Monthly Archives: August 2018

Fun with Historic Plaster. Or, Unintended Consequences

Hennepin History Museum is located in a beautiful historic building. It’s a very solid building, but it is nearly 100 years old and it does need some maintenance and upgrades. Recently we’ve identified a ceiling that is at immediate risk of falling, and are asking for your help to address it.

First, some background. In 2017, we were awarded a Legacy grant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the building. We have been working with an architectural team all this year to review the building’s history and condition. When complete, we will be able to use this document to guide decisions relating to the building, including how to best add climate control and how to make our home accessible, as well as the order in which to tackle items such as repairing masonry, replacing plaster, upgrading electricity, and other similar needs. We made a decision to hold off on all but essential repairs until we had the completed report; that way we could address prevention, maintenance, and repairs in a strategic way. In a typical year, pressing emergency repairs include things like electrical work, leaking pipes, and minor roof repairs.

Unfortunately, we are now facing a serious unexpected repair need that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. The plaster ceiling in our basement hallway and work space is in danger of falling down. The cracks had existed for years. In what is a classic case of unintended consequences, however, the heavy increase in foot traffic in the Museum’s main hallway (directly above the downstairs hallway) has escalated the rate of separation of the plaster from the lathe. We have so many more visitors, volunteers, and staff walking that corridor daily that the cracks below have increased significantly in recent months.

celing 4

Our architectural team has advised that it is dangerous to wait until 2019 to address this cracked ceiling. It could come down at any time, and if it it does fall down it will come down in a sheet — and could potentially injure anyone standing below. This space is a central hub for our collections spaces, as well as is the hallway between our archives and the reading room. The safety of people is our top priority and we have restricted access to this space as a result… causing extreme inconvenience to our volunteers and staff, and limiting our ability to work in downstairs storage spaces.

We have obtained several bids for the removal of the ceiling, and expect it to cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Would you consider making a gift to help cover this unexpected cost? Your gift, whether $4,000, $400, or $40 will make a difference. It will help us to continue our operations on behalf of local history uninterrupted, and will keep this beautiful historic building in good shape.

Click here to help with the ceiling costs

If you have any questions about our historic building or this project, please contact Kristin at kristin.kaspar@hennepinhistory.org.

Thank you!

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The Junto of Philadelphia – in Hennepin County

Junto Club

Benjamin Franklin is most famously known for his inventions and involvement in drafting the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. However, this Founding Father inspired and influenced many other prospects – although less famously on some rare occasions. For instance, few people likely know about his affiliation with the organization known as The Junto Club, or The Junto of Philadelphia, which has also been called the Leather Apron Club.

The group is an organization founded by Benjamin Franklin and his friends in 1727. The original Junto of Philadelphia or Junto Club lasted 38 years, and it began with 12 members who were tradesmen and artisans. They met Friday evenings to discuss issues of morals, politics, or natural philosophy. Members of the club were interested in the improvement of society and proposing public projects (many of which became reality).

While the original Junto was started by not perpetuated by Benjamin Franklin or his affiliates, a group called The Junto of Indianapolis sprang up in 1929. This group adopted the basic concepts of the original and applied it to business – spearheading a version and revitalization of Franklin’s organization some 200 years later. By 1940, The Junto of Minneapolis Club started up.

Junto Club 1

In 1947, the Junto of Minneapolis mirrored similar philosophies as the original in its description as being a “select council brought together for the mutual exchange of friendship and assistance in the highly charged atmosphere of competitive business.” Other known Juntos to exist in the States include: Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, South Bend, Cleveland, Dayton, Cincinnati, Louisville, Fort Wayne, Baltimore, Newark, N.J., Toledo, Elkhart, Ind., and Chicago.

To find out more about the Minneapolis Junto Club stop by the Hennepin History Museum’s archives and check out the collection.

Sources:

Page 1 From one of the “Service Club” article; Page 1 & 2 (unnumbered) from 1947 membership book from “Junto of Minneapolis.”; Benjamin Frankling Historical Society http://www.benjamin-franklin-history.org/junto-club/

Written by Amber Espitia, Archive Volunteer

 

Nordic Ware’s Bundt Pan

Nordic Ware boasts a long history of innovative engineering and manufacturing of cookware. Their most famous product is undoubtably the Bundt pan. Today more than 70 million American households have one of these iconic pans in their kitchens. Despite producing a wide variety of products, the Bundt pan remains the most recognizable and has maintained the most longevity. Bundt pans, like those in our collection, are a broadly fluted circular mold made of aluminum. While there are many different recipes for Bundt cakes, they all have one thing in common, the unique shape created by the Bundt pan that forms grooved sides and a cylindrical hole through the middle the cake. While many people are familiar with the Bundt pan, most are not familiar with the history of hard work, innovation, and local connections that led to its creation.

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Dave Dalquist and his wife Dotty started their business, originally named Plastics for Industry, in the basement of their Minneapolis home in 1946. The company made parts for General Mill’s home appliances. Shortly thereafter they began to manufacture Scandinavian kitchenware. In 1950 they acquired Northland Aluminum Products and thus inherited a line known as Nordic Ware. That same year, Dalquist was approached by two members of the local chapter of Hadassah, a Jewish women’s volunteer organization, about recreating a mold from the Old World that was known as a bund pan in Germany. Bund cakes, or bundkuchen, were served for various celebrations in which people gathered together. The Hadassah women gave Dalquist a cast iron model of the mold from which he created a cast aluminum pan. They then sold the pans to fellow members of their organization locally and nationally, and the money earned was sent to Israel to help pay for schools and hospitals.

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2018.0520.099 inside

Due to the popularity of the pans, Dalquist started to market the bund pans to the public. He added the “t” to the end of the word so that he could trademark it and avoid any association with a German-American pro-Nazi group that existed in the thirties and forties with the same name. Despite being sold in major department stores for several years, the Bundt pan didn’t become famous until 1966 when a woman used a Bundt pan to win second place in the Annual Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. After this, Pillsbury was inundated with inquiries from women who wanted to know where they could purchase a Bundt pan. Both Nordic Ware and Pillsbury recognized the potential for partnership and soon after Pillsbury began creating a new kind of cake mix that was developed especially to be used with Bundt pans. When three versions of cake mix had been developed, Pillsbury began to offer them along with a Bundt pan at a discounted price. Bundt pans began flying off the shelves, outperforming all expectations and achieving international fame.

Today, two out of three Americans have a Nordic Ware product in their kitchen. After over seven decades Nordic Ware is still family owned and operated, and one of only a few companies that continues to manufacture their products in the United States, doing so at their factory in Minneapolis. By striving to innovate kitchenware characterized by quality and value, the company has grown to employ over 350 people and produce hundreds of products sold globally. If all this was not enough evidence of Nordic Ware’s success, the nostalgic feelings and fond memories of family gatherings inspired by Bundt cakes certainly are.

Our Nordic Ware collection was inventoried and cataloged as part of our larger collections inventory project. This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee.

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The History of Handicrafts in the Great Minnesota Get-Together and How Changing Attitudes Have Shaped the Fair 

This intricate model stage coach made of metal and fabric was entered into the State Fair Craft Show in 1971. According to the ribbon still attached to one side, it won 4th place. An adhesive label on the same side indicates this is a model of a Concord Stage Coach “first manufactured in Concord New Hampshire in 1827.” 

 The model was donated by Carl G. Anderson just after it showed in the State Fair, in 1971. Anderson noted on his HHM donation form that “Concord Stage Coaches were first manufactured in Concord, New Hampshire in 1827 and shipped to the west by sailing vessels from Portsmouth, New Hampshire down the south Atlantic, around the tip of South America, up the Pacific Ocean to San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle.  These were the finest coaches made in America.  They are still in use in western movies and the drivers today are as good as the drivers in the early days of the west.” 

 The Minnesota State Fair traces its roots to before the state itself. Territorial Fairs were held in Minnesota as early as 1854, and crafts have been a mainstay ever since then. The ancestor to the modern Creative Activities Department was the Women’s Work and Welfare Department. The early fair was largely targeted towards men, and this department arose as a place for women to congregate, socialize, and keep an eye on their children. Competitions in this department were dominated by quilts and other needlecraft, but baking and canning also became popular in the lead-up to the twentieth century. 

 The Women’s Work and Welfare Department (sometimes shortened to “Women’s Department”), as well as most of the fair, maintained a rural character before the twentieth century. The list of competitions was populated by practices like “darning and repair of napkins” and the making of log-cabin quilts, which by the 1890s were old and outdated. In 1902, Clara M. Luther was appointed superintendent of the department. She revised the competitions to introduce art forms popular in the growing urban landscape but were still absent from the state fair. These included things like basketry and miniature models, crafts more associated with professional arts and art schools. 

 With the modernization of the competitions at the turn of the century, another change was brought to the state fair. The shift away from the crafts of older generations meant that the individuals competing were now simply hobbyists in their craft. In the nineteenth century fairs, women submitting their artwork were often making quilts and clothing for their family already, as home-made objects were more of a necessity before the industrialization of the 1900s and 1910s. Creations on display were no longer fancified items of necessity, but pieces of art made by hobbyists in leisure-time. 

 These changes greatly impacted the overall “crafts show” of the state fair. By the 1920s, the State Fair Arts and Crafts Show was displaying very professional works of art. Paintings, drawings, sculptures, jewelry, metal and wood works were becoming more refined as the fair became urbanized and the organizers borrowed artwork from major museums like the Walker Art Center. 

 The 1910s through 1930s saw a dramatic increase in the number of men participating in Women’s Department competitions. Men submitting items were often those with a lot of free time on their hands: firemen, prison inmates, and the injured of WWI. The presence of men in this department increased over the decades and it became clear that this department was far from exclusively for women. The name of the department officially changed to the Home Activities Department in 1952. 

 The name of the department changed once again in 1971 to the Creative Activities Department, which remains the name today. While many things have changed about the nature of creative activities, some things have stayed the same. Canning, for example, is a time-honored tradition that you can still see at the fair this year. Other entries—a pocket watch chain made of hair, for example—have seen a sharp decline in popularity.  

 Why some practices still endure has everything to do with tradition. To this day, some of the most popular items on display have been with the fair from the very beginning. Attitudes on hobbies have changed creative activities too, and many trends and ideas have come and gone. The Creative Activities Department represents a microcosm of the State Fair itself. Both are monuments to traditions that connect us to our past while at the same time continually changing to reflect our present.  

 Author Bio: 

Paul Schneider-Krumpus is a recent high school graduate and will be studying history at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities this fall. He does research and photography for Hennepin History Museum. 

Sources and Further Reading: 

https://www.mnstatefair.org/about-the-fair/history/ 

Blue Ribbon: A Social and Pictorial History of the Minnesota State Fair by Karal Ann Marling 

Minnesota State Fair: An Illustrated History by Kathryn Strand Koutsky and Linda Koutsky 

Minnesota State Fair, The History and Heritage of 100 Years by Ray P. Speer and Harry J. Frost 

SERA Cannery Project

 

SERA Cannery 1The State Emergency Relief Administrations (SERA) was established in 1933 to alleviate poor economic and work conditions caused by the Great Depression. The initial responsibilities of the SERA included the distribution of state and federal funds for unemployment relief and the provision of work relief—or temporary work in exchange for relief goods or emergency pay—to those in need. A common practice for SERA was the establishment and staffing of factories. Relief workers were typically the sole workers within these factories and were responsible for their functioning and management. The products of these factories were often used to aid local relief efforts.

The Hopkins canning factory was one such factory. The factory was located at the Hennepin county fair grounds and operated entirely by SERA relief workers, many of them women. Workers were paid “with checks exchangeable for food and clothing or other necessary articles handled by the relief organization.” In September of 1934, 60 workers were employed inside the factory while another 40 were employed in the nearby vegetable field. With only about 100 workers at any given time, the factory produced upwards of 200,000 cans of vegetables in the canning season of 1934 and upwards of 250,000 cans in the canning season of 1935.

Tomato juice, swiss chard, and beans were some of the many canned products turned out by this factory. Vegetables for the factory were sourced from SERA gardens in Robbinsdale, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Golden Valley, Crystal, Richfield, Bloomington and St. Louis Park. In total, about 100 acres of land were planted with SERA crops to be canned at the Hopkins factory. These factory products were either sold back to the Federal government or given to the needy in neighboring Minnesota communities. SERA factory products were desirable to both the state and individual consumers as “the canned vegetables turned out by the Hopkins factory [were] given a 93 per cent score by the state dairy and food commission, making them an average fancy grade.”

SERA factories such as the Hopkins location fought to undue nearly two decades of agricultural and economic crisis in Minnesota. World War I had led to a period of prosperity for Minnesota farmers as the United States began to provide crops for war-torn Europe. As World War I drew to a close and crop production in Europe returned to normal, the demand for US exports fell and land values dropped steeply. Farmers were often left with costly surpluses and found it difficult to repay their loans, leading to a period of economic depression in Minnesota which is now known as the Agricultural Depression. This situation was worsened by the coming of the Great Depression. Families were unable to sustain themselves as they lost or could no longer afford their farms and were unable to find alternative employment.

The SERA was absorbed by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in late 1935. Many projects, including the Hopkins canning factory, were phased out or converted to new projects as this change took place.

SERA Cannery 2

The images of the Hopkins SERA cannery can be found in the Hennepin History Museum Archives. 

Written by Emma Celebrezze, Archive Volunteer

Blood in the Streets: Governor Floyd B. Olson and the Teamsters’ Strike of 1934 

In 1934, the streets of Minneapolis were a battleground. Teamsters had declared a city-wide strike to end discrimination against union workers, and their cars of strikers chased heavily-guarded trucks to keep them from crossing picket lines. Roving battles were waged between convoys of police with riot guns and trucks of strikers. Crowds of club-wielding picketers and strikebreakers clashed in the market center over the unloading of goods onto non-union trucks. The three-month strike would be one of the deadliest in the state’s history.  

Truckers Strike 7.21.34

 

Standing between the two sides of this violent struggle was Governor Floyd B. Olson. A former prosecutor, Olson had clashed in the past with the anti-union organization the Citizens’ Alliance that had formed the backbone of strikebreaking in Minneapolis since the turn of the century. These efforts, along with prosecution of corrupt businessmen and the Ku Klux Klan had won him the support of working-class Minnesotans, who would elect him governor in 1930 — the first governor elected on a Farmer-Labor ticket. As the strike began in May of 1934, he would be torn between his ties to the workers who supported his candidacy and his need as governor to keep the peace and maintain order in the city.  

 Olson carried this personalized portfolio with him that summer as he worked tirelessly to facilitate negotiations between unions and employers. After the first major episode of violence just days into the strike, when twenty thousand strikers and onlookers crowded the market district and special deputies were driven back from their attempts to unload non-union trucks, Olson secured a short-term truce between strike organizers and business owners, and days later a broader settlement between the two sides. 

 Olson’s settlement unraveled by July, and the threat of more violence hung over Minneapolis. On July 20th it came to a head as a heavily-armed police escort moved trucks labeled “hospital supplies” to deliveries around the city. The trucks were met by cars of unarmed strikers that attempted to block their deliveries. Police, armed with shotguns, responded by firing upon the cars and strikers, injuring more than sixty and killing two. The governor’s worst fears had come true.  

 “Bloody Friday,” as the event became known, threatened to tear the city apart as the organizations of the wealthy rallied behind the police and the working class renewed efforts to support the strike. One-hundred thousand lined the route of the funeral procession for the slain union activist Henry Ness. Unions rejected new settlement offers. Employers continued to move trucks despite union blockades. Olson was forced to act.  

Truckers Strike 1934

 The governor declared martial law and raided the headquarters of both unions, arresting organizers and members of the Citizens’ Alliance.  

 This time, Olson’s decisive action successfully brought an end to the violence and forced the two sides to a lasting settlement. With the support of President Roosevelt and pressure from the federal Reconstruction Finance Agency, negotiations succeeded. Employers conceded to workers’ demands of union recognition, non-discrimination, and seniority in hiring and firing. The back of the anti-union Citizens’ Alliance in Minneapolis was broken and unions gained a foothold in the once fiercely anti-union city.  

Olson went on to win a third term as governor in November on the back of his success and then ran for Senate in 1936 but he died of stomach cancer in August, just three months before the election. Although his efforts were cut short, Olson is remembered as a fierce advocate of Minnesota’s working class. And eventually this portfolio made its way to Hennepin History Museum, preserved for all these years as a physical connection to the summer of 1934 and a reminder of Olson’s role as an intermediary.  

 Author Bio 

Noah Barnaby is a Research Intern at Hennepin History Museum. He has a bachelor’s degree in History and Philosophy from the University of Minnesota, and focuses on Social, Economic, and Labor History.  

 Resources 

See also: 

An interview  with strike organizer Vincent Raymond Dunne  

Bryan D. Palmer. Revolutionary Teamsters: The Minneapolis Truckers’ Strikes of 1934. Haymarket Books, 2014. 

 Charles Walker. American City: A Rank-and-File History of Minneapolis. University of Minnesota Press, 2005. 

 Dennis Harrington. Floyd B. Olson and the Teamster Strikes of 1934. 1977. 

Polling Progressive Peter Pryts

 

Peter J. Pryts_01

With the primary elections for Minnesota only a few weeks away (August 14th), it is important to highlight Hennepin History Museum’s pieces of political history. This election poster promotes Peter J. Pryts’ 1923 re-election as Alderman in the Minneapolis’ 11th ward. A carpenter by trade, Pryts had grown up on a farm in Fillmore county Minnesota, following his immigration from Norway in 1866.

After settling in Minneapolis in the 1881, Pryts became involved in city politics and the labor movement. He first ran for 11th ward Alderman in 1916 but was defeated. He was elected in 1918 and served until 1925. By the time Pryts became involved in politics, Minneapolis was no longer farmland, but had a growing population and industrial sector.

Pryts promoted himself as a progressive candidate and was initially elected based on this platform. In 1923, he was endorsed by the nonpartisan league, organized labor and the socialist party. He ran in favor of “city beautification and improvement for the benefit of the people of Minneapolis.”  Many of these progressive groups and populist movements supported government infrastructure development and improvement. Pryts and other progressive politicians pushed for improvements like paved streets, curbs and water mains. While modern Minneapolis residents may take these for granted, the advancements supported by the populist movement are what made Minneapolis a modern city in the 1920’s.

After his defeat in 1925, Pryts worked for the city as the bridge watchman for the Franklin Avenue and Lake Street bridges. The position was eventually eliminated in an effort to cut city payroll. Peter Pryts died on November 11, 1937 at the age of 77.

This poster and other Hennepin County elections artifacts can be found in the Hennepin History Museum Archives.

Sources:

Endorsed by the Working People’s Nonpartisan Political League. The Minneapolis Star. June 7, 1923. https://startribune.newspapers.com/image/178864314/?terms=%22Peter%2BJ.%2BPryts%22%2B%22reelection%22