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Posts about Minnesota History

Nov. 4, 1905: Wisconsin game empties Minneapolis streets

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 24, 2014 - 4:46 PM
The University of Minnesota football team finished with 10-1 record in 1905, good for second place in the Big Nine conference. The team's only defeat: a 16-12 loss to Wisconsin at Northrop Field. Interest in the game was apparently intense. The Minneapolis Journal described the city as "football crazy" that afternoon and published this cartoon on the front page.
Minneapolis Journal cartoon, Nov. 5, 1905

Minneapolis Journal cartoon, Nov. 5, 1905

Nov. 11, 1940: The Armistice Day blizzard

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 11, 2014 - 11:58 AM
The forecast for Armistice Day 1940, as reported in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune dated Nov. 11, gave barely a hint of what was to come that day: “Cloudy, occasional snow, and colder, much colder.”

Many took advantage of the mild holiday weather and made plans to spend the day outdoors. Then came rain … which turned to snow, accompanied by howling wind … and more snow … and then the cold. More than 16 inches of snow fell in Minneapolis, more than 2 feet in other parts of the state. Temperatures dropped from near 60 to the single digits in less than 24 hours. Telegraph and telephone lines went down, cutting off communications and complicating the task of reporting the big story. In the end, 49 people died in the Armistice Day blizzard in Minnesota, many of them duck hunters trapped in remote bottom land along the Mississippi when the blizzard hit.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune’s “6 A.M. Alarm Clock Edition” of Tuesday, Nov. 12, 1940, provided exhaustive coverage. Here is the lead story, followed by a few of the dozens of storm-related briefs. The photos below appeared in subsequent editions of the Tribune and the Star Journal.

(Originally posted in August 2005.)
Forty-nine people died in Minnesota in the 1940 Armistice Day storm, including these lightly dressed duck hunters.

Forty-nine people died in Minnesota in the storm, including these lightly dressed duck hunters.



Forecast Gives No Hint of Letup; 7 Die as Zero Wave Rides Blizzard

Motor Traffic Paralyzed; Scores of Towns Isolated

Gale Hits Hard at Telegraph and Telephone Services — Auto Mishaps Trap 100 Near New Brighton – Blocked Streets Send Hundreds to Hotels

The Armistice day blizzard that virtually paralyzed transportation and crippled wire communications in Minneapolis and the northwest, roared into Tuesday with no sign of abating.
The weather bureau offered little comfort with a forecast for today of partly cloudy in the south and west parts of Minnesota, with occasional light snow in the northeast portion; Wednesday; fair and continued cold.
Snow had stopped falling at Bismarck and Grand Forks, N.D., this morning but high winds continued the blizzard conditions of Monday.
The storm, which passed through stages of rain and sleet to a blinding gale of snow, hit telegraph and telephone services hard. Most communities were isolated. Temperatures fell by the hour. At 4 a.m. it was 5 degrees above zero in Minneapolis.
The full extent of casualties will not be known until communications are opened up again, but deaths of six men, three of them hunters, and one woman, were reported last night.
The dead:
Walter Strom, 1700 Hawthorne Av., Soo Line fireman, killed in wreck at Watkins.
Mrs. E.Y. Arnold, 2124 Ann Arbor St., St. Paul, traffic victim.
John C. Johnson, 55, 222 Tenth Av. N.E., died of exhaustion.
Harry S. Mason, 75, 329 South Warwick St., St. Paul, died of exhaustion.
Herbert Junneman, Wabasha, Minn., a hunter.
Theodore H. Geiger, Eau Claire, Wis., a hunter.
Thousands of persons stranded in the loop crowded downtown hotels, taking every available room, and overflowing into dining rooms and lobbies. It was the buiest night hotel men could recall.
During the storm, winds reached a velocity of 60 miles an hour, drifts piled up as high as five feet, and there was a temperature drop to sub-zero depths, Williston and Minot, N.D., and Hot Springs, S.D., reporting 10 below.
Practically every road in Minnesota was blocked early today, the state highway department reported.
Plows were kept off highways because of poor visibility, and the danger of accident, but officials said every effort would be made this morning to open up the travel lanes.
Motorists Warned
Meanwhile, they warned motorists not to venture forth unless they had specific and authentic information about road conditions. Those who had found shelter were urged to stay there until conditions improved. Plans were made to send out bulletins on the radio this morning.
Storm Causes Train Wreck
Blanketing out visibility by the storm caused a train wreck on the Soo line at Watkins, Minn., in Meeker county, west of Minneapolis. Passenger train No. 106 coming into Minneapolis from Enderlin, N.D., overran a switch signal and collided head on with a freight train. Fireman Strom on the freight train was killed and Engineer Floyd Terpening, 2408 Central Av. N.E., was seriously injured. Two other trainmen were injured.
Only the tops of cars are visible in this view of snowbound Excelsior Boulevard, looking west toward the Minikahda Golf Club overpass in Minneapolis.

Only the tops of cars are visible in this view of snowbound Excelsior Boulevard, looking west toward the Minikahda Golf Club overpass in Minneapolis.

One woman was killed and her husband and another woman were hurt when their car apparently was thrown into the path of an oncoming truck by the strong winds near the Ramsey county line on highway No. 212. The fatality victim was Mrs. Arnold. Mr. Arnold and Mrs. Nels Chamberlain, 139 East Winnifred St., St. Paul, were taken to Mounds Park hospital. The truck was traveling about 15 miles an hour when the crash came, Mrs. Arnold being thrown out as a door of the automobile was sprung open.
Nearly 100 Marooned
Nearly 100 persons, a dozen of them cut by flying glass, were marooned near New Brighton following a mass traffic accident in which 30 or more cars piled into each other on highway No. 8.
Ramsey county deputy sheriffs, with one of them injured in the mixup, helped to get the motorists to New Brighton, while others found refuge in a farmhouse. One of the sheriff’s squad cars was almost demolished as it got caught in the crash of cars.
The jam started when an automobile collided with a White Bear-Stillwater bus. Three more cars piled into the bus, and one of them sideswiped an oncoming car in the opposite traffic lane. Within a short time two dozen other motorists, blinded by the snow, slid into the pile of disabled machines. The injured deputy, Kermit Hedman, was severely cut below the knee.
Pedestrian Collapses
Johnson collapsed while walking at University Av. N.E. and Broadway. Passersby carried him to a nearby filling station, where he died a few minutes later. Dr. A.N. Russeth, deputy coroner, said death was due to a heart attack, brought on by exhaustion.
Mason, a retired St. Paul police lieutenant, was found dead in the garage of his home. He apparently died of over-exhaustion while digging tulip bulbs to keep them from freezing. He was found by his daughter, Mrs. John W. McBride, with whom he lived.
Junneman, 38, a barber of Wabasha, Minn., drowned in the Mississippi while he was hunting with several companions. The boat was capsized by the storm. He clung to the side of the overturned craft for awhile, but became numb and exhausted and slipped into the icy water when rescuers were stalled in attempts to reach him.
The bodies of Geiger, 30, and Detra, 34, both of Eau Claire, Wis., were washed up on the shore of the Mississippi river seven miles north of Alma, Wis., last night, victims of the violent snow and windstorm. The men apparently had been hunting ducks in the vicinity.
Duck Hunters Marooned
Warner’s Hardware must have had this ad on standby, ready to appear after the first big storm. It ran alongside storm coverage inside the Minneapolis Morning Tribune on Nov. 12, 1940.

Warner'€™s Hardware must have had this ad on standby, ready to appear after the first big storm. It ran alongside storm coverage inside the Minneapolis Morning Tribune on Nov. 12, 1940.

Hundreds of Holiday duck hunters were marooned – 100 along the Mississippi river between Winona and Wabasha, and another 100 near Parkers Prairie, in addition to smaller parties in various sections. One group on an island near Winona was rescued by a government tow boat.
In Minneapolis, where the rush hour of automobile traffic late in the day packed ice into the ruts of trolley rails, street cars were practically at a standstill by nightfall. Every available plow, 17 in the Twin Cities, of which 11 were in Minneapolis, got on the job, but the fact that nearly 40 street cars were of tracks in various parts of the city served to stall the plows, too. Under the direction of Fred Bjorck, general superintendent of the Twin City Lines, an all-night fight was made to open up street car traffic.
Early today Mr. Bjorck said it appeared likely that most lines would be open to the public in time to get to work today.
Pack Ice Into Tracks
Not only did motorists pack ice into the streetcar tracks, but in some instances, motorists who got stalled on tracks locked their cars and abandoned them. Ice on trolley wires also served to handicap the service.
In the effort to open up the lines, Mr. Bjorck made arrangements to hire a number of city trucks to help the streetcar company. These, in turn, supplemented a fleet of private trucks hired by the company.
Streetcar busses were blocked as well as the street cars by the traffic jam, and by icy hills.
Games Called Off
The storm came on a holiday, when schools were closed. Holiday football games between prep school teams were called off, and Armistice day ceremonies, including a parade in Minneapolis, were curtailed or cancelled entirely.
In Minneapolis, the prevailing wind was 27 miles an hour from the northwest, though gusts at times reached 40 to 50 miles. By 7 p.m., the moisture brought by rain and snow measured 2.13 inches in a 24-hour period. There was a high temperature of 38 degrees at 3 a.m. yesterday and then throughout the day and the night, the mercury fell steadily.
Communications Hard Hit
The fact that telephone and telegraph service was hard hit added to the isolation of various communities of the northwest. Towns were cut off from towns and farms from farms. Scores of communities were able to grope about only within their own immediate snowbound areas and could only surmise what was going on in other places.
The storm brought special handicaps to various services.
Power company officials, fighting to restore lines, were hampered by road and street conditions, which made use of trucks and automobiles nearly impossible. It was difficult, too, because of the condition of communications, to locate fallen wires.
It was the worst November storm in years, and it was all the more demoralizing because it marked a swift turn from rain to snow, with little warning. Railroads, street car companies and other transportation agencies were caught by surprise and were not immediately prepared to muster equipment and crews. That gave the storm quite a headstart.
Then, too, because of poor visibility and the danger of accidents, snowplows were kept off the highways in many sections.
The Milwaukee railroad’s westbound transcontinental Olympian train, which left Minneapolis at 9:25 a.m., got as far as Bird Island, Minn., 98 miles west of Minneapolis, where it was tied up because broken wires interfered with the dispatching system. From their car windows, the passengers watched the drifts pile up around them.
A dozen other trains were either halted or slowed down.


5 Get Rides Home When
Ambulances Answer Calls

Fifteen persons, stymied in efforts to get rides, thought of a novel solution to their problem. They went to the General hospital receiving station to await ambulances calls which might send an ambulance to their section of town. Five rides were obtained this way.

At the peak of the storm Claus Johnson, 57, who lives in a small cottage at Twenty-seventh avenue north and the river, was chopping wood to replenish low fuel stock. A chip hit him in the eye, perforating his eye-ball. He was in fair condition in General hospital.

Mrs. Anna Tollefson, police matron, was hostess for the night to 30 women, who, marooned in the loop, sought lodging in the matron’s quarters. An emergency kitchen was set up, and sandwiches were served to about 100 people. A number of men were given lodging in the city jail.

The two-story home of Nick Smith at Nineteenth Av. S. and Sixty-sixth St. in Richfield burned to the ground last night while a Richfield fire truck was trying to reach the home. Three times the truck was blocked by stalled cars — first at Portland Av. and Sixty-sixth street, then, as it tried another route, at Cedar Av. and Seventy-eighth St., and, on its third and final unsuccessful effort to reach the blaze, at Thirty-fourth Av. S. and Seventy-eighth St. For an hour and a half, while they futilely tossed buckets of water on the blaze, Smith and his neighbors could hear the siren of the fire truck as it cruised to the vicinity.

Nov. 5, 1884: 'Slippery Jim' Blaine’s goose is cooked

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 4, 2014 - 5:24 PM
The St. Paul Daily Globe made a hell of a front page out of scandal-plagued James G. Blaine's defeat in the 1884 presidential election. That’s "Slippery Jim" in the cartoon at the top of the page, served up on a platter, the damning words “MY DEAR FISHER” and “BURN THIS LETTER” stamped on his goose feet. The winner, Grover Cleveland, isn’t even mentioned until the sixth headline.

July 1, 1897: Straw hat, strawberry and watermelon

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 4, 2014 - 9:28 AM
The label atop this front page cartoon from the St. Paul Daily Globe reads like the start of a bad joke. Maybe it was. I can find no explanation of it in the adjacent stories or elsewhere on the page. Perhaps it was a lame attempt at Independence Day humor. What do you make of it?

June 6, 1877: The real Deadwood had odor all its own

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 30, 2014 - 8:17 AM
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.

Special Correspondence from the Black Hills.

May 16th, 1877  
EDITOR CANTON ADVOCATE: I received your paper of May 2nd, a few days since, and was reminded thereby of a promise to write you a letter, after reaching this place. I will refrain from saying anything about our trip out here, which was so tedious and disagreeable that it is hard for me to refer to without using language that would be very unbecoming. We arrived at Rapid City, Sabbath morning April 22d. Rapid City is the first sign of civilization you see, after leaving Pierre. It is situated on the south bank of Rapid Creek, at the base of the foot hills, and is, I should say, a burg of 150 inhabitants. The buildings are all log cabins, one story high, covered with earth, and with a few exceptions, earth floors. It has a beautiful location with good mountain scenery south and west; and they claim its geographical location to be the center of Pennington county. Monday morning we renewed our pilgrimage; must see the elephant – that illustrious yearling – Deadwood. Between Rapid City and Deadwood we passed through Crook City. It is situated in the mouth of Whitewood Gulch, 36 miles west of Rapid, and by the road, 12 miles north of Deadwood; it is a town of about 400 inhabitants, has a pleasant location, at least you would think so after seeing Deadwood; any place I ever saw is a paradise when compared with it.
Outside Deadwood's Bighorn Store in 1876.

Outside Deadwood's Bighorn Store in 1876.

Well, on the 27th day of April, A.D. 1877, we first beheld the object of our search; your first sight of Deadwood, from the centennial road, is from a point almost directly above it, and within a stone’s throw of the central part of the town. Deadwood is situated in Whitewood Gulch, just below the mouth of Deadwood Creek. Its one street runs up and down the gulch, making the same number of twists and turns the gulch does, and narrows and widens with the gulch, so that at some places it is wide enough to be almost respectable while at others it is so narrow that it will barely admit a team and wagon. But its uneven, crooked street and unpleasant exterior are not its most objectionable features. The street seems to be a general depository for all kinds of filth; and within the limits of the town, are the decaying carcasses of dead horses, mules, oxen, &c., which emits their nauseous vapors, tainting the air, in some localities, so that it requires a strong stomach to maintain its equilibrium. Cholera and smallpox, it seems, must be the consequence. There has been several cases of the latter and I was told yesterday there was several smallpox patients in town at the present time. The actual population of Deadwood will not exceed 2,000, but at present there is not less than 10,000 in and around the town; every hotel and boarding house is full to overflowing and every room and cabin is crowded so there is hardly room for one more. A person coming to Deadwood is very fortunate to get a cover to sleep under, a bed is out of the question.
 Go in any direction you choose within five or six miles of Deadwood you can see a constant stream of people passing to and fro in every direction, many of them with packs on their backs that would make a pack mule shudder. They have with them, on their backs, a pack containing their bed, board and wardrobe, to which is generally added a pick, shovel, gold pan, rifle and revolver. There is in and around Deadwood, at a low estimate, 8,000 men looking for work, and hundreds of them are dead broke and would gladly work for their board, but the work is not here to be done, nor will not be this summer. The mines, as far as yet discovered, in the entire hill, will not employ to exceed 1,200 men and there are between 20,000 and 30,000 people in the Hills at the present time and hundreds coming in every day. Deadwood, as well as all of the other towns of the Hills, is supported by the pilgrims that are constantly flowing in; and as soon as immigration ceases, Deadwood, in a measure, will cease with it; buildings that now rent in Deadwood for $250 per month, I predict, before next December, can be had by simply occupying them. Deadwood, in my judgement, has reached the apex of its existence; every thing now is at a white heat. I would only like to be a property owner to dispose of the property. There is nothing in or about Deadwood to keep it up; of course agriculture is out of the question in its vicinity, and there is not mineral enough found as yet in its vicinity to pay a month’s rent at its present rental. There is absolutely nothing but some placer claims along Whitewood, half of which do not pay the expense of working, and are not being worked; even if they were rich they would not be of any permanent value to Deadwood, for one season would work them all out. Deadwood Creek and its affluents are the only creeks in the Hills that are paying anything worth mentioning, except probably Negro Gulch in the western part of the Hills, at the head of Deadwood Creek. There are some quartz claims [also called lode claims] being worked and there are several stamp mills in the vicinity of Gayville, on Deadwood Creek, and they say they are taking good pay out of the stone they crush. I am informed by the best authority and old miners that there has not been a defined quartz lead found in the Hills; they are nearly all cement rock and placer deposits; how extensive this is and how rich is yet to be determined.
If there is to be a town of any permanency in this part of the Hills, it will be Gayville. Gayville is situated on Deadwood Creek about 3 miles from Deadwood; it is a town of about 500 inhabitants and is surrounded by the richest ground in the Hills, both placer and quartz; it also has a decided advantage over Deadwood as far as location for building a town is concerned.
It would surprise you to see the importance assumed by many who stayed here last winter – many compelled to; they remind me of Bret Harte’s “First Man,” and many of them, I should judge, are characters of the same stamp; with what an air of patronizing superiority they cast their visual organs down upon a poor “tender foot,” with a look of mingled pity and contempt, which says, “you have only been here a few weeks; I have been here for months.” An old “forty-niner” of California does not feel half the pride in telling “I went to California in 49,” &c., as some of these fellows do in telling “I came to the Hills last spring when a man had to take his life in his hand and wrestled the country out of the hands of the bloody Sioux; and helped develop it.” … I do not say that every man that stayed in the Hills last winter is of that stamp, not by any means, but there are a large per cent of those shallow pated devils who imagine themselves immortal heroes to whom the names of all the illustrious of American history will only serve as a standing place from which to get glimpses of them, so far above that the eye can scarcely reach them. Poor fellows, I pity them.
Around the foot hills and extending along the creeks, leaving the hills four miles there is some splendid fertile valleys and for agricultural purposes, I should say, are hard to excel, but they are cursed by the same great enemy that has caused so much suffering through the northwest – the grasshopper. I understand they are hatching out in myriads around the foot hills.
Deadwood in 1876: "Its one street runs up and down the gulch, making the same number of twists and turns the gulch does, and narrows and widens with the gulch, so that at some places it is wide enough to be almost respectable while at others it is so narrow that it will barely admit a team and wagon."

Deadwood in 1876: "Its one street runs up and down the gulch, making the same number of twists and turns the gulch does, and narrows and widens with the gulch, so that at some places it is wide enough to be almost respectable while at others it is so narrow that it will barely admit a team and wagon."

I would not advise any one to come out here unless they fetch money enough with them to take them back again, for in all probabilities they would go back inside of a week. If you come out for the purpose of getting work, you had better stay at home, as there are hundreds here already, waiting for every job; I could hire a thousand hands to-morrow for ten dollars per month and their “chuck,” and they would do their own cooking and furnish their own beds and shelter. Board in Deadwood ranges from $10 to $28 per week [$215 to $600 in 2014]; flour was retailing yesterday for $28 per hundred [about $6 a pound in 2014], it is probably $30 to-day; hay is $200 per ton in Deadwood; corn meal, unbolted, is worth $14 per cwt.; potatoes, 15 cents per pound; butter, 50 cents per pound; eggs, 50 cents per dozen [more than $10 in 2014]; beef, 30 cents per pound; pork, from 25 to 30 cents per pound; sugar, 3 pounds for $1.00; beans, 15 cents per pound; horses are worth from $5 to $150.
Geo. and Frank Keller [reported in the Advocate to have left Canton in February] are opening up a ranch about 2 miles north of Deadwood; they have two or three acres cleared and plowed and planted. I believe they will do well. The rest of the boys from Canton, I am told, are on Rapid Creek engaging in mining and are feeling hopeful; what success they are meeting am unable to say; have not seen any of them yet.
One peculiar feature of the Hills are the daily showers. It has rained every day since I have been in the Hills, and I am told by persons who were here last summer that … very few days [pass] without more or less rain.
Well, I guess I have encroached upon your time enough for this time and will bring my scribbling to a close.
I remain yours truly,
RELATED: Also on the front page of the Advocate that day, under “ODDS AND ENDS,” was this one-sentence report:
—Deadwood is witnessing a slight stampede up the Creek, where it is reported rich diggings have been struck.


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