Pedaling Scott County’s Past

      It finally feels like spring at the Scott County Historical Society. There’s a green tinge in the Stans Garden, and plans are underway for summer programs, festivals and fairs. I am particularly excited for a series of bike tours highlighting the environmental and social histories of Shakopee, Jordan and New Prague. In the process of preparing for these tours, I started digging into the two-wheeled history of Scott County

                Biking has always been an essential summer pastime of Scott County. On October 26, 1893 the Scott County Argus front page boasted an editorial entitled “Riding A Wheel”. It begins “As in everything, a young girl has the best time of it in learning to ride a bicycle”. The piece goes on to describe the trials a young woman might endure in mastering a bike,  but concludes with “It is better to depend on oneself than lean on the shifty arm of a man. For arms tire and become sorely aweary, but the will of a woman is the truest steel”. 

                A few years later the July 19th 1897 issue of the Argus published a scathing review of the public highway system written by the Farmers Union. It begins with “Not for many years has need for better country roads been felt so much”. It continues, “Road repairs may seem expensive under the most favorable of circumstances, but when the cost of cartage and the expense of future repairs are taken into account, the cost of road repairs now would probably be less expensive if choices are economically made”. The sentiment would not seem out of place today, except the farmers were not arguing for better roads for motorized vehicles. Instead, they wanted the country to expand highways for bikes.

                On June 19th, 1900, William Hinds extoled the virtues of a new bike path from the Twin Cites to Shakopee, explaining that “With a good cycle path from the cities to this point we will see from fifty to two hundred riders from the cities here on every pleasant Sunday or Saturday afternoon, and the business of many firms, hotels, refreshment shops, soda water fountains and cycle shops will be largely increased in consequence”. He also said that the “The short run, fifty miles for the round trip, will serve to make it very popular for those who ride for pure and simple pleasure”. Bikes were so popular that on July 7th, 1897 it was published in the Argus that the State Agricultural Society declared that September 11th would be “Bike Day” in Minnesota.

                In fact, in the Local and Personal page of a single issue of the Argus, June 17, 1987, the following messages were posted:

·         Miss Mabel Peck entertained Misses Purdy and Loftus of Minneapolis Sunday, the young ladies made the journey on their bicycles.

·         Misses Adelaide and Rosa Marks delight in the possession of a new bicycle of the Fleetwing make

·         D.W. Pettit made the trip to and from Minneapolis by bicycle Sunday

·         Bicycles for rent by the day or hour by EJ Gellenbeck

·         Misses Annie and Lizzie Ries now in possession of a Fleetwing bicycle bought of JC Marx. The Fleetwing is the companion wheel of the Envoy line

·         Mrs. D W Petit returned Monday by bicycle from a week’s visit to Minneapolis

Along the sides of that page are lines of advertisements, including two for different bicycles. It is clear that the introduction of bikes gave a new sense of freedom to residents of the area, especially women. Bikes were used to visit friends and family, travel into town, and opened up new possibilities for work and entertainment.

                Today, bicycles are still important to Scott County. Shakopee alone boasts 80 miles of bike trails. You can still take a Sunday bike ride to the twin cities along the Minnesota LRT, Cedar Lake Trail and the Minnesota Greenway. If you are interested in joining us for summer bike tours, tickets are available now for our May tour of Shakopee. You can find more information at our website or at

Written by Rose James, Program Manager, Scott County Historical Society


Easter Greetings

The celebration of the arrival of spring began in ancient times.  The pagan goddess Eostre was an Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn and spring – bringing brighter and longer days.  She was also the goddess of fertility (eggs were a symbol of fertility and newborn chicks represent new growth).  Around the 2nd century AD, Christian missionaries ventured north and used existing pagan holidays as a way to convert people to Christianity.  They allowed people to continue their seasonal celebrations, but added Christian meanings to them, and gradually over time overtook the pagan meaning.  This is why the pagan goddess’s name Eoster – is now the name of the spring holiday Easter.  It is also why some of the symbols used to celebrate the pagan holiday are still seen today – brightly colored eggs, baby chicks, rabbits, and flowering plants.

Although eggs have always been a symbol of the season, the practice of delivering eggs was first introduced in German in the early 17th century and brought to the U.S. by Dutch settlers in the 1700s.  German children would make decorated nests for their eggs – which were filled with eggs and little gifts by the Easter bunny the night before (kinda like Santa).

We can really see the blend of seasonal and religious symbols in the holiday’s greeting cards.  Ancient Egyptians would exchange notes on papyrus – and this practice was also shared by Greek and Chinese cultures.  These would be much the same as handmade paper cards that were popular in the early 13th century.  But it wasn’t until postage stamps were introduced in the 1840s that greeting cards came into their own.

Cards became an extremely popular way to send personal messages – and with the availability commercial production – they were made on a mass scale.  Cards were made for all the holidays, but since Easter was mostly seen as a religious holiday, the use of greeting cards didn’t take off until the turn of the 19th century.  The Easter card was born in Europe when a stationer in Victorian England added a drawing of a rabbit to his greeting card.  Later cards included chickens, eggs, rabbits, the cross and more. Early Easter greetings were sent on postcards that featured Easter symbols or natural scenery.  Many were colorful and often embossed, or had gold cutouts.

According to American Greetings, Easter is the fourth most popular holiday for sending cards, just behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.  Here are a few from our collection…

And just for fun… here is a stereoscope card of a woman “Trying on the Easter Bonnet”.  Easter was also known as the holiday were it women would sport their new spring hat/bonnet.


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