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Posts about Minnesota History

Nov. 5, 1884: 'Slippery Jim' Blaine’s goose is cooked

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 4, 2014 - 5:24 PM
The St. Paul Daily Globe made a hell of a front page out of scandal-plagued James G. Blaine's defeat in the 1884 presidential election. That’s "Slippery Jim" in the cartoon at the top of the page, served up on a platter, the damning words “MY DEAR FISHER” and “BURN THIS LETTER” stamped on his goose feet. The winner, Grover Cleveland, isn’t even mentioned until the sixth headline.

July 1, 1897: Straw hat, strawberry and watermelon

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 4, 2014 - 9:28 AM
The label atop this front page cartoon from the St. Paul Daily Globe reads like the start of a bad joke. Maybe it was. I can find no explanation of it in the adjacent stories or elsewhere on the page. Perhaps it was a lame attempt at Independence Day humor. What do you make of it?

June 6, 1877: The real Deadwood had odor all its own

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 30, 2014 - 8:17 AM
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.

Special Correspondence from the Black Hills.

May 16th, 1877  
EDITOR CANTON ADVOCATE: I received your paper of May 2nd, a few days since, and was reminded thereby of a promise to write you a letter, after reaching this place. I will refrain from saying anything about our trip out here, which was so tedious and disagreeable that it is hard for me to refer to without using language that would be very unbecoming. We arrived at Rapid City, Sabbath morning April 22d. Rapid City is the first sign of civilization you see, after leaving Pierre. It is situated on the south bank of Rapid Creek, at the base of the foot hills, and is, I should say, a burg of 150 inhabitants. The buildings are all log cabins, one story high, covered with earth, and with a few exceptions, earth floors. It has a beautiful location with good mountain scenery south and west; and they claim its geographical location to be the center of Pennington county. Monday morning we renewed our pilgrimage; must see the elephant – that illustrious yearling – Deadwood. Between Rapid City and Deadwood we passed through Crook City. It is situated in the mouth of Whitewood Gulch, 36 miles west of Rapid, and by the road, 12 miles north of Deadwood; it is a town of about 400 inhabitants, has a pleasant location, at least you would think so after seeing Deadwood; any place I ever saw is a paradise when compared with it.
Outside Deadwood's Bighorn Store in 1876.

Outside Deadwood's Bighorn Store in 1876.

Well, on the 27th day of April, A.D. 1877, we first beheld the object of our search; your first sight of Deadwood, from the centennial road, is from a point almost directly above it, and within a stone’s throw of the central part of the town. Deadwood is situated in Whitewood Gulch, just below the mouth of Deadwood Creek. Its one street runs up and down the gulch, making the same number of twists and turns the gulch does, and narrows and widens with the gulch, so that at some places it is wide enough to be almost respectable while at others it is so narrow that it will barely admit a team and wagon. But its uneven, crooked street and unpleasant exterior are not its most objectionable features. The street seems to be a general depository for all kinds of filth; and within the limits of the town, are the decaying carcasses of dead horses, mules, oxen, &c., which emits their nauseous vapors, tainting the air, in some localities, so that it requires a strong stomach to maintain its equilibrium. Cholera and smallpox, it seems, must be the consequence. There has been several cases of the latter and I was told yesterday there was several smallpox patients in town at the present time. The actual population of Deadwood will not exceed 2,000, but at present there is not less than 10,000 in and around the town; every hotel and boarding house is full to overflowing and every room and cabin is crowded so there is hardly room for one more. A person coming to Deadwood is very fortunate to get a cover to sleep under, a bed is out of the question.
 Go in any direction you choose within five or six miles of Deadwood you can see a constant stream of people passing to and fro in every direction, many of them with packs on their backs that would make a pack mule shudder. They have with them, on their backs, a pack containing their bed, board and wardrobe, to which is generally added a pick, shovel, gold pan, rifle and revolver. There is in and around Deadwood, at a low estimate, 8,000 men looking for work, and hundreds of them are dead broke and would gladly work for their board, but the work is not here to be done, nor will not be this summer. The mines, as far as yet discovered, in the entire hill, will not employ to exceed 1,200 men and there are between 20,000 and 30,000 people in the Hills at the present time and hundreds coming in every day. Deadwood, as well as all of the other towns of the Hills, is supported by the pilgrims that are constantly flowing in; and as soon as immigration ceases, Deadwood, in a measure, will cease with it; buildings that now rent in Deadwood for $250 per month, I predict, before next December, can be had by simply occupying them. Deadwood, in my judgement, has reached the apex of its existence; every thing now is at a white heat. I would only like to be a property owner to dispose of the property. There is nothing in or about Deadwood to keep it up; of course agriculture is out of the question in its vicinity, and there is not mineral enough found as yet in its vicinity to pay a month’s rent at its present rental. There is absolutely nothing but some placer claims along Whitewood, half of which do not pay the expense of working, and are not being worked; even if they were rich they would not be of any permanent value to Deadwood, for one season would work them all out. Deadwood Creek and its affluents are the only creeks in the Hills that are paying anything worth mentioning, except probably Negro Gulch in the western part of the Hills, at the head of Deadwood Creek. There are some quartz claims [also called lode claims] being worked and there are several stamp mills in the vicinity of Gayville, on Deadwood Creek, and they say they are taking good pay out of the stone they crush. I am informed by the best authority and old miners that there has not been a defined quartz lead found in the Hills; they are nearly all cement rock and placer deposits; how extensive this is and how rich is yet to be determined.
If there is to be a town of any permanency in this part of the Hills, it will be Gayville. Gayville is situated on Deadwood Creek about 3 miles from Deadwood; it is a town of about 500 inhabitants and is surrounded by the richest ground in the Hills, both placer and quartz; it also has a decided advantage over Deadwood as far as location for building a town is concerned.
It would surprise you to see the importance assumed by many who stayed here last winter – many compelled to; they remind me of Bret Harte’s “First Man,” and many of them, I should judge, are characters of the same stamp; with what an air of patronizing superiority they cast their visual organs down upon a poor “tender foot,” with a look of mingled pity and contempt, which says, “you have only been here a few weeks; I have been here for months.” An old “forty-niner” of California does not feel half the pride in telling “I went to California in 49,” &c., as some of these fellows do in telling “I came to the Hills last spring when a man had to take his life in his hand and wrestled the country out of the hands of the bloody Sioux; and helped develop it.” … I do not say that every man that stayed in the Hills last winter is of that stamp, not by any means, but there are a large per cent of those shallow pated devils who imagine themselves immortal heroes to whom the names of all the illustrious of American history will only serve as a standing place from which to get glimpses of them, so far above that the eye can scarcely reach them. Poor fellows, I pity them.
Around the foot hills and extending along the creeks, leaving the hills four miles there is some splendid fertile valleys and for agricultural purposes, I should say, are hard to excel, but they are cursed by the same great enemy that has caused so much suffering through the northwest – the grasshopper. I understand they are hatching out in myriads around the foot hills.
Deadwood in 1876: "Its one street runs up and down the gulch, making the same number of twists and turns the gulch does, and narrows and widens with the gulch, so that at some places it is wide enough to be almost respectable while at others it is so narrow that it will barely admit a team and wagon."

Deadwood in 1876: "Its one street runs up and down the gulch, making the same number of twists and turns the gulch does, and narrows and widens with the gulch, so that at some places it is wide enough to be almost respectable while at others it is so narrow that it will barely admit a team and wagon."

I would not advise any one to come out here unless they fetch money enough with them to take them back again, for in all probabilities they would go back inside of a week. If you come out for the purpose of getting work, you had better stay at home, as there are hundreds here already, waiting for every job; I could hire a thousand hands to-morrow for ten dollars per month and their “chuck,” and they would do their own cooking and furnish their own beds and shelter. Board in Deadwood ranges from $10 to $28 per week [$215 to $600 in 2014]; flour was retailing yesterday for $28 per hundred [about $6 a pound in 2014], it is probably $30 to-day; hay is $200 per ton in Deadwood; corn meal, unbolted, is worth $14 per cwt.; potatoes, 15 cents per pound; butter, 50 cents per pound; eggs, 50 cents per dozen [more than $10 in 2014]; beef, 30 cents per pound; pork, from 25 to 30 cents per pound; sugar, 3 pounds for $1.00; beans, 15 cents per pound; horses are worth from $5 to $150.
Geo. and Frank Keller [reported in the Advocate to have left Canton in February] are opening up a ranch about 2 miles north of Deadwood; they have two or three acres cleared and plowed and planted. I believe they will do well. The rest of the boys from Canton, I am told, are on Rapid Creek engaging in mining and are feeling hopeful; what success they are meeting am unable to say; have not seen any of them yet.
One peculiar feature of the Hills are the daily showers. It has rained every day since I have been in the Hills, and I am told by persons who were here last summer that … very few days [pass] without more or less rain.
Well, I guess I have encroached upon your time enough for this time and will bring my scribbling to a close.
I remain yours truly,
RELATED: Also on the front page of the Advocate that day, under “ODDS AND ENDS,” was this one-sentence report:
—Deadwood is witnessing a slight stampede up the Creek, where it is reported rich diggings have been struck.

Aug. 21, 1911: Minneapolis children enlist in war on flies

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 13, 2014 - 3:35 PM
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 official logo: "The Tribune and I Swat the Fly."

The official logo: "The Tribune and I Swat the Fly."

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. 

The rules:

“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.

City Flyless Crusade
Starts This Morning

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.


Ten little flies all in a line;
One got a swat! Then there were
Nine little flies, grimly sedate,
Licking their chops – Swat! There were
Eight little flies raising some more –
Swat! Swat! Swat! Swat! Then there were
Four little flies, colored green-blue;
Swat! (Ain’t it easy!) Then there were
Two little flies dodged the civilian –
Early next day there were a million!
The great battle against the fly starts today.
The opening gun of the war against the disease-carriers will be fired at 10 o’clock when sub-stations in the 13 wards of the city will open to distribute supplies for the youthful soldiers who are marching against the hosts of Mr. Fly.
Flies spent their last peaceful day in Minneapolis Sunday. Without a thought of the war that opens today they hummed and buzzed in cafes, restaurants and houses. But it was the ball before Waterloo. They danced while Young America of Minneapolis was busy putting the finishing touches to fly traps and swatters. While the youth of the city were burnishing their arms, making last preparations for the march against the foe today, the fly bummed as merrily as ever.
Public Enemy No. 1: The common housefly

Public Enemy No. 1: The common housefly

Two weeks from today the enemy will have been exterminated. The campaign is starting with a rush this morning with the members of the troops of the Boy Scouts and the members of the Boys’ club leading the fight. Thousands of Minneapolis children thronged the sub-stations yesterday attempting to secure supplies for their fight against the fly but all were refused.
Supplies at Sub-Stations.
At 10 o’clock this morning every child in the city who wishes to enter the contest should visit the sub-station in the ward in which he lives. There cardboard boxes made for the contest by the Standard Paper Box company, 301 Fifth avenue south, and given free to the children will be distributed by [the city’s Department of Health. … Yesterday several clerks and employes of the department went over the card index system putting the cards in their place and arranging for a gigantic tabulation system by which the results of each day’s battle against the fly can be kept.
Daily records of the day’s death toll will be kept. Each child’s name will be put on a card as soon as a box of dead flies has been received at the department, bearing the name and address of the killer. The number of flies contained in the box will be entered on the card and as each day passes additional figures of the flies killed by that contestant will be added to the card. Totals of the entire number killed will be recorded each night and The Tribune will every day print the standing of the leaders in the contest. The names of all the contestants and their standing at the close will be printed in the Sunday Tribune of Sept. 3.
Take Flies to Stations.
The sub-stations will give out supplies until 11 o’clock this morning, opening at 10, and will be open again in the afternoon between 3 and 4 o’clock. Dead flies must be taken to the sub-stations before 1 o’clock in the afternoon. No flies will be received after that time. Wagons from The Tribune will make a trip around the city every afternoon, visiting each sub-station, collecting the dead flies and leaving new supplies. The first trip will be made this afternoon. If you have any dead flies be sure and get them to the sub-station before 1 o’clock this afternoon.
Many are the schemes several small boys near Lake Harriet are resorting to to secure fly traps and places to set them. One lad Saturday called on four grocers in the Linden Hills District and asked where they kept their flies.
"We have no flies – what do you want with them, anyway?” asked one grocer of him.
“I want to catch your flies for you. Where do they congregate the thickest?” the boy asked. The grocer showed him. At the back door of the store thousand of the disease carriers were feasting on the remains of a crushed watermelon.
The boy eyed them. Then he made the grocer this proposition:
“If you’ll give me 50 cents I’ll catch al those flies for you, keep them away from you for two weeks and by the end of that time if there are still any flies around the door in any number I’ll keep them away for two weeks longer for nothing,” he told the grocer.
Boy Scouts were among those heeding the call.

Boy Scouts were among those heeding the call.

“Do you mean to tell me you’ll stand here at this door every day for two weeks and brush away flies for the small sum of 50 cents?” asked the grocer, taken aback by the offer.
“No, I didn’t say that,” returned the boy. “I said I’d catch the flies and keep them away; not that I’d stand here all that time. That has nothing to do with my keeping them away. I’ll buy two traps with the 50 cents, put them here at this door with some bread and milk bait in them and before half a day has passed I’ll have the traps filled twice. That will take away a larger number and I’ll fill the traps every half day from then on for the rest of the two weeks. I will send the flies to The Tribune sub-station, get the $50 prize and you’ll be rid of your flies, and I’ll have enough money to last me all winter at school. Will you do it?”
“Guess I will,” the grocer said. The bargain was made and the traps will be set this morning.
East Side Boy’s Scheme.
Over on the East side another boy went to the owner of a liver stable and asked permission to put some traps on the manure box at the end of the stable. The proprietor, bewildered, asked what kind of traps.
“Fly traps, of course,” said the boy.
“Well, why do you want to catch flies for me?” asked the liveryman.
“It’s not for you,” replied the boy. “It’s for The Tribune contest, and because flies are disease spreaders and germ carriers that we want ’em. There are enough flies at the rear of this livery barn to win a contest if I could get them all by myself, but there will be so many kids here to see you and want to catch your flies that I’ll have a hard time getting very many after the contest starts Monday.”
The liveryman helped the boy make a trap. The trap was made out of a half barrel. They adopted the principle of the little wire screen cage trap, which has an inverted conical inlet for the flies extending upward from the base, where a bait of sweetened water or bread and milk is put to draw the flies. Applying this principle, they took a common sugar barrel , replaced the top with a cover of wire screen, sawed a hole 12 inches in diameter in the center of the bottom and into this inserted a cone made of wire screen, having a diameter at the base equal to the hole in the barrel and an aperture at the smaller end about three-quarters of an inch across. When thus fixed and made fly tight, except for the inlet, the barrel was placed on supports which raised it from the ground a few inches so that the bait could be placed beneath to draw the first flies. When a good number of flies have been trapped the very buzzing will attract other flies from all directions.
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.

Sept. 28, 1916: A correction for the ages

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: October 7, 2014 - 7:52 AM
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.


In the article under the headine "Visitin' 'Round in Minnesota" by Caryl B. Storrs, dated from Taylors Falls, Sept. 16, the statement was made that John Daubney, a resident of Taylors Falls for 72 years, was at one time divorced from his wife. 
It has since been learned that this statement was incorrect and that no divorce was ever granted to either Mr. or Mrs. Daubney, but that they lived together in perfect accord for more than 60 years.


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