Minneapolis city directories from 1859 to 1917 are now online, thanks to the Hennepin County Library and a donation from the city's Professional Librarians Union. The address: http://box2.nmtvault.com/Hennepin2.
It's a powerful research tool and a great way to kill an hour or two. You can search or browse the database to track down famous residents of years past. I found listings for George D. Dayton, the department store founder; Theodore Wirth, the pioneering parks superintendent; and Ada L. Comstock, the University of Minnesota's first dean of women. Lillian M. Knott, the “penniless prima donna” who later taught at the Northwestern Conservatory of Music, turns up in the 1917 directory. You can look up your great-grandfather Gustav or your great-aunt Mabel or the family that lived in your house a century ago. Occupations, addresses and, in later years, phone numbers are listed for each resident. Dayton is listed as president, Dayton Dry Goods Company, residing at 2020 Blaisdell, telephone “T-S 4906.”
Many of the job titles are familiar: teacher, plumber, laborer, physician, reporter. Other titles are far less common or unknown more than a century later: maltster, milliner, horseshoer, smutter, cupola tender.
The directories are packed with ads. Here's one I stumbled across in the 1906 directory. While researching the business, the Northwestern Scavenger Company, I discovered that a blogger who works for the county library posted this very image in 2011. What are the odds? I hate duplication, but I've already spent 10 minutes reassembling multiple screen grabs in Photoshop, so here goes:
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Art Instruction Inc., once located just around the corner from the old Star and Tribune building on the edge of downtown Minneapolis, offered drawing courses by mail for more than a century. Here the Minneapolis Tribune profiles the commercial art school that trained the likes of Charles M. Schulz ("Peanuts") and Carlos de la Vega (who?).
When we sleepily stumbled down the hall to answer the clamorously ringing telephone we made a mental note that it was shortly before 3 a.m. We picked up the receiver, thinking it was Sheriff Roberts calling to say that there had been an accident. Instead it was Mrs. Lloyd Long, playing the feminine counterpart role of Paul Revere, saying "Get up, Al, and listen to the radio, the invasion has started."
Angered because of excessive whispering during a "spelling bee," H.E. Sherman, teacher in the Somers village school was about to administer corporal punishment to a number of his pupils when he was forestalled by an energetic colony of honey bees.
Most of our readers in whose memory is still fresh the fact of the destruction by fire of the Merchants' Hotel, on the corner of State and Washington streets, on the morning of the 4th of the present month, will readily recall the particulars concerning the sad fate of the late Mr. R.A. Cook, of Joliet, who perished in the flames during that memorable conflagration.
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