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Curt Brown

Reporter | Minnesota History
Recent content from Curt Brown
Jack Kodell made tiny parakeets appear and vanish from Paris to Las Vegas, where he performed the Strip’s first magic act in the 1940s at just 17.

Pioneering bird-in-hand magician went from Mankato to stages around the world

Jack Kodell bought his first trick at a Minneapolis magic store in 1941.
Grave of William (Billy) Bircher, Oakland Cemetery, St. Paul

Teen angst during Civil War battles

Ronald and Clare McLaughlin, 1948.

As global war loomed, the McLaughlins of Bloomington preached peace

The couple spearheaded the peace movement in the Twin Cities in the mid-20th century.
Gerald Heaney in 1982. The new federal courthouse in Duluth was named after him in 2007.

Remembering a Minnesotan who stormed the beach on D-Day 80 years ago

Gerald Heaney survived World War II to become a respected lawyer and federal judge in Duluth.
Tom Conroy of New Ulm, Minn., talked recently about his five-year evolution from gung-ho soldier to questioning dissenter of the Vietnam War — to fi

From gung-ho Vietnam medic to peacenik to proud Army veteran

A southern Minnesota man looks back on his evolution from gung-ho soldier in 1967 to questioning dissenter by 1972 to proud Army veteran today.
Jim Johnson at the gravesite of John Bennington Clark, the last Union veteran buried in Koochiching County, at Forest Hill Cemetery in Northome. Clark

Civil War group honors the last Union veteran buried in each Minnesota county

History buffs hope to 'keep green' the memories of long-forgotten soldiers in blue.
Portrait of Prof. Christopher Lehman wearing red button-down shirt and gray sportcoat.

St. Cloud professor's book paints nuanced look at enslaved woman freed in Minneapolis

Author Christopher Lehman has unearthed a surprising character long overlooked in Eliza Winston's story: President Andrew Jackson.
The Marklowitz family headstone, noting Caroline and her 18 children, Maine Prairie Cemetery, Kimball, Minn.

Paying overdue tribute to his grandmother, a Minnesota farmer recarves family history

Man honors hardworking women on family gravestone.
Grainy black and white headshots of Simon and Flora Boggs.

Civil War officer brought formerly enslaved family to Minnesota

Simon and Flora Boggs lived in Mantorville for 30 years.
The granite marker for the graves of Maria and Christian Peterson, two siblings who in 1870 were lost in the woods near what is now Upsala, Minn., and

Two Minnesota children in 1870 were lost in the woods, but not to history

A granite marker has replaced the lilac bushes in the farmyard where the children were buried.
Jane and John Olive, outside the ruins of Mantorville's Civil War-era brewery, are leaders of preservation efforts.

Saving brewery ruins just the latest preservation project in historic Mantorville

Jane and John Olive help lead preservation efforts in the southeastern Minnesota community.
The families of Chiefs Mickinock and Cobenais posed in 1887 at their main village on Roseau Lake, which was drained for farming in the early 1900s. Mi

Bogus Ghost Dance scare spooked Roseau County settlers in 1891

Ojibwe leader Mickinock kept the settlers' livestock fed and watered after they fled in panic.
A uniformed Bill Bianchi surrounded by his mother and sisters, sometime around 1940. 

From New Ulm to Bataan: A fallen Medal of Honor recipient is remembered

U.S. Army Capt. Bill Bianchi is the only soldier from Brown County to receive the military's highest honor.
An engagement shot of Emil Gabbert and Buffalo school teacher Rosa Ordorff, who got married in 1932.

A century-old selfie rekindles a Howard Lake farmer's story

Emil Gabbert lives on, via Instagram.
Broadway Avenue in Albert Lea, 1898 — a year before police officer Judson Randall was killed by an irate father while trying to quarantine his son i

Remembering Albert Lea's fallen cop, more than a century after run-in with an angry father

An Albert Lea police sergeant stumbled upon the story in the archives of the Minnesota History Center in late 2019.
Ed Zieba, left, with four other flyers, World War II.

Remembering the lucky life of WWII gunner, cribbage champ and tuba player Ed Zieba

The son of Polish immigrants worked at the Salem Lutheran Church Dining Hall at the Minnesota State Fair and was an Aqua Jester.
Laura Miller, left, and her mother, Dell Miller, visited at the McLeod County jail in Glencoe, Minn.

Deadly love triangle murder case captivated Minnesota in 1950

"The media circus surrounding the murder turned Laura Miller into a local celebrity," according to Brian Haines, executive director of the McLeod County Historical Society.
Newlyweds Kristy and John Juergens were flanked by their parents at their 1948 wedding in Columbia Heights. Clarence and Kitty Olsen are at left, Leon

Deadly 1938 bus crash united former roommates — and future grandmothers — in grief

A bus carrying members of the Gustavus Adolphus College football team hit a truck in fog and snow near Belle Plaine.
Andrew Essling, formerly Anders Jonasson and one of the twin sons in Carl Jonasson Essling’s family, in 1913 at the family farmhouse near Bernadotte

Minnesota-bound Swedes were tricked into laboring in South after Civil War

A Lake Elmo woman discovered a little-known Civil War-era chapter while researching her husband's great-great-grandparents.
Ray Harris, 1989

From derrieres to matchbooks, a successful 94-year-old Minneapolis developer looks back

Ray Harris, the driving force behind the Lake and Hennepin retail center formerly known as Calhoun Square; the site of Orchestra Hall; downtown housing, and even a dog park in Loring Park, is to be enshrined in the Minnesota Real Estate Hall of Fame.
Soldiers removed the corpses of the American POWs who were massacred by Nazis at Malmedy, Belgium, during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944.

Remembering a Minnesota soldier killed in a Nazi massacre nearly 80 years ago

A family in Madelia, Minn., endured many tragedies.
William O’Shields, right, was guest speaker for a discrimination forum in 1947 at the University of Minnesota. With him were Helen Parker Mudgett, a

'Seemingly forgotten' Black athlete and coach saw sports as tool for advancement

William O'Shields touched countless lives in Rochester, St. Paul and at HBCUs.
The Red Rock was moved from Eden Prairie last September to an undisclosed area at the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Morton, Minn.

Eden Prairie's ancient Red Rock returned to Dakota hands

The red boulder, long a touchstone to the Dakota, was moved last year to the Lower Sioux Indian Community.
October 31, 1936 Floyd Gibbons, caught in action during the "Speedshow" broadcast over the WABC — Columbia CBS Photo, Minneapolis Star Library

Swashbuckling WWI correspondent launched his reporting career in Minneapolis

Floyd Gibbons was fired from the Minneapolis Daily News for showing up late to work and lost the police beat at the Minneapolis Tribune after he slept through a major downtown fire.
“The Last Voyage” bas relief plaque on the white bronze monument marking the graves of German and Barbara Friton in the Old Section of the New Ulm

New book details 'Outdoor Museum' of New Ulm's symbolism-laced cemeteries

History buff shares stories of tree stump markers and white bronze markers in New Ulm's City, Catholic and Lutheran cemeteries.
Line drawings of the Barrett brothers appeared in the St. Paul Daily Globe on March 17, 1889. The hangings of the two brothers, particularly of Pete B

New questions arise in two Minnesota men's 1889 hanging

The case sparked a push to reform capital punishment in Minnesota.
Mayor Ed Wooden, 78, presented the key to Funkley, Minn., to New York City Mayor Vincent Impellitteri during the visit to the Big Apple of Funkley res

All of tiny Funkley, Minn., traveled to the Big Apple and the nation's Capital 70 years ago

The junket for residents launched a nationwide drive to collect bedsheets for dressings for cancer patients.

Mantorville's Hubbell House restaurant goes way back to Minnesota's territorial days

1854 restaurant has hosted presidents, baseball stars and entertainers.
Kiyoshi Kitagawa was presented with a Daughters of the American Revolution award for being the best first year student in basic drill for the Reserve

Diaries through four decades tell story of Japanese immigrant family in Minneapolis

The collection offers "great insight," says a University of Minnesota archivist.
Black and white photo of Robert Kaping after he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, 1942, standing in a yard in front of a flowering bush.

Ham Lake teen explores story of New Ulm sailor killed in World War II

Gavin Klabechek is among 16 students selected nationally to research "Silent Heroes" from WWII. He picked Robert Ervin Kaping.

Polish immigrant, 88, recalls astonishing journey to northeast Minneapolis

Anatol Maciejny's path includes a WWII work camp in Siberia, refugee camps in Iran, Iraq and Syria, and a Swedish freighter.
Portrait of Gordon Kirk in his home.

At 100, a WWII vet from Rondo looks back at a life of service

St. Paul's Gordon Kirk has been a soldier, streetcar driver, skycap and the first Black commander of the Minnesota chapter of the VFW.
Pharmacist Marie Piesinger, shown in 1953, was the first woman to serve as president of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.

New Prague's pioneering woman pharmacist served as mentor to another

Rose Layne visited Marie Piesinger's drugstore as a kid and ended up buying it from her.
Former St. Paul Mayor William Mahoney wearing a suit and tie and seated on striped sofa in front of wall with wallpaper.

Labor leader launched Farmer-Labor Party and became St. Paul's mayor

William Mahoney climbed from a pressman into a labor champion and union newspaper editor, party president and elected official.
Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie stood by her plane in August 1929.

A St. Paul teen took a flying leap in 1921, on her way to a historic aviation career

Phoebe Fairgrave Omlie was in the first class of inductees for the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame.
Cora Fuller “stepped off the plane as cool and collected as if stepping out of an automobile,” her flight instructor said after her solo trip to e

Pioneering Minnesota pilot aced test, then she soared

Cora Fuller, a bookkeeper who married an equally adventurous flyer, was the first woman to earn a private pilot's license in Minnesota.
Sarah Wakefield

Sarah Wakefield's 160-year-old account still illuminates our understanding of U.S.-Dakota War

A doctor's wife, who spent the war's six weeks in Dakota captivity with her children, expressed sympathy for Native Americans.
Julia Bullard Nelson recruited one of her prized pupils — Jeremiah Patterson — to run her farm near Red Wing. They later ran a butcher shop.

Unlikely pair forged bond beyond race in 19th-century Red Wing

Prominent activist Julia Bullard Nelson and her former pupil Jeremiah Patterson ran the Equal Rights Meat Market.
The Freeburg family of Anoka County, around 1904. Clockwise from left: Olaf, Jack, Mary, Daniel, Caroline and David.

Photo of Anoka County family comes home to Minnesota nearly 120 years later

Using genealogy and social media websites, the Photo Angel Project tracks down descendants of family members in old photos and sends them the pictures.
First Lt. Myron Kuzyk with his parents, Onufry and Anna Kuzyk.

Old wooden crate brings to life the story of a fallen Minneapolis WWII soldier

His family hadn't forgotten Myron Kuzyk; in fact, family members had followed in his Army boot steps.
After the war, Harry Campbell resumed school at Georgetown University and later worked as an insurance adjustor.

For Deephaven vet, 99, an orphaned baby brought joy amid the chaos of World War II

Cloquet native's unit took care of an Italian baby they named Maria.
Civil War Cpl. Hercules LaChapelle received a new headstone in July at the French Catholic cemetery near Lonsdale, Minn., in a graveside ceremony feat

New headstone marks grave of Native soldier from Minnesota who fought in the Civil War

People who drive by the rural Rice County cemetery are "very rarely aware heroes lay in their midst."
Loraine Plasman in 1995, at her home in Bloomington with some of the blueprints and drafting tools that she used as a Curtis-Wright “cadette” at t

Bloomington woman worked as aeronautical engineering 'cadette' during WWII

Loraine Teninga Plasman was one of dozens of young women who took a 10-month crash course at the University of Minnesota.
Robert Kodadek is in the front row, far left. Others in the front row: Jerry Flicek, Mike Zvanovec. Rear: John Nickolay, John Flicek, Joe Simon and C

One Minnesota WWII veteran's story amplifies what so many endured

A retired bond trader compiled letters sent to the New Prague Times for a book, published this spring.
Pamela Peterman displays a 1920s signature quilt she’s researched and traced back to Messiah Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. 

Century-old Minneapolis quilt stitched with names from days gone by

Rosemount woman has spent more than 100 hours on online genealogy research to find out more about the 318 signatures.
Connemara Patch descendants gathered around the sign in Swede Hollow Park at the August dedication. From left: Jean Flaherty, Sherry Munyon, Leslie Th

Irish descendants are embracing St. Paul's forgotten Connemara Patch

The former site of the four-block shantytown at the base of Dayton's Bluff on St. Paul's East Side is now part of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary.
Donald and Doris Swanson of Prior Lake, both 98, have been married for 75 years.

She faced racism, he fled the Nazis: A Minnesota couple look back at a century of history

An afternoon of living history was something to relish.
Patti-Folstad Bouley, holding a photo of her great-grandparents in frontt of a stained-glass window honoring their parents.Curt Brown

Dayton, Minn., revives its French-Canadian past

Dayton's rich French-Canadian roots will be the focus of an upcoming presentation.
When Axel Hayford Reed died at 81 in 1917, his obituary in the Minneapolis Tribune heralded him as “one of the most vigorous, positive, energetic fi

Axel Hayford Reed: Glencoe's one-armed pioneer dynamo

The indefatigable businessman, politician and Civil War veteran was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The only known photo of Mary Weishar, photographed in the 1890s with her second husband, George Murch, and one of their daughters.

Excelsior man dives into 1880 family murder committed by his great-great-grandmother

"If she did kill him," the St. Peter Times reported, "she simply put out of existence a notorious thief, for doing which she is entitled to the thanks of all mankind."
The Kochendorfer family in St. Paul circa 1858–59: Margaret, Catherine, Johan Jr., daughter Catherine, Johan Sr. and Rosina. The youngest family me

Letters survive, though author did not, from 1862 U.S.-Dakota War

Four surviving kids from family wound up raising 26 children, and their family tree now includes more than 1,000 descendants.
Annie Wendell, circa 1905.

New book by family historian reveals Minnesota clan's 'messy' history

Unlike many family histories that simply string together events, Daryl Lawrence weaves in a second layer of research to place Effie Schwartz and her mother, Annie Wendell, in the context of their times.
The Jones family — Tom, Alexis, Spencer and Nancy — in front of their Queen Anne home in Albert Lea, built in 1887 by ancestor Albert Clark Wedge

1887 home built by Albert Lea's first doctor has sheltered his family for generations

The house built by Dr. Albert Clark Wedge went on the National Register of Historical Places in 1986.
Anna Underwood, fifth from right, with her crew at her fruit orchard in Lake City, about 1885. 

Lake City's Anna Underwood helped open State Fair gates to women

Fruit orchard manager was active in the women's suffrage movement.
Three women viewed the debris left by the tornado that struck Rochester on the evening of Aug. 21, 1883.

1883 tornado leveled Rochester, but opened the way for St. Marys Hospital and the Mayos

Injuries from the intense twister prompted Franciscan nuns to lobby for a hospital.
A newspaper engraving of murder victim Lena Olson.

Book breathes new life into 1894 Duluth murder mystery

A 7-year-old's ghastly discovery one chilly August morning prompted a long search for the truth.
Minneapolis pioneer and onetime ship captain James McMullen.

Hennepin County museum exhibit tells colorful tale of Minneapolis pioneer family

An adventure-loving former sailor and his wife settled far from the sea in Minnesota Territory.
Wheelock Whitney talked with Branch Rickey on Jan. 6, 1960, during Rickey’s visit to the Twin Cities to whip up support for his Continental League.

How a Minneapolis businessman and a baseball icon made Minnesota major league

Wheelock Whitney's work with Branch Rickey helped set the stage for major league baseball to expand to Minnesota in 1961.
Mary McGowan at the grave of her brother Pvt. William Donnelley at an American cemetery in France.

World wars claimed Minnesota woman's brother and the son she named after him

Mary McGowan "was the real hero," her grandson says.
Andrew and Elsa Peterson and their nine children in front of their farmhouse near Waconia, likely in the 1890s.

Swedish pioneer's farmhouse near Waconia slated for restoration

Andrew Peterson was passionate about growing apple trees and keeping a diary.
Ralph Heimdahl during the homecoming celebration at St. Cloud State, 1967.

'Forgotten' artist sketched his way from Willmar to Disney and Bugs in California

Illustrator Ralph Heimdahl does live on at St. Cloud State University, where he studied, graduating in 1930.
The Wilson family, circa 1945. Back row: Howard, Robert Jr., and Lillian; seated: Donna, Loretta, Winston and Robert Sr. 

A Minnesota bootlegger's son delves into his father's lawless past

He was a "swashbuckling suspect" who didn't like to drink.
Emily Peake with nieces Suzie and Evon, in 1970.

Two Ojibwe women shaped Minneapolis' Indigenous history

Winnie Jourdain and Emily Peake are featured in a new anthology about urban Indians.
Fran Hall and his wife, Tallie, with the cameras they used to record the epic 1963-64 Airstream trailer caravan world tour.

Minnesota photographer chronicled 1960s Airstream caravan from Singapore to Portugal

Airstreams hired Fran Hall for a 14-month, 31-nation publicity campaign.
Alexander Granovsky, 1940. He was a poet, painter, U.S. Army private during World War I and a renowned insect expert at the University of Minnesota in

University of Minnesota bug expert advocated for a free Ukraine

Alexander Granovsky pioneered the use of chemicals to control cutworm, grubs and potato bugs.
Ralph Samuelson at Lake Pepin with his new invention, water skis, in 1925.

Lake City will honor man who created water skiing on Lake Pepin 100 years ago

Boosters will unveil a statue of Ralph Samuelson on July 2.
When a new German radio-controlled glide bomb sank the troop ship HMT Rohna in 1943, more than 1,000 Americans died — including nine Minnesotans.

'Hushed-up' WWII ship attack claimed the lives of nine Minnesotans

A German missile sank the British troop ship the HMT Rohna after it left Algeria bound for Egypt, killing 1,138.
Scan from loan for copy negative on Epson Expression 10000XL.

Grasshoppers swarmed in 1870s, leaving Minnesota farmers destitute

The grasshopper plague devastated the state for four years, gobbling up a half-million acres of wheat, corn, oats and barley.
July 31, 1972 MRS. HARRY C. PIPER JR. During press conference yesterday Virginia Piper, the victim of the most expensive kidnapping in the history of

50 years later, the Virginia Piper kidnapping remains a Minnesota mystery

In some ways, her abduction was a story with a happy ending — but also one that left two nagging questions.
“Bud” Fowler, seen here at center, stood with his teammates in Keokuk, Iowa, where he played baseball in 1884 after leaving Stillwater.

Black baseball pioneer who once played in Stillwater will get Cooperstown honors

Bud Fowler played for more than a dozen minor league teams, ranging from Vermont to the New Mexico Territory.
Minnesota-born artist Wayne Brezinka’s exhibit “Facing War” is on display in the lobby of the Glover Park Hotel, which faces the Russian Embassy

Polish ancestors' immigration to Minnesota inspired D.C. art show near Russian Embassy

"My family history was always out there, but didn't feel alive" until a cousin in Minneapolis sent a wedding photo of their great-grandparents, said Wayne Brezinka, whose art show runs through May 15
Pvt. Victor Leerhoff and his fellow POWs were marched for at least 250 miles around Germany, starving and sleeping in ditches and barns.

Freed Minnesota prisoner brought home well-baked German souvenir from WWII

His family saved the bread he brought home from Germany —his first meal after being released from his captors — almost 80 years ago.
Benjamin Franklin Upton’s 1862 photograph shows river mist shrouding Fort Snelling’s fenced yard of tepees where Dakota refugees were being held a

Photographer's images of 19th-century Minnesota going up for auction

Benjamin Franklin Upton developed thousands of negatives in his custom-equipped, horse-drawn wagon.
Clara Mairs, “Clara and Clem,” ca. 1930

Unconventional couple etched and painted their way into Minnesota's art scene

Clara Mairs and Clement Haupers lived and traveled together from the 1920s until her death in 1963.
September 16, 1928 The Untied States Signs "The Pact of Paris" Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg, affixing his Signature as a representative of the

Minnesota farmer-statesman Frank Billings Kellogg championed peace

Kellogg Boulevard namesake was a renowned trust-busting lawyer, U.S. senator, Nobel Peace Prize winner and World Court judge.