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Posts about Minnesota newsmakers

July 21, 1907: The Tribune Girl and the fire chief

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 11, 2013 - 3:30 PM
 
 
  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.

 

Tribune Girl Talks With Fire Chief
on Freak Calls of the Unsung Heroes

 
Canterbury and His Merry Men Relate Tales, Amusing and Pathetic, of Occasions When Alarms Meant Unusual Work for Fire Laddies When They Arrived on Scene – Settle Family Difficulties and Answer Call of Small Frightened Lass.
 
By The Tribune Girl.
 
It was a sizzling morning.
 
The Tribune Girl emerged from the last of the offices that she is obliged to visit daily at the court house, and in the argot of newspaperdom “had covered her run, found nothing doing, and was all in.”
 
Feeling thus limp and wilted (literally as well as figuratively) she sauntered into fire headquarters to cool off.
 
Now if there is one place in the court house that the feminine scribe feels perfectly at ease in it is the office over which Chief [James] Canterbury presides.
 
Everybody is so good natured and easy going around fire department headquarters, and the ladies have so many little stories that they reserve for the reporter girl that it is little wonder that she enjoys visiting this haunt of “unsung heroes.”
 
In the sanctum sanctorum of Chief Canterbury this scorching morning the girl found the genial chief and his first assistant, Michael Hanley. It was plain that the business that the two were transacting was not of the most minute importance, for they were lolling back in their chairs, wearing expressions of as great contentment as did Nero at the burning of Rome.
 
“Am I intruding?” asked the girl, knowing full well that she would receive the welcome that was accorded the prodigal of old.
 
She sniffed surreptitiously for the savory smell of cooking veal.
 
“Indeed not. Here is the easiest chair awaiting you,” spoke up the chief, who was playing host to this impromptu little gathering. “This is the only office in the place,” he continued, “where there is a breath of air and we are enjoying it by spinning yarns.”
 
“Here is copy, rip snortingly good copy,” thought the reporter, “if they will only talk shop,” so to prod gently she remarked: “”Do tell me about some of your unusual fire calls. I have always heard that you are called out for everything from fishing cats out of wells to assisting kites to part company with friendly telegraph poles.”
 
The Tribune Girl chatted with the chief, left, and his first assistant, Michael Hanley.

 

 
Fire Laddies Settle a Family Row.
 
“And right you are,” said the chief, “but these freak calls that give you people stories are not the ones that give us any pleasure. Get Hanley here to tell you about the family row that he was called out to settle not long ago.”
 
“Say that was a funny thing,” spoke up the good-natured first assistant, the man who is said to be the most popular in the service. “But it did not seem so funny then.”
 
As he shifted to a more comfortable position, The Tribune Girl summarily forgot whether she was in Minneapolis or Alaska, for this meant that the ball was rolling and there was no end of good material in sight.
 
“Well, it was about 5 o’clock one nasty rainy morning that the alarm came in,” commenced the dean of the department. “It was from a box down south not a great distance from the falls, and through the mud we tore to it. When we arrived we found it was a small chimney fire that we had little trouble extinguishing. Well, all the way back the boys cussed in all the languages they knew, for the afternoon before they had cleaned up their apparatuses and this made another job for them. Well, sir, we had been back in our respective houses about an hour and the boys had the engines just about clean again when in came an alarm from the same box. This time, I can tell you, we did not lose a minute, for all the way down we pictured the house enveloped in flames because of our negligence in not properly attending to the first blaze. When we arrived at the house we did not see as much as a whiff of smoke, and there did not seem to be trouble anywhere, but in this we were mistaken. Before we got through we found more trouble than we were looking for.
 
“Well, to make the long story short, after we left the first time the master and mistress of the house got into an argument over the cause of the chimney fire. He said that it was her fault and she said that “he was a ‘mean old thing, now, there,’ and, woman-like, would not be downed, so up she goes to the corner and turns in an alarm. (She would let the firemen decide.) Well, the firemen did decide, but their decision was that this was the limit of anything that they had thus far encountered. One of the fellows suggested that we form a 12-foot ring and let them settle it according to Queensbury rules, as we deserved something for playing the part of a miniature Hague tribunal, while another voiced the opinion that Chief Corriston would not be a bad one to act as referee, but the majority of the boys were too mad to speak.”
 
Little Lass to Blame.
 
At this juncture the chief lighted a fat black cigar and the girl thanked her lucky stars accordingly, not that she is overly fond of smoke, but, like most girls who are endowed with numerous brothers, real and acquired, she realized that it promised to add much to the reminiscent mood of the occasion. She was not disappointed for the chief commenced:
 
“That was another rather amusing call we had from the open box in front of St. Barnabas hospital one afternoon this spring. We hurried to respond and found that it was a false alarm. Now I investigate false alarms, particularly from those keyless boxes, because it is a thing that is apt to give us no end of trouble. Well, this time I thought that it was some schoolboys who were to blame, and I was not far wrong in my guess. It turned out to be about the prettiest little lass of 7 that I ever saw. It appears that the children were trooping home from school and the littlest girl in the party was ‘dared’ to turn in an alarm.
 
“The poor little thing was taunted until she could not stand it any longer, and in desperation turned the key. Not until the wee maid saw us coming did she realize what she had done, but when she did the poor little thing scampered home and was on the verge of convulsions when I arrived. I suppose I should have been very severe with the child, for turning in a false alarm is a serious matter with us, but when I saw her and how frightened she was all I did was to assist her mother in quieting her.”
 
“Isn’t he getting soft-hearted in his old days?” asked Mr. Hanley in a bantering tone, and while the girl agreed she privately voted this gallant fire fighter a perfect dear.
 
Many “Freak” Calls Mean Tragedy.
 
“While we are fortunate in having many little things happen that serve to amuse us,” continued the chief, “in the main it is the darkest side of life that we see. Most of our freak alarms as you call them mean a tragedy to some heart. We have more than once been called to remove a man who has been electrocuted at the top of a telegraph pole and whose lifeless body hung suspended from the wires. We have also taken a man off a roof who met a similar fate, as well as rescued men from sewers, cesspools and ditches. A rather pathetic thing happened last fall. We were called to extinguish a fire down on the finest part of Park avenue. On our arrival we found that the fire was out, for it was a load of hay belonging to a poor old farmer out near Osseo that had been burned. When we arrived at the scene of the recent conflagration we found the unfortunate man sitting at the door of the barn, where he came to deliver the load, completely discouraged. It appears that this was the last load of hay that he had to sell, and the wolf was knocking with vigor at the door of the home where his wife was lying ill. It was altogether as sad a case as I ever run across, and the worst part of it was that the fire was started by the mischievous ten-year-old boy of the house where the man was delivering the hay. I have often wondered if the poor old fellow was ever paid.”
 
A Heartrending Affair.
 
Seeing that a hush fell on the little group. “I remember that,” spoke up Mr. Hanley, “but speaking of sad experiences, I think that fire that occurred out on Seventeenth street southeast and Sixth street about seven years ago was the most heartrending affair that I ever witnessed. It was in the fall of the year and a woman was cleaning up the dead leaves in her yard and burning them. Somehow her clothing caught fire and it was but a moment until she was a mass of flames. Her little 10-year-old daughter ran out to her assistance and with rare presence of mind threw a rug that was on the clothes line over the woman, hoping to smother the fire. If it had been large enough it might have served its purpose but the rug was too small to be of any benefit and before the child knew it in her excitement her own garments were in flames. There, side by side, the mother and her brave little child were fatally burned and they both died on the way to the hospital.”
 
Just then the immaculate young fellow who attends to the business office of the department, came in to confer with the chief. At the same time Michael Hanley was wanted at the telephone, and The Tribune Girl, feeling strangely depressed, wearily left the office, wondering how the city editor would vent his wrath when she announced that “There was nothing doing at the court house today.”
 
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)

 

 

Dec. 9, 1899: The fall and rise of a prima donna

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 12, 2011 - 11:16 AM
 
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:
 

HER STORY
PATHETIC

 
Lillian Knott, Once a Prominent
and Talented Singer, Now at
a Wash Tub in the Min-
eapolis Workhouse.
 
She Recites the Sorrowful
Causes and Conditions Which
Led to Her Disgrace
and Downfall.
 
As she toiled at a washtub in the convicts’ department at the work house yesterday, with tears running down her face and her attitude that of a person who has lost her last friend, it was hard to see in Lillian Murray Knott, serving sentence of 40 days imprisonment for the theft of a cloak from a colored woman, a once popular singer, who in her prime drew a salary of perhaps $300 per week.
 
 
  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 story of Miss Knott, or rather Mrs. Joseph Barnett, to call her by her legal name, is a pathetic one, and shows what sickness, misfortune and general ill-luck can do for a person when it tries, and when the victim fails to make a hard fight against the conditions which confront her. If Miss Knott were not a singer of national reputation, and if she had not a father of the highest respectability in Terre Haute, Ind., her case would be but one of hundreds of others, but as it is, it is decidedly out of the common.
 
Miss Knott was arrested several days ago on complaint of Minnie Steele, a colored woman, who accused her of having stolen from her a cloak. As the Knott woman was wearing the garment at the time of her arrest, and as her explanation of how it came into her possession did not accord with the strict notions of honesty entertained by the judge of the police court, Lillian was sent to the work house to serve out a sentence.
 
There are but few women on the stage today who are superior in singing ability to Miss Knott, yet in spite of this she has been working in a variety theater in this city, a pitifully small salary, in order to get money enough to take her to the home of her parents, where she was assured of a welcome. She claims she was on her way to the ticket office to get a ticket her father sent her when she was arrested, wearing the cloak which has caused all the trouble, and she insists the garment had been loaned to her by the colored woman.
 
STORY OF HER CAREER.
 
Miss Knott was born in Marietta, Ohio, and when a child developed such a taste for singing that she was given every advantage that money could purchase. She was a student for six years in the Cincinnati college of music, and completed her education in Boston, after her parents had removed to Terre Haute, where her father is the manager of the Wabash Iron works. After completing her studies in Boston Miss Knott began her professional career which has terminated in the Minneapolis work house.
 
She appeared first with the Duff Opera company, singing in the role of prima donna. Then for two years she was understudy for Camille D’Arville, and later sang leads for Corinne. Afterwards, when leading lady with the company of Joe Flynn, in “McGinty, the Sport,” she was married to Mr. Barnett, who was musical director of the company. When in St. Paul, she says, her husband deserted her, and since then she has been making her own living.
 
For a long time she sang in the cheap variety theaters of the Twin Cities, trying to save enough money to take her home, and just when she had saved the desired sum she was taken ill and forced to give up her position. Then she had to go to the hospital, where she remained long enough to spend all of her money, and when she emerged she was weak and penniless, and without a friend in the city to whom she could turn for aid.
 
Several days ago Miss Knott wrote to her father, asking him to send her a ticket, and, according to her story, he did so, and the ticket is now at the office of the company awaiting her order. Speaking of her case Miss Knott says:
 
A BORN SINGER.
 
“I was born in Marietta. I loved singing from a little thing in short dresses. When I was old enough, my parents gave me the best vocal instruction the place afforded and afterwards sent me to the Cincinnati College of Music where I was a student for six years. Then I received final instruction of a Boston vocal school and made my first professional debut with the Duff Opera company, singing prima donna roles. After that I was understudy with Camille D’Arville for two years and then I sang leads with Corinne.
 
“Then I was induced by the promise of a good salary to go out with Joe Flynn as leading lady in a play called ‘McGinty, the Sport.’ It was while with that company that I married Mr. Barnett. He was the musical director of the company. We came to St. Paul together and I sang in music halls to get money enough to go East and try for another engagement. Mr. Barnett left me.
 
“I persisted in my music hall singing amid the most degrading surroundings, so that I could redeem myself and go home presenting a respectable appearance. Then came the typhoid fever and what little I had was dissipated in a week. After I got out of the hospital, I sang at the Palm Garden in St. Paul, but my strength was gone and I feared to go on the stage, because I thought I should fall over the footlights.
 
“It was in this extremity that I wrote to my father and told him I was in trouble. He promptly replied that he had sent me a ticket and money. I cannot do the work to which I have been assigned in this prison. I have but just recovered from typhoid fever and – and I have never done any washing before.
 
“I realize that this ends my career. Nothing can be done for me now. I am the consort of common criminals, and, according to the verdict of the court, a criminal myself, but the court erred. I am quite innocent. I didn’t steal the coat. I didn’t know the colored woman at all – never saw her in all my life before.
 
TROUBLE OVER NAMES.
 
“I had been to the Milwaukee ticket office to see about my ticket from papa. They said the ticket had been ordered for me, but that it had been issued in the name of Lillian Knott, and, of course, my true name is Mrs. Barnett. Mr. Rogers, the ticket agent, told me the rules of the company would compel him to wire the head office and find out if he could issue the ticket to me as Mrs. Barnett.
 
“I was ill and disheartened and it was a very cold day. I had no cloak or winter garment of any sort. After coming out of the hospital I had nothing, positively nothing that a woman ought to have. I suppose it was because I was so broken-hearted that I went down to the Milwaukee depot and saw the train go out. I don’t know what made me do it, except that I knew the train was homeward bound, and I just wanted to look at it – that was all.
 
“When I was coming out of the depot I met a colored man whom I had known as an attaché of a local variety theater. He always seemed to me a respectable man. He spoke to me and remarked that I was shivering. It was fearfully cold, and you see I hardly had any clothes on. He said his wife lived near by, and they had a fire, and he invited me to go there and get warm. I had to go somewhere. I was freezing.
 
“So I went to the place – where it was I do not know. When we entered it seemed to me the woman had been drinking. I had never seen her before. The colored people were very kind to me, and when I told them that I was going to the Milwaukee office to get my ticket for home, the woman offered to lend me her cloak to wear on the way.
 
WANTED A KIND WORD.
 
“A short time after I borrowed the cloak I was arrested on the street for stealing it. Perhaps the woman really thought that I would get my ticket and leave for home with the cloak. It was a cloak upon which I would not have allowed my little dog to sleep three years ago, but I do not say that in a spirit of unthankfulness.
 
“I have found by bitter experience that white skins do not make kind hearts. The colored man seemed disposed to be kind to me. At the moment that I met him, had a dog licked my hand I would have fallen on my knees and embraced him. Do you know what it is to be ill and lonely and hungry and a stranger, to crave a civil word or a kindly smile where neither are to be had? I might have sold my soul for them – I had sold everything else – why not?
 
“At this place the officials are kind, but I really am not strong enough for such work, and, besides, my ticket to take me home is in Minneapolis, and I am sure there is money there for me, too. Why will they not let me go? I have done nothing to be sent here for. I am innocent of any offense except being ill and in want.”
 
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.

 
  Music educator Lillian M. Knott in 1915.
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.”

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.
 

 

July 19, 1914: Speed king defies death at fairgrounds

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 3, 2011 - 3:49 PM

 

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 dream
To 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 dream 
Renowned 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.

Twenty Thousand
See Beachey and
Popular Oldfield


Birdman Shares the Honors
with the Perennial
Favorite.
 
All Sorts of Aerial Capers
Cut By the World’s
Greatest.
 
Mammoth Crowd Watches
the Fun and Appears
to Like it.
 
By Joe McDermott.
 
Minneapolis saw Lincoln Beachey take liberties with the law of gravitation and get away with it yesterday at the State Fair grounds.
 
 
  Lincoln Beachey
Twenty thousand were there and every one of the twenty thousand cheered him, perhaps, as no individual has ever before been cheered at the midway enclosure. He looped the loop, he skimmed and skidded, flew upside down and inside out, shut off his engine and dropped like a plummet until folks shut their eyes and feared that the daddy of all the birdmen had finally met his doom. But he didn’t even skin his knuckles and it would seem that the grim old guy with the long galways and the keen scythe will have his hands full catching up to this young bird.
 
Old man gravitation, for these thousands of years a sworn foe of the human race, was kicked in the seat of the pants yesterday as he has not been kicked in many a day.
 
Barney Was There, Too.
 
But Beachey wasn’t all the 20,000 paid their good dough to see. Marching shoulder to shoulder with the aviator in the estimation of the crowd was Barney Oldfield. He was the same old Barney, with the same old cigar and the same old smile and he was just as popular with the crowd as he ever was. A little heavier and a trifle grayer about the temples than on his first visit to the Twin Cities back in the dawn of the auto racing game, he was cheered just as hard and just as often as in the past. Some may call Beachey the headliner of the combination, but from the volume and density of the applause it is safe to go on record that Barney was the co-star, at least, yesterday.
 
The crowd was far larger than anyone expected and that includes Old Bill Pickens, who has been associated with Oldfield before Henry Ford broke into the league. Pickens, the original optimist, figured on a 12,000 crowd. As a result of the conjecture only that number of tickets were taken to the grounds. A long time before the fun was billed to start the management discovered the mistake. Hundreds of automobiles and thousands of pedestrians began their assault on the gates in earnest about 2:30. Ticket sellers, ticket-takers and guards were overwhelmed by the avalanche of and the gates were clogged with perspiring humanity before the management knew what was happening. The clamoring mob at the gates looked as big as ever when it was discovered that every ticket on the grounds had been snapped up by the ravenous speed fans. A limited supply of old State Fair tickets were commandeered and these took care of a section of the crowd. Others unable to secure tickets hurled pieces of silver at the attendants and tramped their triumphant way in over the scrambling ticket choppers.The Beachey-Oldfield combination departed last night with a fair-sized grip full of currency, but it’s safe to say that a few of the boys on the gates fared almost as well, relatively speaking.
 
Came on a Special.
 
Beachey arrived shortly before noon on a special train from Winnipeg and he did not have his machine assembled and ready for aerial climbing until after the scheduled starting time. Barney Oldfield was the first on the program and he received a typical Oldfieldian ovation when he swirled onto the track in his Fiat Cyclone. His first venture was an attack on the Hamline track record, a mark established by himself. The track was heavy with the summer’s dust and a bit treacherous on the turns, but Barney said he thought he could knock the bottom out of his old .49½ performance. He failed but he did skim the mile in an even 50 seconds. That didn’t lower Barney’s whit in the estimation of the crowd and all hands cheered him and his cigar just as hard as though they had done the four-quarters in nothing flat.
 

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.

 
And Then He Started.
 
Then they cast off the gang plank or whatever they do aboard aeroplanes, the staccato sputter of the exhaust drowned out all other noises, the machine glided along a hundred yards and then soared with the grace of a swallow above the heads of the crowd.
 
After some straightaway flying to warm up his motor, Beachey opened up and in the argot of baseball, “he had everything.” He cut some 90 degree banked figure eights, he dipped up and down with the ease of a bird, drove the machine with his hands above his head, tore off some aerial tangoing and then swooped down in front of the grandstand and made a precise landing at the finish line. The crowd, which had been held spellbound by his evolutions, broke into cheers. Beachey had been up only five minutes but it seemed fifty.
 
Then there was a burst of smoke, a roar, a zip and Oldfield swept past the grandstand in his 300 horsepower Christie. He was still on the trail of a new track record, the announcer confided. But the engine was not working the way the driver desired and the best he could do was a mile .51.
 
Dropped Like a Rock.
 
Beachey took the stage again with Odfield’s disappearance. He started as though he meant to shatter a few altitude records. After fighting his way up to 3,000 feet, he shut his engine off without warning and began to drop like a rock. According to what we learned in physics, a body drops 15 feet the first second and the square of 16 times two, or some such matter, each succeeding second. It looked as though Beachey traveled all of that fast, but being uncertain as to the exact formula used in determining the velocity, no one in the press box was able to figure out his speed. The veracious press agent says the speed of the falling plane is about 240 miles an hour, and for want of proof it may be better to let it go at that. In his decent, Beachey assumed control of the plane about a thousand feet from the earth and after flying upside down, volplaned to the track. More cheers.
 
The thread of thrills was then taken up by Beachey and Oldfield in their widely heralded race for the “championship of the universe.” After a spectacular dash around the track, with Beachey a few feet above Oldfield’s head like a giant dragon the majority of the distance. Oldfield was declared the winner in .50 2-5.
 

The Minnesota State Fair grandstand in 1915. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)


Then the Big Show.
 
Then followed the big spectacle of the afternoon – Beachey looping the loop in midair. It was the first time in the history of the northwest that this has been done and the daring bit of aerial legerdemain came as a spectacular climax to the afternoon’s work. He circled around several times before attempting his greatest bit of art. Then he made a sudden little dip, shot straight down, up, and clear around for a perfect loop. Three times he did it before alighting.
 
In his three appearances in the air, Beachey was off the ground for a total of only 17 minutes but it’s a safe guess that the twenty thousand saw more action crowded into those 17 minutes than ever before in their lives.
 
There are people in Minneapolis who say they were held up 25 cents apiece extra to get into the grandstand, in the face of advertisements to the contrary. There are others who say they were charged 25 cents for the privilege of parking their automobiles in the paddock. And there are still others who were caught in the rush for street cars after the show and were late to dinner. But nobody has come forward who wouldn’t do the same thing or go through the same rush again, rather than miss the performance.
 

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.

April 10, 1921: St. Thomas prof calls Einstein’s theory ‘bunk’

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: September 24, 2011 - 2:16 PM

 

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. 
 

Einstein Branded Barnum of Science,
Minnesota Man Calls Relativity ‘Bunk’


St. Thomas Dean of Engi-
neering Challenges Ger-
man to Debate.

Teuton’s Pet ‘Cult’ Born
13 Years Before Him,
Says Professor

Reuterdahl Cites Passages
in 1914 Treatise to
Back Assertions
 
Branding Prof. Albert Einstein as a sophist, a dealer in “might-have-beens” and the Barnum of the scientific world, Prof. Arvid Reuterdahl, dean of the Engineering school of St. Thomas college, St. Paul, yesterday challenged the German savant to a written debate on his theory of relativity.
 
American Scientists ‘Jolted.’
 
 
  Among Arvid Reuterdahl's contributions to science and technology: an improved design for culverts.
Professor Reuterdahl, who has been exploring the worlds conquered by Einstein since 1902, declared that he was willing to meet the much-heralded mathematician at any time in a written debate, and that he was prepared to prove that Einstein’s theory is largely “bunk.” Professor Reuterdahl used the scientific word for it, but that is what he meant.
 
‘Work Antedated by Another.’
 
Coupled with his challenge to a debate, Professor Reuterdahl declared Einstein was not only deceiving scientists with a mythical theory, but that he was either a plagiarist, or his work has been antedated by another without his knowledge.
 
“Einstein is at liberty to accept either horn of the dilemma,” he said.
 
That the Einstein theory of relativity in its gravitation aspects was advanced in 1866, 13 years before Einstein was born, by a scientist known under the pen name of “Kinertia” is the contention of Professor Reuterdahl, in a statement in which he gives the life history of both men, and gives references and dates to prove his charge. While not accepting the theory, he gives “Kinertia” credit for its origin.
 
Professor Reuterdahl, however, gives credit to Einstein for one thing, which, he says more than justifies his claim to prominence. The German savant, he says, has broken down the barriers of set ideas in science, and made it possible for a hearing for new ideas.
 
“The American scientists,” said Professor Reuterdahl, are the most clannish and orthodox in the world. In the Old world the scientific journals publish articles advancing new theories. Here they will not consider anything except that which is based on their own knowledge and belief. If Einstein has done anything, he has jolted American scientists into accepting something new.” Professor Reuterdahl paid tribute to Einstein’s genius as a mathematician, declaring him to be one of the greatest in the world.
 
Magazine Articles Cited.
 
Professor Reuterdahl refers to 11 articles which appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1914 in giving “Kinertia” credit for originating the so-called Einstein theory of gravitation.
 
“If it is true that ‘Kinertia’ actually considered the Einsteinian problem in these essays,” he says, “then the question of priority is inevitability raised and the unparalleled originally claimed for Einstein’s work becomes a debatable matter.”
 
 
  Turns out Albert Einstein wasn't tongue-tied about the challenge, just hard to reach.
Einstein’s investigation of his theory is traced by articles which appeared in German publications.
 
“The year 1905 is considered, by most authorities on Einstein’s work,” he says, “as the birth year of the theory of relativity.
 
Theory Announced in 1915.
 
“Careful search, however, has revealed a paper on this subject which was published in Berlin during the year 1904 in the journal ‘Sitzungsberichte.’ That portion of Einstein’s theory which deals with the phenomenon of gravitation is a later development. Einstein first gave his attention to the problem of gravitation in 1911, when he developed the principle of equivalence of gravitational and accelerative fields.
 
“Other phases of this subject were dealt with in papers which appeared in the years 1912 and 1913. A further elaboration, the joint work of Einstein and Marcel Grossman, appeared in 1914. The theory in its final and complete form was announced in the year 1915.
 
Historical Summary.
 
“A brief historical summary of the work of ‘Kinertia’ is now in order. Lord Kelvin first aroused ‘Kinertia’s’ interest in the problem of gravitation. That was in the year 1886, when ‘Kinertia’ was a student under Lord Kelvin. ‘Kinertia’ even then did not agree with the Newtonian theory of force as presented by Lord Kelvin. Incidentally, we desire to call the reader’s attention to the fact that Albert Einstein was born in 1879 in Ulm, Germany, 13 years later.
 
“During the period from 1877 to 1881, ‘Kinertia’ became convinced that acceleration was the basic cause of what we gernally speak of as ‘weight.’
 
‘Kinertia’ Ridiculed in U.S.
 
“The reader undoubtedly is aware of the fact that acceleration plays the fundamental role in Einstein’s theory of gravitation, ‘Kinertia’ corresponded with Kelvin, Tait and Niven of Cambridge with the hope that he would be able to interest these men in his startling theory. This attempt met with little or no sympathy.
 
“his attempts, dating from the year 1899, to persuade our stubborn American scientists that the Newtonian theory of gravitation must be revised met with nothing but ridicule and indifference. To Harper’s Weekly and its managing editor, Mr. H.D. Wheeler, belongs the credit of having published ‘Kinertia’s’ series of articles entitled ‘Do Bodies Fall?’ The first article appeared in the issue of August 29, 1914, Vol. 59.
 
Similarity of Views Pointed Out.
 
The final article is dated November 7, 1914. From the preceding it is evident that “Kinertia” derived his norm of gravitation before Einstein was born.
 
Professor Reuterdahl quotes from the writing of Einstein and “Kinertia” to prove the similarity of their views, and says:
 
“It is noteworthy that the only real difference between these two citations is that Einstein derives his conclusions from a hypothetical case, whereas ‘Kinertia’ draws his conclusions from an actual experiment upon himself.”
 
Further quotations are from Prof. A.S. Eddington’s “Space Time Gravitation,” published by the Cambridge University Press in 1920; from an article by Prof. Edwin B. Wilson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and from “Kinertia’s” articles.
 
Striking Similarity.
 
These quotations, he says, “show the strong similarity existing between Einsten and ‘Kinertia’ when they consider the relation between acceleration and gravitation, a similarity which extends not only to intent but affects even the very words.”
 
The following quotation from Einstein’s “Relatively” illustrates that scientist’s theory as to the relation between acceleration and gravitation, according to Professor Reuterdahl:
 
“We imagine a large portion of empty space, so far removed from stars and other appreciable masses that we have before us approximately the conditions required by the fundamental law of Galilei.
 
Hypothetical Example.
 
As reference body let us imagine a spacious chest resembling a room with an observer inside who is equipped with apparatus. Gravitation naturally does not exist for this observer. He must fasten himself with strings to the floor, otherwise the slightest impact against the floor will cause him to rise slowly toward the ceiling of the room.
 
“To the middle of the lid of the chest is fixed externally a hook with rope attached, and now a ‘being' (what kind of a ‘being’ is immaterial to use) begins pulling at this with a constant force. The chest, together with the observer, then begins to move upwards with a uniformly accelerated mostion. In course of time their velocity will reach unheard of values, provided that we are viewing all this from another reference-body which is not being pulled with a rope.
 
Viewpoint of Man in Chest.
 
"But how does the man in the chest regard the process? The acceleration of the chest will be transmitted to him by the reaction of the floor of the chest. He must therefore take up this pressure by means of his legs if he does not wish to be laid out full length on the floor. He is then standing in the chest in exactly the same way as anyone stands in a room of a house on our earth. If he releases a body which he previously had in his hand, the accerlation of the chest will no longer be transmitted to this body, and for this reason the body will approach the floor of the chest with an accelerated motion.
 
"The observer will further convince himself that the acceleration of the body towards the floor of the chest is always of the same magnitude, whatever kind of body he may happen to use for the experiment.”
 
‘Kinertia’ Quoted.
 
“Kinertia’s” theory of the relation between acceleration and gravitation is set forth in the following quotation from “Do Bodies Fall?” and is used by Professor Reuterdahl in building up his argument:
 
 “I set to work to find out by experiment whether bodies actually did fall with the acceleration which the force of attraction was said to produce. Years before that, when in England, where some of our coal mines had vertical shafts about 1,500 feet deep, I had studied the cause of weight by having the hoisting engine drop me down with the full acceleration for about 500 feet. Then, by retardation during the lowest 500 feet, I could experience increase of weight all over me so marked that my legs could hardly support me.
 
“That taught me that acceleration was the proximate cause of weight, but at the time of these experiments I still thought the acceleration of the falling case was really caused by the earth’s attraction.
 
“Weight is not a kinetic force because it cannot produce acceleration. If a body were accelerated in proportion to its weight, then weight would be a force.
 
“Laying aside the right of Einstein to claim originality for his theory,” said Professor Reuterdahl yesterday, “he is a sophist, and the world will know him as such in due time. He is dealing with mythical beings. They are ‘might-have-beens.’
 
“His fourth dimension is a composite of time and space. That cannot be, because time and space never can be one. Space may be referred to as the distance between two points, A and B. We may travel from A and B, and return to find the same permanent objects in their places. We may require a certain amount of time to make the journey, but when we turn back that time is gone.
 
“I demand that Einstein show me his proof. I believe in dealing in the physical things of this world. In other words, I am from Missouri. I shall be glad to meet Professor Einstein at any time or place and debate this subject. But I shall demand an actual demonstration of his theory, not a journey into the realm of the mythical. That demonstration he can never give.”
 
On April 16, 1921, Einstein’s response to the challenge appeared inside the Tribune on page 15. Here are excerpts:
 
Replying to Professor Reuterdahl’s challenge, Professor Einstein gave out a statement in New York, the first since his arrival in American, in which he declared that he was willing to rest his whole theory upon one experiment. …
 
To the charge of plagiarism Professor Einstein gave no heed, but he did rush to the defense of his pet theory. …
 
“You know the solar spectrum. Everybody has seen it in the rainbow. You have also seen it when the sunlight passes through a triangular glass prism and falls upon a screen.
 
“Any light-giving body produces a spectrum, but the spectra from different bodies are not alike. The spectrum of sodium, for instance, allows only two yellow lines. The hydrogen spectrum shows only four colors.
 
“The solar spectrum is a colored band, showing seven primary and secondary colors, ranging from red at one side to violet at the other.
 
“My theory demands that the spectrum of solar light, as compared with similar spectra from all other bodies, must be different in this respect.
 
“The lines of the solar spectrum must be found displaced – that is out of line – in the direction of red. If my theory of relativity is true, then this must be true. Why? Because of the nearness of the original solar light in the great mass which is the sun. If my theory is true, that mass must affect the spectral lines as I have said.”
 
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):
 
“I gladly grant the importance and bearing of these mathematical deductions of Professor Einstein. The granting of these contentions, however, in no way modifies my conviction that the theory of relativity is grounded upon fallacious assumptions, and therefore cannot survive. The history of science shows that one mathematic-physical theory after another has been abandoned because of inadequacy, unnecessary complexities, and untenability in the light of wider knowledge.
 
“It is true, of course, that this is the price which must be paid for intellectual advancement.
 
“Nevertheless it is also true that an hypothesis based upon fallacious assumptions contains the leaven of its own ultimate dissolution, despite the fact that some of the results of its application to physical phenomena may be approximately correct.
 
“This I am prepared to prove is the status of Professor Einstein’s theory of relativity. I am, indeed, surprised that Professor Einstein, while claiming that he had written his book from scientific motives and not for the sake of notoriety, lightly brushes to one side a challenge to a debate upon the validity of his theory. In no better way can the cause of science be served.
 
“A theory which so completely upsets all common-sense deductions concerning realities cannot hope forever go unchallenged. Certainly it is not in keeping with the scientific motives of which Professor Einstein claims to be so ardent an exponent, continuously to reiterate the platitude that those who do not accept his theory are incapable of comprehending its alleged profundities."

Sept. 11, 1971: Ye Olde Renaissance Festival

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 17, 2012 - 7:52 PM

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)

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