Sample Minnesota newspaper articles, photos and ads dating back more than 140 years. Fresh items are posted weekly. Go here for tips on how to track down old newspaper articles on your own. Follow the blog on Twitter. Or check out "Minnesota Mysteries," a new book based on the blog.

E-mail your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.

Posts about Newspapers

Dredging up Minnesota’s past

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: August 8, 2005 - 12:26 PM

Welcome, history lovers!

The Star Tribune newspaper archives, which date back more than a hundred years, are just about a hundred feet away from my perch on the copy desk. On slow nights, I head to the library, load up a roll of microfilm and take a look back in time.

How much did it cost to block and clean a bowler hat in 1898? How did the Minneapolis Tribune play the sinking of the Lusitania? What were the hot nightspots during Roaring ’20s? What movies were showing in Hennepin Avenue theaters in the ’50s? Did St. Paul’s “super mayor” of the early ’70s, Charlie McCarty, really use an electronic device to turn traffic lights in his favor?

If you’ve lived in Minnesota long, you probably have similar questions about the region’s history. (Well, some of you might!) If you do, send 'em to and I'll see what I can dig up. I try to post a couple of fresh items each week.

I hope that most of the articles (and occasionally photos and ads) will prompt readers to share observations, memories and links to additional resources. I’m striving to build a collection of enduring interest, snapshots that will, over time, paint an engaging portrait of Minnesota’s past.

A note on the format: I write an introduction for nearly every entry. These editor’s notes are indented and centered (like this paragraph). Some entries also include follow-up interviews, which are also indented.

A note on title dates: For the sake of consistency, the title of each post shows the newspaper publication date, not the date or range of dates of the event covered. Apollo 11, for example, landed on the moon at 3:17 p.m. CDT July 20, 1969 (Earth time!). The Yesterday’s News title, however, is the date of publication of the Minneapolis Tribune story about the landing, July 21, 1969. You can derive the date of the event — if any; some posts contain only advertising, or are editorials about an ongoing event — from that publication date.

A note on photos: Most of the photos posted here are from the overstuffed filing cabinets in the newsroom library or from the Minnesota Historical Society’s awesome online archive of digital images. Unless otherwise noted, the captions are mine.

A note on research: Are you looking for your great-great-aunt’s paid obituary? I don’t have time, unfortunately, to track down items of narrow interest. But you probably have easy access to the same resources I use. In Minnesota, most larger libraries carry the Minneapolis Tribune, Minneapolis Star and Star Journal on microfilm, dating back more than 100 years. Check with your friendly neighborhood librarian to locate the microfilm trove nearest you. If you live outside Minnesota, check the nearest university libraries, especially those associated with journalism schools.

Hard-copy indexes of these papers are sometimes available, covering content from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s, when newspapers began archiving content in digital, searchable form. If you’re looking for content published prior to the mid-1950s, no indexes are available. You’ll have to do what I do: Pop in a roll of microfilm and start browsing.

July 2014 update: After 20 years at the Star Tribune, I'm taking a buyout and starting a new job as communications director for Entropy Solutions, a Plymouth company that's been making an extremely useful product, phase change material, for nearly as long as I've been blogging. I will continue to update this blog weekly and am planning to write a third book, "Minnesota Muscle," in 2015.

January 2015 update: Hundreds of Yesterday's News posts became history a few months ago, thanks to an unexplained cleansing of servers that apparently cannot be undone. As time allows, I'll recover the best of these, using the Internet Archive's indespensible Wayback Machine, and repost them here.

Ben Welter
[Former] Star Tribune copy chief

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?

Oct. 22, 1906: Censorship in libraries

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 6, 2014 - 11:59 AM
This Minneapolis Journal editorial about the impact of censorship on boys and girls reminded me of a feature in the Catholic Bulletin – now the Catholic Spirit – many years ago. Each week, the archdiocesan newspaper listed the movies being shown on TV and in theaters, along with a one-letter rating for each. The list was intended as a guide to parents about which movies should be avoided. But I can attest that many young people used it the opposite way. The “O” rating – morally objectionable in whole or in part because of strong language, violence or sexuality – indicated a TV movie that was not to be missed.

Censorship in Libraries.

There is a practice in some public libraries in England that is being suggested for adoption on this side [of] the water. Librarians are “blacking out” from the newspapers left on file in the library certain portions which are not considered best for young people to read. The “poison” is carefully excised so youthful readers will get only what is good for them, and will read even newspapers with untainted mind.
This censorship might serve some purpose if there were no other copies of the newspapers accessible, but when the papers are in common circulation it can only have the effect of drawing attention to the great black marks and setting the young readers out to discover what they missed. They will read the blacked-out sections with the greater zest because they are forbidden, and therefore must be interesting. The English librarians black out betting and racing news, in order that a taste for gambling shall not be cultivated in the library precincts. No doubt their well-meant efforts serve only to direct the attention of British boys to the subject of racing and betting on races.
The way to turn the attention of boys and girls away from reading that does not improve is not to make it forbidden, but to show them how interesting the good things are, and give them a bent toward good reading that will of itself exclude vitiating mental dissipations.

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.


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