Minnesota History with Curt Brown

Former Star Tribune reporter Curt Brown takes a look back at events that shaped our state's history.

December 20, 2015

Ojibwe athlete made big splash in Minnesota swimming

Happenstance pushed Bob Gawboy into the swimming pool, where he made quite a splash as arguably the state’s best-ever male swimmer. The son of an…
November 15, 2015

Fiery orator Anna Dickie Olesen blazed a path for women in politics

The political reporter from Chicago came to Minnesota to chronicle a historic curiosity in 1922. Anna Dickie Olesen, who grew up on a southern Minnesota…
November 2, 2015
A formal glass-plate portrait of William Duley in his military jacket, probably taken between September 1862 and February 1865.

Image found of soldier who was executioner of 38 Minn. Dakota in 1862

A recently unearthed glass-plate photograph, about 150 years old, puts a new face on a pivotal figure in perhaps early-Minnesota's grimmest moment.
October 24, 2015

Minnesota History: George DeCoursey, shot in the back after stealing nickels

Ron Lancette removed his cap and gazed down at a flat gravestone obscured by fallen leaves. Tears pooled in his eyes. The 77-year-old from Scottsdale,…
October 17, 2015

Researcher discovers tale of quadruple amputee felled by a Minnesota blizzard

The frozen patient was barely alive when some Dakota men discovered him in a western Minnesota snowdrift and brought him to the military hospital on Christmas Eve, 1865.
October 12, 2015
Main Street on the Milford Mine property in 1924, the year the mine was flooded; only seven miners escaped.

Milford mine disaster was state's worst

Fourteen-year-old Frank Hrvatin had quit school to work in one of Minnesota’s mines. That wasn’t unusual in 1924 for the son of Croatian immigrants. But…
October 4, 2015

Minnesota's first black woman lawyer fought issues familiar today

More than a million people turned out 50 years ago, many with blankets to blunt the 38-degree chill in Washington, D.C. They’d come to watch…
September 26, 2015

Four-term Duluth mayor laid down roots for renaissance

A botched sinus operation left Sam Snively blind in one eye. But that setback failed to blur his legacy as the visionary behind Duluth’s spectacular…
West Metro
September 20, 2015
Two men were at work in the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. foundry in 1915.

Minnesota History: Threshing machines reaped rewards for Hopkins

Hopkins, today, is easy to shrug off as just another suburb in the westward sprawl. But its history and growth are well-defined as the longtime…
September 12, 2015
While researching a Civil War soldier, Robbie, 12, a student at Mahtomedi Middle School, found his own family tree.

History project about Minnesota Civil War vet hits close to home

It was one of those "Eureka" moments that family-tree buffs crave, but this one connected a Mahtomedi 12-year-old to history.
September 5, 2015
James Erskine, the Earl of Rosslyn, and Anna Robinson had a short but high-profile marriage.

Minneapolis showgirl Anna Robinson's fairy tale lost its happy ending

The front page of the Minneapolis Journal on March 21, 1905, included a story about a Wayzata man committing suicide “in preference to a lingering…
August 30, 2015

Teen angst during Civil War battles

There’s an old brass key in the bowels of the Minnesota History Center, once used to unlock the Confederate arsenal in Milledgeville, Ga. Billy Bircher,…
August 22, 2015
It was a routine bed check. That is, until a note was found on the bunk where a German prisoner was supposed to be asleep Up North in a Minnesota lumb

In 1944, a hunt for Nazi escapees Up North

It was a routine bed check. That is, until a note was found on the bunk where a German prisoner was supposed to be asleep…
August 16, 2015
Jacob Fahlstrom

Minnesota's influx of Swedes started with Jacob Fahlstrom

Upon arriving in the New World, he went hunting with his double-barreled shotgun and promptly got lost.
August 9, 2015
Joyous throngs hit Market Street in San Francisco to celebrate Truman’s announcement of Japan’s surrender to the Allies.

WWII service of eight Valentini brothers from Chisholm is state record

Like so many immigrants on the Iron Range, Alphonse Valentini worked deep in the iron mines around Chisholm. But the windows of his home were…
August 1, 2015
The Round Tower of Fort Snelling with residential windows, later returned to the original rifle-openings slits.

Round Tower at Fort Snelling was a 'lovely home' to grow up in

Nina Marcum is the last living person who once called Fort Snelling's iconic Round Tower her home.
July 25, 2015

Confederate major's name lives on at Albert Lea

In his arms, the father cradled the head of his dying son, who had just been shot in the belly during a Civil War naval…
July 19, 2015

Long-running dispute between first volunteer of Civil War is settled, St. Paul historian says

As the flag flap in South Carolina reminded us, Civil War acrimony burns on 150 years after its bloodshed ended. In Minnesota, there’s a less…
July 4, 2015

Minnesota's DeZurik sisters yodeled their way to fame

Before they yodeled and hen-clucked their way on to radio shows heard by millions, Mary Jane and Carolyn DeZurik were typical central Minnesota farm girls…
July 4, 2015
The Winslow House looked like this in 1856 when it was a prominent hotel in St. Anthony (later incorporated as Minneapolis). Eliza Winston’s master

Slave earned her freedom in a fledgling Minnesota

For nearly all of her 30 years, Eliza Winston had followed orders like a good house slave. But this time, she obeyed only part way.…
June 27, 2015
Patty Berg in 1935. She once said in an interview that golf taught her patience, concentration and confidence.

Minnesota History: Patty Berg dabbled in football but mastered golf

Things were roaring, all right, in the 1920s for the Berg family living at 5001 Colfax Av. S. in Minneapolis. Herman was making a killing…
June 22, 2015
The Rum River in Anoka County from the front of a canoe. Some would like to ditch the name, calling it offensive and hurtful to Indians.

Time to fix the Rum River error?

Today marks the solstice, a Latin word for standstill, when the sun seems to stop on the horizon before turning back toward winter. It’s the…
June 14, 2015
Robert Page, in a 1960 photo, held a sphere representing the balloon used in satellite radar he helped develop. The Echo satellite reflected microwave

Robert Morris Page: He stayed firmly on history's radar

As a physics pioneer, Robert Page helped turn a “radio detection and ranging” system into a household word: radar. The St. Paul-born, Hamline-educated inventor figured…
May 30, 2015
Andrew Volstead was a man with a consistently stern and dour countenance, even at the Freehouse brew pub in Minneapolis, where his visage is captured

Andrew Volstead got skewered even before Prohibition

If Andrew Volstead smiled much, it was hard to notice beneath his bushy mustache. Google his image and it’s one scowl after another beneath piercing…
May 25, 2015
‘Among strangers’: Lucy Ann Lobdell arrived in Minnesota in 1857, and took up life as a hired man — chopping wood, hunting and even washing dish

Lucy Ann Lobdell: Wherever she went, accusing eyes followed

Still in her 20s, Lucy Ann Lobdell sat down to write her story, which, by 1855, included hunting in the mountains north of the Catskills…