefly of the groups who, if not themselves actually abnormal mentally in some way, such as feeble-minded, insane, epileptic, criminally inclined, avaricious or physically diseased, are person who carry in the germ-plasm of their reproductive cells the determiners of one or another of these defects, and which by inheritance is the cause of defect in their offspring. Reproduction by such as these is the great cause of the rapid increase of incorrigible youths for which the visiting board seeks a remedy.
What must that remedy be? The correction of evils connected with poolrooms, dance places, moving picture shows and negligence in bringing up children is good and necessary, but it will never circumvent the laws of heredity and prevent constitutional defects in parents from being passed on to their progeny.
The real remedy lies in securing marriage matings between those who are free as possible from inheritable defects. With this will come better environment also. When this is done incorrigibles and the mentally defective will rarely be born. Good human stock will then breed true to its kind when unmixed with bad. This is a law of nature.
The testimony of all careful students of this subject is that a mentally inferior human stock – inferior in many ways – is being bred and is increasing at an alarming rate in all the states. Statistics gathered by experts inform us that in the year 1910 there were more insane people in our 366 institutions for the care of the insane than there were students in all the colleges and universities in the United States. This insane group is far outnumbered by the feeble-minded population who have to be cared for, while if to these the large number of less mentally defective ones known as “morons” be added, and these increased by the epileptics, by those who are criminally inclined and the avaricious, the number will no doubt run into the millions. A high authority believes that one person in thirty in this country carries in the germ-plasm of his or her reproductive cells the determiners of inheritable defects. These defectives are largely permitted to reproduce their kind. This is the chief source of incorrigibles.
In the breeding of stock – cattle, sheep, hogs – certain simple and well understood laws in selection are applied which produce the good and exclude the bad through heredity. But in human reproduction in which these laws apply with the same certainty as in breeding stock they are neglected with results that are appalling when investigated.
This country for many years has been the dumping ground for inferior people from Europe. This accounts in part for our excess of incorrigibles. It is estimated that from 6 to 7 per cent of the immigrants who have recently been arriving are feeble-minded. From 1900 to 1910, 8,500,000 immigrants came here. A United States health authority says that probably only 5 per cent of the mentally deficient were detected and kept out. In 1910 at one of our ports where 1,483 immigrants certified by the inspecting surgeons as unfit to land because of serious mental or physical defects 1,370 were landed anyway.
In view of the grave situation it is almost criminal to continue to absorb European undesirables. To get rid of the over-load of mentally sub-normal people which we already have is the big problem. To do this requires three things:
First, that state and national pedigrees of families who are free from, and those not free from serious inheritable defects be assembled and made available as an aid to better marriage matings. This work is now being done by the Carnegie Institute, aided by institutions in various states.
Second, that adults who are mentally sub-normal and obviously unfit shall be prevented from reproducing, either by segregating them, of course under good conditions, during their reproductive period, or by performing on them the operation of vasectomy. This operation is now legalized in 12 states. It is simple and safe, and when it and its effects are explained to persons on whom it is proposed many of them welcome it.
Third, that young people be instructed on the great facts of heredity that have been discovered in recent years, and on the vital importance to themselves and their children of shunning marriage with one who is socially unfit.
By these means the incorrigibles will disappear. Industrial democracy will be established by good human stock that will appreciate and maintain it. A better era for mankind will be ushered in. – Dr. C.F. Dight.
The State Asylum for the Insane in St. Peter, Minn., in 1931. (Image courtesy of


Two years after Dight organized the state eugenics council, his lobbying efforts at the State Capitol found traction. The Legislature passed a law that allowed the sterilization of residents of state institutions for the “feeble-minded” and “insane.” Sterilization was voluntary in that it required the consent of the resident’s legal representative. By the time the law was taken off the books in the mid-1960s, nearly 2,500 Minnesotans – 78 percent of them women – had been sterilized.
In 1933, Dight sent this letter to German Chancellor Adolf Hitler:
August 1, 1933.
Chancellor Adolf Hitler.
Berlin, Germany.
Honorable Chancellor:
I inclose a clipping from the Minneapolis Journal of Minnesota, United States of America, relating to and praising your plan to stamp out mental inferiority among the German people.

I trust you will accept my sincere wish that your effort along that line will be a great success and will advance the eugenics movement in other nations as well as Germany.


C.F. Dight, M.D.
President Minnesota Eugenics Society.
The Minnesota Eugenics Society faded from the public scene soon after, and Dight died in 1938. He left his $200,000 estate to the University of Minnesota, where he had taught before his election to the Minneapolis City Council.  The money was used to found the Dight Institute for the Promotion of Human Genetics. According to the terms of his will, the institute had a mandate to work for "race betterment" through research, instruction and counseling. It was associated with the university until the 1960s and quietly closed up shop in the early 1990s.
Cargill grain elevators at 3500-3600 Dight Av. in July 1931. (Image courtesy of




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