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.
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Filthy. Crowded. Chaotic. The Deadwood of 1876-77 was in some ways even more unpleasant than the violent Gold Rush town depicted in HBO’s exemplary series. The Canton Advocate, published 400 miles to the east, published this eyewitness account of the stench and hopelessness that awaited fortune seekers headed to the Black Hills.
RELATED: Also on the front page of the Advocate that day, under “ODDS AND ENDS,” was this one-sentence report:
From Worcester, Mass., to Redlands, Calif., cities across the country declared war on disease-carrying houseflies in 1911. Children competing for cash prizes killed flies by the millions that summer. One Georgia boy alone turned in 2,199,200 dead flies to win the top prize of $10 in Savannah’s “Swat the Fly” contest.
“All the intense activity directed toward the destruction of the musca domestica,” the Jefferson Jimplecute declared with bemusement, “is the discovery that the fly – the common house fly, once treated almost as a pet – is one of the most deadly of all menaces to the human race."
The Texas newspaper was not alone in poking fun at the public health initiative, but for kids it was a chance to stave off summer boredom, kill helpless creatures and compete for cash. In Minneapolis, the top prize was a nothing-to-swat-at $50. The Morning Tribune, which sponsored the two-week contest, put up the money, laid out the rules and offered fly-killing tips.
“Entrants must be children under 16 years of age. Flies caught in any manner except by the use of sticky fly paper will be taken in the contest. Flies may be swatted, caught in traps, poisoned, exterminated by drowning, the use of sulphur fumes or other means.
“Boxes, made especially for the Tribune Campaign contest and given free by the Standard Paper box company of 501 Third street south, in which all flies are to be sent to the health department to be counted, will be given all entrants.
“The name and address of the contestant must appear on the box. The box must be tied securely. All flies delivered for the contest must have been killed by the persons to whom they are credited.”
What a disgusting task, you might be thinking, counting all those fly carcasses. The task was disgusting, I’m sure, but the flies were not counted one by one. Flies turned in around the country, and presumably in Minneapolis, were measured by volume. The calculation: 1,600 flies to the gill, or a quarter-pint. Happily, no recounts appear to have been demanded.
Minneapolis Children Ready for Campaign Against Disease Carriers.
Sub-Stations Open at 10 o’Clock to Receive Dead Pests.
Boys and Girls Devise Many Schemes for Trapping Victims.
FOLLOW-UP: For two weeks, updated standings were published daily in the Tribune. The competition for the top three spots was especially fierce and full of strategizing, with the eventual winner holding back thousands of flies until the final day. When the carnage, er, contest ended on Sept. 2, more than 3 million flies had been killed. The death toll was less than that of contests in Eastern cities, according to health officials, because of a superior garbage-collection system. Minneapolis required that garbage be wrapped in paper before being placed in cans, eliminating a major breeding ground. In its final report, the Tribune, perhaps caught up in the excitement, declared Minneapolis to be “practically flyless.” And 13-year-old George Knaeble was crowned lord of the flies.
The top prize-winners, along with the number of flies killed:
First prize, $50: George Knaeble, 13, 515 Plymouth Av., 266,340.
Second prize, $25: Theodore Bedor, 12, 4114 Blaisdell Av., 264,660.
Third prize, $15: Henrietta Beck, 10, 2218 Aldrich Av. N., 189,480.
Fourth prize, $10: Edward Hirt, 11, 1909 Fourth St. N., 154,340.
Dr. Caryl B. Storrs, a "natural born storyteller," interviewed fascinating men and women of the region in a series of stories published by the Minneapolis Tribune in 1916. His story about Minnesota pioneer John Daubney resulted in this correction.
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.
This early example of a child-in-peril story, a staple of American newspapers in the middle decades of the 20th century, has a familiar ending: The wayward tot, reunited with "its" relieved parent, gets a “well directed and well meant” spanking. Note the pronoun used for the child. Perhaps the baby’s gender was unknown to the reporter, who most likely learned of the incident second-hand.
From the Minneapolis Tribune: