Free History Center Lectures Explore F. Scott Fitzgerald, St. Paul's Gangster History and James J. Hill's Railroad War

For immediate release

Release dated: 
September 11, 2013
Media contacts: 

Megan Lawson • Marketing and Communications • 651-259-3141 •

Jessica Kohen • Marketing and Communications • 651-259-3148 •

Wendy Jones • Minnesota History Center • 651-259-3411 •

Quick facts: 

Event: History Lounge

Place: Minnesota History Center

Time: 7 p.m.

Dates: Oct. 15, Nov. 19 and Dec. 3
Address: 345 Kellogg Blvd W., St. Paul MN 55102-1903
Cost: FREE
Phone: 651-259-3000, 800-657-3773

Free History Center Lectures Explore F. Scott Fitzgerald, St. Paul's Gangster History and James J. Hill's Railroad War

The Minnesota History Center hosts free History Lounge programs this fall. History Lounge is an evening program that invites local historians, authors and experts to lead conversations about the history that shapes Minnesota and its people. October takes a look at the secret boyhood diary of F. Scott Fitzgerald, November focuses on Tom Brown, the police chief of St. Paul who became a partner of the infamous Barker Gang and December details James J. Hill’s fight for the Northern Pacific Railroad.

F. Scott FitzgeraldF. Scott Fitzgerald's Secret Boyhood Diary
Tuesday, Oct. 15
7 p.m.

When F. Scott Fitzgerald was fourteen and living in the Crocus Hill neighborhood of St. Paul, he began keeping a short diary of his exploits among his friends, friendly rivals and crushes. Titled, "The Thoughtbook" it became the basis for "The Book of Scandal" in his Basil Lee Duke stories, and brief sections were copied over the years for use by scholars and even published in Life magazine.

Join David Page, editor of "The Thoughtbook of F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Secret Boyhood Diary," newly-published by the University of Minnesota Press (2013), and explore what Fitzgerald’s earliest known work reveals about the author’s childhood escapades in St. Paul and about his evolution as a writer. Copies of Page's "The Thoughtbook" will be available for purchase and a book signing will follow.

Dave Page is the co-author of "F. Scott Fitzgerald in Minnesota: Toward the Summit" and co-editor of "The St. Paul Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald," both of which were nominated for Minnesota Book Awards.

Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang
Tuesday, Nov .19
7 p.m.

Among the most dangerous criminals of the public enemies era was a man who has long hidden in history’s shadows: Tom Brown. In the early 1930s, while he was police chief of St. Paul, Minnesota, Brown became a secret partner of the infamous Barker gang. He profited from their violent crimes, he protected the gang from raids by the nascent FBI—and while he did all this, the gangsters gunned down cops and citizens in his hometown.

Tom Brown

Join Tim Mahoney, author of "Secret Partners: Big Tom Brown and the Barker Gang" (MHS Press, Fall 2013) as he reveals how Big Tom Brown (he stood six foot five and weighed 275 pounds) continued to enforce St. Paul’s corrupt O’Connor system, allowing criminals to stay in the city as long as they paid off the cops and committed no crimes within fifty miles. Brown was the insider who kept the criminals safe—but for highly political reasons, he was never convicted of his crimes. Copies of "Secret Partners" will be available for purchase and a book signing will follow the program.

Tim Mahoney, an editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, formerly worked at the San Francisco Chronicle and the Wisconsin State Journal and has also taught journalism and English. He is the author of two novels.

James J. Hill’s Railroad War
Tuesday, Dec. 3
7 p.m.

James J. HillIn 1901, two titans of American railroads set their sights on the Northern Pacific. The subsequent battle was unprecedented in the history of American enterprise, pitting not only James J. Hill against Edward Harriman but also Big Oil against Big Steel and J. P. Morgan against the Rockefellers, with a supporting cast of enough wealthy investors to fill the Waldorf Astoria’s ballroom. The two most powerful men in the nation’s dominant industry fought for control of the Northern Pacific Railway, forever changing the landscape of American business.

Join Larry Haeg, author of "Harriman vs. Hill: Wall Street’s Great Railroad War" (University of Minnesota Press, Oct. 2013) as he transports you to the New York Stock Exchange during the unfolding of the earliest modern-day stock market panic and re-creates the drama of four tumultuous days in May 1901, when James J. Hill and Edward Harriman waged an epic battle whose effects echo through our economy to this day. Copies of Haeg's book will be available for purchase and a book signing will follow the program.

Larry Haeg is former executive vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo and Company and a former broadcast journalist.

About the Minnesota History Center

The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 Kellogg Blvd. W. in St. Paul. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays (admission is free on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m.), 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Auxiliary aids and services are available with advance notice. For more information, call 651-259-3000 or 1-800-657-3773.

About the Minnesota Historical Society

The Society’s calendar of events is posted online at The website also has information about all of the Society’s programs, museums and historic sites.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849. The Society collects, preserves and tells the story of Minnesota’s past through museum exhibits, libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing. Using the power of history to transform lives, the Society preserves our past, shares our state’s stories and connects people with history.

The Minnesota Historical Society is supported in part by its Premier Partners: Xcel Energy and Explore Minnesota Tourism.