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: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/8039763196 labeled for non commercial reuse
Verdun-shell-holes
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: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Verdun_5.jpg 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: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_view_Loos-Hulluch_trench_system_July_1917.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse.
Pershing propaganda poster
Propaganda poster of Pershing’s Crusaders. Image credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3048/3049886600_3af715fdf0_b.jpg 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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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!

A Successful Partnership: 81 Years of Rahr Making Malts in Shakopee

Continuing our inventorying of the photographic work of LeRoy Lebens here at SCHS, one of the more prevalent themes of his catalog is local businesses and their development. His photographs capture the construction and activity of many businesses throughout Scott County. However, one business seems to stand out among all the others, both in terms of numbers of photos and physical size, the Rahr malting plant in Shakopee. We thought it would be interesting to share a few of these images with you, along with a little background on this longtime member of the Scott County business community.

The Rahr family began a brewing business under the direction of German immigrant William Rahr in 1847 along the shores of Lake Michigan in Manitowoc, WI. Malted barley grain, necessary to the brewing process, was also produced by the family. It was this second factor that would ultimately prove to be their greatest success. Within a short time, Rahr began selling their excess malt to other breweries throughout the Midwest and eventually this became their primary focus until prohibition swept through the country in 1920. To survive prohibition, Rahr produced malt for use “near beers”, coffee, and dairy products. Fortunately for Rahr, as well as everyone else, prohibition came to an end in 1933 and they could again produce malt for a thirsty population.

Eager to reclaim its former dominance in malting for brewers throughout the Midwest, Rahr looked to expand beyond its Manitowoc location and built a state-of-the-art facility in Shakopee in 1936. They had many reasons for choosing Shakopee for their new facility. First, the malting process requires an abundance of good water, which the aquifer here provides at a constant temperate of 52 degrees, perfect for their needs. Second was proximity to barely, at the time the farmlands around Shakopee were producing some of the best barely in the world. Third was access to shipping facilities, ports along the Minnesota River and railroad service from Union Pacific and Canadian Pacific afford the factory the ability to quickly ship orders anywhere. Fourth was proximity to the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, which was the leading barley market in the nation. Rahr also found an eager workforce and a welcoming city in Shakopee, according to a February 6, 1936 article in the Shakopee Argus-Tribune.

This facility is now the largest single-site malt production facility in the world.  Since 1936 the Rahr plant in Shakopee has undergone five more expansions, adding buildings in 1954, 1977, 1981, 1994, and 2016. The facility’s footprint is seven blocks long, two blocks wide, and dominates the skyline with its tall towers which can be seen for miles around. The added capacity has enabled an annual output of 460,000 metric tons of malt, while its 300 storage bins can hold upwards of 8 million bushels of barley. This kind of output makes Rahr an undeniable world leader in their field, providing malt and other supplies to roughly 90 percent of the breweries in the United States, from big names like Anheuser-Busch to the smallest local brewer. Despite having additional facilities in Taft, North Dakota and Alix, Alberta, the Shakopee plant serves as the company’s headquarters where they employ 240 people.

The images we have selected to show here were taken by LeRoy Lebens mostly from the 1960’s through the early 1980’s and show various stages of construction for new buildings, advertising, parts of production, and artistic shots.

Fighting Fires

PhilaFiremen.jpgOne of the earliest volunteer fire companies, and the first fire insurance company, were both set up in the 1750s by Ben Franklin and his friend Dr. Thomas Graeme.  Fire companies served a social significance  as well as the practical significance.  You can see the social aspect of firefighting playing out in the illustration in the center of the image.  Three hoses are trained on the burning building, and you can trace those hoses to three different fire departments.  They each wear different colored capes: red, black and pale blue, to tell each other apart.  Here, the three bands are acting in cooperation, but that wasn’t always the case.

Mose.jpgThe second illustration will seem familiar if you’ve seen the movie Gangs of New York.  The man with the red shirt, stovepipe hat and Paul Bunyan stature sitting on the barrel is Mose.  Mose was more of a myth than a man, but he comes out of the Bowery gangs of New York’s east side that are depicted in the popular film.  He was also a character in one of the most popular plays of the New York stage.  Most of the tough Bowery b’hoys were volunteer firemen, and their companies were their gangs.  They would brawl each other for the honor of putting out a fire, often letting a house burn in the process.  The barrel in the illustration is interesting.  The first person to each fire was assigned the task of guarding the fireplugs.  These are plugs in wooden water pipes that firemen would remove to connect their hoses to the main.  The gangs in New York would send out a man with an empty barrel to put over the main to guard the plug from rival companies.  These goons were called “plug uglies” and that’s very similar to what Mose is doing here.

What does all this as background have to do with Scott County?  The earliest Scott County and Minnesota fire departments were just as social organizations as their eastern predecessors, only much less violent.  Important citizens were active members of volunteer fire fighting, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere.

What did towns do without a fire company: let a house burn or put it out yourself. Fighting fires was everybody’s business and everybody’s job.  As towns expanded and became more dense, the dangers of fire became more serious, and clamor for a fire company grew.

Fighting fires in the 19th century was tricky for several reasons: for one, building materials were easily combustible.  While 1870s Scott County was by no means a new settlement, there were enough log houses to make a general conflagration in a city a major disaster.  Second, sources of heating were dangerous: gas lights, fires, stoves, candles, all contained the possibility of getting out of control and starting a blaze.  Finally, the earliest industries that helped cities grow often contained dangerous possibilities for fires.  Lumber industry, flour milling, textiles, etc.  In fact, one of Shakopee’s flour mills burned in 1885—a very dangerous fire because of the explosive properties of wheat dust.

In 1872 Shakopee had it’s first big fire at the St. Paul and Sioux City railroad machine shop on east First Avenue.  It caused quite a bit of damage to a vital part of the city’s growth and sustenance – the railroad.  In 1879, the National Hotel burned, wiping out an entire city block that contained a grocery, several saloons, and a meat market.

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Belle Plaine Fire House

1883 is our starting date—that’s when years of agitation for a fire department finally paid off and a fire department was organized with elected members and three companies: Hook & Ladder, Engine (pumper) and Hose Companies.  Belle Plaine organzied their company in January of 1883 with great success, however the department would dwindle and disband over the next two years.  However, their early success may have inspired Shakopee to organize their company in the fall of 1883.

 

The Shakopee Fire Department (SFD) has all its original ledger books that record the dates of their earliest meetings, who was present, who was not present and had to pay the absentee fine, and a list of fire calls .  This ledger is of the Hook & Ladder Co.—so not the entire department—and in 1884 their budget was $31.80, a tidy sum for that day, though they received a city appropriation for $2,900 for initial equipment purchases.

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The department was always a tight social organization.  But there was a lot of pomp and entertainment to their events.  They held annual Thanksgiving and Christmas balls which were the talk of the town and also helped the department raise money.  The Shakopee Argus reported on their first one in 1883: “The first annual ball of the city Fire Department was held last evening and was largely attended and thoroughly enjoyed.  The firemen were all dressed in their uniforms and presented a fine appearance in their drill…a thoroughly enjoyable time is the unanimous verdict.”

In America, we don’t talk about class very much.  But some of the earliest visitors to our nation when it was young were amazed at the spirit of community and civic duty that cut across class lines.  The son of a French nobleman, Alexis de Tocqueville, was one of the most astute observers of early American life, and remarked on how, in towns across the county, people felt the duty and desire to pitch in and steer the direction of their community and nation.  This translates down to the Shakopee fire dept., as well.  On its rolls, you see that its members were farmers, butchers, lawyers, shop owners, craftsmen and speculators; blue collar and white collar, sometimes both at once.  Most of them were immigrants.  But they were connected to the growing town and to each other, perhaps by civic duty, by self-interest, or both.

Just as the early town was dependent upon the civic engagement of all its citizens to survive, so were nearby towns dependent upon each other.  Fire calls in Shakopee history have often been assisted by companies from other towns.  Before Shakopee had its own department, St. Paul was one of the only organized fire departments in fledgling Minnesota.  They had men and equipment, like a pumper engine, though it took the department several hours to get here by rail.  Jordan and Chaska were also instrumental in fighting Shakopee’s fires, and it works vice versa.

A page from the first ledger of the department shows part of the fire record for 1884.  It indicates that barns and railroad shops were the unfortunate recipients of fire for the first half of the year.  The Omaha Railroad company shops caught fire twice, and neither fire was ruled accidental but “incendiary.”  It also lists J. B. Conter’s hotel barn as catching fire accidentally for a loss of $2.  Conter’s hotel was Shakopee’s Pelham hotel, later the Merchant Hotel.  The details of early Shakopee society that the ledgers reveal and the services rendered and records kept by the fire dept. are extraordinary.

The first decade of 1900 brought new improvements for Shakopee’s firemen.  The city installed new water mains and fire hydrants for a larger and more reliable water supply.  Hydrants provided their own pressure, so the use of heavy pumpers was reduced.

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Shakopee Fire Department c1928-1930

In 1916, the SDF aquired its first motorized fire apparatus, a Kissel Chemical Fire Engine. That same year, fire broke out at Ries Bottling works (of which we have the letter).  The fire took off because the warehouse that caught fire stored paper, boxes and wooden cases that fed the blaze.  Apparently the Kissel did not perform well at that fire.  Another large fire took place in 1923 at the Minnesota Stove Co.

A pivotal year for the SFD was 1954/5, the year that they got their new building and moved out of the city building on 2nd and Lewis.

Fires included the McMurray building at 1ststation.jpg and Lewis in 1957, the Shakopee Warehouse  in 1962, and the St. Paul House in 1965 which firemen kept at for 16 hours.  Simons Lumber Yard burned in 1968, and was at 2nd and Lewis, visible at left of the picture with the fire bell.

 

1959 had the worst fire that Shakopee has yet seen, not so much for loss of property or extent of the blaze, but for the only loss of life to occur within the department’s history.  A fire started at Schesso’s garage, a Chevrolet dealership.  The fire was tricky because the fire fed on the gas and oil in and around the cars.  The blaze lasted 6 hours, in the course of which, Max Wermerskirchen, a 28 year old fireman, fell through the roof of the building while trying to break out a skylight to ventilate the building.  The SDF dedicated a  plaque to Max’s memory as the one firefighter to die in the line of duty in Shakopee.

We recommend Caroline Paul’s book Fighting Fire for the women’s side of the occupation.  Her book is grizzly in parts, but a very interesting read.

Original article written by Patrick Rodgers, former curator at SCHS.

 

Junior High Yearbooks from 1996, 2004, and 2013

We have an extensive collection of yearbooks, both high school and junior high. Not only are these extremely useful by providing photographs and identifications for an entire generation, but they are excellent glimpses into the past and a fun walk down memory lane. These junior high yearbooks are great examples.

In 1996, the yearbook gave out awards for the best groomed, best personality, most unique, biggest flirt, and easiest to talk to. There are photos of students studying, eating in home economics, and goofing around. (Is it just me, or is the yearbook the only place where goofing off is approved of?)

In 2004, teachers got to have their own say with quotes about what it was like when they were in junior high. The awards are extra fun with categories like flashy hair, formidably outgoing, favored politician, and florescent eyes. There are even a few “edited” pictures when a student didn’t like their photo!

In 2013, there are fantastic photos of the school play Pirates of Penzance, along with a faculty versus freshmen basketball game, and lots of school dances. Students also participated in an anti-bullying day and a spelling bee.

 

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!

 

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!

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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

Celebrating Summer Outdoors in Scott County

While we continue our inventorying of LeRoy Lebens’ vast catalog of work here at SCHS, it is hard to miss his passion for nature and everything outdoors. Often times we will come upon long series of photographs showing outdoor scenes of all types: wildlife, flowers, trees, and people simply enjoying the outdoors. As we enter summer in Scott County, particularly on beautiful sunny days, it is easy to see how LeRoy was so captivated by these surroundings. What better way to celebrate Memorial Day weekend and summer than to share a small sampling of these outdoor pictures? We hope that these might inspire you to get outside this weekend to enjoy and explore the bounty of outdoor spaces and activities that Scott County and the Minnesota River valley have to offer us all. Perhaps you can channel some inspiration from these pictures and snap a few shots of your own! Happy Memorial Day from all of us here at Scott County Historical Society.

Connections Across Time

It’s kinda weird, creepy even, when today’s events reflect those from 100 years ago. This year marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I.  While researching this topic I was struck by the similarities between what we’re experiencing today and WWI sentiments.

Language

Before the U.S.19980150001 got involved in WWI, the phrase “America First” was used by those wanting to stay out of the war. This same phrase was used in the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Wilson stated: “The World must be made safe for democracy.  Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.”  Barack Obama stated: “…we must recognize that lasting stability and real security require democracy.”

Loyalty – Surveillance

20000490029Being of German descent was not a positive fact during the war.  Since Scott County was settled by a majority of Germans, loyalty to America became a public issue.  This pamphlet of a speech by Julius Coller, clearly illustrates this public demonstration of loyalty.  In Belle Plaine, a movie that had a pro-German bent, was thrown into the street and burned by local citizens!  100percentAmerican

Not only were you expected to demonstrate your loyalty to the U.S., you were also encouraged to turn in those you suspected of German sympathy.  “It is the duty of every good citizen to communicate to proper authorities any evidence of sedition that comes to his notice.” New York Times, July 1917.  “Clip and send to us any editorial utterances they encounter which seem to them seditious or treasonable,” Literary Digest.  All of this brings to mind today’s wire taps, surveillance, Wiki Leaks, and investigations.

Immigration

The Immigration Act of 1917, among other things, required that immigrants be able to read and write in their native language, which led to standardized literacy tests. Standardized testing continues today in schools across the county.

TwinTowers

Terrorism

WWI introduced air raids and poison gas – precursors to today’s chemical weapons, bombings, and nuclear war threats.

It’s funny how researching the past can give you a clearer understanding of the present, and an understanding of how personal beliefs/conduct, and national and global relations evolved.

The SCHS newest exhibit: The Great War: Scott County in World War I, opens June 22, 2017.  Special guest speaker Iric Nathanson, author of World War I in Minnesota.