Monthly Archives: January 2018

Neither Rain nor Snow nor Poison Ivy: Life as a Rural Mail Carrier in Hennepin County

Did you know that rural Hennepin County was served by one of the nation’s few female mail carriers for nearly four decades? Elizabeth Titus of Robbinsdale carried this box with her for the duration of her 38-year career in Hennepin County. On rural routes, customers depended on their carriers to do much more than only deliver the mail; specialized boxes like this one were designed to serve as a miniature, portable post office, with slots for stamps and supplies, and room to hold cash collected from customers.

Elizabeth started her career as a mail carrier during World War I,  a time when the post office was forced by labor force shortages to consider women for more positions. She started out as a substitute, often delivering wartime news – both reassuring and sometimes heartbreaking – from loved ones far away from home. Eventually she got her own permanent routes, covering an approximate 1,000 miles each month.

Working as a rural mail carrier was a job filled with both joys and challenges. A farm resident herself, Elizabeth was familiar with the rigors of rural life. In addition to delivering the mail, she at times helped put out fires or capture errant cattle!

The note on this stamp box, written by Elizabeth herself, says it was put into service in 1918. At that time, Elizabeth delivered the mail using a team of horses. Eventually she switched to a truck, although for many years horses remained the most effective way to navigate the mud and snowdrifts sometimes found on Hennepin County’s more rural roads.

The stamps in this box are marked Route 11. During the 1940s and early 1950s Elizabeth was delivering mail to approximately 460 families – and increasingly, businesses — along rural Route 11. The stamps shown here are for the Reinhard Brothers, 4301 Highway 7 in St. Louis Park.

The worst part of her job? According to Elizabeth, it was poison ivy.

“You can shovel away snow,” she told the Minneapolis Morning Tribune in 1946, “you can work from 6 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next day during Christmas, you can get through in spite of mud, loads of chicks, turtles, and catalogues but very seldom can you escape that ole debbil poison ivy.”

She retired in 1953, splitting her time between her home in Robbinsdale and her new husband’s home in Michigan.

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A Fantasy in Iron

This section of ornamental ironwork was harvested from the wreckage of the demolished Metropolitan Building, 3rd Street and 2nd Avenue South, in downtown Minneapolis. It was created by August Malmsten and Andrew Nelson who, in 1878, began a blacksmith business on the banks of the Mississippi River overlooking St. Anthony Falls. The business expanded rapidly, providing machinery repair services to the surrounding flour and sawmills, and supplying steel for the booming building trade in and around Minneapolis.

By 1884 the Malmsten and Nelson Company had become the Crown Iron Works Company. The company became the leading fabricator of structural steel, ornamental iron, and bronze and aluminum metal work. In 1888, at the height of what became known as Minneapolis’ “Golden Age” of architecture, Crown Ornamental Iron Works was commissioned to create an extravaganza of ironwork to dress the atrium of the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building. Twelve stories of bronze-trimmed, cast, and wrought iron, in the art nouveau style, at a cost of $167,000, was created in the Minneapolis plant, located at 113-117 2nd Avenue S.E. The remnant seen here was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Wayne Murphy, former Director of the Robbinsdale Historical Society.

Metropolitan Building interior

In 1890 the doors opened to one of the most significant, not to mention stunning, pieces of architecture in Minneapolis history. Designed by E. Townsend Mix, for Louis Menage, the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was born of light filled glass, breathtaking Art Nouveau filigree iron work, green New Hampshire granite, Red lake- Superior sandstone, and Italian marble, and was crowned with an open- air roof garden and observation tower. 8,000 illustrious guests attended the grand opening.

Metropolitan Building c 1890s.jpg

The first tenants included forerunners to Pillsbury, Wells Fargo, and the Soo Line railroad companies, as well as one of Minneapolis’ first African American Restaurant owners, Jasper Gibbs. It was the most prestigious business address in Minneapolis. In 1905 The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company bought the building, it has since been known as the Metropolitan Building.

The onset of urban renewal in the late 1950s set in motion discussions of the razing of the Metropolitan Building. The movement to save the Metropolitan was impressive. It was led by Robert Bliss, University of Minnesota professor of Architecture. In September  1961, Sidney Simon, Director of the University Gallery, Martin Friedman, Director of the Walker Art Center, and Carl J. Weinhardt, Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, issued the following joint statement at their museums, accompanied by an exhibition of documentary photographs of the Metropolitan Building:

“Photographs such as these may soon be all that will remain of this important architectural monument. This magnificent pioneer skyscraper originally known as the Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was designed by E. Townsend Mix and constructed between 1888 and 1890. This building made audacious structural use of steel, concrete and glass. Its fanciful design motifs are characteristic of the turn of the century. The principles involved in the cantilevered balconies with their translucent floors and light filled court are completely consistent with those found in the best recent architecture”

Ninety days later, demolition of the Metropolitan Building began.

 

A Large Coffee, Please

This monumental coffee pot shaped coffee grinder is crafted of cast iron and aluminum. It was manufactured by the American Duplex Company of Louisville Kentucky. The grinder offers several features or settings for achieving the desired grind, and ultimately, the perfect cup of coffee.

This grinder was used at Hawkinson’s Red and White grocery store, located at 4306 Upton Avenue in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The Hawkinson family had owned, and operated, grocery stores at 2716 W. 45th St. and at 4429 York Avenue, in Minneapolis, as early as 1910. In 1925 they moved to the 4306 Upton Avenue location. By 1950, Roy and Stella Hawkinson had become a part of the Red and White food store chain, which was established in Chicago in 1925, and quickly spread across the country. The chain was formed to allow small independent grocery stores to carry the Red and White brand, and compete with the large chains, which were already beginning to overtake the neighborhood corner store. The Red Dot logo was instantly recognizable on signs and awnings of small stores everywhere. By 1957 there were seven Red and Whites in Minneapolis.

The chain is still in business, and although most of the stores have been replaced by large supermarket chains, you can still see the famous red dot logo on small stores across the United States. Hawkinson’s closed their doors in 1980.

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