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The Republicans are coming… The Republicans are coming…

Monday, August 25th, 2008

It won’t/shouldn’t surprise readers of this blog that there are a couple of political titles on the 150 Best Minnesota Books list. So, as the invasion of St. Paul – popularly know as the Republican National Convention – begins, let’s nominate two of them.

E. V. Smalley. A History of the Republican Party from Its Organization to the Present Time; To Which is Added a Political History of Minnesota from a Republican Point of View… St. Paul: E. V. Smalley Publisher, 1896.

Robert Esbjornson. A Christian in Politics; Luther W. Youngdahl: A Story of a Christian’s Faith at Work in a Modern World. Minneapolis: T. S. Denison, 1955.

You may be surprised to hear this but it is hard to over emphasize the significance of the Republican Party in Minnesota. They built this state; all the great Minnesota institutions- like the Historical Society and the University- are Republican institutions.

Democrats won (or as Smalley argues, stole) the state’s first election but after that Republicans ruled Minnesota for the rest of the nineteenth century and much of the twentieth. In 1973, when my father became the first Democratic majority leader of the Minnesota Senate in 116 years, he wondered aloud how another Irish Democrat, Senator Richard Murphy, had screwed up so badly that Republicans had the run of the legislature’s upper body for more than 11 decades. E. V. Smalley celebrates this “continuous position of political power” in his 426 page oversize book that we have nominated as one of Minnesota’s best books. Smalley attributes this long run of success to the “progressive spirit” of the Republican Party. They were the party of regulation and fair taxes. Even when the party finally lost the executive branch in 1898 it was really just to “silver republican” John Lind, who was replaced two years later by another reform minded, trust-busting Republican, Van Sant.

The second book we are placing on the 150 best books list, Esbjornson’s biography of Luther Youngdahl, illuminates another important era in the history of Minnesota’s Republican Party. After the short reign of the Farmer-Labor Party during the 1930’s, Republicans reestablished their leadership. Youngdahl was emblematic of these Governors. His main gubernatorial initiative was known as the “humanity in government” program. He was concerned about the sorry state of mental hospital facilities, interested in civil rights, and worked to enhance public education. Influenced by the “social gospel” movement, he defined being a Christian politician quite differently than those running for office today.

From A Christian in Politics:

The Christian in politics…is not content with the measure of wealth and justice attained along the first mile of conflict and compromise. He sets out on the second mile, speaking for the un-represented groups and demanding benefits for the under-dogs, even though they cannot help him politically. He appeals to the consciences of men, not just their self-concern. He sub-ordinates his personal ambition to his public duty.

But as we know, history is the process of change over time. “[D]emanding benefits for the under-dogs”? Republicans don’t look much like Youngdahl anymore.

Gov. Youngdahl sets fire to various restraints at Anoka State Mental Hospital

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Minnesota State Fair in Archival Film Footage

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

In our tribute to the MN State Fair, Collections Assistant John Fulton digs into the KSTP-TV news film Archive to find some stories that recall Fairs gone by. A taste of the large amount of film in the society’s collection.

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1892 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

As a prelude to this year’s Republican National Convention in Saint Paul, Acquisitions Librarian Patrick Coleman takes a look back at the last time the Twin Cities hosted a national convention, the 1892 Republican Convention in Minneapolis. Then as now, the metro area took center stage with a huge influx of delegates, supporters, and of course, media. However, the conditions and the possibility of a surprise outcome were rather different. Take a listen!

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1892 Republican Convention in Minneapolis

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

Come by the Library Lobby and see some of the wonderful pieces we have from the Republican National Convention of 1892 on display. This includes badges, original newspapers, photographs of the event, as well as visitor guides given to the Delegates. Consider the 1892 Convention in light of the hoopla surrounding the upcoming Convention, which will be held just down the hill!

This display will be on view the same hours as the Library. It will not be available during the Convention itself, from September 1 through September 4.

Be sure to listen to the Podcast on the 1892 Convention as well!

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So Wild A Dream

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I just returned from my most arduous canoe trip in years [an estimated 65,000 - 75,000 paddle strokes] reminding me that I’m not 20 years old anymore. Four friends and I retraced a trip in the Quetico that Aldo Leopold took in 1922. Tom, one of my canoe mates, was reading Eric Sevareid’s Canoeing with the Cree, which also reminded me that we have not officially placed this classic on our list of best books, so here it is:

Arnold Sevareid. Canoeing with the Cree. New York: Macmillan, 1935.

This is the book most often recommended to me as one of Minnesota’s 150 best books. I couldn’t agree more, but I admit that I am a bit surprised by such wide spread agreement. This true adventure story begins on the Minnesota River at Fort Snelling and ends a harrowing four months and 2,250 miles later in Hudson Bay. I won’t take away any of the pleasure of a full reading, but Tom marked two passages in his copy with campfire charcoal that I’ll share. The first passage comes when the boys, using horrible maps and bad advice, had just come life threateningly close to missing the outlet of the God’s River.

Half a mile westward and suddenly we were in a strong current. Again we had done it! And missed the river by only half a mile!

“Mr. Sevareid,” said Walt pompously, extending his hand like an archduke, “I congratulate you, rawther splendid you know.”

“Sir Port, positively gorgeous. You, my lord, not I, deserve the plaudits of these gaping multitudes.”

But only the spruce and the birch could witness our triumph.

This proved the truth of an earlier passage that Tom had marked…

This was another indication of something we came to realize many times before we reached home, that the God who guides the footsteps of errant fools most certainly was riding on the weathered prow of the Sans Souci [their canoe].

I love the last paragraph of this coming of age story…

We went by the school, sitting on its terraces among the yellow trees. As we drew nearer and nearer to home, high-school boys and girls passed us on their way to classes. We realized that we were looking at them through different eyes. We realized that our shoulders were not tired under the weight of our packs. It was as though we had suddenly become men and were boys no longer.

I recommend collectors find a copy of the first edition. It was published under Eric’s original name, Arnold, and the dust jacket has an image canoeists will find familiar, a photo by Sevareid of Walter Port’s bare back in the bow of Sans Souci. The edition currently in print is, however, the best. It contains an introduction by Ann Bancroft, who wisely sums up the one of the reasons this book is timeless: “Only our acceptance, our willingness to go where we are small and where we need to respect the power and objectivity of nature, makes it possible for us to experience a hero’s journey. And we are all eager for that journey.”

There can’t be any better place to read a book than sitting on jack pine needle covered granite in canoe country. Other books we painfully carried over countless portages? The Secret Life of Lobsters, Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez, and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. I love the juxtaposition of reading gritty urban novels in the wilderness, so I brought along John Banville’s Dublin in his Christine Falls.

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WCCO-TV Visits Charles A. Lindbergh House

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

WCCO-TV reporter Bill Hudson visited the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site, a house museum operated by the Minnesota Historical Society in Little Falls. Hudson spoke with site manager Charlie Pautler about Lindbergh’s boyhood in Minnesota, and his celebrated 1927 trans-Atlantic flight. Original artifacts associated with the pioneering pilot – and now a part of the MHS collections – are featured.

See Hudson’s report here: http://wcco.com/findingminnesota/lindbergh.historical.site.2.770341.html

Visit the Lindbergh Site’s web page here: http://www.mnhs.org/places/sites/lh/

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An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs