On a mission to warm up a cinnamon roll, Paul Gilje descended the stairs of the Cascade Lodge near Grand Marais on a recent visit to the North Shore of Lake Superior.
"I was using the microwave in the basement when I noticed on the wall, partly obscured by the microwave, a framed map of the Arrowhead," said Gilje, 84, a retired nonprofit executive who'd made the trek with Judy, his wife of 61 years, from their home in Apple Valley.
With two dozen panels chronicling the Arrowhead from the "Age of Stone to the Age of Steel," the colorful, meticulously detailed map is packed with stories of Native American lore, French Canadian explorers and some fun facts and sketches.
Below a hard-trudging draft animal, the map reads: " 'Babe,' Paul Bunyan's ox runs away. For every footprint, a lake — 10,000!" It includes the line that starts "By the shores of Gitche Gumee" from Longfellow's "The Song of Hiawatha." Duly noted is the 1679 peace conference between Dakota and Ojibwe leaders orchestrated by French-born explorer Daniel Greysolon, Sir du Lhut.
Curious to learn more, Gilje conferred with lodge owner Thom McAleer, who took over the resort in 2017. With an internet search, the story quickly emerged.
In 1929, two Hibbing librarians and three schoolteachers researched and created the map, which was printed off copper plates as a scholarship fundraiser for the local branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). Members financed the project with donations of $10, roughly $154 today.
About 10 years ago, the map was scanned, reprinted and put up for sale online at Etsy for $20 (tinyurl.com/1929Arrowheadmap). Proceeds still benefit college-age Iron Range women.
"I'm most impressed that a group of young women in Hibbing 92 years ago took the initiative to prepare such a fascinating map," said Gilje, who ordered one along with a pamphlet the women had prepared on regional history.
RareMaps.com, a California-based website, calls the Arrowhead map "one of the better pictorials from the Upper Midwest that we have encountered, and rare to boot." The back story behind the five mapmakers is equally fascinating.
Directing the project was Dorothy Hurlbert, a Hibbing librarian from 1915 to 1933 who was president of the Minnesota Library Association when the map was made in 1929. A year earlier, she had resigned and was quickly reinstated during what the Minneapolis Star called a "heated controversy" among library board members over an unsubstantiated charge that she was uncooperative.
Hurlbert is remembered today for more than those squabbles and a cool map. She's widely credited with creating perhaps the nation's first bookmobile in 1919. Hoping to reach book-hungry Iron Range miners and loggers, Hurlbert packed 1,200 books on a 2-ton, 35-horsepower truck chassis that covered 160 square miles.
In its first year, the mobile library delivered nearly 50,000 volumes. Within a decade, it was serving 11 schools, 10 rural communities and 16 mining locations.
The 1930 census records Hurlbert as 46, single and living on 4th Avenue in Hibbing with her younger sister Nina and a household "partner," fellow librarian Irma Walker. As the map's chief researcher, Walker scoured hundreds of books for months.
Hibbing High School art teachers Irene Anderson and Katherine Arnquist provided artwork for the map's border. Nothing could be found on Anderson, but Arnquist died in 2001 at age 97 in St. Paul. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1926 and married Charles Bane, a college psychology and philosophy instructor. Outliving him by 38 years, she spent much of her time at Birch Point on Lake Vermilion.
Ethel Stewart, president of the Hibbing branch of the AAUW, was in charge of the map's printing. Born Ethel Hall in New York in 1879, she moved as a child to St. Paul, where her father ran a furniture factory. She attended Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and married her childhood sweetheart, Clarence Stewart, an electrical engineer who worked on Iron Range schools and the power plant in Hibbing.
In the 1920s, Ethel worked as a substitute teacher in Hibbing, spending her leisure time doing historical research. Just after she printed the map, Ethel returned to St. Paul, where she's credited with preserving the Gibbs Farm as a historical museum — and in the process helped convert St. Anthony Park's historical association into the Ramsey County Historical Society, according to historian Steven Trimble's article in a 2012 issue of Ramsey County History magazine (tinyurl.com/EthelHallStewart).
The Arrowhead map "is really something," said Barbara Wojciak, who coordinates fundraising for the AAUW group in Hibbing. Proceeds from map sales and a massive used-book sale raise about $10,000 in annual scholarship funds, she said.
"To think those women in 1929 each kicked in $10," Wojciak said. "That was pretty exorbitant in those days."
Curt Brown's tales about Minnesota's history appear each Sunday. Readers can send him ideas and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest book looks at 1918 Minnesota, when flu, war and fires converged: strib.mn/MN1918.