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.
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)
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:
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):
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:
“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)
Dave Garroway, Helen O’Connell and the rest of NBC’s "Today" crew had to get up pretty early in the morning to broadcast the show live from the east side of Lake Calhoun. Among the guests that day were football legend Bronko Nagurski of International Falls and concertina legend Christy Hengel of New Ulm. The lake was abuzz with sailboats at that hour (7:02 a.m., judging by Garroway’s watch), but the lakefront itself was empty. The sign-waving crowds that swarm the “Today” set now were unknown back then. Or maybe Minneapolitans worn out by Aquatennial events decided to sleep in.
Here's a portion of the original Minneapolis Star caption published on July 22, 1958:
In search of a Father’s Day photo for the Sunday paper, I scoured more than a dozen manila folders in our library last week. The “Father’s Day” folder was a disappointment, packed with staged shots and visual clichés. The most intriguing: A series of 60-year-old photos of new fathers peering through the hospital glass at their newborns. Appealing – but all verticals, and the page designers require that I supply only horizontal photos for Yesterday’s News. Sorry, new dads of 1951!
Then I remembered a Minneapolis Star story about the birth of Minnesota's largest baby, Jacob Schmitz, in 1936. I posted the story and several photos in 2007, along with an interview with one of Jacob's brothers. The Schmitz photo file produced another photo worth republishing. Here it is:
Two important people are not in this photo from July 1936: Veronica Schmitz, 37, and Jacob, the largest baby born in Minnesota. She and her 15-pound, 15.2-ounce newborn were recovering in the Graceville hospital after a difficult birth. Jacob Sr., a farmer in western Minnesota, made sure the other dozen kids finished their chores and cleaned up in time for a visit from a Minneapolis Star photographer. At top, from left: Donald, 13; Vivian, 14; Valeria, 15; Victor, 18; Reinhard, 11; Eugene, 10, and Louise, 8. Below: Katherine, 7; Laura, 6, and Elizabeth, 3. Holding Vernon and Veronica, 16 months, was dear old Dad, 40.