steele-chair

Franklin Steele’s Bentwood Chair

By Mara Taft, collections volunteer

This chair was used by Franklin Steele (1813-1880), a founder of Minneapolis and prominent in the lumber industry.

Stylistically, this a bentwood chair with a cane bottom. Manufactured by the Thonet company in Germany, this chair is signed with the original Thonet company mark. Michael Thonet, founder of the Thonet cabinetry company, was one of the most important innovators of bentwood furniture making. He patented a process of gluing layers of wood together through veneer and lamination, and then bending them under heat to created curved back-rails and legs on chairs, headboards, and sofa arms. By 1900, the popular, inexpensive furniture style was widely produced by furniture manufacturers in the United States.

franklinesteele

Steele was a founder of Minneapolis who became wealthy through the lumber industry and land deals. Born in Pennsylvania, he heard of prosperity in Minnesota and traveled there via the steamboat Burlington in 1838. He went to Fort Snelling, and at the age of 25, became the storekeeper.

In 1837, both sides of the Mississippi River were controlled by the government and was occupied by 150 squatters. In 1838, Fort Snelling commander Joseph Plympton convinced the government to put the east side of the river up for settlement. Steele staked his claim on the best spot of land by arriving to the site before dawn on the first day of settlement, thus securing his claim over St. Anthony Falls and his prominent role in the Minnesota lumber industry. A dam was built in 1848 blocking the east half of the river, allowing him to catch lumber sent downstream from the north. In 1854, squatters were able to purchase the west side of the river, and thus built a dam on the west side. This dam created, along with Steele’s, created an inverted-V shape which can still be seen today.

Apart from logging, Steele was known for many other building projects in what is now Minneapolis. In 1849 he plotted the town of St. Anthony, which was incorporated with Minneapolis in 1872. In 1852, he built a suspension bridge linking Minneapolis and Nicollet Island. Being an entrepreneur, he charged a toll of 5 cents per pedestrian, 25 cents per wagon, and 2 cents per pig and sheep to cross the bridge. Additionally, in 1851, he donated 4 acres in St. Anthony which was used to build the beginnings of the University of Minnesota.

Through his prominent roles in the lumber industry and land deals, Franklin Steele was undoubtedly an important figure in the emergence of Minneapolis as a prominent city. He helped to build Minneapolis and Hennepin County sitting on this very chair!

To volunteer at HHM, contact James Bacigalupo at history@hennepinhistory.org or 612.870.1329.

 

dylanchair

Bob Dylan Sat Here

 

By Heather Hoagland, HHM Collections Manager

Bob Dylan’s Chair

In 1959, a 19-year-old University of Minnesota student finally got his first gigs playing his guitar and singing the tunes he wrote himself—and for which he would later win a Nobel Prize for Poetry.

Bob Dylan sat in this simple chair at The Ten O’Clock Scholar coffeehouse during those gigs. Though he was only at the U of M from 1959 to 1961, Dylan and local legend John Koerner played together there, nurturing each other’s love of folk and blues.

The Scholar was located at the corner of Fifth Street and Fourteeth Avenue in Dinkytown, a historic student neighborhood adjacent to the University of Minnesota. The décor at the Scholar was simple: small chairs and tables where people gathered to talk, listen to music, or read. The building was burned to the ground in the late 1960s.

The chair was a gift of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Miss Teria’s Night of the Unknown (Black Friday)

My dear nocturnal seekers of mystification. It’s me — Miss Teria, your one and only host of the Hennepin History Museum’s After-Hours events. This time our Night of the Unknown celebrated the start of the holiday season with playfully references to consumerism.

Our mystery object this time was a cookie display glass that we believe was from the 1920’s. It was one of many that wrapped around the top of the plate glass windows at the Burch Drug Store on Hennepin and Franklin Avenue. They were intended to be almost indistinguishable from stained glass windows.

YogaQuest narrator and a certified yoga instructor led us through a cautionary tale based on the cult film ‘Gremlins.’ We were delighted to offer cold cuts of vegan meat and cheese from The Herbivorous Butcher and beer from our sponsor Indeed Brewing Company.

Until next time,
Miss Teria

dowling-chair

Object of the Week: Dowling School Chair

By Heather Hoagland, HHM Collections Manager

This chair was made to suit the special needs of a disabled child who attended the Dowling School in Minneapolis. While we don’t know what those needs were, the desk lifts on a hinge and the high back raises. It likely dates from the 1940s or 1950s.

dowliingblog1

Above: child using similar chair

The Dowling School, established in 1920, was the first school for the disabled in Minnesota and one of the longest continuously operating schools in the area. Today it is an urban environmental learning center, serving students of all ability levels.

DowlingBlog2.jpg

Above: Dowling students outside the school

The school opened with just 17 students in January, 1921, but quickly grew to fill a needed gap in the Minneapolis educational system, serving handicapped children throughout the region. In 1923, the school moved to its current location on 21 wooded acres overlooking the Mississippi, which was a gift from Minneapolis mayor William Eustis. In the 1930s, Dowling was the recipient of WPA funding to build an aqua therapy school. President and First Lady Roosevelt visited the school to dedicate the pool, which is still in use today.

DowlingBlog3Pool.jpg

Dowling pool

The school’s founder, Michael Dowling, lost three limbs in a blizzard at the age of fourteen but went on to graduate from Carleton College—my alma mater!—and have a successful career as a businessman and speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

DowlingPortrait.jpg

Above: Michael Dowling

fez

Object of the Week: Zuhrah Temple Fez

This fez belonged to Henry Sparby, who was a member of the Zuhrah Temple and the Minnesota Consistory No. 2 as early as 1920. The model for Mr. Sparby’s fez is our own George H. Christian—first owner and overseer of construction of the Christian mansion where Hennepin History Museum is now located.

The Zuhrah Temple is the local chapter of the fraternal system known as Shriners International. With over 2,000 members, the Zuhrah Temple is the largest shrine in the Midwest region.

Today, the order is based in Minnetonka, but it has a long history. It was one of the first centers in the Midwest, obtaining a charter in 1886 along with St. Paul, Chicago, St. Louis, Cedar Rapids, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids.

The Zuhrah Temple is proud that the first uniformed marching unit was the Zuhrah Patrol, meaning the long tradition of Shriners marching in parades began here in Hennepin County. There have also been three leaders (“Potentates”) in Zuhrah history to become national leaders (“Imperial Potentates”).

Shriner fraternities, like the Zuhrah Temple, are dedicated to fellowship and philanthropy. They work to improve their communities by giving back through service and financial support. Across the country, Shriners are particularly known for establishing hospitals in their communities. The Zuhrah Temple completed the Twin Cities Shrine Hospital in 1923.

The fez was donated by the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center.

Miss Teria’s Night of the Unknown (Paranormal Edition)

miss-teria-banner-no-text

My dear paranormal enthusiasts — it is I, Miss Teria. How I love to welcome you all into the Christian family mansion and ply you with food, drinks, and entertainment on The Night of the Unknown. Each time I host, I select a mystery object from our shadowy collections. You have an opportunity to get into the party for free, if you guess it correctly.

A very special Night of the Unknown took place on October 21st 2016. My friends from the Minnesota Paranormal Investigators demonstrated how they use their equipment and attendees tried their hand at making extrasensory phenomena manifest.

The hints for this mystery object can be found in the Facebook invite and the discussion. The answers were as follows: CLUE 1: Anatomy; CLUE 2: doctor; CLUE 3: table

The mystery object was a doctor’s table circa 1890’s – 1900. It was donated in the 1970’s from a Swedish hospital.

Until next time,
Miss Teria

perm-machine

Collection Item of the Week: Perm Machine

Permanent Wave Machine 

By HHM collections manager Heather Hoagland

Despite appearances, this is not some kind of torture device—although may have caused women to suffer for fashion. This is a permanent wave machine. With the combination of a reagent on the hair and the addition of heat through the top of the device (known as the “chandelier”), this machine would create a stylish wave.

permmachine2

Image: Wiki Commons

First, a proprietary alkaline reagent would be applied to the hair. Each beautician would create their own special blend, determined by their own experience, as well as the type of hair and style desired. Although I couldn’t confirm this myself, curator Jack Kabrud claims this reagent could include cow urine!

Sections of hair would then be wrapped around one of the metal coils and clamped into place and the electric machine would add heat to the hair, setting the wave in place.

This particular machine was produced by E. Frederics, Inc. of New York, circa 1928. The image below shows representatives of the company giving a demonstration in New York in 1928.