Category Archives: From the Collection

Bertha’s Black Blouse

This week’s object of the week is an unassuming black blouse that donor, Ms. Hyacinth Easthagen, called, “not beautiful,” and “not well finished.” Although Hyacinth, the great-granddaughter of the woman who owned the blouse, was not impressed with its appearance, she recognized its historical significance. When telling history through objects, this is a common theme. An object may appear to be rather plain or ordinary, but its connection to historical places or events gives it significance.

This blouse was worn by Bertha Kehn, wife of August Kehn, also spelled Kuhnn or Kuehne. The Kehns immigrated from Germany and settled in Hennepin County, part of one of the first waves of pioneers to settle in Minnesota. Mrs. Kehn, wrote Hyacinth, was “a large woman about five feet seven or eight inches tall, with a full bosom.” As a farm woman, she likely made the blouse herself, just as she made clothing for the rest of her family. Considering she went on to have fifteen children, sewing that many outfits would not have been a small feat.

Although Hyacinth believed that the Kehns settled in Hanover, Minnesota, the book History of Minneapolis: Gateway to the Northwest, published in 1923, wrote that they settled in Greenwood. Today, Greenwood is known as Greenfield, and is just south of Hanover. Whether the Kehns lived in Greenwood or Hanover, it’s certain they called the northwest corner of Hennepin County their home for many years. The homestead property was “large enough to be divided into five farms, for his five sons,” wrote Hyacinth, although one of their sons passed away before reaching adulthood. Their ten daughters were all married, and all of them had children.

Bertha passed away in Greenwood Township in 1907, and her husband in Hanover in 1917. While their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren spread out to other areas of Minnesota and the United States, Bertha’s black blouse still lives at Hennepin History Museum.

Museums collect some objects for their beauty or artistic value, and others for their ability to tell a story; in this case, the story of a large family of early Minnesota immigrants. It begs the question: in a hundred years, what objects do you own that could be used to tell your story?

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

Sources

Donor letters from Hyacinth Easthagen

History of Minneapolis: Gateway to the Northwest, Volume III, Minneapolis: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1923.

Reverend Edward D. Neill, History of Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis Including the Explorers and Pioneers of Minnesota, Minneapolis: North Star Publishing Company, 1881.

Mike Hogan’s Aqua Jester Trunk

Above: Aqua Jester Mike Hogan used this trunk at Aquatennials from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Clowns, jesters, and fools have existed for many hundreds of years in literature, dramatic performance, and pop culture. Children grow up seeing clown imagery with familiar characters like Ronald McDonald and the famous red clown noses sold to benefit charity. On a more sinister note, horror films featuring antagonistic clowns and sightings of people wearing creepy clown costumes to terrorize others have left many people with a fear or dislike of clowns, and have harmed the reputation of these performers. The objects of this week come from a trunk donated by Mike Hogan, an Aqua Jester clown between 1950 and 1990.

Len Jacobsson, another member of the Aqua Jesters, who performed at events like the Aquatennial, suggested that people who have a fear of clowns may have been embarrassed by one in the past. To combat this stigma, Aqua Jesters follow a strict code of ethics, with the guiding principle to make others laugh at their own expense rather than embarrassing their audience. Despite performing for laughs, many clowns take their craft seriously, working to perfect their appearance and comedic act. In response to the authenticity of the creepy clowns that were cropping up last year, performer Fred “Ozzie” Baisch pointed to their lack of dedication, saying, “No self-respecting clown would appear in a rubber mask.”

Aqua Jester coat 2017.0317.005.jpg

Above:; Hogan’s Aqua Jester coat is decorated with pins advertising the Aqua Jesters, the Schlitz Circus Parade, and two individual Aqua Jesters.

Not uncommon in Twin Cities history, a friendly sibling rivalry between Minneapolis and Saint Paul seems to have arisen even with their clown troupes. According to Katie Humphrey at the Star Tribune, community members in both Saint Paul and Minneapolis formed separate clown groups after World War II to perform at festivals. Later, Humphrey wrote, a women’s clown group called the Powder Puffs was formed because females were not allowed to join the male troupes. Camps and classes such as the Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp and the “Clowning Around” class at Lakewood Community College were created to train aspiring performers.

Aqua Jester Shoes 2017.0317.003a-b

Above: Mike Hogan’s oversized clown shoes were part of the gift to Hennepin History Museum that included his Aqua Jester trunk and coat.

Clown troupes in the Twin Cities were once very popular and a staple at parades and fairs. Today, membership is waning. With fewer clowns comes fewer visits to places with people in need of some cheerful clowns, especially nursing homes and hospitals. It may be time for the younger generation to try and break the stereotype of scary clowns by joining these groups to keep this historical tradition going. If you’ve ever thought of donning a red nose and some oversized shoes, this may be your time to shine.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

Sources

Al Sicherman, “Class Clown,” Star Tribune, December 29, 1991.

Katie Humphrey, “Send in the clowns: Volunteer clown clubs, a staple of civic festivals for decades, are seeking more members as longtime merrymakers age,” Star Tribune, August 24, 2011.

Mary Jane Gustafson, “There is lot more to clowning than meets eye,” Newspaper Clipping from Clowns Folder at Hennepin History Museum.

Reta Stewart, “Clown ministry draws appreciative audiences,” Newspaper Clipping from Clowns Folder at Hennepin History Museum, April 21, 1986.

Sharyn Jackson, “Minnesota clowns distraught over ‘creepy clown’ craze: Professional clowns are disheartened that their image is being used as a fear factor,” Star Tribune, October 12, 2016.

“Maudie Dearest”: The Mysteries—and the Joys—of Working with Collections

Working in collections, it is not unusual to come across an item that leaves us with many questions about its origins and story. This peach silk and lace nightgown was paired with a bonnet and slippers, and was found with a mysterious note that reads:

“Maudie Dearest– Please wear this gown so Floyd can enjoy looking at it. Love–Mim”

Maudie's ensemble

Who was Maudie? Was Floyd her husband? Could this have been a wedding present of some kind for a new couple? Did Maudie pair the nightgown with the slippers and bonnet right away or were those possibly later gifts from Mim? Was Mim perhaps the prying mother-in-law of Maudie or Floyd? Did Floyd ever get to see Maudie’s nightgown or did Maudie prefer, like some of us, to wear less revealing pajamas?

Unfortunately, we don’t know any of the answers to these questions, and for every item we have a backstory for in our collections, there are those that we do not. While this fact can be frustrating, it is also one of the reasons why working at a museum can be so interesting. We will leave it to you to make up your own tales of who Maudie, Floyd, and Mim may have been. Feel free to share your ideas with us below!

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

 

Nancy Piazza’s Calico Bodice: Italian Immigrants in Minnesota

Our object of the week this week is a gorgeous bodice donated by Nancy Piazza. The bodice traveled from the donor’s great grandmother in Sicily to Piazza’s grandmother, who had settled in Minneapolis, MN. The Piazza family went on to establish the famous Café di Napoli in 1938, which ran for over 60 years before closing in 2005. Minnesota is well known as a state filled with German, Norwegian, Swedish, and Irish immigrants who came here in the 1800s and early 1900s. Yet there were also quite a few Italian families like the Piazzas, who established communities like the Beltrami neighborhood in Northeast Minneapolis, and whose stories are sometimes overlooked.

Italians came to Minnesota in the 1860s and settled in Saint Paul, while later waves began settling in Hennepin County and other parts of the state. A census from 1980 revealed that the number of Italians in Minnesota was the fourteenth highest ethnic group in the state, with the total heritage of Italians being 64,545. The vast majority of ethnic groups and immigrants in the earlier years of Minnesota came from more northern areas of Europe, and Italians who chose to settle in the Twin Cities were often faced with prejudice. “Other people in our new neighborhood [in Minneapolis] were alarmed at the idea that Italians were moving in, and they let my parents know,” wrote Linda Picone in the Star Tribune. Rose Totino, whose family opened one of the first pizzerias in Minneapolis and who later became the first female corporate vice president at Pillsbury and the third woman inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame, described her struggle to find pride in her Italian heritage growing up in a predominately Scandinavian city. Like Picone, she felt that her neighbors looked down on her and her family.

In response, Italians created a tightknit neighborhood in the Northeast Minneapolis neighborhood of Beltrami, named after Giacomo Beltrami, an Italian explorer who, with the help of Native Americans, searched for the headwaters of the Mississippi River in what would later become Minnesota. The area was home to Delmonico’s, a beloved Italian grocery store that sold wholesale to the Café Di Napoli. The nickname of the neighborhood, “Dogtown” betrays the prejudice against Italians. Some suggest that the name Dogtown was derived from the term “dago,” a derogatory work meaning an Italian that also gave name to the sandwich, the “Hot Dago.” In both 1991 and 2007, people attempted to have the name of the sandwich banned, but were ultimately unsuccessful. One possible reason for this was that some Italian restaurants had adopted the term for the sandwich themselves, though it was often called the “Italiano” as well. Another possibility is that with the smaller percentage of Italians in the cities, the Scandinavian majority didn’t find the term offensive. Today the term is still in use in Northeast, west of Beltrami, at Dusty’s Bar and Dagos. They advertise their “Homemade Dagos” on a large sign on the side of the building and serve the sandwich as their specialty.

In 2010, Joseph Piazza passed away at his daughter Nancy Piazza’s home at the age of 92. The Café Di Napoli had been a destination point for celebrities, and one of many successful Italian businesses in the Twin Cities. Italians, like many immigrants across the United States throughout its history and still today, were faced with the ongoing and unfortunate cycle of discrimination and xenophobia. Italians preserved their culture in part through their restaurants and saving objects like the Piazza family bodice, just as museums like the Somali Museum of Minnesota hope to help preserve the culture of immigrants in Minnesota and feel pride in their heritage, and museums like the Swedish Institute have done for many years. Hennepin History Museum highlights the Piazza family bodice to help Minnesotans learn more about another piece in the mosaic of cultures in our state.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

Sources

Esther Jerabek, “Minnesota: Melting Pot of Many Peoples,” Gopher Historian, Spring 1967.

“Italian-Americans take pride in their culture: Newspaper staff members reflect on meaning of Italian heritage,” Minneapolis Star and Tribune, October 8, 1984.

“Life in Minnesota sometimes leaves a little room for being Italian,” Star and Tribune, October 8, 1984.

Paul Klauda, “Melting pot at work in Minnesota, but ethnic differences add spice,” Minneapolis Star and Tribune, July 2, 1986.

Peg Meier, “Minnesotans’ experiences show immigrants can’t be stereotyped,” Star Tribune, July 2, 1986.

“ROSE TOTINO – 2008 INDUCTEE,” Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame, http://www.minnesotainventors.org/inductees/rose-totino.html.

Tim Harlow, “Joseph Piazza ran Cafe di Napoli for decades,” Star Tribune, March 16, 2010, http://www.startribune.com/joseph-piazza-ran-cafe-di-napoli-for-decades/87975592/. Ware Carlton-Ford, “A Timeline of Italian Food in Minnesota,” http://heavytable.com/timeline-italian-food-minnesota/.

Harry Hayward: A Murder that Shocked Minneapolis

Above: this rocking chair, in the Hennepin History Museum Collection, was allegedly removed from the rooms of Harry Hayward after he was arrested for Kitty Ging’s murder

On the site of the new U.S. Bank Stadium, almost a hundred years before the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was built, the old county courthouse and jail stood where the infamous Harry Hayward became the second to last person to be hanged in Minnesota in 1895 for his part in the murder of Catherine “Kitty” Ging. Harry Hayward was a professional gambler by trade, living in the Ozark Flats on 13th and Hennepin, a lovely stone building now known as the Bellevue which still stands today, the ground level home to Eli’s Food and Cocktails and Espresso Royale. Kitty Ging was a dressmaker who had moved to Minneapolis from New York City, and soon became privy to Hayward’s schemes. Unbeknownst to her, the caretaker of the Ozark Flats, Claus Blixt, would help Hayward take her life one fateful evening. Blixt, blackmailed by Hayward, shot Kitty in the back of the head in 1894 as they travelled by horse-drawn carriage near Lake Calhoun.

The brutal killing shocked the city. People could scarcely believe a handsome, wealthy, and charming man like Hayward had any part in it. Yet Hayward’s true character became rapidly clear. Harry’s brother Adry soon informed the sheriff that Harry had plotted to kill Kitty in order to collect money for a life insurance policy he had taken out after loaning her money. Harry’s other brother, Thaddeus, told reporters frankly that Harry had “a moral color blindness” and that Kitty’s murder was “a sort of a dream to him; he thinks it is a good joke.”

Minneapolis newspapers reported on the murder and trial incessantly, and conspiracy theories quickly began to arise. Rather than by using the power of manipulation, Hayward was said to have hypnotized Claus Blixt, into murdering Ging, and to have hypnotized Ging into helping him with his schemes. Rumors only continued with Harry’s death. Although witnesses watched him hang and were given sections of the noose as souvenirs, he was rumored to have survived due to his body being replaced with a goat. Even the dissection of his brain, which purported to prove his “dwarfed moral perceptions” as well as his lustful, cowardly nature, did not quell the rumors of his survival.

Even more recently, in the 1980s just a few years after the metrodome was built, Jim Klobuchar, father of Senator Amy Klobuchar, wrote that “disciples of the occult” suggested ghosts were responsible for a “chain of debacles” happening there. “I’m ready to nominate Harry Hayward’s ghost,” he speculated, “Harry was hanged for murder nearly 80 years ago, a few feet from where the left-field seats are today. We may still be paying for it.” In 2000, a tour highlighted the Bellevue, where a city councilmember hired a clairvoyant to discover whether the spirits of Kitty Ging or Claus Blixt had haunted the building. Due to its connection to the murder, the building today remains one of Minneapolis’s important sites for historic preservation.

Whether or not you believe in ghosts and stadium hauntings, the murder of Kitty Ging is remembered now as one of Minneapolis’s early tragic and sensational murders. The rumors surrounding the trial showed the disbelief of the public that someone could plot such a horrible crime in the Victorian age. Today, those rumors have turned to legend, and the presence of Ging and Hayward’s ghosts are still felt by some throughout the city. Whether you’re having a cup of coffee at Espresso Royale, or watching a game at the new stadium, remember this piece of Hennepin County history and be sure to let us know if you notice any hauntings.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

Sources:

Adam Westford, Twin Citian, Harry Hayward file, Hennepin History Museum.

Billy B. Hoke, “Tittle-Tattle Tattle-Tale,” November 12, 1948, page 2

Jim Klobuchar, Star and Tribune, March 27, 1984.

“Justice Knots the Rope,” November 20, 1895, Harry Hayward Scrapbook #1 of 2, Hennepin History Museum.

Scott Russell, “Remembering Kitty Ging: Apartment linked to famous murder will be part of historic tour,” Southwest Journal, March 6-March 19, 2000.

“Shown By His Brain: A Specialist Makes Deductions from Hayward’s Gray Matter: Moral Perception Dwarfed.” Harry Hayward Trial Newspaper Clippings, Harry Hayward Scrapbook #1 of 2, Hennepin History Museum.

Walter Ewert, “Historians Get Clippings of Hayward Murder Trial,” Harry Hayward file, Hennepin History Museum.

William Johnson, “65 Years Ago Harry Hayward Laughingly Met a Slayer’s Fate,” Sun Tribune, December 11, 1960.

Northwest Airlines in Minneapolis

In the early years of airline flights, flight costs were prohibitively expensive for many Americans. In order to cater to wealthy customers, airlines wanted to create an environment where people felt lavished, complete with beautiful female attendants. It was after World War II, when Northwest Airlines, based out of Minneapolis, began flights to Asia over the Pacific that “a new era at the airline was ushered in,” and rigid expectations were placed on their flight attendants. Anne Billingsley Kerr, who worked for the airline from 1956 to 1960, when she was forced to retire because of her marriage, remembered:

“Back in the Dark Ages, the requirements were you had to be 21, not over 31, you had to be between 5’4” and 5’8”, you had to have weight in proportion to height, we were weighed periodically to be sure. We had to have 20/20 vision and there had to be no obvious flaws. I even hate to say it, but that was the way that it was.”

Cheryl Ullyot, who donated her stewardess uniforms to Hennepin History Museum, was 20 years old when Northwest Airlines, then called “Northwest Orient Airlines,” hired her in 1969. Like Kerr, Ullyot reminisced about the many regulations for stewardesses’ appearances, writing, “A chip in my nail polish or a run in my nylons meant a dock in pay.” They were expected to wear skirts and high heels at all times for a ladylike appearance.

There were good and bad aspects of being a stewardess. It was a chance to see the world and to meet exciting passengers aboard. “It was a glamorous job,” said Ullyot, “I loved going to work because I never knew whom I might meet.” Fay Kulenkamp, who worked with Northwest from 1968 to 2004, was able to help her parents travel despite the expensive prices of flights. Kulenkamp said, “I thought it would be really nice for my parents to use my passes and take some trips that they ordinarily would not be able to afford.” My aunt, Pam Gunderson, formerly Fredrickson, remembers meeting comedian Bob Hope and actor Georgie Jessel during her time as a flight attendant. But memorable passengers were not always celebrities. “I started at NWA in 1969 during the war in Vietnam and had many soldiers on flights,” Pam wrote, saying:

“One young man had lost both legs in the war and was going home to see his fiancé. I asked him if he wanted a wheelchair to deplane, but he said he wanted his fiancé to see the whole truth right away. I had to duck into the cockpit because I couldn’t watch him struggle. I have often wondered what became of him and the others who flew home with us.”

In the end, the benefits of being a flight attendant were not enough to overshadow the discrimination women faced at Northwest and other airlines. My aunt Pam had left Northwest Airlines by the time of the Laffey v. Northwest lawsuit in 1973. According to Kathleen Barry, in her book Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants, the lawsuit was “the broadest yet against airline bias.” The case detailed how women were kept from being promoted, received unequal benefits, and of course, the many restrictions placed on acceptable age and appearance. Even the title “stewardess,” it seems, was one that suggested women’s jobs were somehow different than male “flight service attendants.”

Northwest Airlines survived the Laffey case, and eventually merged with Delta in 2010. Today, while women still struggle to receive equal pay at jobs all across the country, we still regard much of the treatment of early female flight attendants as unfair and extreme. While being a stewardess was considered to be a glamorous job in the eyes of some, glamor did not outweigh the changes that needed to be made.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

NWA jacket.jpg

Sources

Cheryl Ullyot, “Random thoughts,” Hennepin History, Winter 2006, 3.

Kathleen Barry, Femininity in Flight: A History of Flight Attendants, Duke University Press, 2007, 170.

“Lost Twin Cities,” TPT Documentaries video, 3 August 2014, http://video.tpt.org/video/2365436746/.

“Fish” Jones and Hiawatha the Lion

Fish Jones.JPGRobert “Fish” Jones, with his signature beard and moustache

In 1876, a man named Robert Jones moved from New York to look for opportunities out west, and settled in Minneapolis. Missing the fresh fish so easily found on the east coast, he established his own fish market. To his chagrin, he soon gained the moniker “Fish” Jones.

Jones was an eccentric man, who wore a silk top hat, a Prince Albert suit, high heeled shoes that masked his short stature, and sported a pointed beard with a curled mustache. The name “Fish” rather suited him, as it was his lifelong love of animals of all kinds which led him to create Longfellow Gardens, the largest collection of exotic animals in the United States at the time. The gardens hosted a wide variety of animals; cats, bears, wolves, camels, elephants, monkeys, antelopes, porcupines, storks, cranes, flamingoes, falcons, peacocks, ostriches, parrots, and owls, to name a few.

LongfellowThe entrance to Longfellow Gardens

Fish Jones greatly admired the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, erecting a statue on the grounds of the writer, modeling his home after Longfellow’s own, and even taking names for quite a few of his animals from “The Song of Hiawatha.” Notably, the names included several of his sea lions; Minnehaha, Hiawatha, Paupukeewis, Mudgekeewis, and Nokomis.

BearsFish Jones giving his bears, Teddy and Alice, their first tango lesson.

Though generally Fish seemed to have no issues allowing many of his animals roam free through the Longfellow Gardens, the sea lions once made an escape over Minnehaha Falls. This would have greatly saddened Fish, who, after receiving criticism for keeping a camel in Minnesota in the cold winters, responded by getting the camel some pantaloons and a coat to keep it warm. He would not have his camels freeze!

From early in his life, Jones was instructed by his father that animals had feelings just like humans do. The youngest of eleven children, Fish turned to animals for comfort and closeness.

Hiawatha.JPGHiawatha the Lion, Fish Jones’ beloved pet lion, at 4 years old. 

Today’s object is not an object at all but a former beloved pet of Fish Jones named Hiawatha the Lion. Named Hiawatha II, possibly proceeding the sea lion, Hiawatha I, Hiawatha II was the “premier lion” of Longfellow Gardens, and so treasured by Fish that when the lion passed away in the late 1920s, Fish took him to a taxidermist so he could preserve him.

HiawathaCloseUpHiawatha the Lion today, at approximately 110 years old. 

Jones’ practice with his animals was to spend time with each of them every day, treat them with kindness, and earn their trust with his own. Though he spoke of many of his animals fondly, Hiawatha the Lion and Fish Jones had a truly special bond. Today the only traces that remain of Longfellow Gardens are Fish Jones’ former home and the Longfellow statue, photographs and articles, and of course, Hiawatha the beloved Lion.

Written by HHM intern Caitlin Crowley. Caitlin is a current Augsburg student where she is majoring in history with a Medieval History minor. She comes to HHM through the Minnesota Historical Society’s ACTC extern program.

Sources

Gwinn, Sherman, “Jones Catches ‘Em Young But He Doesn’t Treat ‘Em Rough.” November 1925.

Lost Twin Cities 4.” TPT Documentaries. Web.

Robert “Fish” Jones Announcements Folder, HHM

Robert “Fish” Jones Brochures Folder HMM

“The Story of Longfellow Gardens,” a booklet edited and published by Fish Jones in 1911.

Zalusky, Joseph W. “He Was a Colorful Figure: Robert “Fish” Jones.”