Shakopee Stove Companies

In the late 19th century into mid 20th century Shakopee was the home of a booming industry.  In the times before electricity really got a hold in America, the tools for cooking and heating relied on wood or coal with gas becoming popular later.  Stoves and ranges that these fuels were loaded into were heavy metal constructions that looked quite a bit different than the typical box stove/oven combos that we see in our modern kitchens.  Here, in the northern portion of the Midwest, such heating implements were in high demand but their wasn’t really a big Midwestern stove and range producer until 1891.  The year 1891 marked the beginning of the Minnesota Stove Company, and once it started, it took off.

In May of 1891 Henry Hinds, Theodore Weiland, and Julius A. Coller returned to Shakopee after being appointed to inspect a stove and general foundry in Ohio.  They were sent to determine whether or not a proposition to open a similar business in Shakopee seemed a wise thing to do.  Their reports returned satisfactory and the plans to build the Minnesota Stove Company were put into action shortly thereafter.  On September 19th of the same year the foundry was built with the first smelting taking place on November 23rd.  Some of these early stove styles were the “Steel Coral” stoves.  These stoves, unlike later stoves, were highly decorated.

MSC Coral StoveMatchless Steel Coral Range

The cold northern weather and the lack of stove companies pushed the Minnesota Stove Company to early success.  A 1906 copy of the Scott County Argus stated that 100 stoves were sold from one advertisement within two hours of leaving the press.  Due to these successes, the “Imperial Coral” stove was added to the production line and in 1908 the foundry was expanded.  A 12,000 square foot brick building was added to make the total size for the company 60,000 square feet.  They also increased the number of employees.  What had started as a 35 person operation was increased to 85.  By 1908 the company had “more than 150 styles and sizes of stoves” to claim.  Some of these were the Sanico, Steel Coral, and Son Brands stoves.  In 1911, the company was overhauled.  They had a new cupola made and new machinery installed.

The Sanico line.


Things continued to go well until 1914, where the Minnesota Stove Company ran into one of its first hiccups.  The company closed in December of 1914 due to an issue with union workers and they stayed closed for about two months.  They closed again in March of 1915 due to similar issues.  They opened again on April 15th of 1915 with a crew of non-union workers.  By October 1915 they were employing 125 workers and business was booming once more.  An October issue of the Scott County Argus stated, “The company is today one of the chief manufacturing industries of our city and one of the leading institutions of its kind in the Northwest.”

Looking at the successes of the Minnesota Stove Company, a second group of men looked to open a stove and range company of their own.  In 1915 J. Warren Hawthorne, George G. Reis, W. T. Curry, and Rudolph T. Selbig incorporated the Shakopee Stove Company, what was originally going to be called “Equity Stove Company,”  and produced their Gopher line of stoves and ranges.

Work in the foundry of the Shakopee Stove Company began on October 28th of 1915.  Finished products did not begin rolling out until mid November due to the late arrival of cleaners, nickeling equipment, and polishing equipment.  These stoves were designed by the four men that had incorporated the business.  They were with little decoration so that parts could be easily repaired and replaced.  Much like Minnesota Stove Company, business at the Shakopee Stove Company took off.  Fortunately, demand for their products was so high, both companies were capable of existing in Shakopee without interfering with each other.  In fact, before the Shakopee Stove Company was even completed, they had orders for each of the items in their product line.  People were so impressed by the Shakopee Stove Company’s work that the Waterbury Furnace and Heating Company of Minneapolis moved orders for foundry work from an Iowa company to the Shakopee Stove Company.

In 1921, William Spoerner stated that the Shakopee Stove Company could not meet demand despite having recently added two expansions.  A newspaper reporter referred to a statement by William Spoerner saying “…he is not able to supply the demand with the limited capacity of the plant.  He says if he had the room he has orders enough to keep  a force of twenty-five full-fledged molders busy every day.”  Part of the problem the Shakopee Stove Company had was that they had no where else to expand to.  They had other companies working near them and while they were looking to expand to a plot of land past the railroad, they did not end up working out a deal with the owners.

While the Shakopee Stove Company was having its troubles keeping up with demand, the Minnesota Stove Company had problems of its own.  On March 1st of 1923 there was an explosion in the casting room at the Minnesota Stove Company that was likely caused by a spray used for castings coming in contact with an electric stove.  The explosion started a fire that spread to the assembling department and warehouse.  Firemen were able to prevent the enameling department from getting caught up in the blaze.  The total losses amounted to $150,000 that was only partially covered by insurance.  Despite the fire, business wasn’t too harshly affected.  Employees were back to work by March 12th and damaged stoves were sold off at a reduced price.After Fire Sale

On March 16th of 1923 they set plans into motion to expand their enameling department.   Within one year business was high once more despite certain areas within the factory still being shut down.  In March of 1924 they  organized a 150 person fire company and fully equipped the building with fire chemicals and a new hose to prevent future fire problems.  Unfortunately, later that year, the Minnesota Stove Company ran into a second problem.  It was the same problem that the Shakopee Stove Company was having.  Demand was high.  Too high.  The Minnesota Stove Company was not able to keep up and was declared bankrupt October 27, 1924.  This was not the end of things though.  The people of Shakopee had seen their stove company do a lot of good for their town and they did not want to see it go.  The company was sold to the American Range and Foundry December 4th with the sale being confirmed December 22nd.  The main offices of the American Range and Foundry moved their offices to Shakopee and the business was taken over as the American Range Corporation on January 1st of 1925.

Sadly, fire struck again in early 1925.  This time, at the Shakopee Stove Company.  On February 3rd at around 2:40am the Shakopee Stove Company caught flame destroying the building, machinery, equipment, heaters, and ranges.  Only one new steel warehouse was saved and this was only due to a rapid response keeping the fires contained to the other buildings.  That warehouse along with the 150 stoves and heaters inside of it were the only things to survive.  The losses amounted to $40,000 dollars and was, again, only parially covered by insurance.  Unlike the Minnesota Stove Company, the Shakopee Stove Company did not recover and its story ended there.  This is particularly unfortunate seeing as plans were in place to merge Shakopee Stove Company with the American Range Corporation.  An article from a February 13th edition of the Shakopee Argus stated, “A consolidation of the Shakopee Stove Company with American Range Corporation was to have been effected last Saturday but was held up temporarily and would have gone into effect this week.”  After only 10 years, the Shakopee Stove Company was gone leaving the American Range Corporation to meet demand.

By 1927, the American Range Corporation was facing the same troubles that the Minnesota Stove Company had faced.  A headline from the May 26th edition of the Argus Tribune declared, “Local Industry Captialized at $500,000, Employs 175 Men Has $25,000 Monthly Payroll, Capacity 75 Stoves Daily, Production Fails to Keep Step with Demand.”  Despite its struggles, the American Range Corporation continued to run until May 1931, when it shut down temporarily.  Between 1931 and 1933 the factory made efforts to restart but it was unclear if it ever was able to.  Reports suggest that there were plans to restart in late 1931 but it would seem that did not happen.  On August 10th of 1933, business did start again with owners expressing hope that the restart would not just be temporary.  By 1936 business was certainly rolling smoothly as work was done to keep pace with the demand caused by a cold streak.  Eventually, the problems of the past caught up with them and supply was not able to meet demand.  Instead of continuing the business, it was authorized for sale on April 20th of 1940.  The factory was bought for $45,000 by a group in Chicago.  Beginning in 1941, the factory space was put to a new purpose of building cots for the military engaged in World War II.  The factory never returned to its original purpose.

The Scott County Historical had an exhibit entitled “Stoke the Fire: The Life and Times of the Shakopee Stove” in 1998.  Below are some photos of the stoves produced by the Minnesota Stove Company, Shakopee Stove Company, and American Range Corporation as displayed in the exhibit.  The white stove in the upper right hand corner is currently on display in the museum.


Ghost Towns of Scott County

Merriam-Webster’s definition of a ghost town is: “a once-flourishing town wholly or nearly deserted usually as a result of the exhaustion of some natural resource.”1

It is sad to say, but Scott County has its fair share of ghost towns. Below is a list of those ghost towns, with years that the towns were founded and/or ended. As you can see, many of these towns only lasted a handful of years, at most.

  • Louisville, 1854
  • Mount Pleasant, 1856
  • Bellefontaine, 1856
  • St. Lawrence, 1856
  • St. Joseph, 1858
  • Dooleyville: 1855-1870
  • Yorkville
  • Merriam Junction, 1866-1871
  • Helena, 1887
  • Village of Joel: Blakeley Township 1897-1917
  • Brentwood, 1860
  • Luxembourger – early 1900s
  • Lydia

Why did these towns disappear? Many of these towns contained grist or sawmills, a post office, church, school house, hotel, general store, creamery, newspaper, tavern, blacksmith, and of course residential houses. So why, with all the apparent success of a growing town, did these towns die out?

For many of these towns, the main reason was location, as well as mode of transportation to the town. Several of these towns were built near rivers, as that was one of the main sources of transportation at the time. For St. Lawrence, the building of the railroad spelled the end for the town. The river was no longer used, and no main roads were built to the town. For Merriam Junction, a town built right on the railroad, the invention of the automobile was its downfall. All that is left of the town is an old dilapidated railroad depot.

For towns like Yorkville and Brentwood, animosity between their neighbor towns caused them to struggle with their business. Yorkville residents were seen as a threat by those in Chaska Township, and many Yorkville residents were lured over to the other side. Brentwood was on the other side of the railroad tracks to Jordan, and held possession of the depot. Jordan residents disliked this fact, and eventually Brentwood was incorporated into Jordan, disappearing entirely.

No matter the reason for its disappearance, the fact remains that these towns that once flourished are no longer standing. Even though many of these towns have little to indicate where they once stood, their memories are still held in the minds of once residents, as well as their family members. These towns still stand in photographs, newspapers, and postcards. Take a look at a few of the photographs the SCHS has in its collection of some of the ghost towns in the county. Place your mouse over the photo to see the town.


If you wish to learn more about the ghost towns of Scott County, please contact the SCHS for more information. If anyone happens to have photographs or information on any of the ghost towns in the county, please let us at SCHS know. We would greatly appreciate the information! Of course, if you’re feeling adventurous, go right ahead and do your own exploring of Scott County’s ghost towns!


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The Lamplighter Sextet and the LeRoy Lebens Trio: Music at the St Paul House and the Shakopee House


During his lifetime in Shakopee, LeRoy Lebens spent a lot of time at the St. Paul House and its successor the Shakopee House participating in two of his great passions, music and photography, and the Scott County Historical Society is grateful to be able to house many of his photographs which document this period. From 1854 until its destruction in a fire in 1965, the St Paul House, located on the corner of Lewis Street and Second Ave, was known as one of the best places in the city to enjoy dinner and music. It attracted people from all over the Twin Cities, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. Hosting music and entertainment six nights a week, the St Paul House brought a wide array of entertainment to Shakopee. Some of the most popular performances, which occurred on a regular basis, involved a group called the St. Paul House Sextet, also known as the “Lamplighters.” The original group was composed of Bruce Neilson, Ronelle Sinjem, Russ Miller, Bill Lutz, Ann Thorgrimson, and Jane Sorber. Together this group would perform shortened versions of hit Broadway shows and other musical skits. Being that LeRoy often performed at the St Paul House with his own band, the LeRoy Lebens Trio, he captured quite a few of their shows, as well as took promotional photography for them. Here are just a few of the photos he took of the Lamplighters, the LeRoy Lebens Trio, and some of the other acts to grace the stages at the St Paul House and the Shakopee House. If you’re interested in learning more about the Lebens Photograph Collection, the St Paul House, or Scott County in general, come by and visit us at the Scott County Historical Society!


Everyone has a story – or two – or more.  Some are amazing, or outrageous, or heart-warming, or funny, or depressing, or frustrating, or… The thing is, these personal stories are what we usually take with us to the grave.  They are also the “special something” that makes history come alive.


Our mission is to search, save, and share the history and cultural heritage of Scott County, which includes our stories.  In our collection we have stories on paper – journals, letters, postcards, books, etc.  We also have stories on cassette tape, video cassette, and digital files. However, not everyone kept a journal, or it’s still packed away in someone’s attic. Stories on cassette tapes, videos or digital files really aren’t very useful if you don’t know what’s on them – what topics were covered.  It’s the transcripts that make the stories easy to search and use.

The SCHS conducted a six-year project to collect stories from the “Greatest Generation” a few years ago.  With the help of dedicated volunteers, stories were collected on cassette tape from over 130 people in our county – over 70 with WWII Veterans.  With the help of the women at the Shakopee Women’s Correctional Facility, all the tapes were transcribed, an intern converted the tapes to digital files, and we used snippets for an award-winning exhibit on WWII.


Because we were able to access the transcripts, we could choose snippets of stories to use in exhibits.  Because they were digitally accessible, it was fairly easy to locate and pull out the snippet we chose, and convert it to the proper format for use.

Hearing someone’s voice describe something you are looking at, or a scene in the past, it creates images in your mind and through their voice, you are able to experience the past in a deeper and richer way.

I don’t know about you, but there are many times I’ve thought – Dang, wish I had thought to record my Mom’s stories about when she was little.  Or… it would be great to hear Grandpa talk about how he made special lures for fishing.  You know…, family lore and stories.  These stories provide an anchor to our past, share special skills, link us to communities, and more.  Unfortunately, we usually think of recording stories after the person has passed away.

At SCHS we thought of this too.  To help capture and save those stories, we partnered with the Scott County Agricultural Society (SCAS), to create a mobile recording studio, named the “speak easy“.


The speak easy, is ADA compliant (it kneels to the ground, has a ramp, and space inside for wheelchairs); is comfortable (designed to look like a comfy kitchen); includes easy to use, professional recording equipment; and is available for anyone to use.


With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s a wonderful time to think about actually capturing those family stories before they slip away.  


We are here to help with advice on what questions to ask, how to ask them, how to capture the stories, and what to do with them once they are recorded.

The speak easy is available for rent – contact us for information at or give Kathy a call at 952-445-0378.



Hats serve in a variety of ways: as protection from the elements, identify your occupation, serve as a status symbol, a must for ritual clothing, and of course serve as a fashion statement.  Style and use of hats has changed over time.  Fashionable hats more replaced the bonnet in the late 1800s.  By the beginning of the twentieth century, hat styles began to change by the decade.  The close fitting cloche hat of the 1920s covered short bobbed hair.  During the turbulent 1930s and 1940s, Hollywood glamour influenced women’s hats when feathers, veils, and more masculine style hats became popular.  Hats decreased and increased in size throughout the 1950s and 1960s until concern for maintaining the latest hairstyle became more important than wearing a hat.

Identity and Belonging:

A school baseball team. Muslim women at the grocery store.  Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts at summer camp.  What do these groups have in common?  They all wear headgear, along with other clothing that indicates their collective identity.  The emphasis is on the group, not the individual.

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Cultural Identity:

People with a common ancestry often wear distinctive hats that proclaims national identity, clan affiliation, political beliefs, or common cultural interests.


Protection for Work and Sport:

We take for granted that workers in heavy industry or dangerous jobs wear standard safety helmets.  In fact protective headgear was confined to a few industries until recently, and become compulsory in those industries only around the 1950s.  Likewise, head wear for hockey and football players, motorcyclists, and race car drivers was standardized only recently.


Religion and Ritual:

Head wear plays a prominent role in religion, social rituals and ceremonies: many people demonstrate their faith and relationship with God by covering their heads.  The Sikh wears a turban, observant Jews a Yarmulke, and a nun a coif.

Rites of Passage:

During significant events in our lives, such as marriage or bereavement, we often participate in public rituals that require particular dress, especially headdress.  Often these rites of passage have sacred as well as social significance.  For example, the white bridal veil symbolize physical and spiritual purity.

  • Although women of many different cultures have worn veils of some sort for centuries, the white wedding gown and veil tradition is barely a hundred years old.



Hats worn for public ceremonies is often spectacular.  Military headdresses worn on ceremonial occasions impress onlookers, as well as foster regimental pride and allegiance.  Indeed, all manner of “pomp and circumstance” requires its particular head wear: civic parade, powwow, royal visits, changing of ceremonial guards…

Authority and Status:

Hats convey power.  Hats such as a tall black top hat represent prestige and social standing. Some such as an army helmet proclaim military might, others identify professional authority such as a police hat or nurses’ cap.

  • Originally nurses wore practical, white, pleated cap and apron of the maidservant – signifying respectability, cleanliness and servitude. As the nursing profession gained recognition, nurse’ caps became less utilitarian and more symbolic, a badge of office and achievement.  Since the Second World War, the cap has lost much of its significance and has virtually disappeared.


Fashion Hats, 1890-1920:

By the 1890s, the bonnet was declining in popularity and the jaunty hat, perched on top of the head, was considered more suitable for the “new girl” of the period, for whom tennis and bicycling, working in an office and participating in higher education were now acceptable pursuits.


Women of the 1920s adopted a boyishly tubular silhouette and covered their cropped hair with a close-fitting cloche hat in symbolic rejection of the previous image of femininity.  The chic cloche proved to be an ideal design for mass production; with a few snips, tucks and stitches by a skilled milliner, the hat was ready to wear.


The 1930s offered a dizzying parade of imaginative hat styles, including some fanciful and surreal shapes.  Hollywood had an influence on increased glamour and drama in design and lent themselves to the cult of personality, centering on film stars such as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, and Humphrey Bogart.

During the war years the trend towards variety and ingenuity continued as an antidote to the anxieties and rationing of wartime.  Dramatic feather trimmings were revived and the veil reappeared.  Women’s hats often borrowed masculine hat styles, such as the fedora, which complemented the padded-shouldered, tailored suites.  These masculine styles, when combined with feminine trimmings such as feathers and veal, and worn at a coquettish, forward-slanting angle, gave a new meaning to the feminine image.


After the war, hats became part of the New Look launched by Christian Dior.  Headwear was either very small or very large, hairstyles were neat, and close to the head and make-up included mascara-ringed eyes.  But the hat was in decline by the late 1950s.  Reduced to whimsy and novelty, it began to lose its outstanding place at the head of fashion.


By the 1960s, the hat represented attitudes to femininity that seemed outdated.  The youth movement jettisoned hats along with gloves, stockings, and bras.  What was new and exciting was hair, teased into bouffant and beehives, and professional hairdressers took over from milliners as the creators of headdress.

Under the Veil:

The veil is the only head covering virtually exclusive to women.  It has been worn since ancient times and is still worn by women who follow a religion that requires the hair, and sometimes the fact to be covered in public.  Many Islamic women wear the Hijab as part of a dress code prescribed in the Koran.  The Hijab denotes both female modesty and reserve, and female dignity and respect.

Cultivated Cloche

The Cloche hat, so simple and modern, nevertheless blinkered its wearer no less than the poke-bonnets of the 1800s.  It dictated a stance that became characteristic of the period, since it was necessary for the wearer to lift the chin and peer imperiously down the nose.  The cloche led to society’s tolerance of eye and lip cosmetics, which gave definition to the face.


Where did the Mortarboard come in?

The mortarboard’s historical roots can be traced to the medieval square biretta worn by both clergy and laity to indicate social status.  As the affairs of the Church and academe became separated over the centuries, so did their hats.  The biretta was modified to become the head wear of the clergy, and the mortarboard (or flattened square tam), became the hat of the academic.


The Cap:

A cheap, simple, visor, cloth hat moved from the baseball diamond to perch on more heads than any other kind of head wear today.  The proletarian baseball cap is anti-elitist, deliberately shunning high fashion.  The cap can proclaim a wearer’s affiliation with a particular team; be an emblem of solidarity with workers; a memento of a special place or event; and show what kind of beer you drink or music you like.  Worn with designer jeans it can become trendy, when worn back to front it can mean peer identity or a badge of defiance.


It is difficult to imagine today, but in the past almost everyone had at least one hat for each season of the year – straw hats for spring and summer, and felt or fur hats for fall and winter.  Upper-middle-class women had a whole collection of hats to suit different times of the day and to match their outfits, which they replaced each year.  Others of more moderate means had a milliner re-trim or recondition the previous year’s model to produce the new year’s shape.  Hats were worn in all public places, including on the street, in restaurants, for visits, and in the theater.  Men were expected to remove their hats in the company of ladies and indoors.


Many words and phrases connected with hats have become part of everyday language.

When a person puts on their thinking cap to give a problem careful thought, there are mentally imitating the teachers and philosophers of the Middle Ages who often wore distinctive caps that set them apart from those with less learning.

The expression mad as a hatter has been in use ever since Lewis Carroll wrote of the Mat Hatter’s tea party in his famous children’s tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published in 1865.  Carroll was referring to the industrial disease caused by inhaling the fumes of mercuric nitrate, used in the felting of animal furs for hat making.  It caused twitching, nervousness and irritability – just like the antics of the Mad Hatter.

bee in his or her bonnet.   eat your hat.   hold onto your hat.   hats off to you!   feather in their cap.    Keep it under your hat.   She’s setting her cap for him.   I’ve thrown my hat in the ring.   If the cap fits, wear it!.   You’re talking through your hat.   That’s really old hat. Home is where one hangs one’s hat.

This blog post is based on a past SCHS exhibit

Baseball with the Quicksteps

Base ball is a sport that has been enjoyed by many over a long span of years.  It was originally conceived of as “a gentleman’s sport” and was played with a great deal of reverence and respect for both the game and opponents.  Today it is America’s past time and one of its most popular sports.  Starting in the summer and extending into the fall, you can turn on your TV and watch a professional base ball game most any day of the week.  The games you see here, however, are not the same kind of game you would have seen in base ball’s early days.  There have been drastic changes in not only the appearance of the game but in the rules as well.  The set of rules credited with leading to today’s baseball is called the Knickerbocker Rules, which were established in 1845 by the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club.  Though the rules are what they are today there are still groups out there that choose to play baseball by older rule sets.  Some go all the way back to the original Knickerbocker rules others choose other iterations of the rules commonly from the 19th century and early 20th century.  One such group came to Shakopee in 1995 to put together a game based on rules used in 1858.  The Halsey Hall Chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research brought their team, the Quicksteps, to play baseball at Murphy’s Landing Restoration Village.  Scan_20170825

Pictured above are the Quicksteps in their, more or less, era appropriate garments posing for a photo taken in 1994.  We can immediately notice several differences between these outfits and those worn today.

Modern Baseball

The shirts of Quicksteps are collared and cuffed.  The hat, though it has similarities to a baseball cap, is a far less streamlined affair that sits much more loosely instead of hugging the head tight.  The pants are full length and sit loosely as compared to the modern players outfit which is pulled up on the leg and hugs the leg more tightly.  The shirts of the Quicksteps are cuffed and collared.  These shirts share the same baggy quality as their pants.  There are no short sleeves, afterall, it’s a gentleman’s sport and the clothing reflects that.  There are also a few more subtle differences.  If you look closely, you may notice that the Q on the Quicksteps’ shirts are not actually part of their shirt.  Instead these are bibs that attach to the shirt.  If we look at the Quickstep player kneeling on the far right of the photo we can see a ball in his right hand.  The base balls being used by the Quicksteps were made from leather wrapped around yarn and rubber. Early baseballs were often made from other materials as well but the leather yarn and rubber balls were rather typical.  Early on these balls were stitched with a cross pattern called the “lemon peel” pattern.  The figure eight pattern on base balls hadn’t started to become more popular until 1858.  Lastly, you’ll see that our modern base ball player has a glove.  Originally base ball was played without gloves, helmets, face masks, shin guards or chest pads.  Gloves were not introduced until 1875 and they looked very little like the gloves we know today.

Ball CatcherBaseball Glove

The introduction of these items was viewed with derision by many early base ball clubs.  The Quicksteps included a popular poem along with their rule set that reads, “We used no mattress on our hands no cage upon our face we stood right up and caught the ball with courage and with grace.”  Along with the outfits and equipment, the fields and team positioning have undergone various changes.

Before a time when public base ball diamonds were readily available, early diamonds were often impromptu and could vary widely.  Firstly, most games were not played on dirt diamonds.  Baseball players in these early days took their bases and set up their games in fields of grass.  Bases were canvas or a similar material stuffed with sand or sawdust.  These sat loosely on the field instead of being pinned down.  The hurler’s (pitcher’s) plate and home base were often made of metal or wood.  In these early day, the size of these plates and the distances between them changed frequently.

The players positions on these fields were much the same as they are today.  The biggest differences were in the positioning of the shortstop, the behind (catcher), and the umpire.  The positioning of these players and the umpire changed as their roles in the game changed.  Initially, the shortstop was not really a defined position.  This player would play anywhere on the field.  Over time players came to the realization that having a player in the modern shortstop position would be a good idea seeing how frequently the ball is struck to that position.  The behind, unlike modern catchers, was a glorified ball stop.  They stood further back from the pitcher than they do now and were not involved in making plays in quite the way they do today.  This is, in part, due to the relationship between the hurler and striker (batter) being different.  It is also due to the lack of protective gear.

You may be now wondering, “if the catcher is standing further away, where is the umpire.”  The answer is, between first base and home base.  While this is not an optimal viewing position, it worked well seeing as the umpire had different responsibilities at the time.  Players were expected to be well capable of following the rules on their own.  The umpire was not there to call every play.  They stepped in so that they could keep the game moving if it slowed down.  The umpire would call strikes and balls only if the time at bat was taking too long.  They also called balls fair or foul. The only other time they commented was when their arbitration was asked for.

Seeing as we have begun to touch on the rules, let us continue by discussing these differences.  The Quicksteps played their game based on a set of 33 rules adopted in 1858 that were known as the New York rules.  Comparatively their were only 20 Knickerbocker rules and in the 2017 Major League Baseball rulebook there are 9 sections of rules divided into 70 subsections with 32 clauses and 2 sub-clauses.  Despite this, a good portion of the modern game looks quite similar to what it would have been when played by the Quicksteps so we’ll focus on the most glaring differences.

We’ll go step by step through the phases of play and how they differ, starting with the pitch.  Base ball pitches of 1858 and prior were all done underhand.  This is partially due to the fact that base ball evolved out of games like rounders and cricket which were both played with underhand pitches.

Shakopee Player

This also due to, a point we touched on earlier, the purpose of the hurler being different at this time.  Base ball was much more focused on the idea of the ball being played in the field.  The hurler was permitted to apply things such as soap, grease, or mud to make hits less effective but it was still about playing the ball in the field.  The goal of the hurler was not to strike out their opponent, instead they were supposed to make it so the ball could be hit.  For this reason, the striker (batter) would actually point to where they wanted a pitch thrown.  As discussed, strikes and balls were not taken into consideration unless the umpire felt they needed to keep the game moving.  If an umpire felt that the hurler was throwing the ball where the striker could not reasonably hit the ball the umpire would give the hurler a warning.  It the hurler continued to throw poorly, the umpire would begin to call balls.  On the other hand, if the striker did not swing at good throws, the umpire would warn the striker and then call strikes from then on.  As it is today, a swing and a miss was still considered a strike.

Once the ball was hit, you would perhaps notice a few more changes.  Rules of fair and foul are practically the same as they are today.  If the ball goes out past the lines formed by first and home or third and home, the ball would be called foul.  A ball that hit something like a tree or privy, though, would not count.  If a ball were hit fair and did not hit something that made it not count then the ball would be played no matter where it went.  There was no such thing as a home run in the early days of base ball.  A contributor to this, was that games were usually only played using one ball.  If you wanted to continue playing you had to get the ball regardless.  As it is today, catching a fair ball before it hit the ground is one way to get a batter dead (out).  However, going by the 1858 rules their was a bit more room to get a batter out by catching the ball.  If a ball was caught off after only bouncing once, that striker would still be dead.  Unlike today’s rules this could also be done with foul balls either on the fly or after having bounced only once.  An interesting rule related to this is that if the ball was caught after a bounce, players on bases could be made dead if they had left their bases.  On the other hand, if the ball was caught mid-air players on the bases were permitted to freely return to their places.

Interestingly, in the case that someone did ace (score a point), that ace did not immediately count.  It was the the responsibility of the acing player to go report to the tally keeper.  The tally keeper would record the ace and the player would ring a bell to inform the cranks (fans) of this.


That is the last of the most apparent differences between the 1858 version of base ball that the Quicksteps played and modern professional league games.  However, there is one last interesting fact to bring up.  Like modern games the Quicksteps played their game with 9 innings.  However, the original Knickerbocker Rules did not have a set number of innings.  Instead the game ended once one team had 21 aces and only after both teams had an equal number of turns at bat.  To a modern audience this may sound ludicrous seeing as games that never leave the single digits are not uncommon.  This was less ludicrous than it seems though.  Around 1845 balls were known to be much smaller and bouncier than they are today.  It was more common for the balls to get launched and for scoring to go much faster than we would see today.

As stated, only the most glaringly obvious of changes between the games the Quicksteps played and modern professional league baseball have been noted.  There is so much more nuance to explore, so if you’re interested by this topic you are encouraged to explore.  This post is far from definitive and only focuses on one rule set so if you are curious there is far more to learn.

The First World War

Post by SCHS Intern: Aaron Sather

The First World War, also often called the Great War or the War to End All Wars, was a massive conflict that has shaped the world in numerous ways. It marked the end of many Empires such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire. It was also a beginning for many new Nation-States that were formed out of remains of these Empires. While some Empires and Nations were involved in the conflict directly for all four years, the involvement of the United States is radically different than those on the continent of Europe. Many isolationists were antagonistic towards going to war, but eventually war was declared and the United States directly involved. Everyone in the United States, the State of Minnesota, as well as Scott County was involved in the conflict to a varying degree.

The first and most obvious avenue of involvement for American men in the war was direct military service. When the United States declared war in the Spring of 1917 the US Navy, though expanded due to the relationship between naval power and empire building, had limited utility due to the prevalence of U-Boat tactics. Dreadnoughts could blockade ports but engagements between naval squadrons remained limited. Meanwhile the US Army was grossly undermanned and ill equipped to fight the war expected of them on the Western Front, and later in the east against the rising Bolshevik threat in Russia. The United States needed to recruit, train, equip, and feed its Army before deploying the American Expeditionary Force to Europe. This process took months, and it was not until the summer of 1918 that the AEF began arriving in France en masse, often still lacking adequate arms and training. Many would receive weapons and training from the French. All states and counties in the United States were expected to provide men for the war effort. Scott County has changed drastically since the First World War as it was much more agricultural then. Being a food resource rather than a military manpower resource less enlistment was expected of Scott County to preserve its workforce and keep food flowing out of its fields. Even so 453 people were enlisted for military service from the county, 14 of whom would perish in service to their country. While enlistment rates for the county were at half the national average, the casualty rates remained the same as the rest of the nation. The brutality of the Great War is what drove these casualty statistics.

The type of combat varied incredibly across all fronts. From the brutal maneuver warfare of the massive Eastern front, to the chaotic asymmetrical warfare of the Middle East and Africa fighting was brutal. The Great War often remembered through the lens of the Western Front. Static lines were literally dug in the ground and the fighting descended into trench based warfare. Machines were developed to gain an advantage over the enemy, often with an incredible capacity to end human life. Tanks were developed to smash through heavily fortified lines, airplanes were used to reconnoiter and harass enemy positions (including civilians) and chemical weapons were developed to spread terror and death across vast swaths of territory. All off this technological development came due to the need of ascendancy on the battlefield and contributed to the wars brutality.

The American Expeditionary Force, under General John “Black Jack” Pershing, arrived in France and was engaged in horrendous trench warfare. There are many battles that display the severity and danger of the war, but the Battle at Verdun shows the horror that was the Great War the men from Scott county would find themselves in. General Falkenhayn, the German mastermind behind the battle, planned to “bleed France white” by taking the French village of Verdun and the surrounding forts. This plan was not to gain Verdun for any strategic importance but rather than to kill as many French soldiers as possible. Verdun was a place of great importance to French pride and so they defended it with vigor. The French motto “Ies ne passeront pas” or “They shall not pass” appeared in French propaganda. Thousands of French soldiers came to the defense of Verdun, some claim around 60% of the entire French army was rotated through the Verdun lines over the course of the 9 month 3 week and 6 day battle, and thousands died in the brutal battle of attrition. Artillery was used so extensively during the battle that trees still struggle to grow in some places around the site of the battle. In the end the French held, but their victory was a pyrrhic one. This was the type of war the American men were entering.

American involvement would allow French and British Units to finally receive much needed support, stepping in to bolster the Anglo-French lines after nearly three years of attrition and loses. American units were not broken up and assigned to allied units as Pershing wanted the AEF to stay American, though African American Units (the military was still segregated) were loaned to the French who had no issue using colored troops. A notable example of African American men in the war are the Harlem Hellfighters or the 369th Infantry Regiment, getting their nickname from the enemy and not themselves. After helping their allies hold the line the allies went on the offensive. Once enough Americans had arrived in France for the AEF to mount their own massive Meuse-Argonne Offensive, part of the greater 100 Days Offensive that finally pushed German forces back beyond the Hindenburg Line. Their lines shattered and now facing a combined Anglo-French-American Offensive free to maneuver unrestricted by prepared defenses and their people starving the German Empire signed the Armistice on November 11th, 1918. Though men were the ones who fought the war they were not the only ones involved in the it.

Men were the ones who were almost always on the frontlines of the war doing the fighting, asides from Women’s Battalions of Provincial Russian Government, but women also contributed greatly to the war effort. Women contributed to the war effort in whatever ways that they could. Some would become nurses and actually join the military such as the US Navy, caring for the sick and the wounded and being with the dying. Others would join the Red Cross, working to collect supplies to support the war effort and helping in any ways that they could. Even by writing simple letters to their husbands, sons, or brothers ensuring that all was fine on the homefront was crucial to the war effort. Commanders needed their soldier’s minds focused on what they needed to do, not the what-ifs of home. These women were not only writing letters saying things were OK with the family, they were the ones who actually mad things OK. As the heads of the household women took on a new double burden if a male left their household. Not only would they have to still cook meals for their families to eat, no easy feat due to rationing, but in some cases, they needed to step into the male’s place in the economy by also working. Some British Women would work night shifts at a munitions plant, leave work early in the morning to get in line at the grocer, get home and take care of the house and family, and then go back to work in the late evening, somehow trying, or not, to fit in sleep. Though Scott County women did not experience the direct danger of being near a warzone they still made great sacrifices and contributed to the war effort.

Americans contributed to the war effort in any way that they possibly could. Men, many in Scott County, would stay at home and continue farming to provide food for the war effort. Others would go off to fight and die thousands of miles away from all that they knew. Women would continue running their households to keep moral on the homefront as high as possible while trying to keep their loved ones abroad in high spirits as well. Some would even take on positions in the workforce, albeit temporarily. African-American men, though struggling with the injustices of a legal racial divide still devoted themselves to the cause, with their wives and sisters standing behind them and the nation. The people of Scott County, and the men, women, and children of the United State of America banded together behind the cause for war regardless of race, religion, color or necessity because they were all Americans and thought it was morally what needed to be done. This unity is what helped the United States help win the First World War.

USS Texas
USS Texas, a New York Class Battleship, and the only surviving Capital Ship in the world to have served in both World Wars and is still seaworthy today. According the Mahan’s “Influence of Sea Power Upon History” whomever controls the seas controls the world. Many Empires built intimidating Dreadnought and Battleships, though they rarely met in direct confrontation during the First World War with the Battle of Jutland being the exception. They were often used to impose blockades instead. Image Credit: labeled for non commercial reuse
Verdun shell holes still visible today. The destruction destroyed thousands of human lives but also ravaging the landscape. Even today “red zones” remain in France where plant life is still unable to grow due to heavy metal concentration in the soil and people cannot go due to unexploded munitions. Image credit: labeled for noncommercial reuse
Aerial reconnaissance
An aerial reconnaissance photograph of the opposing trenches and no-man’s land between Loos and Hulluch in Artois, France, taken at 7.15 pm, 22 July 1917. German trenches are at the right and bottom, British trenches are at the top left. The vertical line to the left of centre indicates the course of a pre-war road or track. Image and Caption Credit: labeled for noncommercial reuse.
Pershing propaganda poster
Propaganda poster of Pershing’s Crusaders. Image credit: labeled for noncommercial reuse

Tale of Two Cities – Merger

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the merger of Elko and New Market into one unified city.  Today the long-term residents of the two towns live side by side with new inhabitants, people who came to the area in search of small-town life, but who enjoy the convenience of the nearby suburbs.  The population of New Market quadrupled between 2000 and 2004 due to the influx of young professionals settling into the area.

In 2004, the city councils of both towns began to consider the possibility of a merger.  Together, the two towns drafted a Cooperation and Combination Plan which laid out the steps they would have to take for the approval and implementation of a merger.  This plan was completed and approved by both city councils in January 2006.

The merger plan was detailed, laying out the exact changes in city structure and services that would follow a successful merger.  The Cooperation and Combination Plan was especially thorough when it came to development and land use, facilities, services, finances, and governing structure, as these would be the most important elements to consider in a merger.

Even before the merger, Elko and New Market shared several services.  Elko contracted with New Market’s fire department and New Market borrowed Elko’s police department.  The two towns even shared a sewer system.  A successful merger would only compound the symbiotic relationship that existed between the two settlements.

A merger vote was held on March 21, 2006.  This was a public vote, open to all citizens of Elko and New Market.  The merger was passed with resounding success.  In Elko, 213 people voted for the merger, while only 38 voted against, and in New Market the score stood at 224 to 47.  The referendum to merge passed.

Once the merger passed, the towns’ administrators had just over nine months to implement the Cooperation and Combination Plan before the towns officially merged on January 1, 2007.  The city councils and administrators from both towns came together to form a single interim government in charge of implementing the merger plan.

Today, the unified town of Elko New Market is home to over 4,500 people, long-time natives and new arrivals alike.

To learn more about the histories of Elko and New Market and the merger that brought them together, visit the new exhibit on Elko New Market, opening soon at the Elko New Market Library.

Blog by SCHS Intern: Amanda Roberts

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Platting It All Out

Here at the SCHS we often have donations of maps.  What we have received covers a wide span of time.  These maps provides us with information regarding the changes occurring in our county over time.  Things like street maps, political maps and topographic maps are all names we have probably heard before. That’s because they’re important and not only for historians.  Street maps show us the evolution of our roadways and the changing shapes of our cities.  Political maps show us the location of our cities and the shapes of our counties.  Topographic maps show us how the very land has been shaped and reshaped over time with the influence of human populations. These all provide important information for daily use and historical information.  Of course there are more types of maps then just these three and one in particular that is worth discussing for historical interest.  That is the plat map.19980140108Plat maps have a much narrower focus than any of the other maps already discussed. These maps cover only a small section of a city.  Plat maps like this were made when a land owner or land owners had their land surveyed and divided into plots. Generally this land is sold to others plot by plot.  For people interested in buying any of these plots, the plat map is useful for providing necessary information about what is available on those plots of land.19980140101Looking at this closeup we can analyze the plots of a plat map more closely.  Significant for every plat map is the compass as seen prominently displayed in the lower left of this image.  This helps show how this map is orienting its depiction of the land and helps to more accurately determine how a plot of land is shaped when inspecting it.  A plat map tells us the size of a plot.  Looking at the plot in the upper left hand corner labeled with a 7, we see other little numbers running along the insides of the polygon.  These numbers inform us that the southern side of the property is 166.90 ft., the eastern side is 135 ft., the northern side is 120 ft., and the western side is 142.92 ft.  Prospective land owners are also given information such as how their property faces roadways and how lakes and rivers interact with plots.  We can see here that plots 4 and 5 of the second section are lakeside properties, having borders along Lake Hanrahan.  Plats also indicate if part of your land is designated as an easement.  Depending on what type of easement your property has, the indicated section can be used for purposes other than the owner’s, such as building a new public roadway.  So, for a potential land owner, a plat map can help you learn what you’re getting from a piece of land.

For historians, old plat maps provide a lot of information about ownership.  For the two plat maps seen above, we are seeing the land as it was surveyed and originally divided into plots.  Plat maps also provide us with the dates of when surveys of land took place as well as giving us the names of others involved in this whole process.  The names of these original land owners can often be seen on street names in the neighborhoods that they once owned.  If you’re ever wondering where a strange street name came from, it could very well be this exact situation.                                                                                                                                                            19980140099

As plots are sold the names of the buyers are included in future updates of plat maps. This way, by looking at plat maps you can learn the land ownership history  of an area. This is useful for city or county history but could also come in handy for researching family history.  If you’re looking for a plot of land that an old relative owned, find the right plat map and you’re on your way.  So whether you’re a historian or a perspective land owner a plat map is a useful piece of information.


If you would like to learn more about map making or if you’re curious about the history of the city of Prior Lake has then visit the Prior Lake City Hall starting 8/11/2017 to see the exhibit Finding the Way: Map Making in Prior Lake.




Let’s All Go To The Movies!

Today we can watch movies at home on or televisions or even on our phones.  But it wasn’t so long ago that the neighborhood theater was the only place to see a movie.

Movies were distributed throughout the county and most towns had their own movie theater.  These theaters usually had one projector, however, early movies were made up of many reels.  Audiences had to wait patiently while the projectionist changed reels, sometimes several times during one film.

An article in the January 20, 1926 Jordan Independent reported on the installation of a second electric motion picture machine at the local Grand Theater.  They noted “the advantage of the double installation is that patrons now have no wait between reels as formerly, for one machine is ready for continuing projecting the next reel of the photoplay on the screen at the moment the other machine comes to the end of its reel, thus giving the audience a continuous play.  Not many towns of the size of Jordan can boast a double-machine motion picture theater.”

Like other businesses, disasters happened.  New Prague’s theater was completely gutted by fire in April 1934.  The New Prague Times reported that “The New Prague fireman battled with a fire hard to reach, as by the time the alarm was turned in, the theater interior was an inferno of flames.”   When it reopened in September, it was transformed from a blackened and charred interior to a luxurious beautiful space.  The exterior was altered to include a ticket booth facing the street entrance.  New projectors, sound system, lighting were installed as well.  The Times also  reported that “The theater has been inspected by the state fire marshal and pronounced thoroughly safe in every respect.” The rebuilt theater was renamed The Granada, replacing the former New Prague Theater.

The Jordan Theater also closed due to a fire in November 1956.  Seems that the owner, Leo Brazier had turned on the gas heating system in preparation for a movie showing that evening.  He went out for coffee and spent some time visiting with Mr. & Mrs. Julius Schultz (who lived next door to the theater), when they saw smoke pouring from the building.  The fire was concentrated near the theater stage, but didn’t cause much damage to the exterior, however the interior suffered quite a bit of water and smoke damage.  When it was rebuilt it received a new façade.

Scott County not only had a number of movie theaters, but was also home to a film distribution business, North Star Film Exchange.  Reno Wilk of Minneapolis and Julius Coller of Shakopee started the company to distribute re-issued films.  Julius Coller got into the film business through a toy projector he acquired when he was about 12 years old.  In later years he would show films to Shakopee kids in his attic.  He acquired quite a valuable private film library, including films such as “The Great Train Robbery” and several Fatty Arbuckle features.

North Star had a list of 62 current attractions in 1946.  Among them are such things as “Adventures of Tom Sawyer;” a couple of “Tarzans” “the 39 Steps”, “Half Way House” and others.  Upcoming oar others including a couple “Toppers”, “Turnabout,” “Of Mice and Men,” and others.  Six Hop-a-long Cassidy and 16 Range Busters westerns are also on the list.   In 1949, North Star Pictures was granted the exclusive Northwest distribution rights for the new screen hit, “I Shot Jesse James”.

Let’s not forget Drive-In theaters!  Prairie Drive-In was located on Co. Rd. 9 in Jordan, opening in 1965 with capacity for 450 cars.  Prior Lake Drive-In also opened in 1965.  Champions Drive-In is currently in operation in Elko with capacity for 600 cars!

Patronize your local movie theater, enjoy viewing a film on the large screen, nosh on some popcorn, and chill out this summer!