Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Royal Wartime Romance

Hennepin County’s famous Aquatennial has been part of the Minneapolis summer since 1940. So, too, have been its royalty, including the festival’s Queen of the Lakes. Young single women representing cities and companies across the state gather in Minneapolis each year to compete for the opportunity to serve on the Aquatennial royal court. Here at Hennepin History Museum, our extensive historic Aquatennial collection has extensive files filled with historic photographs, scrapbooks, coronation gowns, and crowns associated with the Queen of the Lakes. Their stories are part of the Aquatennial story, but also provide a glimpse into broader historical trends and experiences. In the case of Queens Margaret Cary and Nancy Thum (above), the collection and its stories provides a peek at what it was like to be a young adult in World War II-era Minnesota.

During the 1940s, the Aquatennial Queen of Lakes rules were clear: married women were not eligible to run for or to hold the title of Queen of the Lakes. In 1944, this led to an unexpected situation when in that December, not one but two current reigning Aquatennial Queen of the Lakes were “conquered  by Cupid in uniform!” With the advent of World War II, American marriage rates skyrocketed. The average age at time of marriage also dropped. Perhaps no surprise, the eligible young Aquatennial royals also found love and chose marriage.

In early December 1944, with the war still raging, Queen Margaret Cary chose to give up her crown to marry her fiance, recently returned army flyer Charles Sandberg. Nancy Thom, shown above, took over the royal duties. But just weeks later, Nancy announced her own engagement! Her fiance remained stationed in California, however, and Nancy’s wedding did not take place until after she had served out the rest of her reign and crowned her successor.

Hennepin History Museum is home to the historic Aquatennial collection. Please click here to make a financial contribution to help us to preserve and share this important local historical resource.

Uptown Girl

In the summer of 1955, the life of a “summertime shop girl from Uptown” was changed forever. Judy Penney, a 19-year old language student at the University of Minnesota and a retail clerk at the Purple Door gift shop (then located at Lake Street and Holmes Avenue), was crowned the Aquatennial’s 1956 Queen of the Lakes. While representing the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis as the Uptown Commercial Club’s official Miss Uptown Aquatennial candidate, Judy lived with her parents in nearby St. Louis Park.

Being chosen as Aquatennial Queen was often a major life-changing event for young women like Judy. Suddenly plans to find a full-time job or return to school were placed on hold; being a queen was a full-time commitment itself! All the hard work came with exciting perks and opportunities, however — including a tour through Spain with Minneapolis journalist Barbara Flanagan.

The photo here, part of our extensive historic Aquatennial collection, was taken during a hot week in August. The members of the Minnesota Apparel Industries had provided Judy with an entire wardrobe suitable for such international royal travels. Selected by a stylist with air travel in mind, the wardrobe “features the type of packable and versatile clothes that make the American girl’s apparel the most envied in the world.” (Picture, September 4, 1955) During this extensive, multi-day photo session, Judy patiently tried on and modeled the extensive contributions from the state’s apparel industry; a month later, she took her new ” special air-travel wardrobe” with her to Europe.

We will be featuring materials from our Aquatennial collection throughout July! Please check back often (and follow our InstagramTwitter and Facebook pages) for more #HistoricAquatennial.

Hennepin History Museum is home to an extensive historic Aquatennial collection. Please click here to help preserve and to share this valuable local historical resource. 

From the Archives: 25th U.S. Infantry at Fort Snelling

Many people today have heard of the famous African American Buffalo Soldiers, but did you know that the Buffalo Soldiers were based here in Minnesota during the 1880s?

This photograph, part of Hennepin History Museum’s archival collection, shows a group of men from the 25th U.S. Infantry. The 25th Infantry was an African American regiment then based out of Fort Snelling. These soldiers were among the “Buffalo Soldiers,” a term referring to the United States’ segregated African American Army regiments. The soldiers shown here were musicians and NCOs (non-commissioned officers).

Army historians describe the time spent at Fort Snelling as “the most uneventful in the regiment’s history,” and suggest “the soldiers probably spent more time practicing, drilling, and parading than ever before.” Meanwhile, in contrast, Hennepin County was changing rapidly around the Fort; the city of Minneapolis was one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation during this period, and the downtown skyline was changing and expanding rapidly.

In 1888, the 25th was transferred from the the Minnesota to Montana.

In July 1948, President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 mandating the integration of the armed forces and promising “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.”

Sources

Historic Fort Snelling 

“Buffalo Soldiers.HistoryNet 

Executive Order 9981

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, A Historic Context for the African American Military Experience. 1998.

Early Minnesota Medicine: Staying Healthy on the Frontier

The Minnesota frontier could be a frightening place to have an illness by today’s standards. Travel was slow, medical education was unregulated, and medicines were often limited to what you could make with the plants at hand. Many of these medicines that early white colonists in Minnesota used were remedies that had been learned from Native Americans, some of which were described in detail in “Home Remedies of the Frontier,” written in 1949:

The Chippewas learned that the pitch of the balsam fir would help a headache. The umbrella plant was applied as a poultice for a sprain, and wild sarsaparilla was good for the blood. […] Wild ginger was good for a pain in the stomach and the fern helped to relieve insect bites, of which there were many.

Some of these early medicines, including our object of the week, are part of the Hennepin History Museum collection. This particular photograph shows a two quart jar with strips of poplar bark, used as a medication for ulcers. The instructions on the jar read, “Steep a few pieces and drink in the morning before anything.” Another medicine acquired was a jar of quassia bark, used by the donor’s mother to create a “bitter concoction,” which her children dipped their fingers into to discourage nail biting.

In the early days of American pharmaceutical companies, these plant-based medicines were quickly capitalized, and rather than the long process of research and testing required for medicines to reach the market today, Madison writes that “unproved claims for efficacy provided the means of enticing consumers to buy the product.” The very first Minnesota newspaper devoted over three columns to drug and medical advertisements, and “there was no lack of enthusiasm in the claims for what a bottle or a pill would do.” (Home Remedies).

As the pharmaceutical industry blossomed, regulations became tighter and many of plant-based medicines, whose benefits could not be scientifically proven, were considered obsolete. Today, Hennepin History Museum is home to some of these old remedies, remnants of a bygone era on the Minnesota frontier.

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

Resources

“Home Remedies of the Frontier,” The Saint Louis Park Dispatch, July 8, 1949, Medicine: MN: First Doctors and Early History Folder at Hennepin History Museum.

James H. Madison, “Eli Lilly: A Life, 1885-1977,” Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press, 2006.

“Patient Was Classroom Before 1893: Medics Were Once a ‘Rough Lot’,” Minneapolis Star, November 2, 1965.

“The Sick on the Frontier,” The Hennepin County Review, June 9, 1949, Medicine: MN: First Doctors and Early History Folder at Hennepin History Museum.

Red, White, and Blue… and Gold: The Many-Faceted Life of Alfred Lindley

This blue, red, and white sporting sweater carries with it a lifetime of memories. Owned and worn by Wayzata resident Alfred Lindley, this sweater was donated to Hennepin History Museum by his sister, Mrs. Ward Burton. Mrs. Burton was a supporter of the museum, and thought that this sweater was the appropriate item to tell her brother’s story. And a dramatic story it is!

Alfred Lindley was born in Minneapolis in 1904 and spent his childhood at a home at 1920 Stevens Avenue (just a few short blocks from Hennepin History Museum.) After graduating from Blake School in 1920, he left for the east coast, first for a year at Phillips Academy, followed by Yale University. At Yale he quickly gained a reputation as an accomplished athlete; while at Yale he played football for four years, rowed for four years, and spent three years playing hockey. It was in rowing, however, where he made his largest mark: in 1924, Lindley served as stroke for the Yale rowing team and helped his team to bring home an American gold medal in rowing in the 1924 Paris Olympics. (Among his teammates was fellow Minnesotan, Wayzata resident Alfred Wilson.)

After graduating from Yale, Lindley returned home to Minnesota and took up residence in Wayzata. He attended law school at the University of Minnesota but squeezed out time to pursue his sporting interests. In addition to rowing, football, hockey, and boxing, Lindley was an avid mountain climber. He had climbed the Jungfrau in the Swiss Alps at age 16, and now as an adult, he joined the first expedition to scale both the north and south peaks of Mount McKinley, now Denali, in 1932. He also competed in the 1936 Olympics in skiing!

“By inheritance he might have led a life of comparative ease and devoted his spare time to his great interest in the field of sports, in which he was so proficient; but desire to be of public service was inherent in his character”

So wrote his friend and fellow mountaineer, Henry Kingman, upon Lindley’s death. Indeed, in addition to his sporting life, Lindley became politically active, first campaigning for Harold Stassen for Governor of Minnesota, and eventually in 1940 winning a seat in the Minnesota legislature himself.

Lindley’s dramatic and action-packed life ended in an equally dramatic way. In February 1951, Lindley and his friends Edmund Pillbsury and Dexter Andrews were on their way to Aspen, Colorado, when their plane tragically crashed in Nebraska after encountering heavy fog and freezing rain.

This sweater, which his sister reported was worn by Lindley for both rowing and for hockey, is a tangible connection to an accomplished local man. And even if his story doesn’t inspire you to head for the mountains or to the lake, this bit of advice offered up by Lindley himself stands the test of time: Everyone, he said, “should indulge in some sort of exercise daily because it develops character as well as physique.”

Thank you to our members and donors for your support of Hennepin History Museum! Your contributions help us to preserve and to share local history. To make a contribution please click here

SOURCES

Harry Kingman eulogy, American Alpine Club 

Ben Spock on 1924 Olympic Eight

“Alfred Lindley, Edmund Pillsbury, Dexter Andrews Die in Plane Crash,” Star Tribune, February 23, 1951 p.1

A Century of Mountaineering 

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.