Monthly Archives: April 2018

Happy Birthday, Hennepin History Museum! We’re Celebrating 80 Years of Local History.

Image, above: Hennepin History Museum c. 1958

Today is the day: Hennepin History Museum is celebrating our 80th anniversary! On April 11, 1938, a group of residents interested in the preservation of local history gathered in the Hennepin County Commissioners’ chambers to discuss the creation of a new organization. “One of the main objects of the proposed society should,” they agreed, “be to obtain pioneer specimens now as the pioneers of Hennepin County were rapidly passing away.” The Hennepin County Board was happy to help; the County had been given a $60,000 Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant for the specific purpose of collecting historical material, and the Commissioners supported using the funds to staff the new historic society and museum. (Hennepin County still supports the museum; the County provides approximately 45% of our annual operating budget, with individuals, corporations, and foundations providing the bulk of the remainder.)

HHM first year

In 1938, the new Hennepin County Historical Society opened in one large “display room” on the second floor of Oak Hill School in St. Louis Park. Within months, we had taken over the entire second floor! Historic treasures from the county’s past flowed into to the newly formed museum, and in 1939 organizers reported that the collection “cannot be adequately shown to the public on account of lack of space and proper display conditions.” In 1944, we moved to a new home, this time located at 1516 Harmon Place in Loring Park.

Old membership card from Harmon Place

By the mid-1950s, space was yet again an issue, and the board began to seek out a larger, more permanent home. In 1958, we moved into our current home. 2303 Third Avenue South, the former residence of philanthropist Carolyn McKnight Christian, was selected for its size, its fire-resistant materials, and adequate parking.

In addition to collecting historic items relating to Hennepin County’s past, the museum’s early leaders focused on sharing history with the public. “From the beginning the Society has endeavored to make the Museum an educational force,” says one of earliest brochures. Shortly after opening we published Bohemian Flats, written by WPA writers and sponsored by the museum. We’re proud to report that this book is still in print today!

Hennepin History 1964

Our first magazine, then a quarterly bulletin, was published in April 1941, and today is one of the longest continuing historic publications in the state. Hennepin History has published articles on hundreds of local history topics. A commitment to telling the full story of Hennepin County has long been part of our mission. In 1991, for example, we became one of (and possibly the) first local history organizations in the nation to publish an article about local LGBTQ history.

That same year, following extensive community research, Hennepin County Historical Society changed its name to Hennepin History Museum. While our name may have changed, our commitment to preserving and sharing the history of Hennepin County remained the same.

For 2018, we’ve selected “why do people collect?” for our anniversary theme. We’ll be delving deep into this them through a year’s worth of programs and exhibitions, including a behind-the-scenes “visible storage” laboratory-turned-gallery. Here, visitors can watch as our volunteers and staff conduct an exhaustive inventory of our collection, and observe as tens of thousands of historic artifacts are recorded, photographed, and entered into a searchable database.

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Today, we have the opportunity to look back while at the same dreaming about our future. We invite you to join us for an exciting 2018 as we celebrate 80 wonderful history-filled years!

Your financial support makes all of this possible. Please consider becoming a member or making a financial contribution. Your support would make this birthday year even better! And a very special thank you to current members, donors, and visitors – we couldn’t do this without you.

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Minneapolis-Moline Goes to Washington

While Hennepin History Museum doesn’t have the space to collect tractors, that doesn’t stop us from collecting tractor history. And even the briefest survey of tractor history will unearth the name Minneapolis-Moline.

The 1918 tractor shown here was originally used on a farm in Nebraska. A Model “D” Universal tractor, it featured electric ignition, speed control, and electric lights. In 1953, Minneapolis-Moline’s marketing department purchased the tractor and brought it home to Minnesota and sent it on tour to the state and county fairs. In 1957, the company exhibited it at their headquarters in Hopkins.

In 1962, the tractor moved yet again — this time to Washington, DC. The Smithsonian Institution recognized the significance of Minneapolis-Moline and their role in American innovation and agriculture and installed it in one of their history and technology galleries.

The following year, Minnesota business leaders gathered at the Smithsonian during the 1963 Convention of the Chamber of Commerce. Shown here are representatives from the Minneapolis Area Chamber of Commerce, the Pillsbury Company, the United States Navy, the Smithsonian, and, of course, Minneapolis-Moline.

Learn more about the history of Minneapolis Moline and other Hennepin County companies in our library and archives. 

Take the Bitter with the Sweet: Abdallah’s Banana Split Dish

This banana split dish is from the 4th generation family owned business established by Lebanese immigrant Albert Abdallah. Albert opened Calhoun Candy Depot in 1909 on the corner of Lake Street and Hennepin Avenue in the Uptown area of Minneapolis. In 1916 it was renamed Abdallah Candy Company. Abdallah’s served chocolate, caramels, toffee, truffles and ice cream.

Over the years Abdallah’s persevered in the face of adversity. After the Great Depression, Abdallah’s was forced to close due to bankruptcy. However, Albert was able to pay off his debt and reopened a smaller store a few blocks from its original location just a few years later. Abdallah’s later struggled through the Food Rationing Program enacted during World War II. Finally, in 1965 the business was destroyed in a fire caused by a gas explosion, forcing them to completely rebuild.

Through hard work and dedication, Albert Abdallah was able to establish a successful chocolatier and confectionery that is still in operation today, over a century later. His great-grandson carries on the family tradition in their current location in Burnsville, using some of the original recipes perfected by Albert.

Author Bio

Alyssa Thiede in the Assistant Collections Manager at Hennepin History Museum.