May 31, 1913: Rattlesnake pointedly proves handler's point
July 4, 2013 — 10:24pm
This story snapped and slithered its way onto the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune:
Carnival Snake Bites Man; Frightens Police
Trainer in Danger from Fangs of Big Rattler He Was Showing.
Same Reptile Slinks Into the Lake Street Station in Afternoon.
The skepticism of a visitor at the “Reptile World” show at the Lake Street festival last night came near causing the death of Montana Jack, snake trainer. He was bitten by a poisonous rattlesnake when he attempt to prove that the reptile had not been defanged.
“Jack” was demonstrating methods of handling the snakes to a crowd, when one spectator declared that the reptiles had all been deprived of their fangs and that they were perfectly harmless. Grabbing the largest of the dozen rattlers from the bottom of the pit, Jack declared he would prove that the snakes were poisonous.
In forcing open the snake’s mouth it slipped from his grasp for a moment and buried its fangs in the fleshy part of the man’s left arm.
He wanted to treat the bite by his own method, but the police took him to Dr. George E. Thomas. He will recover.
Yesterday afternoon half a dozen policemen in the Fifth precinct station believed they were “seeing things” when the same snake, which had escaped from the tent, slid into the station. There was a scramble for the doors and tops of desks and chairs, and for a few minutes the rattler was in full control of the situation. Then it continued on its way and noiselessly slid out of the rear door into the alley.
I was unable to find a photo of Montana Jack or any other snake handler of the early 1900s in the Star Tribune's rich archive of photos. But -- snakes alive! -- how about the caption on the back of this 1937 photo: "Radioman from KSTP interviewing a cobra snake." Tell us more, dear archives, tell us more!
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The Minnesota State Fair has featured many unusual attractions in its 150-year history: 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 was there:
"We're more popular than Jesus now," John Lennon told an British journalist in 1966. A year later, the Monkees' Mike Nesmith, in the Twin Cities for a show at the St. Paul Auditorium, humbly explained his band's place in the cosmic pecking order.
A musically inclined vagrant known as Banjo Ben walked the streets of Minneapolis in the city's early days. His weakness for alcohol and penchant for strong language landed him in court with some frequency. In February 1876, for example, he was sentenced to 20 days in jail for spewing obscenities at the St. Paul and Pacific depot. Later that year, he walked into the Tribune newsroom and issued an invitation to witness a spectacular feat at the new suspension bridge under construction nearby.
The horrific scene unfolded in a matter of minutes, a black-clad man with military training stalking law enforcement officers and ignoring horrified onlookers as he shot anyone he could find wearing a badge.