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!


Spring Has Arrived!

Spring is here! The flowers are blooming, the grass is green, and the days are getting longer. Indeed, summer will nearly be upon us in a month!

Now that the weather is warming up, and the sun is shining more and more, don’t forget to step outside your house and enjoy the warmth you haven’t felt since last year, as well as the activities your town has to offer.

Call your friends, sit in the yard, and enjoy a picnic or a party, just like these Shakopee foundry workers did back in 1905. 19960190001

Parades will soon start marching down the streets of towns, so don’t forget to set your chair on the curb and make memories like these individuals did during a parade in Belle Plaine in 1901! (And maybe…not so secretly… snack on some candy).

Baseball season is already well underway, so make your way to your local baseball diamond, eat a hot dog and some nachos, and cheer on your favorite team, just like the fans of this Rock Spring team did in 1910.20130320068

Try and make time for some leisurely afternoon walks in your local park, be it to listen to music, take your dog for a walk, or just to hang out with friends, like these young women did in 1905. 19990680001

Last, but not least, hit the road! Head to your favorite destination, with your windows or top down, and enjoy the spring breeze on your face and in your hair. Have fun and make memories, just like Mathilda (Nyssen) Stans and her family did in 1905.20080051907

Prefabricated Homes: Page and Hill’s 15 Year Stint That Ended in Disaster

The Page and Hill Company moved to Shakopee in 1942 into the old Kienzle & Merrick oven enameling plant, and began operating in late June. They planned to make and sell prefabricated homes (also known as pre-fab or kit homes). They came in many styles, all designed by architects. Most things could be altered, giving each house a unique look and many possible floor plans. These were very popular for government use (in military bases) and for civilian homes, and are still very common. You can find whole neighborhoods full of prefab homes, and still purchase new ones today! Page and Hill employed many people during their 15 years in Shakopee. They planned to start out with 125 employees and increased that number to 500 in a few months, many of which were filled by women.

Two prefabricated homes (419 and 427 Seventh Avenue W.) that were constructed in 1948 are listed as historic properties today.

Within a few months of opening, the employees voted in a union and presented an employment contract to the company. The contract was not accepted, and this resulted in the declaration of a possible strike. The company was unable to accept more contracts (for 500 houses and several thousand grain bins) until the proposed strike was delayed for negotiations. A settlement was finally reached in late October 1942. Another labor dispute over the wages for skilled, unskilled, and common work caused a strike in 1948, halting the production of two houses a day that the plant was producing.

Nearly one decade later, in 1957, a fire swept through the plant. This caused a total of $500,000 ($4.4 million dollars today) worth of damages and destroyed a city block-sized area. The company either did not have the ability to recuperate after the major loss or did not want to rebuild, and decided on the permanent closure of the Shakopee plant.

The fire that caused the end of the Page and Hill Company in Shakopee was documented by LeRoy Lebens, who photographed the fire during its progress. These are photos of the fire.


You Save What??

It’s Spring, and you’ve got an itch to pitch. When that feeling comes over you, STOP! Consider whether what you’re about to pitch might be something the Scott County Historical Society (SCHS), would love to have in its collection.



Your old work uniform, shirt, apron, steel-toe shoes, etc…?  If it’s from a business in Scott County – YUP! Bonus points if the name of the company or its logo are on it someplace.  Don’t worry about holes, stains or wear; that indicates the item was used, and helps show how, and how much it was used!


RahrcranePhotos from the workplace?  RIGHT again!  We love photos of behind-the-scenes and front-of-shop pics of workplaces in the county.  How about signs?  YEAH – as long as they’re not too big (space is a premium at the museum).  But hey, if it’s big, call us anyway, sometimes we’re lucky at finding places to save the big stuff too!


What about all those great plaques you received from all the good 20060380003work you / your company have done in our communities? ABSOLUTELY! When they’re done hanging on your wall or sitting on your desk, we would be delighted to find space in the collection to tell your story of service.


blueprints20030570003Doing or completing work on your house or business?  What about donating a set of blueprints, or work contract? YES please. These are great resources that help us track the history of space and use over time.

Work contracts too are great resources on a variety of topics, including — gender roles, assigned duties, hours / compensation / benefits, location, materials, timing, work conditions, etc.   FYI: Are you worried about anyone seeing your work / business contract?  No problem.  You can put a restriction on the donation stating no one can see it until you’re deceased – or even some years after you’re gone.

If you’re like me, you have a pile of receipts just sitting in your wallet, on the kitchen counter, or taking up space in the desk drawer.  Do we really want these slips of paper? YES – these are valuable resources to us! Receipts are a snapshot of history… recording place, product, price, business, etc.  So, if your receipt is related to Scott County – send it over to us and preserve a bit of history.

millpondmenuWhen you get your receipt from dinner, lunch, breakfast, mid-afternoon snack… from a local restaurant, think about us, not only for the receipt – but also the menu! Ask the business owner if they will allow you to donate the menu to SCHS. Really, menus?  AFFIRMATIVE – menus are particularly cool items.  The graphics are always great, and again, they’re snapshots of history and place.  Great resources for researchers and for use in programs and exhibits.

20160616_091702The collection is what drives everything at SCHS – programs, exhibits, outreach, research, etc.  Items in the collection help tell stories such as: who we are, where we came from, how and what we do/did, how places have changed and why, shifts in ideas and design, what is / was popular and why, how we coped with the good and the bad, and lots more.

With your help, the SCHS collection can continue to be a rich resource for years to come.  Please, STOP and think of SCHS before pitching. Thanks!

Photo Treasures from the Lebens Collection – Shakopee Businesses

Over his long career in photography,  Shakopee native Leroy Lebens seems to have documented a little bit of everything in Scott County: weddings, construction, floods, graduations, sports, wildlife, and concerts to name a few.  He also happened to track the growth and development of many Shakopee businesses and institutions. This week we are taking a closer look at a few of these photographs of Shakopee businesses from his collection we have housed at Scott County Historical Society. Spanning well over thirty years, these ten pictures feature places you can still visit and some of which have long been closed. This is just a small sampling of what we have found so far. Take a quick trip down memory lane with us!

Shown: Wampachs, Midland Glass, Shakopee Motors, Rahr Malting, Betty Lu’s, Abeln’s Bar, Mill Pond, St. Paul House, St. Francis Hospital, and First National Bank.

The Other Side of Old Dolls

20120140026For a lot of people, old dolls are creepy. Over the years, the media has painted dolls as psycho killers (Chucky, anyone?), and with the distorted bodies and missing parts that are portrayed in movies or shows, it’s no wonder that viewers get a phobia!
I think, instead, that dolls should be viewed as something that were once loved and treasured. For some, they could be the physical embodiment of sentimentality, and for others, they are. Take this doll, for example. This is a Charlie Chaplin doll from the early 1900’s (probably from around 1915), and was played with by Julius Coller II from Shakopee as a child. Does this look like a creepy doll to you? A doll’s label all depends on how well it has survived the years since its owner last played with it. This doll is in relatively good shape concerning its age. It’s just a little rough around the edges from use and the ever moving feet of time.

Take a look at the next photo, which is a less abused, nearly mint, similarly dressed version of the Charlie Chaplin doll above.

Cat-1102_002_0As you can see, Julius’s doll had gained much wear and tear from the love that the little boy had thrust upon him. Shown below is an image of the little boy that loved this doll so.20120140819


Just for fun, here’s a photo of Charlie Chaplin holding a Charlie Chaplin d
oll in 1916. Dolls aren’t so creepy after all when you remember the love and joy they brought children!


When you’re walking through an antique store or museum and see sad looking, or yes, creepy looking dolls, try and remember that like the man behind the Charlie Chaplin character, every doll has something else behind its worn appearance – the face of a once treasured toy.