Vital and colorful, witty and entertaining, full of the youth and vigor and optimism of the frontier, the weekly issues of St. Paul’s Minnesota Pioneer from the spring of 1849 to the summer of 1852 reflect the robust personality of James M. Goodhue (1810–1852) and through him the world of the American frontier.
Like most nineteenth-century newspapermen, Goodhue was part of an outspoken political and business community, and he cared little about hiding his opinions. He was the booster, praising his beloved Minnesota in extravagant metaphor; the politician, scourging his enemies with fury; the reformer, storming against evils of the day; the moralist, lecturing his readers on their ethics and manners; the city and state planner, offering practical ideas for the improvement of his city and territory; the prophet, envisioning the Minnesota of the next century; and the reporter, recording the life of the new territory. Goodhue’s “piquant” personality was suited to the stormy early days of Minnesota.
Woven throughout his life story are entertaining selections from Goodhue’s writings in the Pioneer, the progenitor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Twenty drawings by druggist Robert O. Sweeny, who sketched Minnesota scenes in pen and ink on the backs of prescription blanks, show the Minnesota that Goodhue knew and helped shape in its first years.