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Hall, S. Edward (1878–1975)

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S. Edward Hall of St. Paul sitting for a portrait. ca. 1940.

S. Edward Hall of St. Paul sitting for a portrait. ca. 1940.

S. Edward Hall was a prominent African American barber and advocate for the African American community, both in St. Paul and nationally. An active Republican, Hall was a four-time state presidential elector and a member of several political committees and social organizations. His work for his community and success as a businessman are important components of the history of African Americans in St. Paul and, specifically, the Rondo neighborhood.

Stephen Edward “Ed” Hall was a businessman and civil rights activist in St. Paul. He was born on January 26, 1878, in Batavia, Illinois, one of five children of John and Julia Hall. He had two brothers and two sisters and lived in Springfield, Illinois, before moving to St. Paul in 1900. He then began working for black barber W. V. Howard at the corner of Fourth and Jackson streets in St. Paul.

In 1906, Hall married his wife, Harriet “Hattie” Garrison. That same year, he and his brother Orrington (Orrie) opened a barbershop in St. Paul on Fifth and Wabasha Streets in downtown. This first shop was inside the Pittsburgh Building (later renamed the St. Paul Building). In 1947, Hall moved it shop to a building at the southwest corner of Selby and Victoria Avenues, in the historically black Rondo neighborhood.

Some of the first services for new African Americans in the Twin Cities seeking employment were located at barbershops and beauty parlors, which were places of support within the African American community. Both Ed and Orrie Hall catered to white customers at their barbershop, many of them prominent politicians and businessmen. The Hall brothers used the connections they fostered to circulate job openings to blacks in the community. Hall helped new black transplants, many of whom received introduction cards upon arrival at Union Depot.

By 1915, the weekly newspaper The Helper, with assistance from St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, began printing an advertisement for Hall’s services. The Helper received its notices from “tipsters,” who informed the paper of new job openings. Even after Hall helped establish the Urban League, he was listed as the manager of the men’s department of employment services in The Helper. This shows that blacks continued to use Hall as a source of referral after the establishment of formal employment services.

The Hall brothers saw the need for increased employment services, so Ed Hall, along with Father S. J. Gilligan and Dr. J. W. Crump, founded the St. Paul Urban League. They did so to the chagrin of many white business associations, which feared that such a useful asset to the community would encourage more African Americans to migrate to the state.

Founded in 1923, the St. Paul Urban League was the result of Hall’s, Gilligan’s, and Crump’s recognition of a need for a formal employment and social services for African American St. Paulites. The three founders went to the community chest for financial assistance, and they contacted the National Urban League to meet regulations for funding. Hall spearheaded an Urban League community recreation project, leading to the establishment of the Hallie Q. Brown Community Center, where he was a lifelong member.

Besides being a successful advocate for African American rights and a respected businessman, Hall was active in politics, specifically within the state and national Republican Party. He was appointed to the Mayor’s Advisory Board in 1922, to the General Unemployment Council in 1931; the Republican State Central Committee appointed him the Director for the Organization of Black Voters in Ramsey County. At the national level, Hall was a Republican presidential elector for four elections between 1932 and 1948. In the 1930s, he went to Washington, DC, and lobbied for the end of military segregation based on race.

Hall’s personal and professional affiliations were numerous. He was executive secretary of the Master Barber’s Association, a member of the National Negro Business League, and a president emeritus and honorary board member of the Urban League of St. Paul until his death on October 26, 1975. He was a member of Pilgrim Baptist Church in St. Paul.

In 1991, Hall’s house, located at 996 Inglehart Avenue, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was a modest, two story, vernacular-style house in the heart of the Summit-University (Rondo) neighborhood in St. Paul. In 2011, after the Minnesota Historic Preservation Office and the St. Paul Heritage Preservation Commission failed to report its historic significance, the house was demolished. Its demise was the impetus of the 2016 St. Paul African American Historic and Cultural Context, an extensive study and inventory of the city’s African American historic resources and sites.

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Annual Report. St. Paul: St. Paul Urban League, 1975.

Foss, Nicole, and Kelly Wilder. Saint Paul African American Historic And Cultural Context, 1837 to 1975. St. Paul: 106 Group, 2016.
https://www.historicsaintpaul.org/sites/default/files/2017-05-19%20St%20Paul%20AA%20Context%20FINAL_0.pdf

OH 53
Oral History Interview with S. Edward Hall, October–November 1972
Oral History Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Hall discusses his early life in Illinois and social life in St. Paul.

OH 54
Oral History Interview with S. Edward Hall, May 28, 1974
Oral History Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Hall discusses his life broadly, including John Quincy Adams and the Urban League.

“One of St. Paul’s Finest S. E. Hall.” African American Registry.
https://aaregistry.org/story/one-of-st-pauls-finest-s-e-hall/

Points of Entry: The African American Heritage Guide to Saint Paul. Minneapolis: Culture Brokers Foundation, Inc., 2008.

Sluss, Jacqueline. S. Edward Hall House, National Register of Historic Places Nomination File, March 1991. State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul.
https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset?assetID=ad2bae27-b9b9-45a2-9f10-0eca0abb8bdf

Related Images

S. Edward Hall of St. Paul sitting for a portrait. ca. 1940.
S. Edward Hall of St. Paul sitting for a portrait. ca. 1940.
Orrington C. Hall, brother of S. Edward Hall, ca. 1920.
Orrington C. Hall, brother of S. Edward Hall, ca. 1920.
A photo of S. Edward Hall’s house ca. 1990, before it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Public domain.
A photo of S. Edward Hall’s house ca. 1990, before it was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places. Public domain.

Turning Point

Hall, with two colleagues, establishes the St. Paul Urban League in 1923. The organization assists African Americans with employment and housing needs.

Chronology

1878

Stephen Edward Hall is born on January 26 in Batavia, Illinois.

1885

Hall moves to Elgin, Illinois, where he sells newspapers.

1900

Hall moves from Springfield, Illinois, to St. Paul. He also begins working for black barber W. V. Howard.

1906

Hall marries Harriet (Hattie) Grissom. He and his brother Orrie open a barbershop near downtown.

1915

The Helper newspaper publishes notices telling newly arrived blacks to contact Hall for employment referrals.

1922

Hall is appointed to the Mayor’s Advisory Board.

1923

Hall, along with Father S. J. Gilligan and Dr. J. W. Crump, creates the St. Paul Urban League to assist African Americans with employment and social services.

1931

Hall is appointed to the General Unemployment Council.

1932

Hall serves as a Republican state presidential elector. He does this every year until 1948.

1947

Hall relocates his barbershop to the corner of Selby Avenue and Victoria Street in Rondo.

1973

Hall receives the St. Paul Urban League’s Distinguished Service Award at its Fiftieth Anniversary Dinner.

1975

In October, S. Edward Hall passes away at age ninety-seven.

1991

Hall’s former residence, located at 996 Inglehart Avenue in St. Paul, is added to the National Register of Historic Places.

2011

The S. Edward Hall House is razed due to a recordkeeping error.

2016

The book St. Paul African American Historic and Cultural Context, catalyzed by the demolition of Hall’s house, inventories African American historic sites within the City of St. Paul.