Minneapolis Aquatennial Aqua Follies
A perennial favorite for 25 years, the Aqua Follies made a debut at the first Aquatennial in 1940. A combination of water ballet by Hollywood professionals and high-diving thrill shows by Olympic and Pan Am Games champions, the Aqua Follies drew record crowds year after year at Theodore Wirth Park Lake.
1964 marked the final Aqua Follies event. The shows were cancelled by Aqua Follies coordinators who felt the Theodore Wirth “pool,” with its weather-worn high-diving platforms and 5,000-set reviewing stand, was not longer adequate for the performance.
During the 1980s, the festival made an effort to bring its focus back to water. Water sports at this year’s 75th annual Minneapolis Aquatennial include water skiing and log rolling. Check out these events and more happening July 18-26, 2014.
Photos circa 1941, from the recently digitized Marvin Juell negative collection (over 700 images). Juell worked for the Minneapolis Public Library. Aqua Follies programs from the Minneapolis Aquatennial Collection.
The Minneapolis Aquatennial Celebrates 75 Years
On May 24, 1939, a group of Twin Cities businessmen conceived the idea of the Minneapolis Aquatennial at a parade for the visiting King of England in Winnipeg. They were inspired by the fact that hundreds of thousands of people would attend a parade on a rainy day to see a king. Thus, they decided to stage their own local celebration, create their own royalty, and celebrate summer in Minneapolis.
They chose the first (and present) dates of the Aquatennial by researching weather data back to 1898 and determined that the third week of July offered the safest weather for a parade. It didn’t rain on the Aquatennial parades the first year or for 10 years to follow. But for added security, Aquatennial officials asked a local group of Catholic nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, to pray for good weather each year.
- from a Minneapolis Aquatennial Association press pack, 1989.
The Minneapolis Aquatennial, in its 75th year, continues the tradition of celebrating summer in Minneapolis with sporting events around the lakes and rivers, music, fireworks, arts, food, games, and more. Royalty is also a key element of the Aquatennial—the concept on which the festival is based.
Check out the events at this year’s Aquatennial, July 18-26, 2014.
A selection of programs from the Minneapolis Aquatennial Collection: 1940, 1948, 1952 (2 programs), 1961, 1966, 1975, and 1989. Visit Special Collections to view more programs in the collection in addition to newspaper clippings, press material, photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia.
Minnesota Connections to the War of 1812
Today marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Prairie du Chien, a battle of the War of 1812 fought here in the Midwest.
The above photo is the Mendota, Minnesota, house of Jean Baptiste Faribault, who was a resident of Prairie Du Chien during the battle. He later moved to Minnesota and lived next door to Minnesota’s first governor, Henry Sibley. Both men and Faribault’s sons were involved in the twilight of the Minnesota fur trade. There was some controversy about which side of the War of 1812 Faribault supported. Most fur traders of the time were commissioned officers in the British Army but according to Sibley, Faribault did not take up arms against the United States. Faribault supposedly brandished his sword cane (above) against the British when they visited his Prairie du Chien home and tried to recruit him for the British cause. It is featured in the War of 1812 exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society.
Other War of 1812 veterans settled in Minnesota much later. Three veterans of the war are buried in Layman’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. A pension fund produced a List of Minnesota War of 1812 veterans and widows in 1883.
Find books on the War of 1812 at HCL.
The View from the Laurel Avenue Bridge, 1941
From the late 19th century and through much of the 20th, the low areas north of the Warehouse district and spreading westward past Kenwood towards Cedar Lake were a busy, crowded mass of railroad tracks, as can be glimpsed in the photo above. The old Laurel Avenue Bridge spanned the yards from the Bryn Mawr neighborhood into downtown.
Both the bridge and many of the tracks were torn out in the 1970s as the area was converted into a maze of freeway bridges and overpasses. The recently completed Van White Bridge is the first to span that area since the removal of the Laurel Ave bridge.
Only a single set of railroad tracks passes through what is now used for bicycle trails and the City’s public works facilities, branching into two tracks as it passes Kenwood. As Louis D. Johnston points out in a recent MinnPost article, this railroad corridor has long been a source of controversy and, despite the huge reduction in rail traffic, disagreements continue to this day in the shape of the current SWLRT debate.
Photo from the Marvin Juell collection, Hennepin County Library Special Collections
1934 Minneapolis Truckers’ Strike
Minneapolis Central Library, 2nd floor, Doty Board Room
Thursday, July 17, 6:30–9 p.m.
In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the 1934 truckers’ strikes, Canadian labor historian Bryan Palmer will talk about his book “Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934.” The strikes had state-wide significance and galvanized the labor movement in Minnesota.
Summary from our catalog: In the newest in the Historical Materialism series, Bryan Palmer tells the compelling story of how a handful of revolutionary Trotskyists, working in the largely non-union trucking sector, led the drive to organize the unorganized and build an industrial union. What emerges is a compelling narrative of class struggle, a reminder of what can be accomplished, even in the worst of circumstances, with a principled and far-seeing leadership.
Other speakers include Minnesota historian Mary Wingerd, historian and author William Millikan, and authors David Thorstad and John Lauritsen. More events around the 80th anniversary of the strike.
Future for Former Sheraton-Ritz Site
The Minneapolis Sheraton-Ritz was a hotel located across the street from the Central Library—on the block bounded by Nicollet Mall, Marquette Ave, and 3rd and 4th Streets. It was the first major structure built in Minneapolis after the Gateway District Urban Renewal Project where a large portion of Downtown Minneapolis was condemned and demolished as urban blight. Construction began in 1961 and the hotel opened to the public in 1963. This postcard from our collection shows the hotel in all its glory.
The hotel itself was done in the 1960s modern style with a white marble lobby and chrome metal accents and fixtures. The ground level of the hotel featured a plaza and shopping arcade including a small importer of Scandinavian home furnishings called the International Design Center (now located in Edina). The hotel was featured in several episodes of the 1960s television series Route 66 and counted at least two U.S. presidents, and celebrities Bob Hope, Henry Fonda and Ed Sullivan as guests.
During the mid-1980s the hotel changed hands several times and later operated under the names of the Minneapolis Plaza Hotel and the Minneapolis Ritz. It was closed on July 1, 1988, just 25 years after opening, citing a lack of business. It was demolished in 1990. During the early 1990s a proposal to build a multi-block office development around the site including a 65-story building dubbed “IDS II” circulated but ultimately did not come to be. Instead, the site has been used as storage, temporary event space and parking and remains used as such today.
Earlier this year, Opus Development Company, who own the site, outlined plans for a mixed-use tower topping 30 stories that would combine more than 300 residential units with approximately 500,000 square feet of office space. Read more here. Sounds like the view from Special Collections could look drastically different sometime within the next decade.
Photo by Earl Chambers of Anthony Lane Photography Studio. June 8, 1962 during the construction of the Sheraton-Ritz Hotel and its parking ramp.
This post was researched and written by Special Collections volunteer Nick Steffel.
The End of Firework Sales in Minnesota
"Last stand? Well, it’s the last stand of this fireworks stand. August 1 they’ll be illegal all over the state. Now they’re illegal in the city; but spring up like mushrooms every Fourth of July in suburban areas."
- Minneapolis Times, July 3, 1941 (Caption for photo at left of a Wayzata Blvd. fireworks stand)
Roller Derby: Ranking with Baseball as the Nation’s Favorite Pastime
"One of the most dynamic personalities in big time sports, Leo A. Seltzer is perhaps the only man living who can claim the distinction of building a sport from a mere ‘brainchild’ to the world’s most heavily attended indoor sport in only seven short years! Originated in the Chicago Coliseum in 1935, the Roller Derby is now appearing in over fifty major cities throughout the United States twice yearly, as well as in Canada and Mexico.
"More than 400,000 boy and girl skaters from all parts of the world have tried to gain a place on the Roller Derby since its inauguration. So rigid are the requirements that of that great number only a little over one hundred teams have been able to qualify. They form the six Roller Derby teams now in operation—more teams will be added when new skaters, many of whom are being developed in the Roller Derby’s own training schools, are fully developed."
Leo Seltzer was chairman of the National Committee which governed all rules, skates, maps, plans, tracks, and special signal lights. Franchise holders controlled teams locally. In 1942, Minneapolis Roller Derby franchise holders were Harry Hirsch and Tony Stecher.
Black and white photos, circa 1941, from the recently digitized Marvin Juell negative collection (over 700 images). Juell worked for the Minneapolis Public Library. Red images and text from an event program dated July 31, 1942, which also included official Roller Derby rules and regulations and full line-up for Minneapolis and St. Paul.