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Posts about Minnesota newsmakers

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)

Aug. 26, 1937: Rabbits (and judges) are all ears

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: August 20, 2011 - 10:40 PM

 

The image below turned up in a box of Star and Tribune negatives in cold storage at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. No caption was provided, but it was in an envelope marked “Aug. 26, 1937,” the first day of the Hennepin County Fair in Hopkins. Dozens of photos from the fair appeared in the Minneapolis newspapers that week, depicting prize-winning lambs, hogs, heifers, calves and chickens.

The rabbit photo didn’t make the cut. Which leaves us to wonder: How did the fluffy competitors fare? And who were the men handling them with such care?

 

Without reliable source material, a caption writer is left to riff away. Here goes:

These three rabbit handlers bear modest resemblance to, from left, Sean Penn, Shemp Howard and Bud Grant.

If you can do better, please post a comment below. 

 

UPDATE: As you can see from the comments below, a helpful and authoritative reader has identified the fellow at center as Ed Wouhlauf, a St. Paul rabbit breeder, judge and, well, butcher. Here’s an ad he placed in the 1930 American Rabbit & Cavy Guide Book (provided by buckfever):
 

Nov. 28, 1956: Frank Lloyd Wright at Southdale

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 27, 2012 - 8:46 PM

 

Frank Lloyd Wright, “the 87-year-old champion of American modernist architecture,” visited the Twin Cities to address the annual meeting of the Citizens League of Minneapolis and Hennepin County. He picked up ammunition for his speech during a tour earlier in the day, visiting the new Southdale shopping center in Edina, the Prudential building in Minneapolis and other landmarks. He didn’t have many kind things to say about anything, including our climate. “Minneapolis is just too far north,” he said.

But he did praise the Twin Cities’ lakes and parks as a “beautiful gift from nature.” And he managed to recall “with a chuckle” his 1926 visit to Minneapolis during which he landed in jail in a dispute with his estranged wife. “Nothing came of it,” he said, somewhat cryptically.

Here is the Minneapolis Star’s account of his speech at the Leamington Hotel:

 

Wright Asks City to Seek
‘Truth, Not Just Facts’


By FRANK MURRAY
Minneapolis Star Staff Writer
 
Minneapolis was urged to “look for the truth and not just the facts” in planning for its future, by Frank Lloyd Wright Tuesday night.
 
The 87-year-old stormy petrel of American architecture blamed members of his profession for “the mess we’re in” and kept an audience of nearly 2,500 persons on the edge of their chairs for an hour at the annual meeting of the Citizens League of Minneapolis and Hennepin county.
 
He told his listeners it “may take 10 years” to get their “thinking straightened out”; but that it would be worth it.
 
And he added that he thought Minneapolis was “close to understanding the difference between culture and education” – which he said was the key to the whole approach.
 
Wright pulled no punches and patted no backs as he described what he felt were the shortcomings in the architecture he had seen in a tour around the city.
 
But he tempered the acid criticism that the crowd ate up with the remark that it was “heartless to stand here and beat people over the head, when they did their best to do something good.”
 
The blame, he insisted, should rest upon the architects who don’t know that their profession is the foundation stone of culture and who “learn by comparison instead of by analysis.”
 
He referred to the Southdale development as “a flight from Egypt” and to the Prudential building as a “desecration of a park area.”
 
He suggested that most of the loop buildings “be blown up, and only a few tall buildings left standing with room enough to cast a shadow.”
 
But his comments on the rest of the American scene were equally caustic, and he made it plain that Minneapolis was no worse off, in this respect, than other major cities.
 
The only answer, he said, is to seek out the truth as disclosed in nature.
 
“It is the knowledge of the verities that make a man a man, and beauty, with a capital B, is the only thing that will ever pay off in your life,” he said.
 
At the end of his formal lecture he devoted 10 minutes to discussion of plans for his mile-high super-skyscraper and left no doubt in the minds of his audience that he was serious.
 
He said such a structure was not only architecturally possible, but highly feasible and added that it would not only survive the winds and storms but be “better able to resist an atomic bomb than any thing we have now.”
 
He said his idea had attracted world-wide attention and made it plain that the structures need not be a mile high – that what he was getting at was to direct thought at building up, instead of out and along the ground.
 
Earlier, during the dinner session, Wright chuckled appreciatively, while Wilhelmus Bryan, director of the Minneapolis School of Art, quoted extensively from his early writings and glowed while Gov. Freeman presented him with a scroll attesting to his “unparalleled contributions” that have ennobled man’s living.
 
Charles Silverson, retiring president of the Citizens league, presided and urged listeners to join with the league in planning for the future of the city.
 
Otto Silha, vice president, traced the accomplishments of the year and outlined plans for the future.
 

“Who wants to sit in that desolate-looking spot?” Wright said of Southdale, the world’s first enclosed shopping mall. “You’ve got a garden court that has all the evils of the village street and none of its charm.” It’s not clear which evils the stormy petrel of American architecture was referring to. But thanks to a towering cage that kept the mall’s colorful songbirds in check, at least Southdale shoppers didn’t have to worry about white gunk falling on their heads. (Minneapolis Tribune photo by Paul Siegel)

 

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