Ramsey County History Magazine: Volume 36-4 Winter 2002

Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.

Volume 36

Volume 36, Number 4: Winter 2002

Crises and Panics and Mergers and Failures:
St. Paul’s Struggling Banks and How They Survived Their First 75 Years
Author: G. Richard Slade
This article examines some of the banking history of St. Paul with a close look at how several businesses successfully dealt with tough economic times. Locally banking began with an 1853 bank that received a national charter as the First National Bank of St. Paul in the 1860s. James J. Hill tried to buy this bank, but he was rebuffed; so he organized the Second National Bank. It would stay in the Hill family after his death. There was also the National German-American Bank that was later merged into the Merchants National Bank. Then the U.S. government created the Federal Reserve System in 1913 with its twelve regional institutions. Though not well-known, there was a great wave of bank failures in the 1920s before the Crash of 1929. In response, Minnesota bankers developed two bank holding companies called the “Minnesota Twins’—the Northwest Bancorporation and the First Bank Stock Group. Their purpose was to create networks of Minnesota banks to fence out national competition. Finally, in 1929, the First National and Merchants National banks were combined. One focus of this article is the banks that eventually were merged into the First National Bank of St. Paul.
PDF of Slade article

A Memoir: Jimmy Griffin, St. Paul’s First Black Deputy Police Chief, Remembers His First Years on the Force
Author: Jimmy Griffin with Kwame J.C. McDonald
In this excerpt from his autobiography, Jimmy Griffin, one of St. Paul’s best-remembered police officers, tells some of his stories. Born in 1906, Jimmy Griffin grew up in the Rondo neighborhood and graduated from Central High School. Hired by the St. Paul Police Department, he was drafted into the Navy in 1945 and returned to the force in 1946. The article includes stories of dealing with bar fights, serving warrants, and improving work conditions for officers on the force through union activity. He experienced some racism, but he also had close friendships with white officers. Griffin tells of times when he made mistakes but still moved up the ladder, became a sergeant, and eventually gained promotion to deputy chief of police. He was St. Paul’s first African American to hold this position.
PDF of Griffin article

Tubal Cain in New Brighton: The Harris Forge and Rolling Mill Company
Author: Leo J. Harris
Abraham and Mark Harris were immigrant brothers from Russia. They founded Harris Forge and Rolling Mill and by 1891 it had more than 200 workers. It was one of the earliest concerns that turned scrap metal into iron ingots. The Harris brothers built their forge on land in New Brighton, Minn. that was called Irondale. To make their plant prosper, the brothers drilled wells to obtain the great volumes of water needed by the business. They also helped workers finance homes. Fires in 1891 and 1893 caused great financial losses to the company and the Harris brothers decided not to rebuild afterward. The Panic of 1893, which followed soon after the second fire, was a great blow to the economy of New Brighton and many workers were unable to find jobs.
PDF of Harris article

PDF of Flandrau House essay

Book Reviews

Ricardo J. Brown, The Evening Crowd at Kirmser’s, edited by William Reichard (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001).

Mary Lethert Wingerd, Claiming the City: Politics, Faith, and the Power of Place in St. Paul (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001).

Marybeth Lorbiecki, Painting the Dakota: Seth Eastman at Fort Snelling (Afton, Minn.: Afton Historical Society Press, 2000).
PDF of Book Reviews

PDF of Letters to the Editor

PDF of Donors