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

E-mail your questions or suggestions to Ben Welter.

Feb. 28, 1948: Meet Minnesota's best family doctor

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: March 1, 2014 - 2:33 PM
After earning his medical degree at the University of Minnesota in 1905, Dr. William Wallace Will set up practice in Bertha, Minn., 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis. For the next four decades, he cared for the residents of the small town, treating fevers, setting broken bones, delivering thousands of babies and writing more than 100,000 prescriptions. In 1948, the State Medical Association honored him as Minnesota’s outstanding general practitioner. The honor earned the 68-year-old physician a photo spread in the Minneapolis Tribune’s Sunday magazine. Two of the best photos shot by staffer Bud Jewett are republished here, along with their original captions.
Shoveling snow is one of the few ways Dr. Will exercises. He has no hobbies.
Dr. Will has delivered more than 4,000 babies since he set up practice in Bertha. His latest one was Steven Lee, shown when he was five days old, son of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Hukriede. Three of the Hukriedes’ other six children were delivered by Dr. Will after the parents moved to Bertha. Dr. Will has been an officer in the state medical society since 1921.
FOLLOWUP: Looking at the second photo, I wondered: How'd that howling baby turn out? I found a phone number for a Steven L. Hukriede, 66, in Florida. I called and left a message. I'll let you know if I hear back.

Feb. 12, 1914: We need a substitute for swearing

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: February 11, 2014 - 8:32 PM
I’ve worked on construction sites, at a foundry and in the newsrooms of a half-dozen American newspapers. In all those workplaces, vigorous cursing filled the air each day, growing stronger when tools failed or deadlines neared. I can’t speak for the trades, but foul language is still common in newsrooms, muted somewhat by the efforts of our HR friends.

In 1914, this syndicated piece on the Minneapolis Tribune's "Family Circle Page" called for worthy substitutes for cursing, sharp enough "to make a truck driver’s ears tingle and yet not offend a clergyman."  A century later, I ask you: What substitute curse words do you rely on in the presence of children, ministers and HR managers? At the Star Tribune, I’ve heard some shout “Oh snap!” and “Shizzle!” on deadline. Not bad, but there must be more satisfying cuss words out there, dag nab it!

Wanted – A Substitute for Swearing

In a cursory discussion on “cussing” in a British medical journal it was solemnly urged that some one really ought to discover a substitute for profanity.

Anger is a violent and dangerous emotion which liberates sudden floods of nervous force. This force was meant by nature to be expended in violent action, fighting, smashing or tearing. Civilization has put various restraints on this action and one must either vent the energy in some other way or grit one’s teeth and hold it in.

Women having been taught in prehistoric ages that physical combat was a losing venture with the stronger male, took to the relief of tears.  When her fury goes surging and reverberating about her system, threatening to burn through the insulation of her nerves, she “short circuits” it by weeping.

Man, being ashamed to cry, discharges the lightning through language. By uttering a volley of profanity he has the feeling of damaging at least the feelings of those who overhear.

The angry person needs only to have a sense of damage done to be once more at peace with the world. As even the word “damn,” relieved of all its more pungent associates, has a more or less sacrilegious meaning, something else equally snappy and vicious-sounding should be found in its place.

Of course, the language is full of slang substitutes for profanity, from “Darn!” to the rural “Gosh all hemlock!” These are only feeble imitations of genuine “cuss words.” As far as they give any satisfaction it is through suggestion of the irreverent words themselves. What is needed, so this writer urges, is a sort of esperanto of profanity. It must be something which will make a truck driver’s ears tingle and yet not offend a clergyman nor be understood by a “perfect lady.”

Copyright, 1914, by the Star Company.

March 2, 1877: What it feels like to be guillotined

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: February 10, 2014 - 6:13 PM
This wire story – the source is unclear – appeared in several U.S. newspapers, including the Minneapolis Tribune:


What It Feels Like to be Guillotined -- a Rare Experience.

We know how it feels to be poisoned, to be hanged and to be drowned, but it has been reserved for M. Mondate, an Italian gentleman, to let the world know, through La Defense, what it feels like to be guillotined.

He was in 1873 condemned to death for a crime of which he was innocent, and it was not the fault of Italian justice that he escaped. The blade of the guillotine fell, but the wood in the grooves of which it ran had swollen slightly, and the knife stopped barely two centimeters from his neck. While they were repairing this defect a reprieve arrived – the true murderer had been found and confessed his crime.

"It was 8 o'clock A.M., August 17, 1873," says M. Mondate, "that my confessor, l'Abbe Fernia, entered my cell to announce to me that I must die. When at the touch of his hand upon my shoulder I awakened, I comprehended at once the nature of his errand, and despite my confidence, it seems that I turned horribly pale. I would have spoken, but my mouth contracted nervously and no saliva moistened it. A mortal chill suddenly invaded the lower part of my body. By a supreme effort I succeeded in gasping, ‘It is not true!’ The priest answered I know not what. I only heard a confused buzzing.

“Then a sudden thrill of pride shot through me. For some minutes I felt no fear; I stood erect; I said to myself that if I must die I should show them that an innocent man died with courage. I spoke with great rapidity; I was horribly afraid to be silent or to be interrupted; I thanked the governor of the prison, and asked for something to eat. They brought me a cup of chocolate, but I refused it. Again I had become fully possessed with the horrors of my situation; I had visions of what the scaffold would be like, and mechanically asked the attendants, ‘Does it hurt much?’ ‘Not a bit,’ answered somebody, and I saw before me a new person in a gown of black woolen – the executioner.

“I would have risen, defended myself, asserted my innocence, but I fainted, and when I returned to consciousness I was pinioned in the cart which was entering the death place. I cast a shuddering look at the horrible machine. I had no more connected and coherent thought, and the uprights through which the knife runs seemed as high as the masts of a ship. I was lifted to the platform. I had but one fixed idea – that of resistance. But how could I resist? I was seized and flung down upon the plank. I felt as if I was paralyzed and lay there for an immense time. Then there was a sharp blow on my neck, and I fainted again with the instinctive idea that the knife had struck me. It was not the knife, but the upper part of the lunette. When I came to myself was in the prison hospital.”

May 4, 1903: Your mediocre shoes betray you as commonplace

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: February 7, 2014 - 1:45 PM
In the early 1900s, the Plymouth Clothing House at Sixth and Nicollet sold "Correct Dress for Men, Women and Children." This shoe ad, which appeared in the Minneapolis Journal on May 4, 1903, asked the women of Minneapolis: Can you afford to be commonplace?

Jan. 26, 1904: Bakes baby in an oven

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: January 29, 2014 - 4:26 PM
Very distressing to read this brief, even 110 years after it appeared on the front page – the front page! – of the Minneapolis Tribune. Still, you have to wonder about the accuracy of the story. What 6-year-old (I'm guessing the subheadline got the age wrong) is capable of committing such a horrifying act?



LA CROSSE, WIs., Jan. 26 – While Mrs. Edward Smith was chopping wood yesterday her daughter 6 years old placed a baby brother in a hot oven, closed the door and baked the baby to death before the mother returned. The oven had been heated for baking.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters