Fires, Floods, Blizzards, and Crashes: Disasters in Scott County through LeRoy Lebens’ Photos

As a man who seemed to always have his camera nearby, LeRoy Lebens managed to capture a wide variety of happenings here in Shakopee and Scott County. In our inventorying of his large catalog of work here at SCHS, his pictures of disasters in the area, both man-made and natural, have caught my attention. LeRoy succeeded in being in the right place at the right time to document people’s reactions and the damage done. Two of the more notable incidents we have in our collection include the Ketterer building fire in downtown Shakopee on September 7, 1957, which took three hours and six fire departments to extinguish and the great flood of April 1965 that saw the Minnesota River crest at a record height of 721.8 feet. This flood submerged a third of Chaska and cut off access to Hwy 169 North for 15 days, requiring boats to be used to ferry people back and forth. Some of the other photos we highlight here include a train derailment off of 2nd Ave and left grain all over the street, blizzards (including LeRoy digging himself out of one), and a number of other business fires, most notably of the iconic St Paul House where LeRoy would often play swing with his trio. If you would like to learn more about these events, or to see more of the Lebens collection, come on by the Scott County Historical Society!

 

Advertisements

Brass Bands of Scott County

Nothing says “summertime” like an outdoor concert, and that was as true 125 years ago as it is today. Back then, the music of brass bands filled the summer air, creating a festive soundtrack for community celebrations and events. Brass bands peaked in popularity between the 1850s and early 1900s, a time when new cities and towns were springing up all over the United States. This music brought community members together and helped foster a sense of civic pride. Here in Scott County, nearly every town had its own brass band; below is a brief history of some of these bands:

  • The Valley Cornet Band of Belle Plaine was established in 1890 by Mr. E.E. Chamberlain. As of 1891, they had around 16 members. Aside from brass players, the band also consisted of a couple of drummers and a piccolo player. The band played at a variety of events, including horse races, baseball games, weddings, and parades. According to a quote in the Belle Plaine Herald in 1891, “The members all have good instruments, handsome uniforms to which they have recently added leather music pouches for every player. They are now as fine a musical organization as can be found in the Minnesota Valley and Belle Plaine can justly feel proud of them…”
  • Shakopee was home to the Shakopee Cadet Band, started in 1901 by Hubert Stans (father of Maurice Stans). Like the Valley Cornet Band, the Shakopee Cadet Band performed at local celebrations, parades, fairs, and events. One such event was a street fair in honor of James J. Hill, the railroad tycoon from St. Paul. He gave a speech, and then the band played a song. Afterwards, Hill gave Stans a $50 bill (a lot of money in those days!), which he used to treat his band members.
  • There were several brass bands in Jordan, but the most prominent was led by Al Hagie. Al Hagie was a traveling musician who ended up in Jordan thanks to the Nicolin family. The family (who owned the Nicolin Opera House among numerous other Jordan businesses) wanted to get some better musicians in town, so when Hagie came through with his group, the Nicolin family convinced him to stay. He went on to become the dominant musical figure in Jordan, starting numerous bands and orchestras over the years.
  • The New Prague Cornet Band, also known as the Bohemian Brass Band, was established in 1893 by J.W. Komarek. Like other Scott County brass bands, this band performed at various community celebrations and events. The name “Bohemian Brass Band” alludes to the band’s cultural background; New Prague was primarily settled by immigrants from Bohemia who brought their musical traditions with them. The Bohemian Brass Band existed for a long time and produced a number of talented musicians who went on to perform in other bands and orchestras including Minneapolis and St. Paul Symphony Orchestras and the U.S. Marine Band. The Bohemian Brass Band can still be seen today, in mural form on New Prague’s Main Street.

Of course, brass bands continue to perform at parades and events, so the next time you hear those lively brass melodies, remember that you are hearing music that has long been part of our county’s history.

 

Valley Cornet Band circa 1891
Valley Cornet Band circa 1891
Shakopee Cadet Band, 1901
Shakopee Cadet Band, 1901
Jordan Cornet Band (Al Hagie is pictured front row, third from right, next to his son)
Jordan Cornet Band (Al Hagie is pictured front row, third from right, next to his son)
Mural of Bohemian Brass Band of New Prague
Mural of Bohemian Brass Band of New Prague

 

Advertising in the 19th Century

scrofula You know those infomercials that play on the television late at night, advertising products that claim to improve your daily life, or state that they’ll cure any and all illnesses, only if you call within the next five minutes?! Well, before the television and radio, those infomercials were published in newspapers.

This advertisement for Hood’s Sarsaparilla Cures was discovered in a 1895 article from the Belle Plaine Herald. As you can see, the advertisement uses a testimonial from a user of Hood’s Sarsaparilla, as well as a claim that the medicine “cures this and all other forms of scrofula”. The advertisement certainly catches the eye and draws in the audience.

The beginnings of Hood’s Cures had a humble start in Lowell, Massachusetts. Charles Hood, a son of a druggist, formed his own apothecary – C.I. Hood & Co. – in 1875, and offered many  different types of medicines, although sarsaparilla was by far the most popular. Although the ingredients were rarely listed in advertisements such as above, Hood’s Sarsaparilla included sarsaparilla root, dandelion, gentian, juniper berries, and alcohol. For those unaware, sarsaparilla is actually a root used for medicinal purposes – often which it was said to treat gout, gonorrhea, arthritis, cough, fever, indigestion, and more. Some individuals might also recognize sarsaparilla more immediately for its use in root beer.

shak courier mar 14 1888

Some advertisements just speak for themselves. This advertisement for Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Purgative Pellets was found in the March 14, 1888 article in the Shakopee Courier.

Dr. Ray Vaughn Pierce studied medicine and graduated from The Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati in 1862. He studied medicine in Titusville, Pennsylvania for four years, and moved to Buffalo, New York in 1867. Not long after, he began manufacturing his own medicinal prescriptions, and created his own World’s Dispensary Building, as well as Pierce’s Palace Hotel in 1878, and the Invalids Hotel and Surgical Institute. In 1883, he founded the World’s Dispensary Medical Association, where he merged all of those buildings together in to one organization.

Most of his medicine focused on aiding “weak” women – not women who were weak emotionally, but rather those who were weak physically from their strenuous lives. Although ingredients were not listed in the advertisements of his medicine, some of the most used ingredients were often alcohol and opium.

shak courier mar 21 1888 Although this advertisement doesn’t have a drawn image attached with it, it still manages to attract the reader. This advertisement was found in a March 21, 1888 article in the Shakopee Courier.

Similar to the medicine noted earlier, Paine’s Celery Compound was created by Edward E. Phelps, M.D., L.L.D., but unlike Hood’s and Pierce’s, Edward Phelps’ medicine was not listed under his name. The prescription created by Edward Phelps was used in prescription books of Milton Kendall Paine, who was a local druggist. The prescription soon after became known as Paine’s Celery Compound.

As you can see, the ingredients in the compound are listed as celery and coca (the coca leaf  is used to produce cocaine, and has been used in Coca Cola). In some reports, it’s said that 21% alcohol, and even heroin, are noted as ingredients. The advertisement states that the compound will act “gently but efficiently”, but with those ingredients listed, it’s certain that this prescription had quite the kick to it!

Just like infomercials, these advertisements – and their many variations – can be found everywhere, particularly in newspapers of the 19th (and 20th) centuries. In newspapers, these advertisements can be found in nearly every other page, or at least found at the end of each newspaper print for the week. It’s very interesting to wonder if individuals from Scott County were convinced by the advertisements and bought some of this medicine themselves!

 

Presented in Smell-o-Vision!

 

While looking through a 1959 newspaper for marriage announcements, I came across an 1959 article declaring that “Smell-O-Vision” will be movie theaters’ next innovation. I never could understand the appeal of smelling what I’m watching: sewers in Buffy, horses and people in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, job sites in Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, not to mention the tendency of smells to hang around and mix towards the end of the movie. But, smell-o-vision is coming back, it seems. A 4D version of Batman vs Superman in New York came with smells and there is even a device available that emits scents.

In 1959, smell-o-vision was introduced to keep people coming to movie theaters, which were closing in droves, thought to be because of the availability of television. They had 35 scents in one (and it seems the only) film, The Scent of Mystery: including roses, garlic, banana, a sooty tunnel, and the sea. This wasn’t the only innovation, however, the same 1959 article states that a horror film came with a hypnotist so the audience would “experience horrors first-hand through the power of suggestion,” not something I’d be interested in! The only problem the theaters anticipated: a lack of good new films to show!

machine_smellovision

Original Device from www.extremetech.com

As you can imagine, this never quite took off, and who knows if our current reintroduction of the idea will fare any better. One article tells of a Japanese invention where the smells are released directly through the monitor, and only from the pixels of the source of the smell!  It currently can only produce one scent (until the cartridge or capsule of scent is changed), but who knows how many scents might be available, or how large and expensive these cartridges may be?

You never know what you’ll find when looking through Scott County Historical Society’s collections!

Smell-o-Vision image: from www.avclub.com