Category Archives: From the Archives

Witt’s Market House: The Future of Minnesota Grocery

Witt Mkt Image 1

This photo shows the chaos that once was the second floor of Witt’s Market House. Witt’s Market had previously been a well established family owned meat market before expanding to a new retail space in 1919 at 705-09 Hennepin Ave S. The new store was advertised as a new modern food market, which included produce, meat, dairy, baked goods, new plumbing, electricity and the most exciting technological advancement of the day-cash registers and computing scales.

The Witt’s Market House was a massive building. The store was four stories high and 7,500 square feet. A large refrigerator was housed in the basement along with the store’s personal team of butchers. Meat would be cut to order, and sent up to the main floor in elevators. The main floor was a typical market where groceries were purchased. Pictured is the second floor, where shoppers could buy larger quantities of produce (by the dozen or by the case). The in-house sausage factory was also located on the second floor. The third floor was filled with offices and restroom facilities (including showers and baths for employee use). The fourth floor was dedicated to the bakery. In a time where Minneapolis residents had to visit a butcher for their meat and a baker for their bread, having all the facilities of a modern market in one building was quite the luxury.

Witt Mkt Image 2

Witt’s Market House closed its doors in 1968 and was replaced with a novelty store called Now and Then. The novelty store struggled to find a use for the massive building where locals had once visited to do their shopping. The building still stands at the corner of 7th St and Hennepin Ave. S in Minneapolis. You can learn more about the Witt’s Market House at the Hennepin History Museum.


Upham, Daniel. “Now and Then Caters to Young-at-Heart Taste,” The Minneapolis Star, October 8, 1969.’s%2BMarket%2BHouse%22

Witt’s Market House. “Witt’s New Market: C. F. Witt, 705-707-709 Hennepin Avenue To Open January 3.” Advertisement. The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 2, 1919.’s%2BMarket%2BHouse%22

Blog post written by Bridget Jensen, Archive Volunteer

Minnesota Lynx

Lynx Ticket 1999

A ticket from the third game of the Lynx’s inaugural season.

You are generally more likely to associate women’s history with the 1960’s than 1990’s. However, the 90’s were important for women, especially in the world of Minnesota basketball. The inclusion of more women in basketball on a professional scale was a huge moment for gender equality and female empowerment.

In 1998, the WNBA announced two new teams, the Orlando Miracle and Minnesota Lynx. The WNBA had been founded in 1997 by NBA team owners. Partnerships between women’s and men’s teams were seen as collaborative, with complementary names (Timberwolves and Lynx) and alternate seasons (NBA-Winter, WNBA-Summer). 1997 was the first time that Minnesota girls outnumbered boys in youth teams. In the class of ‘97, 22 Minnesotans received scholarships to play D-1 women’s basketball across the country. A professional team would provide young Minnesotans with a new level of athletic achievement in women’s basketball. The introduction of the Lynx was exciting because it gave young girls role models to look up to and positions to aspire to occupy close to home.

Lynx Ticket 2011

A ticket stub from the 2nd game of the 2011 WNBA Finals

Since its first season in 1999, the Lynx have won 4 WNBA titles (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017). Currently ranked third in the league, hopefully it won’t be long until Target Center will be filled with fans, cheering the Minnesota Lynx to the finals this October. These tickets and other sports history artifacts can be found in the Hennepin History Museum Archives.


Millea, John. “Twin Cities to Get Women’s Pro Basketball Team in 1999” The Star Tribune, April 23, 1998.

Zgoda, Jerry. “WNBA:Time is Right for Minnesota Franchise” The Star Tribune, April 23, 1998.

Blog post written by Bridget Jensen, Archive Volunteer

Hayward and Effie McKerson

McKerson Image

Archival donations come to the museum through a variety of sources. This past spring the archive received a donation from Walker Methodist Care Center. Dr. Hayward McKerson had passed away in December 2017 and with no known surviving family members, the care center reached out to the archive to see if we had any interest in some of his photos and a few personal papers. The papers and photos of Hayward and his wife, Effie, share the story of an African American family that were active in their community and worked to stand up to discrimination faced by themselves and other African Americans.

Hayward grew up in Oklahoma, graduating from Douglass High School in Ardmore in June 1945. He served in the military for a time and attended Fisk University. He would ultimately become an engineer. Effie Stoker McKerson was born in Henderson, Texas in 1924 and she passed away in 2012. She was trained as a school teacher. Hayward and Effie settled in Edina in 1968, when a job transfer brought them to Minnesota. Eventually, he became the President of his own company, McKerson Chemical Corporation and Effie taught in the Edina Public School system.

The couple were very active in their community. They were both NAACP members and Hayward was active in the Elks and the Masons. Effie was active on the Edina Community Staff Advisory Council, the National Education Association, and Minnesota Education Associations. She also was very active in the Republican political party throughout the 1970s and 1980s. She served as a Minnesota delegate for President Ford to the 1976 National Republican Convention. And during the 1970s served as the Republican chairwoman for Minnesota. In 1975, she represented Minnesota on a trip to China, known as the U.S.-China Friendship Tour.

In 1982, Effie found herself in the middle of an affirmative action plan fight in the Edina public school district. Nine white elementary school teachers claimed they were “being laid off while a black teacher with less seniority” was able to keep her job. The teachers’ objections were with the affirmative action plan, which had been drafted by the school in the 1960s with the goal of recruiting more minority teachers. Eventually the controversy passed when some of the layoff teachers were rehired and other retired or resigned, and Effie continued to teach elementary school. Because of the controversy the school district adopted a new affirmative action plan.

The above photo of Hayward and Effie, in the middle, can be found in the McKerson Family collection in the Hennepin History Museum archives.


“Edina teacher named to the HEW advisory panel.” Minneapolis Tribune. January 22, 1973.

“Margaret Morris Column.” Minneapolis Tribune. September 29, 1975.

“Teacher layoffs test Edina affirmative action plan.” Minneapolis Star Tribune. May 6, 1982.

“Budget backlash in Edina challenges school district’s affirmative action plan.” Minneapolis Star Tribune. May 13, 1982.

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.


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

Written by Amber Espitia, Archive Volunteer


World War I and the Influenza Pandemic



A deadly moment in American history, the Spanish Influenza pandemic reached numbers of Minnesotans during the early 1900’s. Ignatius Hannon of Minneapolis encountered it during its peak in 1918. The Hannon family owned and operated the John Hannon Detective Agency and Patrol Service beginning in 1901. Despite the success of this agency, Ignatius Hannon left Minnesota to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War I.

On his way to South Carolina and the Naval Shipyard, Hannon described the journey in a letter to his mother on October 12th, 1918. At each large city between Chicago and Charleston, Hannon noted 10-15 coffins of servicemen being unloaded, presumably deceased due to the disease. Some men were transported without coffins as Hannon points out “so many are dying they can’t make coffins fast enough”. The Minneapolis Morning Tribune reported the main way the disease spread was through coughing, sneezing and spitting. Quarantine was used as a major preventative measure against the disease, even on Hannon’s ship where 15 cases had been reported.

This letter and other artifacts from the Hannon family are from the Lenore Hannon Collection which can be found at the Hennepin History Museum Archives.

Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 3, 1918, pg 7

Haskin, Frederic J. “Coughing, Talking, Sneezing, Deadly Projectors of Human Poison Gas, Say U.S. Doctors.” The Minneapolis Morning Tribune, April 3, 1918.

Written by Bridget Jensen, Archive Volunteer

Flour Power: Party Edition

At 7:30 in the morning, more than 1700 milling employees and their family, friends, and supporters, gathered in Minneapolis, picnics in hand, to board special trains that would carry them to Lake Minnetonka for the fourth annual Head Millers’ Association picnic.

The city’s flour mills were shut down for the day so that all employees had an opportunity to join in the festivities. It was an opportunity to celebrate the growth of milling in Minneapolis. Like any such celebratory event, it included plenty of speeches, as well as a baseball game, music and dancing, a banquet at the Hotel Lafayette, boat rides, and – what else? — flour sack races.

The picnic was covered extensively in the local newspapers, where it was proclaimed “the most successful picnic ever given at Lake Minnetonka.” In the words of a particularly enthusiastic journalist at the Sunday Tribune:

“Whether it was the efficient management, the absence of dissipation and the real pleasure unmixed with dissipation at these gatherings, or because the custom was inaugurated by a class of men to whom Minneapolis feels she owes her marvelous prosperity and rapid advancement, or whether both combined at once,the occurrence of the millers’ picnic was a season for a general turning out on a grand gala day, and each year the number participating has increased, and yesterday occurred the greatest and the best of them all.”

-Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, June 22, 1884

This miniature flour sack invitation now resides in the permanent collection at Hennepin History Museum, a reminder a fantastic summer day at the lake many years ago.

Hennepin History Museum depends on the support of people like you to make our work possible. Please consider becoming a member or a donor today. Click here to help to support the preservation and sharing of local history. Thank you!

A Royal Portrait Gallery

(Above: 1941 Queen of the Lakes Evan Brunson)

Hennepin History Museum is home to the Historic Aquatennial Collection. Included in this collection is a photographic record of the legendary Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes. The Queen of the Lakes played an important role in the Aquatennial festival, providing a dose of pageantry that enthralled audiences across the state… and the world. During the 1950s, the Queen of the Lakes traveled more than 100,000 miles annually! Early Queens were typically sponsored by businesses; in 1970, the switch was made to candidates representing communities. Shown here are a representative sampling of some of the reigning Queen of the Lakes from years gone by.

1951 Helen Stoeffer Aqua Queen

Helen Stoffer, 1951

1951’s Queen of the Lakes Helen Stoffer originally competed as Golden Valley’s 1950 Lilac Queen. She was at the time an 18 year old nursing student from Robbinsdale. She was no stranger to royalty; she was Robbinsdale’s high school homecoming queen.

1960 Gail Nygaard

Gail Nygaard, 1960

1960 Queen of the Lakes Gail Nygaard originally served as Miss Willmar — although at the time of her coronation her family had relocated to Minneapolis, where her father was minister of Simpson Methodist Church. A student at Hamline University, Gail was also Hamline Snow Queen.

1973 Patricia Kelzer skipper pins with Stenvig

Patricia Kelzer, 1972 (with Minneapolis Mayor Charles Stenvig)

Queen Patricia Kelzer represented the Shakopee Jaycees.

That’s just a handful of photographs from our extensive collection of materials related to all aspects of the Aquatennial, including its Queen of the Lakes program. Please stop by the Museum to learn more. Our Library & Archives are open to the public (for best research assistance contact us in advance so that we can prepare for your visit).

Preserving and maintaining the Historic Aquatennial Collection takes resources and money. Please consider making a gift to support the preservation of local history for current and future generations. Click here to donate today


Aquatennial Ambassadors Program

Hennepin History Museum

Victory Memorial Drive’s Memorial Trees

On June 11, 1921, more than 30,000 people gathered together on Victory Memorial Drive to remember the 568 Hennepin County men and women who died during World War I. The drive, designed by Charles Loring and Theodore Wirth, stretches 3.8 miles in north Minneapolis. The drive was lined with the memorial trees highlighted in this program, along with a flagpole and hundreds of wooden markers.

In June 1921, World War I was still a very recent memory; the 30,000 people attending the dedication ceremonies were there because they had experienced firsthand the devastation caused by the War, whether on the battlefield or on the home front. Each of the 568 markers represented a real person, a Hennepin County resident who lost his or her life in the war. Many of their family and friends were among the audience on June 11, 1921.

In addition to speeches made by local dignitaries, national figures also sent in messages. “The opening of Victory Memorial driveway by the city of Minneapolis,” wrote President Harding, “with the realization of the beautiful idea of dedicating trees to the brave boys from that city who gave their lives in the great war is an occasion for congratulations to the people of Minneapolis upon having such an impressive, lasting, and useful tribute to the memory of those heroes.”

Victory Memorial Drive remains today, although it has evolved over the years. The original elm trees have mostly been replaced with hackberry trees, and the wooden markers replaced with bronze. Additional walls, plaques, and statues have been added over time. In June 2011, Minnesotans once again gathered on Victory Memorial Drive following the completion of an extensive campaign that repaired, rehabilitated, and updated the living memorial.

This program is part of the Museum’s World War I collection. We will also be sharing more of these materials throughout 2018 as we gear up to commemorate November’s 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.


Hennepin County Fair Flashback

County fairs have been part of the Minnesota experience for generations, and Hennepin County is no exception. This ribbon comes from the 1930 Hennepin County Fair, and is one of many ribbons in Hennepin History Museum’s County Fair Collection.


“Outside the city of Minneapolis, Hennepin County is one of the richest agricultural areas in all the northwest,” reported the Minneapolis Tribune in August 1930 in an article extolling the virtues of Hennepin County as an agricultural powerhouse. The Hennepin County Fair, they wrote, was the perfect place to see this agricultural legacy in action: “A visit to Hopkins this week will beget new faith in Hennepin County, inspire a broader understanding of rural problems, and assure worthwhile entertainment.”

Hennepin County’s fair moved to Hopkins in 1907, bouncing around in specific location from downtown to, eventually, an indoors location at a Hennepin County Highway Department garage, also located in Hopkins – giving it the distinction of being the only Minnesota county fair to be located indoors. In 1986, the fair moved back outside, this time in Corcoran.

Click here to learn more about the Hennepin County Fair today.

Do you have a favorite county fair memory – whether in Hennepin County or somewhere else? Please share below; we’d love to hear your stories.

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.