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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Stories that belong on page one don't always land there.
Minnesota issued its first driver's license in 1934. A single 25-cent fee covered licenses for every member of a household. You didn't have to prove you were a good — or apparently even sighted — driver: No test was required. A Mr. Inky Campbell of Minneapolis called attention to the situation in this persuasive letter to the editor of the Star. Within two years, Minnesota began testing prospective drivers. But vision was not part of the renewal process until 1972.
The story of one infant left on the counter of a confectionery shop on Lyndale Avenue S. in 1909 resonated more than most "foundling" stories.
The young woman who hatched the insurance idea described in the Minneapolis Tribune story below appears to have been an intelligent person with a broad range of interests. So how did she come up with this cockamamie idea?
The guidance offered in early horoscopes published in the Minneapolis Tribune sounds very familiar: "Women should be exceedingly cautious in all love affairs, as they are likely to be easily deceived and greatly disappointed."