Ramsey County History magazine offers a wide variety of articles on the people, places and history of Ramsey County.
Volume 40, Number 1: Spring 2005
The Force That Shaped the Neighborhoods: 1890–1953: Sixty-three Years of Streetcars in
St. Paul and Millions of Dollars in Investments
Author: John W. Diers
The streetcars were one of the most important inventions to shape the growth and development of the Twin Cities. The privately owned streetcar system hit its peak in 1920 when it transported 238 million passengers. The first streetcar franchise was established on January 8, 1872 and on February 22, 1890 the first electric streetcar began a journey down Grand Avenue in St. Paul and stimulated neighborhood growth. Cable railways were necessary on two steep grades. The company needed well-constructed cars so they started building them. A forty-acre site on University and Snelling was acquired and eventually had 3,000 employees. Sometimes the workers were dissatisfied, as was the case in fall of 1917, when there was a long strike. Competition would soon arrive as a “jitney craze” showed the potential impact of the automobile. A long decline in streetcar usage began in the 1920s and the Great Depression further cut into profits. Buses, which had once been feeders for the streetcars, then took over. The author does not believe that Fred Ossanna, the last owner of the system, was part of a conspiracy to destroy the streetcar system in the Twin Cities.
PDF of Diers article
Spanish Influenza in St. Paul in 1918, the Year the City Found ‘the Wolf’ at Its Door
Author: Susan Dowd
The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, often referred to as “the wolf,” was one of the most lethal outbreaks the world has ever known. It came in waves. The first, in September, 1918, was mild in Minnesota but did prompt the St. Paul officials to draft new regulations. By mid-October, 181 influenza cases had been reported and with no modern medicines available to combat the disease, health officials relied on quarantine. The Red Cross handed out thousands of face masks to protect people. At the start of November, all St. Paul schools, churches, saloons, and soda fountains were closed. There was a third wave of the disease in the winter, but only a few reported cases in early 1919. The official total of cases was about 10,000 and the total number of fatalities was around 4,000.
PDF of Dowd article
Growing up in St. Paul: Simple, Carefree Days—Hague and Fry—and the Center of a Boy’s Universe
Author: James B. Bell
The author lived his first sixteen years at the house of his grandfather, a businessman engaged in finance. Life at 1618 Hague was simple and had many carefree days. He wrote that “the neighborhood of Hague Avenue and Fry Street” was “the focal point of my earliest education” and recalls the village-like character of the shops at Selby and Snelling. He and his siblings all attended the Richards Gordon School on Dayton Avenue. There are memories of bringing money for Red Cross drives, participating in the student police patrol and school release for Protestant religious instruction. There were dance lessons from Marie Rothfuss after school and French lessons at his school.
PDF of Bell article
A Novel Look at History
Author: Steve Trimble
There are some historians who believe that in many cases novels can give readers the real feel of a city—its smells, sounds, and landscape. This article looks at four novels set in St. Paul. Mr. White’s Confession by Robert Clark is set in 1939. The main character was an avid amateur photographer with a strange inability to remember the past. He is suspected of a murder of a St. Paul dance hall worker. Mary Sharratt’s Summit Avenue is set between 1912 and 1918 and features Kathrin, a young woman who hired to translate German fairy tales for a rich woman. Call Me Kick by John Osander speculates on what would happen to Nick Carraway, protagonist of the Great Gatsby in the 1930s. A young girl nicknamed “Kick” sees him being kidnapped and decides to rescue him. In this attempt, she visits the Castle Royale night spot, Calvary Cemetery, the Hamm Building, and the Hollyhocks Club. A reunion of the class of 1969 is the starting point for Tim O’Brien’s July, July. It is held in the year 2000 at Darton Hall a thinly-disguised Macalester College. It includes memories of the classmates’ college years, their disillusionment with society, and the future course of their lives. There are scenes on Grand Avenue, in White Bear Lake, and in various St. Paul neighborhoods.
PDF of Trimble article
Rhoda R. Gilman, Henry Hastings Sibley: Divided Heart (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004).
Ralph W. Hidy, Muriel E. Hidy, Roy V. Scott, and Don L. Hofsommer, The Great Northern Railway: A History (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
Larry Millett, Strange Days, Dangerous Nights: Photos from the Speed Graphic Era (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004).
Robert MacGregor Shaw, Life in the Back Shop: Printers in Weekly Newspaper Shops during the First Six Decades of the 20th Century Tell Their Stories (Cornucopia, Wis.: Superior Letterpress Co., 2004).