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Yesterday's News

Sample Minnesota's rich history, courtesy of a microfilm archive

Sept. 8, 1909: Step right up and see the State Fair preemies!

The Minnesota State Fair has featured many unusual attractions since the first fair was held in Minneapolis in 1859: death-defying aerial acts, colliding locomotives, freak shows, live animal births, the Minnesota Iceman and premature babies in incubators. Wait … what? The Minneapolis Morning Tribune explained:

Tiny Baby Is Fair Marvel


Midget 11 Inches in Length, One of Five Infants in Incubator

Five premature babies, “all of good birth,” as the lecturer assures his audiences, are already in the infant incubators of the state fair, and as a feature of universal human interest the incubator holds its own, for from the moment the doors of the cottage where the babies are housed opened to the public a goodly crowd of spectators has been maintained.

Eleven inches in length and weighing one and a half pounds sizes up the smallest infant, which is kept in the end incubator and gives the impression of a much larger creature, by reason of its wrappings. A large pink satin bow is tied conspicuously below its armpits, and matches with remarkable accuracy its tiny face and hands.

The children are fed by wet nurses by means of a tube. Special scales, special self-rocking baskets are among the newest scientific devices for saving the tots, and padded dressing tables make easy, for the nurses, the task of handling and clothing the under-sized babies. They are kept in high temperature and their baths, which are daily, are 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Gradually the temperature and feeding is brought to the normal.

Flash mob: These resourceful lads found a way to get into a sideshow at the fair in about 1910. (Photo courtesy

July 11, 1921: Wooden legs save 2 from drowning

Hildy! Get me rewrite! This front-page story is a confusing mess, one replicated by the Associated Press in versions appearing in a half dozen or so papers around the country. Despite the flawed description and a misspelled surname, the story line itself is plausible. Leroy Rodda, the accidental hero of the piece, lost both legs below the knees in a train accident at the Adams iron mine in Eveleth in 1910. According to family lore, he was trying to pull a drunk off the tracks when he was hit by a locomotive. After that accident, he took a job as a night watchman for the city of Eveleth, married and had three children. He and his wife built and ran Deer Horn Resort on Lake Kabetogama in the late 1930s.

Legless Man Swims
to Safety; Wooden
Limbs Save 2 Others

Gilbert, Minn., July 10. – While Harry Woodard, a good swimmer, was drowning, Roy Rhodda, minus his two wooden legs which became loosened when a boat occupied by five men overturned, swam 300 yards to shore. The three others in the boat also swam to safety.

The drowning took place in Ely lake near here this afternoon during a log rolling contest. The five men rowed out in the boat to gain a point of vantage. When they dropped a heavy anchor overboard the boat began filling with water. All of the men jumped into the lake and started for the shore. Woodard swam 50 yards and sank while 2,500 persons looked on. His body was recovered three hours later.

William Brown, Eveleth; Leslie Star, New London, Wis., and W.J. Ulrich, Duluth, were the three others in the boat. Rhodda told witnesses that two of his companions utilized the floating wooden legs as life preservers.