The Man Behind the Name: C.A. Pillsbury and Co.


Image from HHM Collections

Most residents of Hennepin County are aware of the vital role that the Pillsbury Company played in the development of Minnesota. Our local history of flour milling is well established. Moreover, for most of us, the name Pillsbury is synonymous with baking and invokes images of a beloved cheerful doughboy. The Pillsbury story is familiar, yet the innovative man who founded the company is probably less well known. His name was Charles A. Pillsbury, and this is a brief account of just a few of his many accomplishments. 

After entering the flour milling business in 1869, Charles, along with his father and uncle, founded C.A. Pillsbury & Co. on the banks of the Mississippi River near St. Anthony Falls in 1872. That same year he created an ingenious way to set his flour apart from competitors. At that time, millers used “X”s to distinguish between different grades of flour. Three “X”s on a sack of flour meant it was the highest quality. Charles trademarked the Pillsbury’s Best flour logo with four “X”s, implying that is was far better than even the highest quality of flour produced by any other mill.  

This clever marketing strategy was one of the reasons the company flourished. By 1881, the new Pillsbury A- Mill was completed. At that time, it was the world’s largest flour mill. The following year the mill was breaking records for the most barrels of flour produced in one day. Around this time, Charles created one of the first employee profit-sharing plans in the United States. Over the next ten years the company had shared over $150,000 in profits with its workers. Charles continued to be an innovator at his company until his death in 1899. The Pillsbury Company would go on to achieve even more success and carry on the tradition of innovation. Though the company was purchased in 2001 by General Mills, once its greatest rival, Pillsbury lives on as a baking goods brand that is still ubiquitous in American kitchens. Certainly, the man behind the name would be proud of the legacy he left behind.


Image from HHM Collections

Written by Alyssa Thiede

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. 



Shedding Light on the Holidazzle Parade


Image from HHM Collections

Many Minnesotans get nostalgic about the Holidazzle Parade. The beloved holiday tradition brought together families for a spectacle of sparkling lights, Christmas carols, and wintry fun. It ran for over twenty years, drawing hundreds of thousands of onlookers to downtown Minneapolis each season. However, Holidazzle was not merely a festive parade, it was also an innovative marketing strategy. 

It was no coincidence that the Holidazzle Parade debuted in 1992, the same year that Mall of America opened their doors. The behemoth shopping complex was sure to steal business from downtown retailers. Holidazzle was thought up to encourage people to come downtown and increase retail sales. Before and after each evening’s parade, hordes of Minnesotans would shop and dine downtown. The strategy proved successful for many years. Yet there’s no need to feel cynical, or Scrooge-like, about the consumerism of Holidazzle. It was also a magical display of holiday spirit that created cherished memories for many around the Twin Cities. 

Holidazzle consisted of 21 nights of free parades. Crowds would line up along Nicollet Mall and brave the cold to watch. Those who arrived early enough could snatch a spot in one of the skyways overlooking the Mall to stay warm. Each parade consisted of seven lighted floats with fairy tale themes and over 250 costumed characters. Bands and choirs performed and each night a local celebrity served as Grand Marshall. In 2004, Holidazzle introduced Howie Dazzle, an eight-foot-tall fiber optic snowman who became a mascot for the parade. His image is easily recognizable to this day.


Image from HHM Collections

Unfortunately, the last parade went down Nicollet Mall in 2013. But Holidazzle lives on in a new iteration, as a holiday fair that takes place in Loring Park. There are still plenty of sparling lights, Christmas carols, and wintry fun. The new Holidazzle offers an ice-skating rink, Christmas movies, band and choir performances, fireworks, and of course Santa Claus. Guests can still shop too, as there are numerous booths and tents with local vendors and artists. It begins on the day after Thanksgiving and runs through the Sunday before Christmas. While many still miss the parade, now Holidazzle offers families a new annual holiday tradition that may prove to have more longevity than the original.  

Written by Alyssa Thiede


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. 


The Seed He Planted: Horst Rechelbacher’s Aveda


Image from HHM Collections

This bottle of hair gel may seem mundane, but it tells a fascinating story of local innovation and of a visionary in the field of beauty. His name was Horst Rechelbacher, and his legacy is a company called Aveda. He was a trailblazer who introduced environmentally conscious and cruelty-free organic cosmetic products to the masses. 

Horst, who was known to all by his first name, was born in Austria in 1941. He learned about herbology from his mother. She instilled in him a passion for studying plants that would grow into a reverence for ancient holistic medical practices that relied on natural ingredients. After apprenticing with a barber at the age of fourteen and excelling in the field of hair styling, he traveled throughout Europe and the United States teaching seminars and participating in hair styling competitions. While passing through Minnesota in 1965, Horst was in a car accident that left him with costly medical bills, and he ended up staying here in order to pay them off. The next year he opened his first salon in Minneapolis. In 1978, he founded Aveda. Horst wrote, “I envisioned it as an organization devoted to promoting the health and beauty of individuals and the world. I wanted to do what I could through this business to help sustain the plant life that gives us all life.” Horst’s empire would grow to include a chain of salons, an enormous product line, and schools all over the U.S. and Canada. The Aveda Institute in Minneapolis was founded in 1982. 

Aveda’s products, like the vintage flax seed and aloe hair gel in Hennepin History Museum’s collection, can trace their roots back to Horst’s experimentation in his own kitchen sink during the seventies. Later, for the mass manufacture of his products, Horst insisted on fair trade sourcing and continued to use only organic plant-based ingredients. Today, Aveda is an international cosmetic empire. In 1997 Horst sold the company to Estee Lauder for $300 million, though he stayed on as chairman. According to Horst, his decision to sell the Aveda was contingent on “the opportunity to stay on and remain active in running the business and preserve its identity.” 

Horst passed away in 2014 at the age of 72. By that time, the hairstylist-turned-pioneering-eco-friendly entrepreneur had already achieved legendary status. His international cosmetic empire established a new philosophy about beauty, nature, and health. The ancient wisdom that Horst lived by still resonates today. As printed on the cosmetic bottle in the Museum’s collection: “Be gentle and you will need no strength, be patient and you will achieve all things, be humble and you will remain entire.” 

Written by Alyssa Thiede


Rechelbacher, Horst. Aveda Rituals. Henry Holt and Company: New York, 1999

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. 



Wanous Had It in the Bag: An Inventor Ahead of Her Time


Interior view of Wanous Drug Store with owner Josie Wanous to the left standing. Image from HHM archives. 

In recent years, there has been a huge boom in the natural beauty market. However, the idea of creating a chemical-free cosmetic product with pure ingredients is nothing new. In fact, a Hennepin County resident invented such a concoction at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Her name was Josie A. Wanous and she also happened to be the first woman to become a licensed pharmacist in Minnesota.  

Josie was born in Glencoe, Mn in 1871 and worked in a drugstore as a teenager. This inspired her to move to Minneapolis and attend the College of Pharmacy, the tuition for which she paid for all on her own. She received her certification in 1891. Eventually Josie opened a drug store downtown on Nicollet Avenue where she sold the pharmaceuticals and cosmetics she manufactured.  An advertisement from 1902 in the Minneapolis Journal boasted that the Wanous Drug Store “stands for everything that is progressive.” By this time, she had created the Wanous Shampoo-Bag. The product contained no chemicals, only natural vegetable ingredients, and sold for ten cents each. The earliest ad for the shampoo guaranteed that it would “thoroughly cleanse the scalp and leave hair soft and glossy,” and that it was a “sure preventative for dandruff and falling hair.”


Image from HHM Collections. 

Hennepin History Museum has a Wanous Shampoo-Bag in its collection that was donated by Josie’s daughter, Joan Lindquist, in 1994. It consists of a cloth bag filled with herbs, wrapped in tissue paper, tied with thread at the top, and attached to a label which provides product and patent information. The directions instruct the user to remove the outer wrapper, pour boiling water on the cloth bag, and then allow it to steep. Next, divide the solution in half. Use the first half to wash and scrub hair and scalp and use the second half to rinse.  


Josie Wanous standing behind the soda fountain inside her drug store. Image from HHM archives

After the national success of her invention, Josie (who had by then become Mrs. Stuart after getting married in 1909), established the Josie A. Wanous Shampoo-Bag Company in 1910. She would remain president of this company until her death in 1936, after which she was buried at Lakewood Cemetery. Her company produced the shampoo-bag until WWII when it became impossible to acquire all the internationally-sourced ingredients. Despite the fact the Wanous Shampoo-Bag is no longer on the market, Josie’s legacy lives on. She was a pioneer woman in the fields of pharmacy and business, and her ingenuity spawned a cosmetic product that was way ahead of its time.  


Image of Wanous Shampoo-Bag sale booth circa 1900. Image from HHM archives.

Written By Alyssa Thiede

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.


Sneak Preview of “LifeCYCLE: Stories from the Minnesota Bike Community”

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What do a 13-year-old mountain bike racer, a bicycle frame builder, and the founder of one of the world’s largest bicycle parts distributors have in common? They are all key parts of the Minnesota cycling community and makers of living history here in Hennepin County. They are all also part of a new exhibit produced by the Cycling Museum of Minnesota in partnership with Hennepin History Museum.

LifeCYCLE: Stories from the Minnesota Bike Community highlights eleven influential figures in Minnesota biking currently living and riding in the state. The exhibit features original portraits by Nancy Musinguzi, a visual storyteller and mixed-media artist, as well as oral history interviews with each exhibit subject.

The eleven individuals were chosen to represent the diverse backgrounds, ages, gender identities, and ethnicities found in the cycling community. They also represent a broad range of cycling niches, including bike racers and athletes, established artists and makers, cycling and transportation activists, industry leaders, and shop owners and mechanics. All of them see the transformational possibilities of bikes and cycling in their own lives and in their communities.

Pictured above is Marques Watson, a bike mechanic and youth mentor at Express Bike Shop. You have probably seen him on Hennepin History Museum’s social media pages or even on posters around town. We’re offering a bit more about Marques as a sneak peek of what you’ll find at LifeCYCLE.

Like many of the exhibit subjects, Marques’ cycling story started when he was a kid and evolved to become a large part of his life. Marques started working at Express in 2015 as an apprentice through Right Track, a youth professional organization. Through his continued work with Express, he gets to see the youth apprenticeship from another perspective.

“It feels good because at one point in time I was the apprentice, and now I get to look at it from the other end [as supervisor]. It’s interesting and fun to see and watch them gain skills from where they were in the beginning, not knowing anything. It’s cool.”

Marques is pictured with his bike, a Specialized road bike. By learning mechanical skills at the shop, he has been able to fix up and customize his own bikes. Taking ownership of a bike and having the knowledge to maintain it is one of the joys Marques finds in cycling. He affectionately calls his bike “Purple Rain.”

“Somebody donated this and I was like, ‘Man, I gotta get this bike.’ I’ve loved it ever since… I can go really fast on it. Light wheels. Aluminum wheels. All I did was put a new chain on and a cassette… I put new bar tape on it. The shifters are the same. Everything’s pretty much still the same since it’s been donated. It pretty much came all the way purpled-out. I just added a few touches to it. I got a bell.”

The recipient of the first Philando Castile Memorial Scholarship, Marques studies engineering at St. Paul College and envisions himself opening his own bike shop. Working in a shop was part of Marques’ inspiration to pursue an education in engineering.

“I plan on transferring to Mankato to finish off my Bachelor’s in engineering. It’s a lot of math. It’s kind of hard, but I like a challenge. I would say [working here] kind of made me want to go to school for that. I really love working with my hands. I really love working with tools. I think I’ll do great in that field.”

More than a livelihood or career, bikes and cycling offer daily challenge, a way to get around and see the world, and a feeling of freedom.

“I would say you feel free [on your bike]. You really clear your mind. Pretty chill. I like how I can switch up between driving and riding a bike. When I didn’t have a car, I rode my bike in the wintertime. That was kind of fun. I had studded tires. My friends thought I was crazy though.”

Visit Hennepin History Museum to experience LifeCYCLE, view all eleven original portraits, and read more about each subject. On display at Hennepin History Museum starting December 1, 2018.


About the author:
Audrey Negro is a joint intern for the Cycling Museum of Minnesota and Hennepin History Museum. Her work includes assisting with publicity and marketing for the LifeCYCLE exhibit, as well as “other duties as assigned” by both museums. She is an avid bicyclist and is looking forward to testing her skills during the Minnesota winter.

The Civic Celebration and the Linking of the Lakes: Honoring Minneapolis Since 1911

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In July of 1911, a week-long civic celebration was held to honor and advertise the city of Minneapolis. The festival had been proposed by the city’s Publicity Club, and organization of advertisers founded four years earlier. It was modeled on similar celebrations in Boston and Buffalo, and aimed to bolster civic pride and, as the Minneapolis Tribune reported, “[spread] the fame of Minneapolis from ocean to ocean, from Minnesota to Texas.”

Following the celebration’s proposal by Publicity Club’s founding president A. W. Warnock, a committee was established by the club and quickly embraced by civic leaders, including members of the city’s Commercial club. Under Warnock’s leadership, the committee quickly began raising the funds necessary for the celebration, and dates for the week of festivities were chosen: July 2nd to 8th, to coincide with the 4th of July and the completion by the Parks Department of the linking of Cedar Lake, Lake of the Isles, and Lake Calhoun (Bde Maka Ska) on July 1st.

Upon his appointment, Warnock laid out a plan. The week of festivities would include, day by day, religious services, band concerts across the city, military maneuvers, a “sane” (i.e. lacking in fireworks) 4th of July, the Linking of the Lakes, historical pageants, and an industrial parade. The cost for the celebration was estimated at that time to be $100,000 – equivalent to $2.6 million today.

By January of 1911, an office to organize the event had been set up, headed by Warnock, with a board that included members of prominent Minneapolis families, including the Lorings, Newells, and Northrups. Likewise, an invitation had been extended to the Minnesota National Guard for a military parade and to set up an encampment in the city to be open to the public – both the first time such a mustering took place in the city, and the first time the regiments of the state guard were brought together into a brigade.

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Preparations for the July festival continued through 1911, with regular columns in the Minneapolis Tribune dedicated to listing major contributions to the celebration’s fund. Vacant lots were converted into gardens to stock hotels and highlight local produce to the city’s visitors, and to flower gardens to beautify the city. A court of honor to run the length of Nicollet Avenue was planned, with garlands running between twenty-five-foot columns, each topped with electric lights and shields honoring pioneers like Father Hennepin and Du Luth. Police and detectives from around the state were enlisted to ensure the protection of visitors and their property, as the festival was sure to be a “mecca for all the crooks in the country,” according to a report from the Tribune

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On July 2nd, a Sunday, the festival began with a “Day of Thanks” in the cities churches. Expectations for the week-long celebration were high, as organizers were already calling for the festival to be made permanent and celebrated annually, with the 1912 celebration serving to highlight the city as a potential site for summer mansion for the President Taft. Papers reported that with the celebration’s official start “every man, woman and child bore that holiday look that seemed to say that they had given themselves over completely to one solid week of rejoicing.”

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The week continued with the mustering of the national guard and the festival’s first parade, where 10,000 turned out to celebrate of the official lighting of the Nicollet avenue court of honor, on “Minneapolis Day.” The planned “sane fourth” was likewise a success, as Minneapolis Tribune reported, for “only thirteen” fatalities were reported in across the U.S. from “old-fashioned” celebration, with one fifth as many injuries — signs of a growing national movement away from explosions and fireworks to mark Independence Day. This trend was visible between the Twin Cities: St. Paul, which allowed fireworks, saw fifteen injuries, as compared to “safe and sane” Minneapolis, where none were reported.

July 5th saw the celebration of the “Linking of the Lakes,” and highlighted Minneapolis’ waterways with aquatic sports and a “Water Pageant” at night of illuminated boats. The head of the parks department oversaw a “Wedding of the Lakes” ceremony, proclaiming, “What we have joined together let no man put asunder,” and dubbing the region “the lake district.” From honoring the natural features of the city, the festivities turned to honoring the city’s history with a day of historical pageants on the 6th. A performance of “The Melting Pot,” a drama that conveyed “the entire human history” of the state, was performed in Loring park and heralded as the “apogee” of the week-long celebration.

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The final two days of festivities, “Industrial Day” and “Children’s Day,” were marked by yet more parades, of the cities major industries and finally of its school children, and repeat performances of the week’s highlights, including concerts, the water pageant, and history play. Conservative estimates from the time listed 25,000 out of town visitors for the week. As the celebration wound down, calls were renewed to make it an annual affair. These plans for a 1912 celebration were ultimately abandoned. However, 29 years later a similar annual festival to celebrate the city would begin: the Minneapolis Aquatennial.

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.


Postcards celebrating the festival and inviting visitors to the city.

The Cat Fight Over Kittenball: The contested origins of softball in the Upper Midwest

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An early kittenball, or softball, mold from the collections of Hennepin History Museum.

Minnesotans are generally nice, polite people. We don’t always like stirring up trouble by offering a contrary opinion and we’re usually happy to share our hot dish with others. However, there are some points of pride that Minnesotans take quite seriously, one of which was brought to the fore in 1938 when a math teacher at Cretin High School refuted the commonly held belief that softball originated in a Minneapolis fire station.  

 According to popular lore, a firefighter named Lewis Rober organized the first game of softball in 1895, hoping to develop a sport that would keep firefighters occupied and fit in-between calls but that did not require excessive time, space, or equipment to play. The game took off quickly and soon the firefighters at Station 19—currently the site of a Buffalo Wild Wings in Stadium Village—were regularly playing with the “Whales” of Engine 4, the “Rats” of Engine 9, the “Salisburys” of a nearby mattress factory, the “Pillsburys” from the flour mills, and the “Central Avenues.” Rober called the sport kittenball, named after his own team: the “Kittens.”   

 After nearly forty years of letting Rober bask in the spotlight, Brother Lewis Sixtus came forward with a different story. An article published in the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune on March 20, 1938 stated that Sixtus had played the game indoors at school in Chicago three years before its supposed birth. Sixtus went on to reveal that he had coached a well-established kittenball team at Cretin that had played against St. Paul Athletic club members, national guardsmen, and even professional baseball players—all prior to Rober’s publication of the game’s official rules in 1906.  

Unfortunately for Minnesotan pride, Sixtus’s story checks out. A version of softball was invented in Chicago in 1887 at the Farragut Boat Club when a Yale alum learned that his team had won the annual Yale-Harvard football game and chucked a boxing glove at a Harvard fan who tried to hit it with a bat.  

Since the 1938 article, Minnesotans have tried recovering their claim to fame. Late in the 1970s, the old Station 19 firehouse was repurposed and turned into office and retail space. The architects in charge of the project hired historians to research the building and the kittenball story was unearthed. Soon after, Barbara Flanagan published an article in Minneapolis Star about the birth of kittenball, completely omitting Sixtus and the Chicago boathouse. A year later, Joe Hennessy followed suit, writing about the station, “that was the year and the place softball—then called kittenball—was invented.”  

 How do we reconcile these two stories? Typical Minnesotans, we have found a way to compromise. While most softball historians around the country and Wikipedia agree that Chicago invented softball, today Lewis Rober is widely known as the father of the outdoor version.  

 So the next time you’re scarfing down some Bdubs before heading over to the football game, remember that another great sport was born practically at your feet—and that superior to Chicago as always, we played it outside first.  

 Author Bio 

Carson Backhus is a Collections Intern at the Hennepin History Museum. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and French from Grinnell College in Iowa. Her primary historical interests are in the French Revolution and sensory history.