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1850s bonnet exhibited at Minnesota State Fair

Friday, August 31st, 2012

1850s bonnet exhibited at the 1955 Minnesota State Fair

Today’s post concludes our series highlighting State Fair-related artifacts (although the Fair runs through Labor Day, September 3).  If you missed a post, you can browse our archive of the series, which showcased a painting, a pig, a trophy awarded to a team of horses, a 1965 postcard, a milk pail and a 1918 bread-baking demonstration.

Winter bonnet made by Lucretia Brush Pomroy circa 1858 and exhibited by Pomroy’s granddaughter, Alice Pomroy, at the 1955 Minnesota State Fair.  The channel-quilted  bonnet is of black and purple checked silk with quilted curtain and damask silk ribbon ties.

For details, view the bonnet in our online collections database.

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“Will the South Arm the Slaves?” St. Paul Press – August 31, 1862

Friday, August 31st, 2012

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1918 Minnesota State Fair

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

1918 Minnesota State Fair

To celebrate this year’s Minnesota State Fair, the Item of the Day blog is offering  a series of posts featuring artifacts, art and photographs from fairs past. Look for a new post every weekday until August 31.

Photograph of a bread-baking demonstration given by a Minnesota Boys and Girls Club (branch unknown) at the 1918 Minnesota State Fair.  Photographer unknown.

For details, view the photograph in our online collections database.

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“Army Correspondence,” and “The Strength of North and South Contrasted,” Lake City Times – August 30, 1862

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

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The Road to Prohibition

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

 
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In 1919 the Eighteenth Amendment was passed, banning the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol in the United States.  Just a year before the law went into effect, Minnesota could boast 37 breweries producing over a million barrels of fermented liquors and distributing them to over 3,000 retail liquor dealers.  In Minnesota, as in the nation as a whole, Prohibition was hardly established through consensus.

At the turn of the 20th Century, about 70% of Minnesota’s population was either first or second generation American, so ethnic attitudes toward alcohol were very influential.  Much of the state’s population favored moderation rather than total abstinence, but each group had some kind of temperance tradition.

The national temperance movement had been gaining steam in the United States since the 1870s, spurred by the growth of temperance organizations such as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, or WCTU, the Anti-Saloon League, and the Prohibition Party.

The Minnesota Prohibition Party first entered a State gubernatorial race in 1869 and saw a surge in popularity in the 1880s, when Minnesota began enacting licensing fees for saloons as a way to encourage temperance.  The Party began gaining real momentum after the turn of the twentieth century, winning its first seats in the Minnesota House in 1906.  By 1915 a “county option” bill was passed by the Minnesota legislature, allowing entire counties to  vote themselves dry.

World War I also facilitated prohibitionists’ goals. Wartime rationing led to the Food and Fuel Control Act, passed in August, 1917, which prohibited the use of foodstuffs in the manufacture of liquor across the country.  And anti-German hysteria fueled by the Great War was channeled against German brewers, including Minnesota’s own Schell’s, Hamm’s, Yoerg, and Schmidt.  The Anti-Saloon league went so far as to declare that “German brewers [...] have rendered thousands of men inefficient and are thus crippling the Republic in its war against Prussian militarism.”

The War Time Prohibition Act was passed in 1918 in order to save grain for the war effort.  Meanwhile, in December 1917, a constitutional amendment resolution was passed and sent to the States for ratification.  Minnesota’s 1918 referendum on the amendment failed narrowly but on January 17th, 1919, the Minnesota Legislature ratified the federal Prohibition Amendment, making Minnesota the 39th State to ratify the Eighteenth Amendment, which went into effect on January 17, 1920.

Congress passed the National Prohibition Act to enforce the 18th Amendment.  The law was sponsored by Minnesota’s Republican Congressman from Granite Falls, Andrew Volstead.  Volstead was not a radical prohibitionist but sponsored the Act because, as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, he was expected to do so.  The Volstead Act, while established the legal definition of intoxicating liquor and the penalties for producing it, was poorly enforced.

The ban on alcohol not only lacked popular consensus, but was difficult to enforce because of the public demand for illegal alcohol, which made criminals of producers and consumers.  The nation would soon face the unintended consequences of prohibition: bootlegging, gambling, prostitution, organized crime, and corruption. While prohibition was in effect, Minnesota’s capitol city became a haven for gangsters such as John Dillinger, Babyface Nelson, Alvin Karpis, and the Barker gang.  See the podcast “St. Paul: Gangster Haven” for details.

By 1933, widespread disrespect for the law led to the passage of the 21st Amendment, which remains the only constitutional amendment approved for the explicit purpose of repealing another amendment.  Prohibition officially ended December 15, 1933, to the delight of many Minnesotans, who waited in long lines at local breweries to enjoy their first legal beer in thirteen years.

Sondra Reierson, Collections Assistant

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1950 Minnesota State Fair milk pail

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

1950 Minnesota State Fair milk pail

To celebrate this year’s Minnesota State Fair, the Item of the Day blog is offering  a series of posts featuring artifacts, art and photographs from fairs past. Look for a new post every weekday until August 31.

Milk pail souvenir distributed at the 1950 Minnesota State Fair.  Made by the Perfection Manufacturing Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For details, view the pail in our online collections database.

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“Correspondence,” and “The War!” Preston Republican – August 29, 1862

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

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1965 State Fair postcard

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

1965 Minnesota State Fair postcard

To celebrate this year’s Minnesota State Fair, the Item of the Day blog is offering  a series of posts featuring artifacts, art and photographs from fairs past. Look for a new post every weekday until August 31.

Paper postcard commemorating the 1965 Minnesota State Fair.   A color image on the card’s obverse depicts an auto race held in the grandstand.

For details, view the postcard in our online collections database.

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Diary Entry by Matthew Marvin – August 28, 1862

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Diary entry by Matthew Marvin, Private in the 1st Minnesota Regiment, written from a newly established hospital at Craney Island on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, where he was recovering from a gunshot wound.  Throughout the week, Marvin struggled to avoid boredom, whittling and carving “chess men” to pass the time.

“Head is clear[.] Took Castor Oil[.] Weather pleasant[.] nice breeze[.] Saw a young commit* this Evening[.]“
*On the evening of August 28, 1862, Mathew Marvin was star gazing at his hospital on Chesapeake Bay when he witnessed the “Great Comet of 1862” as it passed overhead.  The comet had been discovered six weeks earlier, and was at its best and brightest at the end of August. Click here for more on the Swift-Tutle comet.

Citation:  August 28, 1862 Diary entry by Matthew Marvin, Diary notes and memos. Matthew Marvin Papers. Minnesota Historical Society. [P2355 box 1]

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Minnesota State Fair delivery team trophy

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Minnesota State Fair delivery team trophy

To celebrate this year’s Minnesota State Fair, the Item of the Day blog is offering  a series of posts featuring artifacts, art and photographs from fairs past. Look for a new post every weekday until August 31.

Trophy awarded to a team of horses at the 1914 Minnesota State Fair.  The team, based in Minneapolis, participated in a parade of delivery horses owned by the E.S. Donaldson Company.

For details, view the photograph in our online collections database.

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