Wobblies and Robber Barons: An Historical Battle on Minnesota’s Iron Range
Tuesday, Sept. 16, 7-8:30 p.m. Minneapolis Central, RKMC meeting room
Labor Historian Peter Rachleff will discuss the present and the past of Minnesota’s Iron Range in the era of World War I. He will explore the lives and struggles of immigrant miners, their affiliation with the Industrial Workers of the World, their confrontation with Andrew Carnegie and his minions, and their impact on Minnesota’s labor history. Register online or call 612.543.5669
Extraordinary levels of inequality between rich and poor, workers fighting for a living wage, powerful employers busting unions, government crackdowns on immigrants, limitations on the right to vote. Sound familiar? But this is not a talk about today’s economic and political battlefields. Join labor historian Peter Rachleff as he provokes a conversation between the present and the past, the past of Minnesota’s Iron Range in the era of World War I. He will explore the lives and struggles of immigrant miners and their affiliation with the Industrial Workers of the World, popularly known as the Wobblies, in their confrontation with Andrew Carnegie and his minions, and he will trace their impact on Minnesota’s labor history.
Remembering Ralph Rapson
Today, September 13, 2014, is the 100th anniversary of architect Ralph Rapson’s birth. Considered a leader in modern design, Rapson (1914-2008) was head of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture from 1954-1984. His Twin Cities designs include:
- Guthrie Theater, (top right: built 1963, razed 2007) – the first Guthrie Theater, built with Sir Tyrone Guthrie on Vineland Place, Minneapolis
- Rarig Center (center left: built 1972),the performing arts center on the University of Minnesota campus
- Cedar Square West apartments (center right: now Riverside Plaza, built 1973), a mixed income housing unit in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood
- State Capitol Credit Union / Southeast Library (bottom, built 1963) Built as a credit union and converted to Southeast Library in Dinkytown in 1967
- Phillip Pillsbury House in Wayzata (not pictured: 1963, razed 1997), a 9000 square foot house and the first contemporary home built on Lake Minnetonka.
After his retirement from the University of Minnesota, Rapson continued to work full-time as a practicing architect. He was at his drawing board until the day before he died on March 29, 2008, at age 93.
For more photos (including the Pillsbury House) and information on Ralph Rapson, see Linda Mack’s 2008 MinnPost article and the Hennepin County Library catalog.
Letter from the Women’s Club of Minnetonka to Gratia Countryman, Oct. 26, 1921
On October 15, 1921, the Women’s Club purchased the White House Hotel for $15,000. A large room was made ready for a public library to be dedicated in honor of Alice Pierce Bardwell.
The only problem was the Women’s Club, “just hardly [knew] how to proceed” with creating a library. They wrote the head of Minneapolis Public Library (and founder of Hennepin County Library), Gratia Countryman for assistance.
On February 7, 1922 the Hennepin County Free Library moved books, cupboards, tables, chairs and other library essentials without charge from Minneapolis to the former hotel. It was named the Excelsior Branch of the Hennepin County Free Library. Excelsior Library was one of the first branches of the new system. The library remained at 1 Water Street until 1928 when the library was moved to the Masonic Temple Building.
Excelsior Library has returned to Water Street and opens tomorrow at 9 a.m. Join us for the opening at 337 Water Street and share your favorite features of the new building on social media with #ExcelsiorLibrary or #BackToWaterSt
Every Picture Has a Story To Tell
I discovered the following three photographs in this post while working on the East Calhoun Community Organization collection as an intern at the James. K. Hosmer Special Collections Library at the Minneapolis Public Library over the summer of 2014. I have a history with each of these photographs.
1. The first photograph (above) is of Audubon Elementary School in Minneapolis, MN (now called Lake Harriet Lower Elementary School). The photograph was taken at the intersection of 41st and Chowen Ave S. This reference is important for a couple of reasons. First, the house I grew up in is 500 feet from this location, just up an alley to the left of the electrical box in the photograph. Second, my best friend from third grade grew up in a home 75 feet to the right of the electrical box. Third, my best friend from before kindergarten busted his teeth in a bicycle accident on a stop sign on the right side of the crosswalk in the picture (not pictured). David was speeding down the infamous “Audubon Hill” and somehow lost control. The hill is not pictured in this photograph. But it is a steep hill for a kid on a bicycle and fun as heck to cruise down. I remember it as the hill that took Dave’s teeth.
2. I went to Southwest High school from 1984 to 1988. I played in the band during all four years. During my freshmen year the band toured Norway. This photograph was published in the April 1985 issue of the East Calhoun Community Organization newspaper. Standing in the back row is our band instructor Tom Keith. The folks in the back row are wearing T-shirts that say “Ambassadors to Norway” a publicity item used on the tour. I have two of these T-shirts because I participated in that trip to Norway. Seated in the lower left is Hennepin County Sheriff Donald Omodt. His daughter is directly behind him.
3. I started my college course work at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, MN where I played in the Normandale concert band. Daniel Tetzlaff, a music educator (pictured in the back), also played in the Normandale concert band. Mr. Tetzlaff played trumpet. I had numerous cups of coffee with Daniel in the student union after band practice. He was one of the persons who encouraged me to keep music as a hobby versus trying to make a living from it. So I left music studies for the sciences and have not looked back. However, I still play the horn, piano and bass as a hobby. This photograph was published in the May 1985 edition of the East Calhoun Community Organization newspaper.
This post was written by Special Collections intern Edward Steffen Morrow Jr. Edward spent the summer finishing processing the East Calhoun Community Organization Collection, which includes thousands of photographs from the ECCO neighborhood and nearby areas.
Excelsior Library Returns to Water Street
Above is a photo of Excelsior Library in 1938. The Women’s Club of Lake Minnetonka formed the first free public library in Excelsior in 1922. With assistance from the newly formed Hennepin County Library, they converted the former White House Hotel into the Excelsior Branch of Hennepin County Library.
Isabel Wells Bladen was the first librarian and was replaced by Mary Kayhill Bardwell later in 1922. In 1928 the library moved to the third floor of the Masonic Temple on Water Street. The 3 flight hike to the library wasn’t popular so the library moved again in 1932 to a room in the Charles Sampson block on the southwest corner of Second and Water Streets. The new location featured, “…bright new linoleum rugs, several reading tables, added shelf room and lighting fixtures. The room is comfortably heated…The windows are daintily curtained and growing plants give the room a homey appearance. Mrs. Bardwell takes pride in making her library patrons feel at home.”(Excelsior Record, September 9, 1932).
Mrs. Bardwell was succeeded by Margaret Cutler in 1934. Lelia T. Bitting was the librarian from 1943-1963. In 1946 the library was moved to the Village Hall, which stood in the same location as its most recent building, which it occupied from February 1966-August 2014.
Other Excelsior Librarians:
Fern Michael 1963-1968
David Waldemar 1965-1969
Roger Burg 1969-1972
Kay Nowak 1972-1973
Rita Strand 1973-1975
Fred Neighbors 1976
Cathy Dahl Fischer 1976-1986
Virginia Hastings 1986-1990
Paul Turgeon 1990-1995
Peggy Bauer 1993-present
Now a new chapter starts for Excelsior Library. It returns to Water Street with a grand opening this Saturday, September 13, 2014, at 9 a.m. Please join us for the celebration.
If you stop and and visit, please share your favorite things on social media about the new Excelsior Library with one of these hashtags: #BackToWaterSt or #ExcelsiorLibrary
Audubon’s Passenger Pigeons
September 1, 2014 marked the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, pictured here in the Minneapolis Athenaeum’s copy of volume one of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Once the world’s most abundant bird, flocks of 1 million would cluster like dark clouds in the sky.
In 1899, the Minneapolis Tribune wrote:
"[The Smithsonian Institution] caused an item to work its way into circulation and to be spread broadcast throughout the country to the effect that the ordinary passenger pigeon of birdology was, for some inexplicable reason or other, dying out so rapidly that the Smithsonian Institution desired a number of specimens for the same for stuffing and mounting purposes. Now, passenger pigeons are not so numerous as English sparrows, of course, but all the same, there are so many of them extant that they stand an excellent chance of enduring as a species as long as the human race inhabits this globe."
"Humor in Science" May 20, 1899
Due to their abundance, passenger pigeons were easily hunted, a cheap source of protein. The surge in hunting, combined with rapid deforestation of the land lead to the extinction of the species in just a few decades. The last surviving passenger pigeon was Martha, who died a century ago at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Now, a group of scientists is working to revive the species using a process called germline transmission. When the bird died out 100 years ago, scientists kept lots of specimens, tissue samples, and detailed records of the species (as joked about in the Minneapolis Tribune article above). Using these tools, scientists today are extracting DNA to decipher the full genetic code. They will then reprogram sperm and eggs in one species to produce a different species. You can follow along with the group’s progress on their website.
Visit Special Collections to view volume two of Audubon’s Birds of America, on view now through October. A new bird is featured weekly.
In The Stacks with Hans Weyandt: A Temple for the Mind
I’ve been in the library’s Special Collections for three of the past four days it has been open, trying to find its pace and rhythm if there is such a thing. And the idea I’ve come to is that this room and its contents are a kind of spiritual home for me. While not a sacred space in the usual sense, it is one for me. I’ve been in truly spiritual places: mosques and cathedrals, Mt. Masada and the Holy Sepulchre—-and found in them beauty and been awed by their history. But none have made me feel an overall sense of peace. So at the risk of seeming outrageously blasphemous I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that this place, and its boundless information and art, are a kind of temple for my mind.
Taking a step back, it was starting to dawn on me that one of the main goals for any artistic residency is a concrete project at work. The main problem with this, from my standpoint, is that I’m not an artist. I can’t draw or paint at all—almost everything I saw in my son Elliott’s kindergarten classroom last year was far beyond what I could ever hope to put on paper. Eireann Lorsung, in the previous CHP In The Stacks residency, put together a Book of Hours that is its own work of art.
So the reality of what I was doing—being in this place and perusing—was seeming a little, um, not artistically productive in a concrete way. I’ve read “Leaves of Grass” in its entirety in one sitting and I’ve stumbled through a decent portion of the 1,067 maps in Special Collections (each of them expertly cataloged with title, creator, contributor(s), and a fairly in-depth description). That’s fine, I suppose, and an awful lot of fun—but what does it achieve?
So I’ve gotten away from the idea of producing something and become okay with the idea of acting as an ambassador for the Special Collections. There are people, and I have been at various points in my life, who want the things they love to remain hidden. A band, a restaurant, a tiny part of the city that you don’t want discovered by the masses. Yet I want nothing of the sort for this place. I want more people to come see it for whatever reasons they choose. Maybe to research their family history or to learn about their neighborhood. Maybe to read some Walt Whitman. Or to dip into the pleasures in Lamb’s Royal Cookery published in 1710. If we think food porn is a relatively new fad, this book disabuses that idea immediately.
Maybe these new visitors will spend some time looking at some of the handmade books by local artists. I cannot stop looking at, and admiring, What It’s Like Here by Jim Moore. The poem itself is a treat and the art of the book makes it all the better. As a bookseller, one of my true hopes was to point more ‘normal’ people to poetry. Most people find it obtuse or too arty or whatever. And those things can be true. There is also, however, a great joy in sitting down with a poem of Whitman’s or of Jim Moore’s that slows us down and makes us appreciate the care and attention that went into creating it.
A former professor of mine, who was also a Benedictine monk, once told me that a prayer can begin with almost anything. “I celebrate myself…” is about as good as anything as far as I’m concerned. And its one part of what has made this place seem holy to me in its own way. Or, if that is taking matters a bit too far, it is certainly part of my own practice of mindfulness. Anyways, it’s better than yoga, for me, because it doesn’t require the tight black pants.
Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Hans has worked at four independent bookstores in St. Paul and Minneapolis over the past 15 years. He is the former co-owner of Micawber’s Books and the editor of “Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores” published by Coffee House Press. He currently works at Sea Salt Eatery, Moon Palace Books and Big Bell Ice Cream.
Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.
The peacefulness of Special Collections—a feeling shared by many of our patrons.
1870 Report Card
In 1870, students received weekly report cards. Horace Hill, a 9 year old at Jefferson School (a schoolhouse located at the corner of Hennepin Ave & 10th Street) received high scores in both his academic subjects (reading and spelling, arithmetic, geography) and in his personal conduct (deportment, punctuality, attendance). His mother reported that Horace studied about one hour at home each day.
Horace Hill (1861-1948) went on to become the President of a Minneapolis hardware wholesale business, Janney, Semple, Hill & Co.