Monthly Archives: June 2017

From the Archives: 25th U.S. Infantry at Fort Snelling

Many people today have heard of the famous African American Buffalo Soldiers, but did you know that the Buffalo Soldiers were based here in Minnesota during the 1880s?

This photograph, part of Hennepin History Museum’s archival collection, shows a group of men from the 25th U.S. Infantry. The 25th Infantry was an African American regiment then based out of Fort Snelling. These soldiers were among the “Buffalo Soldiers,” a term referring to the United States’ segregated African American Army regiments. The soldiers shown here were musicians and NCOs (non-commissioned officers).

Army historians describe the time spent at Fort Snelling as “the most uneventful in the regiment’s history,” and suggest “the soldiers probably spent more time practicing, drilling, and parading than ever before.” Meanwhile, in contrast, Hennepin County was changing rapidly around the Fort; the city of Minneapolis was one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation during this period, and the downtown skyline was changing and expanding rapidly.

In 1888, the 25th was transferred from the the Minnesota to Montana.

In July 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 mandating the integration of the armed forces and promising “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

Sources

Historic Fort Snelling 

“Buffalo Soldiers.HistoryNet 

Executive Order 9981

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, A Historic Context for the African American Military Experience. 1998.

Early Minnesota Medicine: Staying Healthy on the Frontier

The Minnesota frontier could be a frightening place to have an illness by today’s standards. Travel was slow, medical education was unregulated, and medicines were often limited to what you could make with the plants at hand. Many of these medicines that early white colonists in Minnesota used were remedies that had been learned from Native Americans, some of which were described in detail in “Home Remedies of the Frontier,” written in 1949:

The Chippewas learned that the pitch of the balsam fir would help a headache. The umbrella plant was applied as a poultice for a sprain, and wild sarsaparilla was good for the blood. […] Wild ginger was good for a pain in the stomach and the fern helped to relieve insect bites, of which there were many.

Some of these early medicines, including our object of the week, are part of the Hennepin History Museum collection. This particular photograph shows a two quart jar with strips of poplar bark, used as a medication for ulcers. The instructions on the jar read, “Steep a few pieces and drink in the morning before anything.” Another medicine acquired was a jar of quassia bark, used by the donor’s mother to create a “bitter concoction,” which her children dipped their fingers into to discourage nail biting.

In the early days of American pharmaceutical companies, these plant-based medicines were quickly capitalized, and rather than the long process of research and testing required for medicines to reach the market today, Madison writes that “unproved claims for efficacy provided the means of enticing consumers to buy the product.” The very first Minnesota newspaper devoted over three columns to drug and medical advertisements, and “there was no lack of enthusiasm in the claims for what a bottle or a pill would do.” (Home Remedies).

As the pharmaceutical industry blossomed, regulations became tighter and many of plant-based medicines, whose benefits could not be scientifically proven, were considered obsolete. Today, Hennepin History Museum is home to some of these old remedies, remnants of a bygone era on the Minnesota frontier.

Author Caitlin Crowley graduated this spring with a BA in history and a minor in medieval studies from Augsburg College. This fall she will be attending the University of Minnesota for a masters in Heritage Studies and Public History.

Resources

“Home Remedies of the Frontier,” The Saint Louis Park Dispatch, July 8, 1949, Medicine: MN: First Doctors and Early History Folder at Hennepin History Museum.

James H. Madison, “Eli Lilly: A Life, 1885-1977,” Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006.

“Patient Was Classroom Before 1893: Medics Were Once a ‘Rough Lot’,” Minneapolis Star, November 2, 1965.

“The Sick on the Frontier,” The Hennepin County Review, June 9, 1949, Medicine: MN: First Doctors and Early History Folder at Hennepin History Museum.

Red, White, and Blue… and Gold: The Many-Faceted Life of Alfred Lindley

This blue, red, and white sporting sweater carries with it a lifetime of memories. Owned and worn by Wayzata resident Alfred Lindley, this sweater was donated to Hennepin History Museum by his sister, Mrs. Ward Burton. Mrs. Burton was a supporter of the museum, and thought that this sweater was the appropriate item to tell her brother’s story. And a dramatic story it is!

Alfred Lindley was born in Minneapolis in 1904 and spent his childhood at a home at 1920 Stevens Avenue (just a few short blocks from Hennepin History Museum.) After graduating from Blake School in 1920, he left for the east coast, first for a year at Phillips Academy, followed by Yale University. At Yale he quickly gained a reputation as an accomplished athlete; while at Yale he played football for four years, rowed for four years, and spent three years playing hockey. It was in rowing, however, where he made his largest mark: in 1924, Lindley served as stroke for the Yale rowing team and helped his team to bring home an American gold medal in rowing in the 1924 Paris Olympics. (Among his teammates was fellow Minnesotan, Wayzata resident Alfred Wilson.)

After graduating from Yale, Lindley returned home to Minnesota and took up residence in Wayzata. He attended law school at the University of Minnesota but squeezed out time to pursue his sporting interests. In addition to rowing, football, hockey, and boxing, Lindley was an avid mountain climber. He had climbed the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps at age 16, and now as an adult, he joined the first expedition to scale both the north and south peaks of Mount McKinley, now Denali, in 1932. He also competed in the 1936 Olympics in skiing!

“By inheritance he might have led a life of comparative ease and devoted his spare time to his great interest in the field of sports, in which he was so proficient; but desire to be of public service was inherent in his character”

So wrote his friend and fellow mountaineer, Henry Kingman, upon Lindley’s death. Indeed, in addition to his sporting life, Lindley became politically active, first campaigning for Harold Stassen for Governor of Minnesota, and eventually in 1940 winning a seat in the Minnesota legislature himself.

Lindley’s dramatic and action-packed life ended in an equally dramatic way. In February 1951, Lindley and his friends Edmund Pillbsury and Dexter Andrews were on their way to Aspen, Colorado, when their plane tragically crashed in Nebraska after encountering heavy fog and freezing rain.

This sweater, which his sister reported was worn by Lindley for both rowing and for hockey, is a tangible connection to an accomplished local man. And even if his story doesn’t inspire you to head for the mountains or to the lake, this bit of advice offered up by Lindley himself stands the test of time: Everyone, he said, “should indulge in some sort of exercise daily because it develops character as well as physique.”

Thank you to our members and donors for your support of Hennepin History Museum! Your contributions help us to preserve and to share local history. To make a contribution please click here

SOURCES

Harry Kingman eulogy, American Alpine Club 

Ben Spock on 1924 Olympic Eight

“Alfred Lindley, Edmund Pillsbury, Dexter Andrews Die in Plane Crash,” Star Tribune, February 23, 1951 p.1

A Century of Mountaineering