Sample Minnesota's rich history, courtesy of a microfilm archive of newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted once or twice a week. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Or visit the Yesterday's News archives, a searchable library of more than 300 articles.
Follow the blog on Twitter.
NEW: "Minnesota Mayhem," a book based on the blog, is a collection of stories about disasters, accidents, crimes and bad behavior.
E-mail Ben with your questions or suggestions.
Nan Russell Dunnigan in 1914.
Nan Russell Dunnigan, whose work appeared under the byline “The Tribune Girl,” wrote hundreds of first-person feature stories for the Tribune between 1907 and 1914. She interviewed Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, John Philip Sousa, Booker T. Washington and Sir Robert Baden-Powell. She had a frosty encounter with Isadora Duncan. She attempted to interview Maude Adams, but found the popular “Peter Pan” actress to be “interview proof.”
Dunnigan took on a variety of other assignments. She made police and fire checks. She interviewed politicians and businessmen. She worked as a “Salvation Army lassie” for a day. She led Minneapolis orphans on an outing to Lake Minnetonka. In her final months with the Tribune, she traveled to Europe and filed reports from London (where she got lost), the Vatican (where she enjoyed an audience with Pope Pius X) and Belgium (which she didn’t enjoy one bit).
Her last piece appeared in September 1914. Three months later, on Christmas Day, she married George F. Authier, private secretary to Minnesota’s governor, Joseph Burnquist. Authier had just secured a new job as the Tribune’s Washington correspondent, and the newlyweds soon headed east. The Tribune Girl apparently hung up her notebook and pen. No further stories by Nan Russell Dunnigan or Nan Authier turn up in a Google search.
|The Tribune Girl chatted with the chief, left, and his first assistant, Michael Hanley.
|Fire Chief Canterbury in his courthouse office in about 1900. (Image courtesy of mnhs.org)
|A Minneapolis fire engine and crew paused for a photo at 3rd Street and 6th Avenue S. in about 1905. (Image courtesy of mnhs.org)
A century before Google and YouTube and Facebook, it was much easier for a person to erase the memory of a public humiliation and emerge years later as a respected professional in the city in which the humiliation was widely reported and discussed. The Minneapolis Tribune provides Exhibit A, recounting the fall and rise of one Lillian M. Knott without connecting the dots:
|The Tribune's sad account portrays Miss Knott as a singer of considerable talent who was once understudy to Camille D'Arville, above. D'Arville was a noted figure in American comic opera in the late 19th century. Her name turns up dozens of times in a Google search. Knott? Not so much.|
|The Minneapolis workhouse at 50th and Lyndale Avenues N. in about 1902. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)|
THE NEXT DAY, the Tribune reported that Knott had been released from prison and was on her way home to Terra Haute. A number of sympathetic Elks had raised $40 and paid her fine. Before her release, she met with the grand jury and repeated the story she had told the Tribune, describing with “graphic emphasis the details of the alleged theft” and denying “as firmly as ever” that she had stolen the garment.
Several supporters materialized and appealed to the judge to drop the charge, but he was unmoved: “If the accusation were a true one, as I believe it was, this young woman has received no more than her just deserts. The testimony of the police is that she has been leading a dissolute life and been consorting with disreputable characters for some time.”
Music educator Lillian M. Knott in 1915.
SIXTEEN YEARS LATER, on Sept. 19, 1915, the Minneapolis Tribune trumpeted the appointment of Lillian M. Knott as director of the public school music department of the Northwestern Conservatory. This Knott had spent the past five years at Tulane University in New Orleans, leading the school’s “public school music department,” and the past 10 years leading a summer program for Louisiana teachers.
It’s unclear if it’s the same Miss Knott. The story doesn’t mention a background in opera, let alone an arrest in Minneapolis so many years before. But it does note that she “received her musical education in the New England Conservatory,” which matches the claim of the penniless prima donna. Seems unlikely that two women named Lillian M. Knott earned a music degree in the same city about the same time and later found work in Minneapolis. What do you think? Perhaps someone with full access to Ancestry.com can settle this.
Radiolab used a 1920s jump-rope rhyme to introduce a recent piece on Lincoln Beachey, “one of the most famous men you’ve never heard of”:Lincoln Beachey thought it was a dreamTo go up to heaven in a flying machine.The machine broke down, and down he fell.Instead of going to heaven he went to . . .Lincoln Beachey thought it was a dreamRenowned as “the world’s greatest aviator” in the early 20th century, Beachey was a barnstorming stunt pilot who invented many of the daring maneuvers performed at aerial shows today. His feats were seen by millions of people from San Francisco (where he “bombed” a fake battleship) to the White House (which he dive-bombed in another mock attack). More than 200,000 people are said to have witnessed his final flight at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in March 1915. The strain of a new maneuver tore the wings off his monoplane, and the fuselage plunged into San Francisco Bay. Strapped into the cockpit, he drowned before rescuers were able to reach the wreckage.Beachey performed at least four times in the Twin Cities. Here’s an account of his show at the state fairgrounds in July 1914, eight months before his death.
Ace pilot Lincoln Beachey was evidently a snappy dresser.
Barney Oldfield with his trademark cigar.
With Barney out of the way, Beachey was announced and the crowd loosened up its wilted collar and prepared for a careful survey of the upper regions. Then the famous machine was wheeled out by a bevy of young men eager to touch the hem of the Beachey garment. Following was the sunburned little rough rider of the sky who has flown around the capitol at Washington; under the suspension bridge at Niagara Falls, who won the New York to Philadelphia air race, who has been farther above the earth than any living American and who has done things in the sky that make most people dizzy to think about. The hero-worshippers in the pilot’s wake started the Gnome motor buzzing near the pole in front of the grandstand and some half-hundred railbirds were chased off the fence by the breeze from the blades and the accompanying dust.
The Minnesota State Fair grandstand in 1915. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
Two months later, Beachey and Oldfield were back in Minnesota for another performance at the fairgrounds. This ad -- at least, I'm pretty sure it's an ad -- appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune.
Reports emerged from Geneva this week that a lowly neutrino has been clocked at speeds faster than light. It’s not the first time that a shadow has been cast on the century-old theory of relativity. Arvid Reuterdahl, the dean of the engineering school at St. Thomas College, made headlines in 1921 when he called the theory “bunk” and challenged Albert Einstein to a written debate. The Minneapolis Tribune published Reuterdahl’s exhaustive critique of the theory in this page one story. Readers had to wait almost a week for Einstein’s response.
|Among Arvid Reuterdahl's contributions to science and technology: an improved design for culverts.|
|Turns out Albert Einstein wasn't tongue-tied about the challenge, just hard to reach.|
On April 16, 1921, Einstein’s response to the challenge appeared inside the Tribune on page 15. Here are excerpts:
Reuterdahl, of course, remained unconvinced. The Tribune gave him the last word in the followup piece (but of course Einstein eventually got the last word in spacetime):
Minnesota’s first Renaissance Festival, which opened 40 years ago this week in Chaska, was promoted as a “Celebration of Nature, Art and Life.” It was as much a celebration of tie-dyed costumes and black-velvet paintings as it was of life in 16th-century Europe. Lute players, minstrels, clergymen and at least one soothsayer wandered the grounds, and merchants in burlap tents sold candles, beads and belts. A “vassal” munching a hot dog told a Tribune reporter: “It’s the Renaissance without the lepers, open sewers and plague. They even have 20 portable toilets. The Renaissance was never like this.”
Admission was just $1.50 in 1971. Reigning over the first festival as king and queen were George Coulam, one of the event’s founders, and actress Tovah Feldshuh. Feldshuh, 18, was in town playing a bit part in “Cyrano de Bergerac” at the Guthrie. After leading the “grand march” with Coulam on opening day, she mingled with the crowd and asked, “Will someone lend the queen a dollar?” Someone did, and rumor had it that she treated a lady-in-waiting and the town crier to beers at the Grain Belt tent.
Here are two photos from the festival’s early years:
Sept. 11, 1971: Actress Tovah Feldshuh and George Coulam, one of the festival’s founders, greeted visitors on the festival’s first day. (Minneapolis Tribune photo by Mike Zerby)
Sept. 18, 1977: Viktor Korchnoi, a contender for the world chess title at the time, played 50 games simultaneously at the Renaissance Festival in Shakopee. Opponents paid $15 each to take on the grandmaster, who played a series of simuls across the United States that year. Here one of the youngest challengers, 12-year-old Andre Wakefield, awaited Korchnoi’s next move. The kid eventually lost, as did 42 other challengers. Three challengers fought to a draw, and four – Alan Kemp and Ken Kaufman of Minneapolis, James Hirsch of St. Paul and Ron Elmquist of Mounds View – managed to beat the world’s second-ranked player. (Minneapolis Star Photo by Jim McTaggart)