On the evening of May 2, 1878, the Washburn A Mill exploded in a fireball, hurling debris hundreds of feet into the air. In a matter of seconds, a series of thunderous explosions—heard ten miles away in St. Paul—destroyed what had been Minneapolis' largest industrial building, and the largest mill in the world, along with several adjacent flour mills. It was the worst disaster of its type in the city's history, prompting major safety upgrades in future mill developments.
An unusually close election in 1962 led to a recount in the race between Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen and his challenger, Lieutenant Governor Karl F. Rolvaag. The outcome remained in doubt for more than four months as thousands of ballots were recounted all across the state.
In 1834, the American Fur Company established a commercial fishing operation on Lake Superior to supplement the company's profits. The financial panic of 1837 doomed the operation and the company declared bankruptcy in 1842. Commercial fisherman did not have a significant presence on Lake Superior again until the Duluth fishing boom in the 1870s.
The Andrews Sisters hold a singular place among the many famous Minnesota-born musical talents who have made it big. Rising to fame in the swing era of the late 1930s, they developed their successful close-harmony formula early on. Patty, the blond mezzo-soprano, sang lead; Maxene, the brunette, sang soprano; and LaVerne, the redhead, sang contralto. The trio recorded more than six hundred songs, sold over ninety million records, earned fifteen gold records, and had a dozen number-one hits. Forty-six of their tunes made it to the Billboard Top Ten chart—more than either Elvis Presley or The Beatles.
The Battle of Birch Coulee, fought between September 2 and 3, 1862, was the worst defeat the United States suffered and the Dakotas' most successful engagement during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Over thirty hours, approximately two hundred Dakota soldiers pinned down a Union force of 150 newly recruited U.S. volunteers, militia, and civilians from the area, holding them until Henry Sibley's main army arrived.
On September 23, 1862, United States troops, led by Colonel Henry Sibley, defeated Taoyateduta (Little Crow IV)'s Dakota force at the Battle of Wood Lake. The battle marked the end of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Nininger, a small town built quickly in 1856 and abandoned only a few years later, was located twenty-five miles south of St. Paul near present-day Hastings. The story of its rise and fall is typical of many of the boom towns that sprang up in places like Minnesota Territory during the mid-nineteenth century. It shows both the high hopes of the area’s newcomers and the despair they felt when their communities failed.
Early generations of Minnesotans lived with the ever-present danger of fire. Many city histories tell of blazes that destroyed whole sections of their communities, but in most cases arson was not the cause. The Red Wing Mills complex, however, was almost certainly burned deliberately by an unknown arsonist.
The Chaska brick industry flourished from 1857 until 1950. First called "Chaska brick" in an 1894 Chaska Herald article, this distinctive brick is known for its unique "creamy" color, high clay content, and quality. Chaska brick remains closely tied to the history of the city it came from.
The Itasca forest during the late nineteenth century contained towering pines and numerous lakes. Individuals like surveyor Jacob Brower became captivated by the region and the wildlife that inhabited it. They recognized that the economic potential of northern Minnesota would change its landscape. Their effort to preserve Lake Itasca led them to contend with the lumber industry, public interests, and the politics that weaved between them.
The Faribault Woolen Mill Company has statewide significance as one of the largest and oldest fully integrated woolen mills in Minnesota. The mill started as a small family-owned business in the nineteenth century and grew to become the largest and longest-surviving woolen mill in the state.
When the farmers of Traverse County founded Minnesota's first Farm Bureau, it signaled a new movement in Minnesota agriculture. In the century since its founding, the Farm Bureau has worked on the local, state, and national levels to support farmers and act as the "voice of agriculture" in America.
Founded in 1882, the Farmer grew from a small publication produced by Edward A. Webb and his wife to a large magazine with a circulation of over 175,000. For over one hundred years, it was published by the Webb Company in St. Paul.
Minnesota Territory experienced a boom period starting in 1855. Industry flourished region-wide and companies amassed incredible wealth. The Financial Panic of 1857 brought the good times to a halt and interrupted the growth of the fledgling state.
The Gehl-Mittelsted Farmstead is located in the far southern part of Carver County, in San Francisco Township. One of Carver County's many historic properties, the farmstead was placed on Minnesota's Ten Most Endangered Historic Sites list in 2006.
The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization which existed from 1866 to 1956. It was composed of veterans of the Union Army, United States Navy, Marines, and Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. The organization allowed veterans to communicate with one another and plan reunions. At its peak in 1890 it was a powerful organization, supporting the rights of veterans and primarily Republican politicians.
First founded in 1903 as the Minnesota Valley Canning Company (MVCC), the Green Giant Company, as it later became known, became one of the largest producers of canned corn and peas in the United States. From its base in Le Sueur, the company developed new ways of growing, manufacturing, and marketing canned vegetables. Its mascot, the Jolly Green Giant, can be found in grocery stores around the United States.
In 1855 a federal treaty moved the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people from their reservation near Long Prairie to a site along the Blue Earth River. The Ho-Chunk farmed the area's rich soil with some success, but drew the hostility of white neighbors who wanted the land for themselves. Though they did not participate in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 they were exiled from Minnesota during the conflict's aftermath.
In 1848 the U.S. government removed the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) from their reservation in the northeastern part of Iowa to Long Prairie in Minnesota Territory. The Ho-Chunk found the land at Long Prairie a poor choice to meet their needs as farmers. In 1855 they were moved again, this time to a reservation in southern Minnesota.
The world's most iconic home thermostat was created in Minneapolis. The Round, designed by engineer Carl Kronmiller and designer Henry Dreyfuss, was introduced in 1953 by the company then known as Minneapolis-Honeywell. The Round became both a sales mainstay and a world-renowned piece of industrial art.
Women members of Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul founded Neighborhood House in 1897 to assist poor Russian Jewish immigrants. For its first sixty-five years, the settlement house operated in the West Side “Flats”—the neighborhood near the Mississippi River across from downtown where the immigrants first settled.
In 1904, immigrant baker Arvid Peterson gave a Swedish-styled cracker a modern American name and the country's been eating Ry-Krisp ever since. Minneapolis has also been the one and only location where the product is made.
On January 3, 1940, the Marlborough Apartment Hotel in Minneapolis burst into flames after an explosion in its basement. The deadliest fire the city had ever seen would claim nineteen lives and destroy a three-story building housing more than one hundred twenty people.
Mennonites arrived at Mountain Lake in 1873. Mennonites are a Protestant Christian group with sixteenth century European origins. Their name refers to Menno Simons, who was a Dutch religious reformer. Simons preached a fundamentalist, more literal interpretation of the Bible. He also emphasized the importance of adult baptism. Along with these beliefs, Simons promoted a simple way of life similar to Jesus Christ and the apostles. As part of his creed, he stressed the importance of Christian brotherhood, pacifism, and the primacy of family in Christian life. The tenet of pacifism played a significant role throughout Mennonite history.