|Transportation||Business and Industry||American Indian History||History Making Minnesotans|
WPA Art Project: Franklin Roosevelt established the WPA to create jobs during the Great Depression as part of the relief program known collectively as the "New Deal." The Public Works of Art project of the WPA employed 50 talented Minnesotan artists who produced hundreds of images of their own state; among them were writers, actors, musicians, painters, and print makers. The Project enabled young artists to continue producing art throughout the Depression, culturally enriched the lives of Minnesotans and produced many memorable images that still grace the walls of state buildings.
Guthrie Theatre: In 1963, the Guthrie Theatre was born out of three people's dislike of Broadway. Sir Tyrone Guthrie, Oliver Rea, and Peter Zeisler wanted to change how theater was presented to the public. These three men wanted to create a company of actors that would produce high quality plays. After choosing Minneapolis out of many other possible locations, Guthrie and his colleagues set about building the first resident theater outside of New York City. The Guthrie offers Minnesotans a chance to see well-known plays that are well produced. Today, the Guthrie provides the Twin Cities and the region with new and old productions that fuel the thriving arts community.
Marcel Breuer: Born in Hungary in 1902, Marcel Breuer began his amazing career in architecture with Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus in Germany. Breuer wanted to create buildings and furniture that used the new advancements in machine technology, and he wanted his designs to reflect his love of modernity. His revolutionary use of materials, such as reinforced concrete, can be seen in Minnesota. One of his designs is the St. John's Abbey on the campus of St. John's University in Minnesota. Breuer is considered one of the most influential architects of the 20th century; in fact his furniture designs are still available in furniture stores.
Bob Dylan: One of the best-known figures of rock and roll, Bob Dylan, was born in Duluth. Dylan's use of folksongs in the 1960s made him a sensation in the developing world of rock and roll. Dylan combined the sounds of the guitar with his raspy voice, and delivered lyrics that touched the heart. Dylan remains popular today, as he continually reinvents himself and his music.
Seth Eastman, an early American painter: After graduating from West Point, Seth Eastman began his military career. By 1830 Eastman was posted at Fort Snelling. Here he closely observed the Dakota and Ojibwe people that lived close to the fort. Eastman had always enjoyed painting and drawing, but in Minnesota his talent flourished. Eastman was intensely interested in the lives of the American Indians that he studied around the fort. He then painstakingly recorded many aspects of the American Indians' lives including images of hunting, dancing, cooking, playing, and captured them forever in paint. Eastman's large number of paintings makes him one of the best-known historical artists from this period.
Nuclear Power Protests: Since the 1970s, activists in Minnesota have been protesting the three nuclear reactors operated by Northern States Power Company/Xcel Energy. While energy industry representatives advertise nuclear power as a safe and economical alternative to coal, environmental activists counter with concerns over potential nuclear plant failures, their locations on Indian reservations and other minority communities, and the health risks of proximity to nuclear waste. In just one example from 1994, anti-nuclear activists organized to derail NSP's plan to store 48 casks of nuclear waste at Prairie Island, near Red Wing. In the end, the number of casks was limited to 17.
The Teamsters Strike of 1934: Industrialization and the Great Depression hit the working class of Minneapolis hard in the 1930s. In 1934, as strikes swept the nation and unions increasingly embraced communism and militancy, the anger of Minneapolis workers crystallized into a rebellion embodied by the truck drivers' strike of 1934. In this protracted struggle, four people died and 200 were injured. As a result of the strike, the revolutionary workers of Minneapolis found the solidarity and courage they needed to demand their rights on the job.
Hormel/P-9 Strike in Austin: In December 1984, the members of United Food and Commercial Workers local P-9 initiated a campaign against wage and benefit cuts at the Hormel company in Austin. By the summer of 1985, they were involved in what many observers would come to regard as the strike of the decade. This title was due to both the energy and imagination of the union members, as well as the nationwide response to their cause. With the conviction that one generation's sacrifice would result in a better life for the next, the workers of Austin fought a dual battle against a powerful corporation bent on breaking their resistance, and their own unsympathetic international union.
Willmar 8: In 1977 eight workers from Citizens National Bank in Willmar went on strike. These women protested unfair labor practices and became known as The Willmar Eight. Their cause was recognized nationally by labor and feminist groups, and encouraged women across the country to stand up and demand equality on the job. These women demonstrated how average people can become major players in significant historical events.
Nonpartisan League: Founded by North Dakota farmers in 1915, the Nonpartisan League quickly spread to Minnesota. The League advocated economic reforms to relieve the plight of farmers, who were exploited by middlemen in the grain elevator, packinghouse, stockyard, and cold storage industries. Criticized as Socialist from its inception, the League declined the third party approach, choosing instead to endorse whichever candidates pledged to support their program. With the on set of World War I, Leaguers were ruthlessly attacked as disloyal pacifists. The state government was instrumental in crushing the League in 1918. After the war, these events led the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that the guarantees of the Bill of Rights must be protected from state interference.
Farmer-Labor Movement: Minnesota's Farmer-Labor Party, a coalition of reformers and radicals, flourished during the years between the world wars. Unlike most third parties, it gained power and, for a time, virtually displaced the Democratic Party, competing successfully with Republicans for congressional and state offices. In 1944 the Farmer-Labor Party merged with the Democratic Party, producing the DFL party that is still strongly engaged in Minnesota politics.
Exploration of the Mississippi River: For almost 300 years - from the time of the conquistadors up until the 1820s - the Mississippi River captured the hearts and imaginations of European explorers. These were daring people with big dreams: some sought the source of the Great River, while others hoped to find a route to China. The history of the Mississippi is filled with the stories of missionaries and adventurers, from Hernando De Soto to men whose names became streets and counties we inhabit today, such as Father Louis Hennepin and Jacques Marquette.
Charles Lindbergh: Born in Little Falls in 1902, Charles A. Lindbergh is one of the most famous figures in Minnesota history. As a young man, Lindbergh studied engineering; but his true love was the exciting new field of aviation. In the 1920s he set out to be the first pilot to fly nonstop from New York to Paris. His specially designed plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, carried him on his route. In 1927, after completing the first-ever solo trans-Atlantic flight, be became an international hero. He used his fame throughout life to promote commercial aviation and environmentalism.
Rondo Neighborhood: In the 1930s, Rondo Avenue was at the heart of St. Paul's largest African-American neighborhood. African-Americans whose families had lived in Minnesota for decades and others who were just arriving made up a vibrant, vital community that was in many ways independent of the larger society around it. In the 1960s, the construction of I-94 cut through the heart of the Rondo neighborhood and displaced many families into an essentially segregated city with a discriminatory housing market. The community, however, was not completely fractured and Rondo Days continues to be celebrated in remembrance of the original area's heritage.
GLBT Movement: Since the 1970s, the Gay Lesbian Bi-sexual Transgender movement in Minnesota has worked to create mental health, social service, religious, and political institutions that work with GLBT individuals and voice their concerns to the public. GLBT activists demanded reforms in the way the Minnesota press covers GLBT stories, and also publicly confronted the hate crimes that terrorized their community in the 1980s. These activities helped assure the passage of a hate crimes penalty bill in 1989. Thanks in part to the GLBT movement, GLBT individuals, culture, and issues have become increasingly visible and accepted in Minnesota..
Hmong Immigration: After being forced from their homes in Southern China, the Hmong people settled among the mountains of Northern Laos. Settling into their new homes, their communities prospered. This peaceful existence was shattered in the 1960s as the region became a battleground of the Vietnam War. The Hmong were recruited and trained by the U.S. Army, and proved to be some of the most effective guerrilla fighters. With the American withdrawal from Southeast Asia, the Hmong were forced to defend themselves from the Communist Army. Fleeing their homes nearly 50,000 Hmong wound up in refugee camps in Thailand, while an equal number died on the journey. Nearly three years passed in the refugee camps before permanent homes could be found in the U.S., Canada, and France. Leaving Southeast Asia for destinations such as California and Minnesota was a difficult choice. Today the Twin Cities boast a thriving Hmong community, which is the second largest Hmong population in America.
Construction of Railroads: The first land grants for the construction of railroads in Minnesota came in 1857, finally fulfilling the desire of Minnesota pioneers eager to see their home on the road to statehood. The construction of railroads was important to the Minnesota's development in many ways: it connected Minnesota with the thriving East Coast and with the rest of the Western frontier; allowed grain grown in Minnesota to be shipped to markets across the nation; and brought thousands of immigrant laborers to the booming territory.
Charles Lindbergh: Born in Little Falls in 1902, Charles A. Lindbergh is one of the most famous figures in Minnesota history. As a young man, Lindbergh studied engineering; but his true love was the exciting new field of aviation. In the 1920s he set out to be the first pilot to fly from New York to Paris in a custom-designed airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis. In 1927 he achieved his goal and completed the first ever solo trans-Atlantic flight. He instantly became an international hero. He used his fame throughout life to promote commercial aviation and environmentalism.
Streetcars: When Minnesota's first electric streetcars were introduced in 1888, hundreds of people were eager to try them. The streetcars were a symbol of the boom that the Twin Cities were experiencing at the end of the 19th century: wherever new tracks were built, new land was developed, and the cities expanded. The electric streetcars delivered both passengers and mail quickly and efficiently. They were an elegant and non-polluting form of public transportation that brought the upper and lower classes of Minnesota together for almost 70 years, until they were displaced by the pervasiveness of the automobile in the 1950s.
Business and Industry
"A" Mill Explosion: The Washburn "A" Mill was famous in the 19th century as the world's largest flour mill. In 1878, the mill exploded when flour dust inside ignited. The explosion claimed 18 lives, decimated the surrounding area, and brought instant notoriety to Minneapolis. The tragic explosion led to reforms in the milling industry: ventilation systems and other precautionary devices were devised in order to prevent further tragedy
Southdale Mall: When Southdale opened in 1956, it was described as a "unique experiment in suburban shopping." As the first shopping center to link two department stores, Southdale became the model for the modern day mall. Not only did Southdale revolutionize the shopping experience, it was also innovative in other ways: its creators envisioned it as a new kind of community center for geographically isolated suburbanites, and also as an updated version of the pedestrian city centers of Europe. Southdale created a center of social life for suburban residents, and fueled suburban growth.
Taconite: The story of the development of taconite is one of Minnesotan ingenuity. Taconite, a type of ore with iron concentrations of 30-50 percent, was discovered in Minnesota in 1870, but was considered worthless because extracting the pure iron from the ore would be too costly. However, in the 1940s, pioneering scientists at the University of Minnesota developed a method of extracting iron from taconite that was not only profitable, but actually set a new record in pig-iron production. This new extraction method created an economic boom in northern Minnesota, and the Mesabi Range (near Hibbing) continues to be the largest producer of domestic iron today.
Lumbering: The vast forests that covered Minnesota in the early 1800s beckoned lumber barons from the East Coast. Their drive for new and uncut forests made Minnesota a good choice. In 1839 the first sawmill was built on the St. Croix River and soon other mills were working to supply freshly cut lumber to the rest of the country. The insatiable need for lumber across the country meant that Minnesota's forests were constantly being harvested. With the coming of the railroad, lumbering became even more important. Railroads made timber harvesting and transportation economical even in the absence of natural waterways. As the railroads spread from coast to coast, lumber men became wealthy. Houses such as the ones on Summit Avenue in St. Paul are testaments to the wealth of this industry.
American Indian History
American Indian Movement (AIM): The American Indian Movement, or AIM, emerged in the late 1960s. This movement blended indigenous spiritual traditions with tough street-wise fearlessness. AIM fought for treaty rights, the reclamation of tribal land, as well as for the cause of urban American Indians, who were surrounded by alcoholism, crime, and poverty. Their revolutionary fervor drew the attention of the FBI and the CIA, who worked to suppress AIM during the 1970s. Through occupations of the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., the former prison on Alcatraz Island and the former battle site at Wounded Knee, S.D., the movement garnered international media attention. Its goal was to bring awareness of the American Indians to the forefront of American politics.
The Dakota War of 1862: In 1862, Minnesota was still an expanding frontier. More than one million American Indians who were unhappy with deceitful treaty making, small reservations, and delayed annuity payments were living in Minnesota. These were contributing factors to an outbreak of attacks by Dakota Indians on settlers and a government agency in August 1862. In the subsequent month more than 800 white settlers lost their lives. The number of Dakota casualties is less clear. On Dec. 26, 1862, after a review by President Lincoln, 38 Indians who were accused of war crimes were executed by hanging in Mankato. It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history. Other Dakota people were forcibly removed from the state. The few who remained and those who returned are the foundation of the thriving communities in southwestern Minnesota.
Wounded Knee Standoff of 1973: On Feb. 27, 1973, the tiny village of Wounded Knee, S.D., was seized by several hundred American Indians. The action was taken to protest conditions on the Pine Ridge reservation. Using Wounded Knee as a symbol, the protestors wanted to remind the public of the massacre of 300 unarmed American Indians by the U.S. Army 83 years earlier. The standoff at Wounded Knee continued for 71 days and captured the attention of a sympathetic public. Though it ended in gunfire that left two dead, the American Indians were successful in making their concerns known and in focusing media attention on the continuing plight of Native Americans.
Seth Eastman, an early American painter: After graduating from West Point, Seth Eastman began his military career. By 1830 Eastman was posted at Fort Snelling. Here he closely observed the Indians who lived close to the fort. Eastman has always enjoyed painting and drawing, but in Minnesota his talent flourished. Eastman was intensely interested in the Indians' activities and sketched and painted such scenes as hunting, dancing, cooking and playing. Eastman's large number of works makes him one of the best-known historical painters from this period.
History Making Minnesotans
Eugene McCarthy: OOne of the most distinguished politicians in Minnesota history, Eugene McCarthy was born in Watkins in 1916. After a brief stint as a professor, McCarthy turned to politics and represented Minnesota in the House and later the Senate from 1949 to 1971. In 1967 he announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the presidency as a direct challenge to Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War policies. His antiwar position won the support of many liberals and his strong showing in the primaries preceded Johnson's decision to leave the race. Though he never served as president, McCarthy is still remembered for his strong convictions and integrity.
Hubert Humphrey: Hubert H. Humphrey was one of the state's highest elected officials. In 1948, he became the first Democrat from Minnesota ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He gained a national reputation by his strong stand for civil rights. In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson chose Humphrey as his running mate on the winning Democratic national ticket. In 1968, after Johnson decided not to run for reelection, Humphrey was a leading contender for the Democratic nomination. However, many critics of the Vietnam War opposed him because he had supported the escalation of the war during Johnson's administration. Humphrey nevertheless secured the nomination but was narrowly defeated in the election. He continued to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate until his death in 1978.
Walter Mondale: Walter Mondale is another Minnesotan who served as Vice President. A liberal Democrat, he was active in the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and served as state attorney general (1960-64). When Hubert Humphrey became vice president in 1964, Mondale was appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate; he served until 1977. In 1976 Jimmy Carter chose Mondale to be his vice president. In 1984 Mondale, as the Democratic presidential nominee, he became the first major-party candidate to choose a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, as a running mate. After the Mondale-Ferraro ticket lost to the incumbent Ronald Reagan, Mondale continued to be involved in politics, serving as U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996.
Sister Elizabeth Kenny: Born in 1880, Sister Kenny grew up in the Australian outback. Through careful tudy of the human muscular system, Sister Kenny devised a series of exercises to help her infirm brother Bill build strength. Through her work with Bill and a neighboring doctor, Sister Kenny became very knowledgeable in the workings of the human body. This led her to become a nurse. By age 23 she faced her most challenging case, infantile paralysis (polio). Instead of following the usual treatment path, which included immobilizing the limbs; Sister Kenny used heat packs to loosen muscles so they could be stretched. Not realizing it at the time, Sister Kenny had discovered an effective treatment for polio. In 1940 she traveled to Minneapolis to establish a clinic for teaching the Kenny technique in the treatment of polio.
Minnesota Historical Society· 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55102-1906· 651-259-3000
Copyright © 2002 Send questions/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.