GM Futurliner Visits Minneapolis

At the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, General Motors President Charles F. Kettering was walking through GM’s science and technology exhibit when he was struck with an idea. What if GM could bring such an exhibit directly to the people?

Kettering’s concept, later named the “Parade of Progress”, first came to be in 1936. Setting out from Lakeland, Florida, a caravan of GM vans, tractor trailers and other vehicles made their way across the United States. Manned by a crew of young university graduates, the exhibits highlighted then-cutting edge innovations such as jet engines, microwave ovens, early television technology and stereophonic sound.

When the Parade of Progress was revamped for another tour in 1940, the old vans and tractor trailers were replaced by a fleet of 12 custom-built buses called the Futurliner. More than thirty feet long and twelve tons in weight, the Futurliner was a mobile exhibition hall. The sides of the bus folded up to create semi-covered exhibits and stages. The photos above, taken by Marvin Juell, appear to be a Futurliner on display at the Parade, now the Walker Scupture Garden, possibly during the Aquatennial celebration that year.

The 1940-1941 Parade of Progress was suspended after the outbreak of World War Two. A new tour was later launched from 1953-1956 however it proved less of a draw than it originally was and the program was discontinued. At least 9 of the original 12 Futurliner buses still exist in the hands of private collectors and companies.

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Photos from the recently digitized Marvin Juell negative collection (over 700 images). Juell worked for the Minneapolis Public Library.

This post was researched and written by Special Collections volunteer Nick Steffel.

Minnesota Stamp Expo ‘98

The 1998 Minnesota Stamp Expo was different from the previous years. In addition to stamps, the expo celebrated sports cards, coins, and other collectibles, some of which were pictured on the back of the program.

The expo, which occurred almost exactly sixteen years ago, took place at the Minneapolis Convention Center, from Friday, July 17th to Sunday, July 19th. It allowed people who shared a common passion to come together and learn more about their hobby.

A highlight of the show was the exhibits. Visitors to the stamp expo could vote for they exhibit they thought was the most effective. The exhibits included 19th Century Scandinavian Postal Stationary, A Salute to America’s Wildlife Artists, and Major Errors and Printing Flaws of Icelandic Stamp Issues. The exhibits particularly focused on Germany and Scandinavia, as well as America. Other parts of the world—ranging from British New Guinea and Papua to the Himalayas—were represented.

The Minnesota Stamp Expo is held annually in July.

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This post was written by Special Collections intern Irene. Irene and others have been working on a thorough inventory of the Minneapolis event program collection, which includes thousands of programs from a variety of venues and performers from the 1860s to today.

Minneapolis Aquatennial Rodeo

A string of bucking horses and wild steers and the pick of the nation’s cowboys competed for prizes totaling $7,500 at the Minneapolis Aquatennial Rodeo held during the 2nd annual Aquatennial in July, 1941.

Shows during the Aquatennial were held twice daily in an open air arena constructed on Wayzata Boulevard near the Parade Grounds. More than 50,000 people attended the 1940 Aquatennial Rodeo.

Competition included saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, calf roping, steer wrestling, and Brahma bull riding. There were also novelty riding exhibitions.

The 75th Minneapolis Aquatennial runs from July 18-26, 2014. Closing night fireworks will be held tomorrow, Saturday, July 26, on the West River Parkway.

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Flyer and program from the Minneapolis Aquatennial Collection at the Hennepin County Library Special Collections. Photos (circa 1941) from the recently digitized Marvin Juell negative collection (over 700 images). Juell worked for the Minneapolis Public Library.

Minneapolis Aquatennial Bicycle Race

The bike race was held on Victory Memorial Drive during the 2nd annual Minneapolis Aquatennial in July, 1941. Visit Special Collections to view more historical photographs, programs, documents, and memorabilia from the Minneapolis Aquatennial Collection.

Check out the events at this year’s 75th annual Aquatennial, July 18-26, 2014.

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Photos from the recently digitized Marvin Juell negative collection (over 700 images). Juell worked for the Minneapolis Public Library.

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.

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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.

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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 High-res

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.

Star Tribune Building

These photos of the Star Tribune Building were taken in early 2014, as required by the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED), for the Star Tribune Building Demolition Mitigation. These photos and others were recently donated by CPED to the Minneapolis History Collection and will become a part of the newly acquired CPED archival collection, consisting of organizational records, reports, and thousands of photographs. Special Collections interns are currently in the processes of arranging and describing the collection to facilitate access to the public.