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Posts about Newspapers

Jan. 26, 1904: Cold snap keeps plumbers busy

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 27, 2014 - 8:57 AM
This January's unrelenting cold is familiar to any baby boomer who grew up in Minnesota. My siblings and I walked the five blocks to Assumption grade school in Richfield in all weather in the 1960s. Heavy snow and subzero mornings were common. Yet I can't recall Assumption canceling a single school day because of snow, let alone cold, and no parents I knew of ever drove their children to school. Kids living in the surrounding neighborhoods bundled up for the 10- to 20-minute walk, overseen by mothers at one end and nuns at the other.

In second grade, during a week in which the mercury fell to 30 below zero, a walker arrived late and found he was unable to remove his frozen choppers. Sister Rosalie walked him over to a radiator to defrost the unbending leather shells and – I swear! – braced one hand against his chest and, using her other hand, had to pull mightily to free each hand. Bradley Shaw, can you confirm this memory?

A similar cold snap in January 1904 warranted a front page story in the Minneapolis Tribune, with the obligatory mention of a far colder January decades before.




Sunday, midnight -29
Monday, 3 a.m. -32
Monday, 6 a.m. -33
Monday, 9 a.m. -33
Monday, noon -24
Monday, 3 p.m. -20
Monday, 6 p.m. -20
Monday, 9 p.m. -20
Monday, midnight -22

The drug stores have been doing a thriving business during the last two days in all sorts of guaranteed remedies for frostbites, frozen ears, noses, fingers, toes and all other freezable portions of the human anatomy. Even the oldest inhabitant has been compelled to crawl out of his hiding place and tell about the cold first of January in 1863, “when it was real cold and the soldiers in the Union army were liberally [perhaps the reporter meant "literally"] frozen.” Relief is in sight at least for a short time, and the weather-wise say that the conjunction of the planets which caused this cold has gone by, and that another world is being troubled by similar conjunctions.

Other weather prophets say that the present cold snap is caused by a plumbers' trust; while others remark that a syndicate of rich men have bought up all the cola in the world, and have turned off the natural steam heat of the earth, and are holding out on the coal for large and juicy prices.

The government forecasters say that the crest of the wave has passed, and that the weather will moderate shortly. The busiest men in Minneapolis the past two days have undoubtedly been the plumbers. The quick decline in the temperatures Saturday caught many a householder unawares, and the pathetic calls for immediate assistance which greeted the plumbers' ears Sunday morning rendered the Sabbath anything but a day of rest for them.

Yesterday [Monday] there was not a plumber in Minneapolis who wanted work that was not busy doctoring some frost-bitten pipe, which had been unable to withstand the pressure exerted by jack frost.

For tales of hard luck it is but necessary to step into the first plumbing shop and listen to the troubles of this man whose cellar resembles a skating rink, and that man who has to wade in water up to his knees to get to the kitchen stove and start a fire to thaw things out.

A Minneapolis winter's day in 1900: Four small houses lined 4th Avenue S. at 4th Street, with the Guaranty Loan Building, later known as the Metropolitan Building, in the background. Can anyone identify the four-story building at right? (Photo courtesy Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Collection)

Nov. 18, 1888: The pride of Minneapolis mothers

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 25, 2013 - 9:33 AM
One hundred and twenty-five years ago, the Minneapolis Tribune offered early proof that the children of our state are above average. Meet Leonora, Birdie, Willis, Tootie and dozens of other up-and-coming youngsters of the Flour City.


The Pride of Minneapolis Mothers

In a bustling, growing city like Minneapolis it is not often that the little people can make themselves heard outside of their own homes. The unjustice of this has influenced the Tribune to present to its readers this morning 50 of the wee young ladies and gentlemen of the city, who will be heard from in later years. This galaxy of childish beauty will interest young and old alike. The Tribune regrets that no more space in this issue can be devoted to the introduction of Minneapolis youngsters to the public, as there are many more on the list just as handsome and as jolly as any that are here presented. The only thing that can be promised is that another page in an early issue will have to be devoted to them. And now for a glance at the little people who make their first public bow today.


The Tribune described 5-year-old Belle Stearn of 417 Second Av. N. as "a talented little lady." Click here for a photo gallery of all 34 children profiled by the newspaper.

That section of young America which lives in Minneapolis resembles its father and mother in some respects and differs from them in others. It differs from them, in the majority of instance, because it was born in the Flour City – a thing which comparatively few persons who have arrived at the dignity of a parent can truthfully say.

The child, however, whose picture is published today, is a native of this city in the majority of instances. The Minneapolis “kid” resembles its parents in that it has their life and activity and enterprise. The boy or girl gets as a birth right, that which the parent gained only when he had come to man’s estate, in some active part of the country and had migrated to Minneapolis and caught the spirit of the city. The spirit which leads the men of Minneapolis to build the largest mills, the tallest building, and shout the loudest for his city, leads the Minneapolis boy to indulge in jackstones at a most tender age, and the Minneapolis girl to rocker her doll’s cradle before she is hardly out of her own. The climate of Minneapolis agrees with the children. Health statistics show this no less than the ruddy faces that one sees on the streets. The bracing atmosphere gives them good lungs and keeps the proper color in their cheeks. The little folks are a big part of the population. The school statistics show this and all that is needed for ocular proof is the announcement of a street parade headed by a brass band. The youngsters are alive with enthusiasm for their city. They are irrepressible, active, enterprising and wide awake.

Everybody, of course, thinks their own is the best. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be the proper class of citizens for Minneapolis or for respectable society anywhere. It’s all right. Here are some of the scions of the families who will be leaders in the city when its population is 1,000,000.

April 15, 1886: St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids in ruins

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: May 6, 2013 - 3:51 PM

Minneapolis Tribune copy editors of 1886 faced a challenge beyond anything we encounter in today’s newsrooms. Day in, day out, the big story on page one required a half-dozen or more subheadlines. Let’s give it up for the anonymous craftsman who managed to write 13 dramatic and informative subheds for the story below. At the same time, he could have done a better job editing the story, which is filled with overwrought prose, tangled syntax and contradictory assertions. My favorite is the writer’s habit of saying a scene is impossible or “too piteous” to describe — and then describing it in great detail. Must be an 1880s thing.

Which is not to say that the tornado that hit St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids on April 14, 1886, was anything but a disaster of historic proportions. It is the deadliest tornado in Minnesota history. More than 70 people were killed, and Sauk Rapids was all but blown off the map.

[Originally posted June 16, 2008. I'm reposting in connection with a presentation I'm giving at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Stearns County Historical Society in St. Cloud. Free to members; $5 for nonmembers. Details here.]


Unroofed: The first house struck by the tornado in St. Cloud. (Photo courtesy


St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids Swept by a Tornado.

Thirty People Killed and A Hundred or More Wounded.

Many of the Injured Will Not Recover From Their Wounds.

Three Hundred Buildings Destroyed and Railroad Bridges Torn to Pieces.

The Storm Clears a Path 600 Feet Wide Through the Town of St. Cloud.

And the Strongest and Finest Buildings Crumble at Its Touch.

The Village of Sauk Rapids Almost Blotted Out of Existence.

Men, Women and Children Crushed in the Ruins Dead and Dying.

A Scene of Desolation Never Before Witnessed in the North West.

Private Houses and Hotels Doing Sad Service as Hospitals.

A Well-Known Citizen of St. Paul Killed – Incidents of the Storm.

Sketches of the Two Wrecked Towns – Plan of St. Cloud – The News Here.

Many Miraculous Escapes From Instant Death Reported at Other Points.


St. Cloud, April 14 – This place was today the scene of the most terrible calamity that has ever visited the Northwest. It is impossible yet to say entirely how terrible it is.


St. Cloud’s rail yard did not fare well. (Photo courtesy

The morning was stormy. Last night a severe thunderstorm passed over us, and during the forenoon there were frequent showers with occasional flashes of lightning and the noise of distant thunder. Soon after noon the storm grew heavier and became severe at 2 o’clock, but seemed to have again passed off by 2:30. Shortly before 4, however, the air darkened again, and sharp gusts of wind, bringing sudden showers of rain and hail, shook the city. Nothing of any moment, however, occurred until about 4:30. The air was then dark and thick, and growing momentarily darker. Suddenly the sky toward the southwest deepened from dark to absolute black. The air was close and sultry; but still no one seemed to fear anything more than an ordinarily severe thunderstorm.

Your correspondent was standing with a knot of men in the shelter of a doorway looking at the blackening sky. Some one jestingly suggested a cyclone. Then the talk turned lightly on former cyclones – these at Rochester, New Ulm, Highmore; and reminiscences of the ruin caused by the storms went round. Meanwhile the wind had dropped and the rain ceased. Everything was still and close. Your correspondent walked up the street – his back toward the threatening quarter. Suddenly a cry arose, and people rushed from door to door. Simultaneously came another fierce, sudden burst of rain-laden wind. Fiercer and fiercer it blew. Turning to the southwest your correspondent saw

  More of the devastation in Sauk Rapids. (Photo courtesy

A Solid Mass of Cloud,

dense black except where it was tinged with a strange greenish color, sweeping apparently towards the city. The lower end of the cloud appeared to rest on the ground, being narrow. Thence it broadened upwards until the top of the funnel – or inverted pyramid – covered half the sky. But there was not much time to study it. The wind, already a gale, grew momentarily worse; first a tempest, then a tornado. Above the wind one could hear the crash of houses, the breaking of timbers and the shock of falling walls. It was probably only a few seconds while the storm was passing; but they were terrible seconds – utter blackness and an inconceivable din of crashing buildings and roaring storm. Then came the rain again – not in drops, or bucketfuls, but sheets – driving before the gale like vertical sections of solid waves of water. Then the air slowly lightened. The sky towards the southwest had grown gray again, and the terrible, black mass blotted out the northeastern horizon. The cyclone had passed.

Around where your correspondent was no damage was done. All the buildings still stood. It had fortunately missed the central business section in the city. As fast as possible I made my way towards the northwest part of the city, which is chiefly

Made Up of Residences.

Everybody else (those who were not still hiding, terror stricken, in cellars and corners of their houses) rushed in the same direction. Turning a sudden corner we found the road apparently barricaded halfway down the block. It was the edge of the cyclone’s path, and three houses which had been together were in ruins across the street. Climbing over the wreck were a dozen men and women. On one side a knot was gathered where a child lay stretched on the sidewalk – dead.


The tornado flattened much of Sauk Rapids. (Photo courtesy

From there on the scene was terrible. Description is impossible. One every side lay piles of ruins, where there had lately been comfortable, happy homes. From some, strong hands were lifting the dead and insensible. From others the shrieks of persons still imprisoned were heart-rending. Block after block was desolated. Yet here and there, in the very central path of the storm, houses stood – not always the stoutest or largest, and with no other reason why they should have escaped the wreck of their neighbors than the caprice of the storm as it passed.

After the Storm,

The whole population of the city had crowded to the ruined quarter. Business men rushing to their homes, found in their stead masses of ruins. Some found the bodies of their wives and children already extricated from the wreck. Others came in time to help them out, and save their lives. Others only in time to help to lift out their corpses. Not a few had to wait for hours before they knew whether the heaps of shattered timbers in front of them covered all that they loved on earth or not.

Some of the scenes were too piteous to be described. A mother who had been down town came back only to stand by and listen to the shrieks of her buried children grow fainter and fainter, as the workers above tried to make their way to them. In another place your correspondent saw a girl carried away raving and apparently hopelessly insane as the moving of a timber disclosed her mother’s face – pale, save for the blood which had flowed from the blow that had killed her. On every side friend was calling for friend; child for parent; parent for child, and strong men sat on what had been their homes and sobbed like children over the bodies of their wives. It is too horrible!


The ruins of a school in Sauk Rapids. (Photo courtesy

In all some thirty dwelling houses are destroyed – and not one of the thirty but in its fall either killed or horribly mutilated some of its inmates. Cutler and Webb’s brewery is completely demolished. Round this and the Manitoba freight depot (which also lies in ruins) surged the greatest crowd. It is impossible to say yet who may not lie dead in the ruins of either. The brick house of John Swartz is merely a chaotic pile – close beside it a frame house sands unroofed, but the walls still standing.

The path of the cyclone seems to have been about 600 feet wide – cut as clean as a swathe in a hay field. Sauk Rapids has also suffered badly. The bridge across the river is down. It is impossible yet to learn what the loss of life has been.

All the while that the search went on the rain descended in torrents. Now and then it clears for a space; but soon thickens again. Overhead there is a continual rumble of distant thunder, and vivid flashes of lightning ever and again throw the desolate scene into awful relief. It was some time before any organized system of working on the ruins could be arranged. Every man was doing all he could, but the confusion was hopeless. The mayor and city officials worked well, and the members of the fire department. Assistance was promptly telegraphed for to St. Paul and Minneapolis. The work of searching in the ruins was not unattended with danger, for in many places the dismantled walls still stood, rocking in the wind, and at intervals the crash of falling timber was heard over the cries of the wounded and the wailing of the bereaved. More than one person has been hurt in this way in trying to save others.

Many of the dead bodies taken from the ruins are mutilated beyond recognition. As nearly as it can be ascertained now the number of dead in the two places – for Sauk Rapids has suffered at least as badly as St. Cloud – is 30, and about a hundred more are more or less mutilated. The court house here is unroofed and the county records are exposed.


Sauk Rapids courthouse was reduced to a pile of rubble. (Photo courtesy
Two stores once stood on this site in Sauk Rapids. (Photo courtesy

April 4, 1920: To doff or not to doff?

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: April 9, 2013 - 3:11 PM
An enterprising Minneapolis Tribune reporter scoured downtown elevators to blow the lid off an unfortunate trend.

“If He Doffs Hat When Woman
Enters Elevator He’s Single”

  These hatless bellhops rode the elevators at the Nicollet Hotel in about 1924. (Photo courtesy
Lift Elevators Say Most Minneapolis Men Are Negligent About This Courtesy; Easterners More Punctilious; Women Don’t Expect It, Say Business Men.
Is there any real test to determine whether a man is married or single? Can this important fact about a stranger be discovered without the embarrassment of asking him? Hiram N. Wadleigh, veteran elevator operator in the Federal building, says there is.
If a man takes off his hat with precision and definiteness the minute a woman enters his car, Mr. Wadleigh says that man is certainly single. But if the male passenger hesitates and only removes his hat when he has made sure the woman is pretty, then, Wadleigh insists, in 99 cases out of 100 the man is married.
“Sometimes the married men have a good excuse for hesitating when there’s no hair on the top of their heads,” explains Mr. Wadleigh. “But usually those with heavy locks act just about the same way.”
However good this test may be, elevator operators in Minneapolis agree that most men here do not remove their hats in public elevators when women are fellow passengers.
In hotels the average is considerably higher than in public buildings, but even in the hotels men tend to retain their headgear.
Hat removers and those who don’t are split about fifty-fifty at the Hotel Dyckman, according to Donald Hartz, elevator operator. “Eastern men usually take off their hats automatically when they come in, whether a woman is present or not,” he said.
The only man the elevator operator has real contempt for, according to Mr. Hartz, is he who vacillates between removing his hat or not and finally sheepishly decides to take it off.
Hattie Malick, elevator starter at the Radisson, thinks she encounters the highest average of polite men in the city, but many are negligent even there, she says. In public elevators, men may do as they please, she believes, but a hotel elevator to her is the same as a drawing room, and men should remove their hats. She can’t just explain the difference between a hotel lobby and an elevator, but thinks there is one, nevertheless.
Matt Demand, courteous operator of the postoffice elevator, believes there is a difference between hotel elevators and those in public buildings, and that women do not expect men to remove their hats in the latter case.
“Most men pay no attention to women in this elevator,” he declared. “And the women don’t seem to expect any. They are usually here on business, and expect to be treated in a business and not in a social way.”
Women prominent in Minneapolis are sharply divided on the question of whether men should remove their hats in public elevators. They agree that in a hotel elevator hats should always come off.
  This is Mrs. Manley Fosseen -- Carrie to her friends and family -- in 1936. (Photo courtesy
Mrs. Manley Fosseen, newly elected Republican delegate at large, thinks that woman, having attained political equality with man, should expect only business-like treatment from him in business places. The elevator, she thinks, is like a hotel lobby or a street car.
The one discourtesy which woman cannot forgive a man in an elevator is smoke, says Mrs. Fosseen.
Mrs. Carolyn B. Kinney, woman member of the Board of Education, holds a brief for the group of women with the opposite opinion.
“I like very much to see men remove their hats in any kind of elevator,” declared Mrs. Kinney. “And no matter how much political and business equality woman attain, I shall continue to derive pleasure from display of the little courtesy. It would be a shame if we should lose the old spirit of chivalry which has done much for both men and women.”
Men, asked about their opinion of the matter, unanimously decided that in business elevators doffing of hats is rather silly.
“When I am with my wife, of course I take mine off,” explained Postmaster Purdy, “partly because she is there to nudge me if I don’t. But in strictly business elevators I can’t see a great deal of advantage in following the custom. I don’t believe most women expect it.”
From a matter of space economy, Mr. Purdy said, it might be to advantage for women to take off their hats.
The wearing of hats was probably de riguere for well-heeled men passing through the lobby of the Dyckman Hotel in 1933, when this photo was taken. (Image courtesy of


Jan. 1, 1889: The life of a night editor

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 19, 2012 - 10:26 AM
More than a century ago, “all ‘copy’ of every description” passed through the hands of the Minneapolis Tribune’s night editor. It was a critical job in the production of the morning newspaper. But the workload was heavy, the pressure relentless, the technology primitive and the hours abominable. Here’s our third installment of the Tribune’s two-page spread on “TO MAKE A PAPER.”


The Problem of Seven Columns of Matter and Five Columns of Hole.
After the managing editor has compared the morning TRIBUNE with its contemporaries, has had a consultation with the business and editorial departments, and has mapped out in detail the size and character of the paper to be issued on the following morning, he is supposed to go home, and the detail of his plans is executed by the night editor, who is at his desk by 7 o’clock p.m. and is on duty until the papers are in the hands of the carriers. All “copy" of every description passes through the hands of the night editor for final supervision. After receiving his orders from the managing editor the night editor must be ready to take up the different threads of the work. Often the proprietors and editors are home or out of town when matters that may favorably or injuriously affect the policy or pocketbook of the paper must be instantly decided. The managing editor having ascertained the amount of advertising and determined the size of the paper, the first thing that the night editor does when he comes on duty is to assign reading space to the departments. If it is to be a seven-column eight-page TRIBUNE, and there are 24 columns of advertising, after ascertaining the needs of the departments and the allotment of space would be made something like this:
Telegraph, 10 columns.
Sporting, 1½ columns.
St. Paul, 3 columns.
Editorial, 4 columns.
Markets, 4 columns.
Railroads, 1½ columns.
Political, 2 columns.
City news, 6 columns.
Advertising, 24 columns.

This schedule would, of course, vary from day to day and must be enlarged when the 20-page SUNDAY TRIBUNE is issued.
Having assigned the space, the night editor is held responsible for seeing that no department exceeds the space allotted and is made responsible for the issuance of the paper in time for the earliest mail trains and carriers. During the night the night editor must also answer all queries addressed to the managing editor and must often take the responsibility of ordering or declining news of importance. It often happens that when 10 columns have been allotted to telegraph, that something unexpected occurs of so much importance that it is necessary to publish 15 columns of telegraph. The night editor must then revise his schedule and must always keep the printers supplied with copy and at the same time must see that no more copy is sent than will fill the space.
When the last piece of copy has been put into type, about 2:55 a.m., it is the duty of the night editor to then go to the composing room and superintend the “make-up,” which is under the direction of the foreman. The most important piece of news must be selected, and given the most important position in the paper. The night editor must instantly dictate on which page and on what part of the page each important department or item must be placed. Often it is necessary to rewrite a head, or cut out a paragraph from an article after it is in type and this must be done quickly and with judgment while reading from the type. Again, after the type is all in place, and the pages are made up with due regard to symmetry and mechanical effect, important news is suddenly received. This necessitates quick work, and a rapid tearing up and re-arrangement of the pages.
During the night the TRIBUNE night editor receives on an average 100 messages over the TRIBUNE special wires offering news for publication. This news must be accepted or declined according to its importance to the TRIBUNE constituency, as viewed by the judgment of the editor. The news bulletins as received read like this:
1.     Washington – Miss Francis Willard asks Mrs. Cleveland to continue her crusade against the bustle – 200.
2.     Boston – Suicide and double murder – 150.
3.     New York – Mayor Hewitt writes a letter to Gov. Hill criticizing Cleveland – 500.
The figures denote the number of words that the correspondent desires to send. After weight the bulletins in the seat of judgment, the answer is sent. “Yes, No. 1,” or “Send 250 words, No. 3.”
After the city editor and the heads of other departments have gone home, it is sometimes necessary to prepare news or make editorial comment on that received late, and this work is done by the night editor.
When it is finally decided which articles go into the paper and which are to be left out, and the last page has gone from the stereotyping room to the press room, the night editor fills out the blank spaces in his printed report to the managing editor. The report comprises the columns of different classes of matter, the hour that typesetting commenced, the hour that the last piece of copy was received from the several departments, the amount of type set during the night, the time that the last page was sent to the stereotyping room the number of editions printed, the amounted of advertising or reading matter left out, etc.
When this is done, at 4 o’clock a.m. or later, the night editor is ready to go home.


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