Minnesota, state in the north central United States. Near the geographic center of North America, it is bordered on the north by the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario, on the west by North Dakota and South Dakota, on the south by Iowa, and on the east by Wisconsin and Lake Superior. Minnesota entered the Union on May 11, 1858, as the 32nd state.
The state’s name comes from a Sioux word meaning “cloudy water” that was applied to the Minnesota River. The state’s most famous nickname, Land of 10,000 Lakes, is an understatement, for Minnesota has more than 15,000 lakes, three-fourths of which are 4 hectares (10 acres) or more in size year round. Minnesota is also known as the Gopher State. There are varying interpretations about the source of the nickname. Some say it comes from the gophers commonly found in the southern part of the state; others say it is from a political cartoon in the 19th century that depicted dishonest railroad union organizers as gophers. Minnesota is also known as the North Star State, a translation of the French inscription on the state seal, L’Etoile du Nord.
Rich in minerals, farmland, and waterways, Minnesota has also become an important industrial state, specializing in food products, machinery and electrical goods, printed materials, medical products, and fabricated metals. Its principal cities are the famous Twin Cities, Saint Paul (the state capital) and Minneapolis (the state’s largest city).
The area of Minnesota is 225,171 sq km (86,939 sq mi), of which 12,388 sq km (4,783 sq mi) is inland water and 6,594 sq km (2,546 sq mi) is a portion of Lake Superior under the state’s jurisdiction. Minnesota thus ranks 12th in area among the 50 states. From north to south the state measures 653 km (406 mi), and from east to west it measures 576 km (358 mi) at its maximum extent and about 290 km (about 180 mi) at its narrowest point. The mean elevation is about 370 m (1,200 ft).
Minnesota includes parts of two of the major natural regions or physiographic provinces of the United States. The northeastern corner of the state is part of the Superior Upland, which is part of the Laurentian Upland, or Canadian Shield. The remainder and largest part of the state belongs to the Central Lowland province of the Interior Plains.
The Superior Upland is composed primarily of ancient igneous and metamorphic crystalline rocks. The surface consists of many low, rounded hills. Many of the basins gouged in the rock by glaciers have become rock-bottomed lakes. They are especially noticeable in the northeastern corner of the upland area. There are many swampy and poorly drained areas, and most stream valleys are shallow, with frequent falls and rapids. The upland drops abruptly from an elevation of between 150 and 270 m (500 and 900 ft) at the Lake Superior shoreline. The lake itself is 183 m (600 ft) above sea level. Streams have cut deep valleys a short distance back from the shoreline on Lake Superior, and as the streams plunge over this abrupt escarpment, they form picturesque waterfalls.
The Superior Upland contains the highest elevations in Minnesota. Eagle Mountain, in Cook County, is the highest point in the state at 701 m (2,301 ft). Near the Lake Superior shore are sharp pointed hills known as the Sawtooth Mountains. The low rocky ridges, or ranges, of northern Minnesota that contain iron ore are also located in the Superior Upland.
Within the Central Lowland, the surface varies considerably, and several subregions exist. In the southwestern corner of the state is an area containing elevations of more than 550 m (1,800 ft) above sea level. This area is part of the Dissected Till Plains, and it is sometimes called the Coteau des Prairies (“Prairie Hills”). The Coteau des Prairies rises about 180 to 240 m (about 600 to 800 ft) above the land lying just to the east, and its surface is rougher than the surrounding regions. The till, or surface materials, was deposited largely by relatively old glacial advances and has had a long time to become dissected.
In the far southeastern corner of the state is a narrow strip along the Mississippi River that was not glaciated. It is a part of the Wisconsin unglaciated or Driftless Area, which is found mainly in southwestern Wisconsin. This area has not been leveled by glaciers and is severely dissected by stream erosion. Immediately west of this area is another small area of till plain that has been dissected by tributaries of the Mississippi.
The largest portion of the state is a part of the Central Lowland known as the Western Lake section. Its surface was sculptured mainly by the last glacier. In glacial times the northwestern part of the state, including the Red River Valley, was the floor of Lake Agassiz, and it is extremely flat. Due to the presence of this lake in prehistoric periods, the largest peat bogs in the lower 48 states have formed here. In the south central part of the state are large areas of very gently rolling till plains covered with a sheet of deposits from the most recent glacial age. These newer till plains are only slightly dissected. However, some areas are flanked and interspersed with hummocky moraines left by many retreating glaciers. The central portion of Minnesota has a variety of areas of till plain and many hilly areas formed by glacial moraines. Some areas were covered with material washed out from the moraine areas and redeposited by the glacial meltwater. Some of these outwash plains are cut by shallow valleys or are pitted where large blocks of buried ice later melted. Lakes are numerous in this part of the Central Lowlands.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
Minnesota is drained by three major systems. The first system drains a narrow area north and west of Lake Superior either into the St. Louis River or into many short streams along the lake’s north shore, and then into the lake itself. From the Great Lakes the water enters the St. Lawrence River, which empties into the Atlantic. The second system drains most of the north central part of the state into the Rainy River and Lake of the Woods, on to Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River, and finally into Hudson Bay. The northwestern portion is drained by the Red River of the North through Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay.
The remaining portion of the state is drained by the Mississippi River system. Most of central Minnesota is drained by the Mississippi River itself, which has its source at Lake Itasca in the north central region of the state. The east central border area is drained through the Saint Croix River to the Mississippi, and most of the southern part is drained by a major tributary of the Mississippi, the Minnesota River. The Minnesota rises in Big Stone Lake on the state’s western border and flows into the Mississippi near the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, only a few miles from the eastern border. A small area in the southwest is drained by a tributary of the Missouri River. The Des Moines and Cedar rivers drain other small sections in the south and flow southward into Iowa, eventually reaching the Mississippi.
Minnesota shares with Ontario, Wisconsin, and Michigan the shores of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world. Lake of the Woods, Rainy Lake, and many smaller lakes straddle the Minnesota-Canada border. Lake Traverse and Big Stone Lake are long narrow lakes that are located only a few miles apart on the border separating Minnesota and South Dakota. Some of the other large lakes in Minnesota are Itasca, Leech, Mille Lacs, Vermilion, Winnibigoshish, Upper Red, and Lower Red lakes.
Minnesota’s climate is classified as humid continental because normally there is a sufficient amount of precipitation to provide at least some surplus for runoff, and because Minnesota’s temperature conditions are largely controlled by its location in the interior of the large landmass of North America. The result is extreme seasonal temperature variations. The average January temperature is about -18°C (about 0°F) in the northwest and about -10°C (about 14°F) in the south, but the thermometer periodically drops to lows in the -30°s C (-20°s F). The average temperature in July is about 23°C (about 74°F) in the south and as low as 16°C (60°F) in the far northeast. Heat waves with temperatures in the upper 30°s C (lower 100°s F), however, are common.
Precipitation is generally adequate but varies from about 750 mm (about 30 in) annually in the southeast to less than 500 mm (20 in) in the northwest. Occasionally damaging droughts occur in the western part of the state. Snow cover is common over the state for long periods. Average annual snowfall varies from about 750 mm (about 30 in) in the west to about 1,500 mm (about 60 in) in the northeast. The growing season varies from about 150 days in the south to about 100 days in the north.
Soils in Minnesota vary across the state depending on their source. Soils in northeastern Minnesota are likely to be acidic, infertile, and spread thinly over the bedrock. However, more rich red soils composed of glacial till can also occur in some areas. Soils made rich from glacial till, some from the glacial Lake Agassiz, dominate the north central and central portion of the state. In southern Minnesota soils are typically very deep and fertile, having formed under prairie grass with ample organic matter in the glacial till. The southwest is much drier than the southeast, where the groundwater in some areas has dissolved depressions and caverns in the underlying limestone bedrock, creating what is known as karst topography.
The original natural vegetation in Minnesota was primarily of three types: northern coniferous forest, eastern deciduous forest, and tall grass prairie. In the northeast coniferous forests covered more than one-third of the state. This southern margin of the boreal forest typical of Canada extended almost as far south as Minneapolis and Saint Paul, through central Minnesota, and westward along the Canadian border toward the Red River Valley. Early logging removed valuable white pine and other conifers from this forest zone. In many places the original forest species have been replaced by birch, poplar and various species of scrub growth.
The other two-thirds of the state, once distinguished by their vegetation, were cleared for agriculture long ago. A broadleaf deciduous forest, composed predominantly of oak, maple, elm, and basswood, occurred in a diagonal band running northwest to southeast across the state. The narrow northwest end, dominated by hardwoods, opens into large stands of aspen and poplar. The forest band widens considerably as it reaches the southeastern portion of the state where red oak was once dominant. Minnesota maintains about 15,380 hectares (about 38,000 acres) of hardwood forests and woodlands in a southeastern state forest.
The south, west, and extreme northwest were once part of the great tall grass prairie. Less than 1 percent of undisturbed prairie lands, and only 50 percent of the original prairie pothole wetlands, remain in the state. Because of its deep and fertile soils, almost all of the tall grass prairie zone has been used for agriculture.
In addition to an average variety of small birds and animals common to the Midwest, Minnesota has many larger animals, especially in the northern part of the state. In that area, there is a large black bear population, and the resident population of eastern timber wolves is one of the largest wolf populations in the lower 48 states. Moose are found in the northern forests. The state is home to white-tailed deer, which inhabit every county, while mule deer, common in the western United States, rarely visit Minnesota.
Small fur-bearing animals, such as raccoons, beavers, woodchucks, muskrats, striped skunks, opossums, red foxes, gray foxes, and coyotes, live in many parts of the state. Populations of fisher, pine marten, river otter, and three species of weasel continue to extend their range in the north half of the state, while the bobcat is present only in low densities. Five species of tree squirrel and two species of flying squirrel are found in the forested regions while the gopher, the state animal, inhabits more open spaces.
There are 20 different species of amphibians that appear in Minnesota, including six species of salamander. Widely seen are American toads, leopard frogs, chorus frogs, and tiger salamanders. Of the 29 species of reptiles found in Minnesota, the common garter snake, redbelly snake, western painted turtle, and snapping turtle occur statewide. The timber rattlesnake, massasauga rattlesnake, wood turtle, and Blanding’s turtle are listed as either endangered or threatened.
Nonmigratory birds common to the state include the ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, sharptailed grouse, and ring-necked pheasant. The wild turkey is once again a common sight in southern Minnesota after decades of a declining population. The state is located at the northern end of the great Mississippi Flyway, used by millions of birds. Canada geese, mallards, wood ducks, and gadwalls spend at least some time in the state when migrating. Tundra swans, trumpeter swans, and sandhill cranes, once dwindling dangerously low in population, were showing revived populations in the mid-1990s. The common loon, the state bird, finds perfect habitat in the state’s thousands of lakes. Minnesota is home to a variety of raptors, including 11 species of owl, 11 species of hawk, and 2 species of eagles. After the ban of the pesticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in 1972, which prevented raptor eggs from forming properly, the number of American bald eagles in the state soared to about 600 nesting pairs by the mid-1990s. Not nearly as populous, the peregrine falcon is making a comeback of its own: In 1995, 17 breeding pairs were observed, with 5 pairs making their nests on the buildings in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul metropolitan area.
Of the 153 species of fish found in the state, some 140 are native to Minnesota’s water. The state maintains 20 fisheries managing large populations of walleye, trout, salmon, muskellunge, largemouth bass, and sunfish. The rare paddlefish and the long-lived sturgeon both inhabit the Saint Croix River where their eggs thrive in the free-flowing waters.
In the mid-1970s steps were taken to stop the pollution of Lake Superior with taconite (low-grade iron ore) processing wastes. Older resource conservation measures include contour farming to prevent loss of soil through erosion in some of the hillier areas of the southeast and southwest, forest-fire prevention and scientific tree planting to restore the woodlands, and dam construction to create water storage reservoirs and to prevent flooding. Also, to hinder flooding, concrete floodwalls, levees, and diversion channels have been built along the rivers. The role of the state in environmental management expanded during the 1970s. The principal regulatory body is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The state Department of Natural Resources plays a major role in sustaining the viability of rivers and lakes, protecting wetlands, and maintaining the ecological underpinnings of the state.
Minnesota had 24 hazardous waste sites on a national priority for cleanup due to their severity or proximity to people in 2006. Progress was being made in efforts to reduce pollution; in the period 1995–2000 the total toxic chemicals emitted into the environment had been reduced by 23 percent.
The area that is now Minnesota was an important hunting ground for French, and later British, fur trappers. White American settlers began to arrive in the early 19th century, eager to exploit the area’s agricultural and forest lands. In the 1880s large-scale iron-ore mining was begun. By the end of the 19th century, wheat farming, which had been the main agricultural activity, was being replaced by corn and dairy farming. The importance of Minnesota as an agricultural producer continues to this day. The North Country continues to furnish vast forest and mineral wealth, and income from the many tourists who visit the state adds significantly to the economy. Manufacturing, which largely uses the resources of the region, has grown to be an important sector of the state economy as well.
Cooperatives, which are organizations that sponsor cooperative buying and selling, particularly for farmers, have long played an important role in Minnesota’s economic life. Originally sponsored mostly by immigrants from Finland and Denmark who were familiar with these institutions in their former homelands, the cooperatives quickly spread throughout the state. Minnesota has more consumer, producer, and business service cooperatives than any other state in the Union.
The largest and most important type of producer cooperatives are creameries for marketing milk, butter, cheese, and other dairy products. Consumer cooperatives sell seed, fertilizers, machinery, and general merchandise to farmers. Other types of consumer cooperatives found in Minnesota include oil distributors, food markets, mutual insurance companies, rural electric companies, credit unions, and trucking associations.
Minnesota had a labor force numbering 2,939,000 in 2006. The largest share of those, 36 percent, were employed in the diverse services sector, which includes hospital and restaurant jobs. Some 19 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 12 percent in manufacturing; 15 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 18 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 19 percent in transportation or public utilities; 4 percent in construction; 4 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; and only 0.2 percent in mining. In 2005, 16 percent of Minnesota’s workers were members of labor unions.
In 2005 there were 79,600 farms in Minnesota, 56 percent of which had annual sales of more than $10,000. Farmland occupied 11.1 million hectares (27.5 million acres). Some 42 percent of the state’s land area was cropland, and another 3 percent was pastureland.
In 2004 Minnesota ranked high among the states in total farm income, with annual earnings from farm products amounting to $9.8 billion. Farm earnings from the sale of livestock and livestock products were slightly less than earnings from the sale of crops.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
Minnesota can be roughly divided into four agricultural regions. In the northeast, including most of the coniferous forest region, farming is unimportant. There are generally poor soils in the area, and summers are short and cool. This area is often referred to as the hay-forest region, and harvested crops, other than native wild hay, occupy less than 10 percent of the land. There is some dairying.
Immediately south and southwest of this region, in the deciduous forest area, dairying is a major activity. This area is the westernmost portion of the great northeastern dairy region of the United States. Because there are few nearby markets for fresh milk, much of the production is made into butter and nonfat dry milk. Where cultivation is possible, feed crops of corn are raised, as are oats and hay.
On the flat plains of the Red River Valley a cash-crop type of farming is found. Once famous for their wheat production, the large farms in this area now produce a wide variety of crops, and Minnesota no longer ranks as a leading wheat grower, although it remains among the top ten producing states. The crops raised here include sugar beets, for which Minnesota was the leading producer in the United States in 1996, and hard spring wheat. There are also large acreages of barley, flax, oats, rye, hay, and potatoes. Corn and soybeans, as well as onions and sunflowers, are grown in the southern part of the state.
The remaining southern and southwestern section of the state is part of the famous Midwestern Corn Belt, where high-yielding crops of ripe corn, as well as oats and hay, are raised. These crops feed large numbers of hogs and beef cattle. Some of the beef cattle are raised in the area, and others are shipped in from the rangelands in the West for fattening. A considerable amount of corn, far more than the local feed requirements, is sold for cash, and large quantities of soybeans, raised in the more level areas, also are sold. Some flax, wheat, and barley are raised.
Dairy products are a leading source of farm income in Minnesota. In 1996 the state ranked fifth among the states in sales of milk products. Beef cattle and hogs are important livestock products, and the state was third in the value of hogs raised on its farms. Minnesota ranked second in sales of turkeys, behind North Carolina. Eggs are another important poultry product.
Corn is Minnesota’s most important cash crop, and in 1996 the state ranked fifth in the value of its production. Much of the corn is used to feed livestock. Soybeans are another major crop, and the state was the third leading producer in the United States. Other significant crops include hay and oats. In 1996 Minnesota was fourth among the states in the value of its barley production. Vegetables, principally potatoes, are also grown.
The fishing industry on Lake Superior is small because of the depredations of the lamprey, which preyed on the lake trout, and years of fishing without restrictions and without restocking. Recent measures to restock the waters and to control the lamprey have increased the number of lake trout in Lake Superior. Commercial fisheries on Lake Superior principally catch lake herring; the number of smelt landed has been steadily declining. Commercial operations no longer fish the three “international lakes” on the Canadian border, but the Chippewa people still fish commercially on Upper and Lower Red lakes in north central Minnesota, where walleye, yellow perch, and crappie represent the most valuable species caught. Some fish are also taken in rivers and in other lakes.
At one time more than two-thirds of Minnesota was forested, and much of this was excellent pine forest. Between the 1860s and the early 1900s Minnesota was the leading lumber-producing state. However, after the virgin forest was logged off or cleared for farming, production dropped rapidly. Today 33 percent of Minnesota is forested. Although the lumbering industry has declined in importance, numerous small sawmills operate on second-growth timber, and Minnesota’s forests produce more revenue today than at the peak of the lumber boom at the turn of the century. Most of this revenue comes from the production of pulp and paper and other processed wood products. Large pulp and paper mills are located in International Falls, Cloquet, Grand Rapids, and Sartel. Paper and paper products are also manufactured at Brainerd, Little Falls, Saint Paul, Saint Cloud, and Duluth. The timber industry also cultivates Christmas trees.
Iron ore is the most important mineral to Minnesota’s economy, accounting for 83 percent of the state’s nonfuel mineral production value in 1997. Minnesota has been the leading producer of iron ore in the United States almost since the opening of its iron ranges in the northeastern part of the state in the 1880s. One of the three major iron ranges was the Vermilion Range, which produced ore until the mid-1960s. Most of its mines were located in the Ely-Winton and Tower-Soudan areas. Later, the Mesabi Range became the most productive range. Its numerous mines extend almost continuously for a distance of more than 130 km (80 mi). In this range, near Hibbing, the Hull-Rust group of mines began production in the 1890s and until the mid-1980s was the world’s largest open-pit mine. The third important range was the Cuyuna Range, near Crosby and Ironton. Until the late 1960s this range was a producer of ore containing manganese as well as iron. Ore from Minnesota’s mines is shipped by rail to ports on Lake Superior, where it is loaded onto special ships for transport to steel mills.
Over the years the accessible high-grade iron ore reserves have been nearly used up, and most of the underground mines and many of the open-pit mines in northeastern Minnesota have had to close down. However, Minnesota has an abundance of flintlike rock known as taconite and semitaconite. When it became apparent that the high-grade ore reserves would soon be exhausted, Edward W. Davis of the University of Minnesota Mines Experiment Station began working on a process to remove the iron minerals, such as hematite and magnetite, contained in taconite. In the late 1940s, after decades of unsuccessful experimentation, Davis devised a method for grinding the hard taconite rock, removing the magnetic particles of the iron minerals, and recementing these particles into pellets usable in blast furnaces. The uniformity of these pellets has made them a desirable substitute for high-grade iron ores.
At the eastern end of the Mesabi Range there are huge reserves of magnetic taconite, which should enable the state to remain the nation’s leading iron ore producer for many years to come. Today almost all of the iron ore produced in Minnesota is taconite.
Sand, gravel, and stone are other leading mineral products. Sand and gravel are produced throughout the state. Most of the stone output consists of crushed limestone, dolomite, and granite. Other minerals produced in Minnesota are lime, clay, peat, and abrasive stone, which is mined near Jasper.
Although not a leading industrial state, Minnesota has a great number and wide variety of manufacturing establishments, particularly in the Twin Cities area. Minnesota’s most important industry is the processing of food, particularly meat packing, making dairy products from the milk produced on the state’s farms, milling grain, brewing malt beverages, and packaging fruits and vegetables. Manufactures of industrial machinery, including computers and office machines, refrigeration and service machinery, electronics and electric equipment, and precision instruments, contribute significantly to the state’s economy. Printing and publishing rank highly, including a variety of commercial printing and the publishing of books, periodicals, and newspapers. Other industries contributing to the state’s economy are those creating precision instruments, particularly for use in medicine; companies fabricating metal products, including ordnance; firms manufacturing transportation equipment, including those for motor vehicles; companies engaged in creating rubber and plastic products; and those using the state’s forest resources to manufacture paper and wood products.
Processing of some food products is carried on throughout the state, whereas other food products are processed in only certain cities. Dairy products are processed in almost all parts of the state. The major meat-packing plants are in South Saint Paul, Austin, and Albert Lea. The major center for flour milling and other grain products was Minneapolis, historically called the Mill City. Most of the nation’s leading flour milling companies still have their home offices there, although there is little actual production in the city now. Sugar refining is largely carried on in the Red River Valley, where most of the sugar beets are produced. Processing plants for linseed oil are centered mainly in Minneapolis, and soybean oil is also processed there and at Mankato.
Many of the state’s industrial plants are located in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul, or Twin Cities, area. In addition to food-processing plants, there are large plants that manufacture industrial, agricultural, and electrical machinery, computers, electronic equipment, missile systems, automatic controls, fabricated metal goods, plastic tapes of all sorts, paper, glass, and chemicals. There are many clothing factories and two oil refineries. The area has a large automobile assembly plant and several publishing houses. The commercial film and video industry and computer manufacturing also has a significant foothold in the Twin Cities.
Duluth, the other major manufacturing center, has several steel manufacturers and food-processing plants, including a meat-packing plant and one of the largest plants for processing and packaging Chinese foods. Other industries include printing and publishing, oil refining, aircraft maintenance, and the manufacture of machinery, tools, wood products, paper products, and cement. Smaller towns have local industries.
Minneapolis got its start as a flour-milling center partly because of the available waterpower from the Falls of Saint Anthony in the Mississippi River. Throughout the state many small flour mills and other industrial facilities, such as sawmills, were located at waterfalls. The state’s first electric power plants also exploited its ample waterpower resources. But as industry grew, the demand for electricity greatly outstripped the capacity of the waterpower sites. Of the electricity generated in Minnesota in 2005, some 69 percent came from plants burning fossil fuels, principally coal. Only 1 percent was generated by hydroelectric facilities. The remainder of the power comes from the state’s three nuclear power plants, of which two are at Red Wing and one is at Monticello.
The rivers and lakes of Minnesota provided early explorers and settlers an excellent means of transportation. Today the state provides important outlets to the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems for the country’s rich agricultural regions. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are the principal hubs of both the state and regional transportation networks.
A dense network of highways, 212,511 km (132,048 mi) by 2005, is found in most of the state except the far north. Federal interstate highways account for 1,473 km (915 mi) of this amount. One of the country’s largest bus lines, the Greyhound system, began operations in Minnesota by transporting miners from Hibbing to the nearby iron mines in 1914.
Barge traffic, hauling mostly bulk products such as coal, petroleum products, and grain, moves on the Mississippi River as far north as Minneapolis, although transportation by barge is declining.
Lake traffic and oceangoing vessels traveling through the St. Lawrence Seaway can move as far west as Duluth, 3,700 km (2,300 mi) west of the Atlantic Ocean. Bulk products, such as iron ore, coal, and grain, account for most of the volume. The harbor that serves both Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin, is one of the nation’s leading ports in terms of tonnage handled. Iron ore and grain, mostly wheat from the areas to the west, are shipped from Minnesota ports. Coal and a few other products are shipped westward through the Great Lakes.
In 2007 the state had 10 airports, most of them private airfields. The principal airport is at Minneapolis and Saint Paul. The nation’s tenth busiest, it serves as a hub for a region stretching far beyond the state’s borders.
Much of the iron ore mined in Minnesota is carried on a railroad network connecting most points in the state. In 2004 metallic ores made up 53 percent of all railway freight. There were 7,385 km (4,589 mi) of track in 2004.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF MINNESOTA|
The 2000 census listed Minnesota’s population as 4,919,479, which placed it 21st in population among the states. In the years between the 1990 and the 2000 census the population increased by 12.4 percent. The population in Minnesota is largely and increasingly urban. In 2000 some 71 percent of Minnesota’s people were classified as urban, up from 62 percent in 1960. The average population density was 25 persons per sq km (65 per sq mi) in 2006.
The population of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, which includes the central cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul as well as the surrounding suburbs, was 3.2 million in 2006.
French Canadians, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Germans, and Irish were among the first foreign-born settlers of Minnesota. Late in the 1800s numerous immigrants from Finland, Poland, and Czechoslovakia also settled in Minnesota. The largest number of people of foreign heritage in Minnesota are Germans, who are found mostly in the southern and central portions of the state. Swedes are the next largest group, closely followed by Norwegians. Descendants of both Swedes and Norwegians are widely distributed throughout the state. The Finnish descendants are concentrated mostly in the northeastern part of the state.
By the early 1990s the immigration pattern had shifted. Those coming from countries of the former Soviet Union made up the largest share of new arrivals, followed by people from China, Vietnam, India, the Philippines, and Mexico.
In 2000 the population of Minnesota was 89.4 percent white. Blacks constituted 3.5 percent of the people, Asians 2.9 percent, Native Americans 1.1 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race 3 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 1,979. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 2.9 percent of the people.
Most of the Native Americans are Ojibwa or Sioux. The Ojibwa live in the Twin Cities and on reservations in the north. The Sioux live mainly in the southern counties.
Minneapolis, which in 2005 had a population of 372,811, is the largest city in the state. With its twin city, Saint Paul, it is located in eastern Minnesota at the head of navigation on the Mississippi River and near the junction of the Minnesota River with the Mississippi. The Twin Cities provide the focal point for transportation, industry, commerce, culture, and politics. Minneapolis is a major retail and wholesale center as well as an important industrial city. Within the city limits lie many small lakes as well as Minnehaha Falls, made famous by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha.
Although the metropolitan area gained in population between 1970 and 1990, the corporate, or central, city of Minneapolis lost population because of increased use of land for commercial and industrial purposes, migration to the suburbs, and the development of urban renewal projects. However, in the 1990s the city again grew in population. Saint Paul, with a 2005 population of 275,150, is the second largest city in Minnesota and its capital.
Duluth, located at the western end of Lake Superior, had a population of 84,896. The city is 42 km (26 mi) long but in most places less than 2 km (1 mi) wide as it hugs the lake’s shoreline. The city was built primarily as a trade and transportation hub for the lumbering and mining industries of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Rochester, with a population of 94,950, is located in a rich farming region and is a prosperous trading center. Rochester is the home of the Mayo Clinic, a well-known medical center. A large suburb in the Twin Cities metropolitan area is Bloomington, with a population of 81,164. Saint Cloud, with 65,792 inhabitants, is the largest city in the center of the state. Other important cities are Brooklyn Park, Coon Rapids, Burnsville, Plymouth, Minnetonka, Eagan, Edina, and Saint Louis Park. All are suburbs in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan region.
The Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches have the greatest number of members in Minnesota, but all of the major Protestant sects are well represented.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
Minnesota’s earliest teachers were officers’ wives, who taught school at Fort Snelling in the 1820s, and missionaries, who established many schools among the Native Americans in the 1830s. The first high school was started in 1860, and that year a normal school for training teachers was created at Winona, followed by others at Mankato, Saint Cloud, Moorhead, Duluth, and Bemidji. These schools later became state colleges, offering programs in the liberal arts in addition to teacher preparation.
The public school system was authorized by a law passed in the 1849 territorial legislature. Gradually, the state created school districts, and in 1885 compulsory-education laws were passed. Minnesota law requires attendance by everyone aged 7 to 16. Some 11 percent of the state’s students attend private schools.
The traditional emphasis on education by the state’s early residents carries forward today, and schools in Minnesota often serve as local centers of cultural and social life. In the 2002–2003 school year Minnesota spent $9,907 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 16.3 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9 students). Of those older than 25 years of age in 2006, 91 percent had a high school diploma.
The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is one of the largest university campuses in the nation. The University of Minnesota also has campuses in Duluth, Morris, and Crookston. The 35 institutions of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system also provide postsecondary public education. Other important colleges and universities include Hamline University, Bethel College, and Macalester College, in Saint Paul; College of Saint Catherine, with campuses in Minneapolis and Saint Paul; Gustavus Adolphus College, in Saint Peter; Saint John’s University, in Collegeville; and Saint Olaf College and Carleton College, in Northfield. In 2004–2005 the state had 42 public and 63 private institutions of higher learning.
The numerous libraries and museums in Minneapolis and Saint Paul have made the Twin Cities a prominent cultural center in the Midwest. The largest collection among the state’s 142 public library systems is in Minneapolis. The systems annually circulate an average of 9.7 books per each state resident. Outstanding academic libraries include those of the private colleges and that of the University of Minnesota. The library and museum of the Minnesota Historical Society, the James J. Hill Reference Library, and the Minnesota State Law Library are in Saint Paul. The Mayo Clinic at Rochester has a fine medical research library.
Notable art galleries in Minneapolis are the Walker Art Center, the American Swedish Institute, the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The University of Minnesota also maintains a museum of natural history in Minneapolis. Saint Paul is home to the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Minnesota Children’s Museum.
Minnesota’s first newspaper, the Minnesota Pioneer, was published by James M. Goodhue in 1849, first as a weekly and later as a daily. The state had 23 daily newspapers in 2002. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has the largest circulation. Commercial radio broadcasting began in 1922. In 2002 the state was served by 79 AM and 122 FM radio stations and by 23 commercial television stations.
|E||Music and Theater|
Numerous musical organizations and community theaters perform for Minnesota audiences. The Guthrie Theater, which opened in 1963, presents dramatic productions. There are numerous professional theaters in the state. The Minnesota Orchestra is regarded as one of the outstanding orchestras in the United States. The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra also receives acclaim. A variety of sacred choral music is offered by the well-known Saint Olaf Choir.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
Minnesota offers a variety of recreational facilities. Summer homes as well as tourist camps and resorts line the shores of the state’s countless lakes. There are excellent facilities for water sports. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park are adjacent areas near the Canadian border. They constitute the state’s largest wilderness area and provide numerous streams and lakes for campers, canoeists, and hunters.
Minnesota’s abundance of ice and snow provide ideal conditions for skiing, bobsledding, hockey, ice fishing, and iceboat races. Ski runs and skating rinks are numerous, especially around the Twin Cities, where snow-making equipment, floodlights for night skiing, and indoor skating rinks have been installed.
Minnesota has two national forests. Superior National Forest, covering nearly 1.6 million hectares (3.9 million acres) in the northeast, is one of the largest in the United States. Chippewa National Forest, at 270,000 hectares (660,000 acres), contains many lakes, including the large Winnibigoshish, Leech, and Cass lakes.
Voyageurs National Park, located near the border with Canada, contains interconnected northern lakes, dotted with islands. The region was once the route of the French-Canadian voyageurs. Also under National Park Service jurisdiction are the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway and the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, whose waterways flow past noted cultural, historical, and industrial features.
Grand Portage National Monument, the site of the 18th-century trading post of the British North West Company and a vital link for water travelers, is located in the northeastern corner of the state. Pipestone National Monument, in the southwestern corner, preserves the sacred Native American quarries of soft red stone from which ceremonial pipes were carved.
|B||State Parks and Forests|
Minnesota has 93,000 hectares (231,000 acres) of land in parks and recreation sites. Many of the parks are along northern Lake Superior, where rivers, such as those in Gooseberry Falls State Park, tumble over waterfalls into the lake. Wisconsin and Minnesota share Interstate Park, where the turbulent Saint Croix flows through deep and narrow rock gorges, called the Dalles of the Saint Croix. The source of the Mississippi can be seen at Itasca State Park near Bemidji. Fort Ridgely State Memorial Park was the site of two major battles in the Sioux Uprising of 1862. The numerous state forests are principally in northeastern Minnesota and along the Mississippi.
|C||Other Places to Visit|
The iron ranges with their huge open-pit mines draw many visitors, as do the old lumbering towns of Brainerd and Bemidji. Brainerd’s museum, Lumbertown, U.S.A., is a reconstructed logging town. Sauk Centre was the boyhood home of Sinclair Lewis and the model for the fictional small town Gopher Prairie in his novel Main Street. The Minnesota Historical Society administers 21 historic sites, including old Fort Snelling, on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, built in the 1820s and now largely restored; the boyhood home of aviator Charles A. Lindbergh in Little Falls; the Mille Lacs Indian Museum at Onamia; the William W. Mayo Home in Le Sueur (see Mayo (family)); and the Lower Sioux Agency, near Morton, where the Sioux uprising of 1862 began.
Minnesota has a number of both winter and summer festivals. Annual events in winter include the Winter Sports Festival, at Duluth, and the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. The Grand Portage Chippewa John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is an annual race between Duluth and Grand Portage in the northeastern part of the state. In July a ten-day water sports show, the Aquatennial, is staged in Minneapolis. August activities include a country-music festival in Detroit Lakes, the Bayfront Blues Festival in Duluth, and Ethnic Days in Chisholm, which celebrates eight ethnic groups found in the northeastern part of the state. The Minnesota Renaissance Festival at Shakopee extends from August to September. The Minnesota State Fair takes place in Saint Paul in late August and early September. Also in September is a public powwow of the Dakota people at Mankato and the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag.
Professional sports teams, all based in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, include the Minnesota Twins (baseball), Minnesota Vikings (football), Minnesota Wild (hockey), and Minnesota Timberwolves (basketball). The United States Hockey Hall of Fame is in Eveleth.
Minnesota is governed under its original constitution, which was adopted in 1857 and became effective the following year when Minnesota was admitted to the Union as a state. A constitutional amendment may be proposed by the state legislature or by a constitutional convention. To be ratified, it must be approved by a majority of voters in a general election.
The state government is headed by an executive branch consisting of a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, and attorney general, all of whom are elected for four-year terms.
The state legislature consists of two houses. There are 134 members in the state House of Representatives, each of whom is elected from single-member districts for a two-year term. The Senate has 67 members, also elected from single-member districts, who serve four-year terms. The legislature meets for 120 days over a period of two years. Sessions ordinarily begin in January. There is a regular session (five months) in odd-numbered years, and a three-month session in even-numbered years.
The state judiciary is headed by a supreme court, which consists of a chief justice and six associate justices. An appeals court hears appeals from the only major trial court in the state, the district court. All state judges are elected on a nonpartisan ballot for six-year terms.
The 87 counties are governed by boards of commissioners consisting of elected members. Minneapolis and the majority of the state’s cities operate under the mayor-council form of municipal government. A number of cities hire city managers, who are supervised by elected mayors and council members. Some other cities have adopted the commission form of municipal government.
In addition to two senators, Minnesota sends eight representatives to the Congress of the United States. The state has ten electoral votes.
Minnesota’s earliest inhabitants lived about 6000 bc. By about 500 bc these native peoples had evolved into the Mound Builders. The modern Dakota peoples, commonly called Sioux by whites, were an outgrowth of the Mound Builder or Woodland culture. Those Dakota who remained in Minnesota during white settlement were the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Sisseton, and Wahpeton. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries the Ojibwa peoples, whom whites called the Chippewa, moved west into Minnesota in the face of increasing pressure from white settlers to the east; decades of warfare with the Dakota followed.
French explorers first claimed Minnesota when they were extending their fur trade west through the Great Lakes region, seeking an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean. Pierre Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law Médard Chouart, sieur des Groseilliers, briefly visited northeastern Minnesota in the spring of 1660. Daniel Greysolon, sieur Du Luth (Duluth), who entered Minnesota in 1679 and 1680 by way of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, claimed much of the area for France. The Minnesota area was publicized extensively by the writings of Father Louis Hennepin, a priest who was sent from the Illinois country to explore the upper Mississippi River by René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle. In 1680 Hennepin discovered and named the Falls of Saint Anthony, which later became the site of the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Soon after the explorations of Duluth and Hennepin, the French began trading furs on the Mississippi and its principal tributary, the Minnesota River.
In the 18th century French Canadian Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, explored the present border between Minnesota and Canada looking for a supposed water route to the Pacific Ocean, called the Northwest Passage. In 1732 La Vérendrye built Fort Saint Charles on the Minnesota side of Northwest Angle Inlet in Lake of the Woods. Although he failed to find the mythical waterway, La Vérendrye and his sons explored much of the northern Great Plains region in Canada and the United States, claiming a large part of it for France. Due to weakening French military and diplomatic power, La Vérendrye was the last of the major French explorers.
La Vérendrye’s activity aroused the suspicions of the Dakota, who in 1736 went to war against both the French and the Ojibwa, who traded with both the French and the Dakota. However, the Ojibwa, with superior numbers, more firearms, and French military advice, achieved a series of military victories over the next 40 years, forcing the Dakota west of the Mississippi River.
France’s rivalry with Great Britain for control of North America culminated in the battles for the domination of North America, called the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which became the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) in Europe. After significant military losses in 1759 and 1760 France realized it might have to surrender its territory in North America to the British. To prevent the loss of its land claims west of the Mississippi (called Louisiana), France transferred that vast region, including the area of present-day Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, to its ally Spain in 1762. The next year France surrendered its remaining North American land, including Minnesota east of the Mississippi River, to Great Britain under the Treaty of Paris.
The British controlled the northeastern part of present-day Minnesota from 1763 to the end of the War of 1812 and continued searching for the Northwest Passage and trading fur pelts. Jonathan Carver unsuccessfully searched for the passage in 1766 and 1767, and after expeditions in 1789 and 1793, Canadian fur trader Sir Alexander Mackenzie demonstrated that it did not exist.
British fur traders operated throughout Minnesota. While the British successfully traded furs and manufactured goods with the Dakota peoples on the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, their major operations were at Grand Portage, the gateway to the interior of Canada. Through the activities of the North West Company, the Grand Portage trade reached its height in the 1790s. Grand Portage was especially significant because it was the point where all Great Lakes and inland cargoes had to be hauled over the 14.5-km (9-mi) Grand Portage Trail connecting Lake Superior and the Pigeon River.
|D||U.S. Exploration and Settlement|
Great Britain lost its claims to the portion of Minnesota east of the Mississippi to the United States as a result of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which also recognized U.S. independence. The United States then acquired the area in Minnesota west of the Mississippi River with the purchase of Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, only three years after France had reacquired it from Spain.
Concerned about British traders, who continued to work in the area, the United States government sent Lieutenant Zebulon Montgomery Pike and a small force up the Mississippi in 1805. During the winter of 1805 and 1806, Pike explored north along the Mississippi to Leech and Cass lakes and warned British traders that they were trespassing on U.S. territory. Pike also bought land from the Dakota at the confluence of the Mississippi and Saint Croix rivers and at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers as possible sites for a future United States Army post.
Traders of the American Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor, led the American advance into Minnesota, followed by a U.S. Army detachment in 1819. The next year the army began constructing a massive stone fortress, Fort Snelling, at the juncture of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Until 1840, when Saint Paul was established, Fort Snelling was the most important place on the upper Mississippi. In 1823 Major Stephen H. Long led a military and scientific party through the valleys of the Minnesota and Red rivers. Lake Itasca, the source of the Mississippi River, was discovered and named by Henry R. Schoolcraft in 1832. Albert Lea, George Catlin, and Joseph N. Nicollet, who compiled the first detailed map of the region, also made noteworthy explorations.
In 1837 the Dakota and Ojibwa signed treaties giving some 12,950 sq km (5,000 sq mi) of land between the Mississippi and Saint Croix rivers to the United States in exchange for, among other things, trust funds and medical and farming aid. These cessions allowed Saint Paul to become a steamboat port downstream from the Falls of Saint Anthony and the beginnings of Stillwater on the Saint Croix and Saint Anthony (within present-day Minneapolis) as centers of lumber operations.
This commercial activity, including settlers who had come to farm, coincided with the admission of Iowa (1846) and Wisconsin (1848) as states. The formation of Wisconsin left the several thousand people living between the Mississippi and Saint Croix rivers in territory without government. To respond to the needs of the settlers in that area, fur traders, lumbermen and merchants convened the Stillwater Convention in August 1848. In their one-day meeting, the self-appointed delegates named Henry H. Sibley, the regional director of the American Fur Company, to represent the Minnesota area in Congress. Although Congress had some misgivings about the legitimacy of Sibley’s status, it nonetheless permitted him to introduce legislation calling for the creation of Minnesota Territory. The Minnesota Territorial Act became law on March 3, 1849.
The territory, which extended westward to the Missouri and White Earth rivers, was nearly twice as large as the present state. Alexander Ramsey, the first territorial governor, estimated its native population at 25,000 and the first territorial census, taken in the summer of 1849, reported only 4,535 settlers of European descent. Ramsey and Sibley, Minnesota’s first territorial delegate to Congress, believed that more land was needed to assure agricultural development in Minnesota and immediately began to negotiate treaties with the Dakota. In 1851 under the treaty of Traverse des Sioux with the Sisseton and Wahpeton bands and the treaty of Mendota with the Mdewakanton and Wahpekute bands, the Dakota sold their lands in present-day southern and western Minnesota to the United States. In the treaties the Dakota peoples bowed to the increasing power of the whites, but in exchange they were to obtain a trust fund and cash payments in addition to other gifts.
The Dakota came to greatly resent the treaties, however, not only because promises of payments were often not kept but also because of what were called “traders’ papers.” Dakota chiefs were tricked into signing documents promising to reimburse traders for the debts of Dakota individuals. Many of the traders’ claims were false or grossly exaggerated, and many Dakota believed that the government had cooperated with the traders to cheat them. By 1863, following treaties with the Ojibwa, Minnesota’s native people had surrendered most of their lands.
The approval of the Dakota treaties in 1853 set off a rush of settlers into the valleys of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The population expanded from an estimated 40,000 to 150,000 in the four-year period ending in 1857. Most of the pioneers were farmers attracted by the fertile soil of southern Minnesota.
The population increase encouraged a statehood movement led by Henry M. Rice, who had succeeded Sibley as the territorial delegate to Congress. Rice, then Minnesota’s most prominent Democrat, introduced statehood enabling legislation in Congress in 1856, and in 1857 he won large federal land grants to encourage the construction of a railroad network in Minnesota, with Saint Paul, the capital city, and nearby Minneapolis as its important centers.
In the late territorial period the dominance of the Democratic Party was challenged by the Republican Party, which was organized in 1855, a year after the national party had been formed. Strongly antislavery, Republicans believed that slavery was a moral issue, directly opposing the traditional Democratic view that slaves were simply one type of property.
In 1857 a state constitutional convention was held, but differences over the slavery issue so divided the convention that Democratic and Republican delegations met separately and drafted different constitutions. Only after five weeks of deliberations in the summer of 1857 did a committee agree upon a compromise constitution. Voters overwhelmingly approved the constitution in the general election of October 13, 1857, in which the first state officials were also chosen. After a lengthy debate in the U.S. Congress and strenuous opposition from slave-state congressmen, Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd state on May 11, 1858.
|F||First Years of Statehood|
Democrat Henry H. Sibley narrowly defeated Alexander Ramsey for governor in the state’s first election, and the Democratic legislature selected Henry M. Rice and James Shields as the state’s first United States senators. In 1859, however, Ramsey was elected governor, which began a long period of Republican dominance. The state’s second Democratic governor was not elected until 1898.
During its first seven years of statehood, Minnesota experienced three great crises: a depression, the American Civil War (1861-1865), and a war with the Dakota. A depression, which started in 1857, devastated the Minnesota economy, which only recovered because of the agricultural and timber goods needed during the Civil War. When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Ramsey was the first governor to offer troops to the Union. About 22,000 Minnesotans served either against the Confederacy or fought the Dakota during the war. Although Minnesotans participated in all major Civil War campaigns, the state’s finest hour was the heroic counterattack by the First Minnesota Regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.
Relations with the Dakota had been strained for some time. Resentment over the treaty negotiations of 1851 increased when payments (including food) that had been promised failed to arrive. In August 1862, some of the Dakota, who had been assigned to reservations on the upper Minnesota River, attacked nearby white settlements. Led by Chief Little Crow, the Dakota were successful at first, but they failed to capture Fort Ridgely and nearby New Ulm, and in September a large force of Minnesota volunteers commanded by former governor Sibley drove most of the hostile Dakota people west into Dakota Territory and Canada. Most of the 2,000 captured Dakota (out of a total tribal population of approximately 7,000) had not participated in the conflict; nonetheless, a military court martial board condemned 303 Dakota men to death for their participation. Because of the appeals of Episcopal bishop Henry B. Whipple, President Abraham Lincoln limited the death sentences to those who had been convicted of murder or rape. Consequently, at Mankato on December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota were hanged. About 500 settlers and an unknown number of Dakota were killed in the battles and New Ulm was almost completely destroyed.
With the exception of some northern areas, Minnesota was settled by 1900. Fueled by a heavy influx of German, Swedish, and Norwegian immigrants and the growth of the farming, lumbering, and iron mining industries, the state’s population increased from 250,099 to 1,751,394 in the 35 years following the Civil War.
Agriculture was the dominant activity in the southern, central, and western sections. Minnesota’s early farmers emphasized the cultivation of spring wheat, which was easier to raise than deep-rooted row crops and was the only crop that could be sold regularly for cash. Although spring wheat was raised in all farming areas, its production was centered in the Red River Valley, where entrepreneurs developed massive bonanza farms on land purchased from railroads. Bonanza farms, which employed many workers, draft animals and machines, had an average size of about 2,833 hectares (7,000 acres), and the largest farm owned by one family was 40,469 hectares (100,000 acres).
Wheat farming reached its height in 1878, when about 70 percent of all cultivated land was devoted to it. As land values and property taxes increased in more heavily settled areas, wheat production moved to more sparsely populated western Minnesota. Farmers in the older settled areas of the southeast had to shift to more intensive and diversified farming, with the emphasis on dairy products in order to produce greater profits. By the turn of the century wheat remained the main crop only in the Red River Valley.
The rapid expansion of the agricultural frontier was stimulated by the land policies of the federal government, the state government, and railroads. The federal Homestead Act of 1862 was the most popular means of acquiring land. Under its provisions any man or woman of at least 21 years of age, who farmed the land for five years, could obtain 65 hectares (160 acres) by merely paying closing costs of about $18. In addition, the state and several railroad companies, both of which had received large federal land grants, were forced to sell land cheaply to compete with the Homestead Act.
The early lumber industry in Minnesota was centered in Stillwater. By the 1870s Minneapolis had replaced Stillwater as the main lumber milling center. Within 20 years the focus shifted north to the Bemidji area and by the turn of the century most lumbering occurred in northeastern Minnesota. Timber industries peaked in 1899, but some stands of white pine were not cut until the late 1920s.
Tree stumps, abandoned piles of timber waste and some stands of remaining trees in the forested areas provided excellent conditions for forest fires. An 1894 forest fire in Hinckley killed 413 people and caused $12 million in property damage, and in 1918 fire destroyed Moose Lake and Cloquet, killed 559 people, and caused property damage amounting to $25 million.
Iron was first discovered in the Vermilion Range, where a consortium of Eastern capitalists headed by Charlemagne Tower exported the first ore from the Soudan Mine near Tower, Minnesota, in 1884. Mesabi Range ore, discovered by Lewis Merritt and his sons in 1890, was exceptionally rich, and it made Minnesota the leading iron-producing state. In 1894 the Merritt family lost control of the Mesabi to John D. Rockefeller and other absentee Eastern investors, who extended mining operations throughout the long, narrow range. State taxes on mining properties paid for excellent schools and other community services.
Open-pit mining was used to extract ore in the Mesabi Range. Mining towns were typically located near the pits, and as mines were expanded sometimes entire towns had to be moved. Hibbing, located on a rich deposit of ore, was moved to a new location between 1919 and 1946, and its original site became an enormous pit.
Because it lay between timber country and the eastern edge of the vast wheat farming areas of the Dakotas and Montana, Minneapolis became one of the world’s centers of flour milling between 1870 and 1890. Technological advances strengthened the milling industry in the city. In the early 1870s a French immigrant engineer, Edmund La Croix, perfected the middlings purifier, which—unlike the standard grinding method—allowed white flour to be made from spring wheat. Using this device the extensive mills of Cadwallader Washburn (which later became General Mills) started marketing “New Process” flour. By the end of the decade Minneapolis millers again changed grinding techniques to not only increase production, but also improve flour quality.
The modernization of flour milling hastened urbanization and supported banking, manufacturing, and transportation industries as well as the production of breakfast foods and pasta products. Minneapolis and Saint Paul rapidly changed into the major metropolitan area called the Twin Cities. By 1890 Minneapolis and Saint Paul had populations of 164,738 and 133,156, respectively.
The Twin Cities served as major railroad centers for lumber going to the treeless plains farther west and the returning shipments of wheat, and became the metropolis for a vast agricultural hinterland that included much of the northern Great Plains. The business of the Twin Cities was further boosted by the completion of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railroad to the Pacific Ocean in 1883 and railroad connections to Eastern flour markets.
National Democrats had been reluctant to support the idea of free land for settlers prior to the Civil War, and that combined with their party’s identification with slavery led to their decline in Minnesota. The strength of the Republican Party, however, which in the late 19th century generally supported limited government activity, did not prevent Minnesota voters from supporting third-party movements that favored government action to meet the individual needs of citizens. Protest politics grew out of the economic clash between wheat farmers and the businesspeople who ran the railroads, flour mills, and the farm-equipment and banking industries. Many farmers believed that big businesses and banks located in the East had too much economic power. In 1867 Oliver Hudson Kelley of Elk River founded the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry in Washington, D.C. Better known as the Grange, more than 20,000 local granges existed in 32 states by 1874, chiefly in the Midwest and the South. These groups attempted to ease the financial difficulties of farmers by establishing cooperative stores, purchasing agencies, and factories for the manufacture of farm machinery, and also started a system of fire and windstorm insurance.
In the early 1870s the Grange influenced the Minnesota legislature to enact the state’s first laws regulating the business practices of railroad companies. The Grangers’ ideas became increasingly liberal (they supported government solutions to economic problems) and continued through successive reform movements, including the Anti-Monopoly Party (or Independent Party), the Greenback Party, Farmers’ Alliance, and the Populist Party. These organizations were dominated by the colorful Minnesotan Ignatius Donnelly, who was at that time one of the nation’s greatest public speakers. Donnelly played a major role in writing the national Populist Party platform in 1892 and later that year was the unsuccessful Populist candidate for Minnesota governor.
Populist aims were carried into Minnesota politics in the early 20th century. Particularly during the governorships of Democrat John A. Johnson (1905-1909) and Republican Albert O. Eberhart (1909-1915), Minnesota legislators attempted to curb the power of particular industries. They imposed further regulations on railroads, banks, and insurance companies and emphasized political independence, including, in 1913, the dramatic move of banning party affiliation in the legislature. In 1912 former U.S. president Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) won the electoral votes of Minnesota as the presidential candidate of the Progressive Party.
Progressive disenchantment with both Republicans and Democrats encouraged the farm protest movement, which was particularly strong among those who relied on a single crop such as flax or wheat. In 1917 Arthur C. Townley, who had founded the Nonpartisan League in North Dakota two years earlier, moved its national headquarters to Saint Paul. The league aimed to reduce economic class distinctions, which strongly appealed to wheat farmers and organized workers.
The Nonpartisan League hoped to win control of Minnesota’s strong Republican Party. After Republicans rejected league overtures, however, Townley helped form the Farmer-Labor Party, which fielded a gubernatorial candidate in 1918. By 1923 both U.S. senators from Minnesota were Farmer-Labor Party members. The party had surpassed the state’s Democratic Party and mounted a serious challenge to the Republicans. The stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression ruined the reputation of the Republican Party across the nation, and Minnesota was no exception. Farmer-Laborite Floyd B. Olson won the governorship in 1930, was reelected in 1932, and again in 1934. The dynamic, personable Olson was one of the most popular governors in Minnesota history, and the legislature, controlled by Farmer-Laborites, enacted a state income tax.
Olson, who died during his third term, brought the Farmer-Labor Party closer to the national Democratic Party during the Great Depression, and the Democrats, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, became dramatically more liberal as they enacted the domestic relief program, called the New Deal. Roosevelt was the first Democrat to win Minnesota’s presidential vote, carrying the state in all four of his campaigns. Lieutenant Governor Hjalmar Petersen completed Olson’s third term, and in 1936 Elmer Benson was elected governor.
A Republican resurgence began with the election of 31-year-old Governor Harold Edward Stassen in 1938. Twice reelected, Stassen became a nationally recognized leader of progressive Republicans, who accepted most important New Deal measures such as the Social Security system, but strenuously criticized the Farmer-Labor Party’s system of awarding state jobs to people loyal to the party, a practice called patronage. Stassen streamlined the administration of state government, championed involvement in international affairs, and was the keynote speaker at the 1940 Republican National Convention.
While Stassen was governor both the Democrats and Farmer-Laborites lost strength. Their diminishing prestige, the philosophical similarity of Democrats and Farmer-Laborites since the New Deal, and pressure from the Roosevelt Administration caused the parties to unite in April 1944 as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). The DFL won two congressional seats in 1944 and in 1945 young DFL member Hubert H. Humphrey was elected mayor of Minneapolis.
The DFL showed its strength in 1948 with the election of Humphrey to the U.S. Senate and Eugene McCarthy and two other candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives. The DFL was long dominated by leaders involved in the election of 1948. As U.S. senator between 1949 and 1964, Humphrey became nationally famous for championing liberal causes, especially civil rights for black Americans, and as vice president from 1965 to 1969, he was a strong supporter of President Lyndon Johnson and his policy of United States involvement in the Vietnam War (1959-1975). In 1968 Republican Richard M. Nixon narrowly defeated Humphrey in a presidential campaign that featured strong opposition from Eugene McCarthy, a vigorous opponent of U.S. participation in Vietnam. Reelected to the Senate in 1970, Humphrey served until his death in 1978.
McCarthy, who served ten years in the House of Representatives (1949-1959) and two terms in the Senate (1959-1971), became the nation’s foremost critic of Johnson’s Vietnam policy. Orville Freeman, chairman of the state DFL in 1948, served as Minnesota governor for three terms (1955-1961) and later as secretary of agriculture in the administrations of John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) and Lyndon Johnson. Walter F. Mondale, who while a college student worked with Freeman in 1948, served as the state’s attorney general (1960-1964) and as United States senator (1964-1976) before being elected vice president in 1976 on the Democratic ticket headed by Jimmy Carter. He was unsuccessful in his 1980 vice-presidential reelection bid and as the Democratic presidential nominee in 1984.
|I||Recent Political Developments|
Recent Minnesota politics has featured sharp competition between new-generation DFL members and Republicans. An indication of the new political consciousness was the return to party designation of legislators in 1973 after 60 years in which the lawmakers had run for office as conservatives and liberals. In 1975, following the embarrassment of the Watergate scandal in the administration of Richard M. Nixon, Minnesota Republicans renamed their party the Independent Republican Party. The party benefited when DFL governor Wendell Anderson arranged to have himself appointed to the U.S. Senate to complete Mondale’s term. The increasingly conservative mood of Minnesotans helped Independent Republicans capture both U.S. Senate seats, the governorship, and control of the state legislature in 1978.
The DFL comeback was led by Rudy Perpich, who had served as lieutenant governor (1971-1976) and then as governor (1976-1979) following Wendell Anderson. Defeated in 1978 by Republican Al Quie, Perpich was reelected governor in 1982 and again in 1986, making him the longest serving governor in the state’s history. He represented the DFL’s conservative element; he supported government involvement in social issues, but his economic policies were pro-business. During Perpich’s two full terms the lieutenant governor was Marlene Johnson, the first woman in Minnesota’s history to hold that position.
In the 1990 election Minnesota voters rejected Perpich in favor of Arne Carlson, a Republican moderate, but chose the liberal DFL member Paul D. Wellstone to replace the conservative Rudy Boschwitz in the U.S. Senate. Wellstone was commonly regarded as the nation’s most liberal senator. Then in 1994 Minnesotans elected another conservative, Rod Grams, to the U.S. Senate.
The election of Grams, the nationwide success of Republicans in the congressional election of 1994, and the increasingly conservative tilt in their party encouraged Minnesota Republicans to reclaim their traditional identity. The delegates to the 1995 state convention changed their party’s name back to the Republican Party.
In recent years Minnesota’s liveliest political debates have concerned the issues of taxation, business climate, welfare programs, crime, and education. Minnesota has traditionally been a high-tax state. In fiscal 1991 its combination of individual and corporate income taxes, property taxes, and sales taxes placed it eighth nationally in per capita tax burdens. Property-tax relief, which often reflects clashes between rural and urban areas, is a persistent legislative issue.
Business associations have regularly complained that the state’s relatively high taxes are aggravated by higher-than-average workers’ compensation costs and unemployment insurance tax rates. Employers contend that Minnesota is therefore perceived as an antibusiness state, causing firms to move to neighboring states. Defenders of the taxes and business costs argue that the system in Minnesota, which regularly ranks among the top states in quality-of-life surveys, has many cultural and social advantages.
Conservatives also blame liberals for a welfare program that is considerably more generous than those of neighboring states. Recent nationwide concern about welfare and threatened congressional cutbacks made welfare reform one of the major agenda items of the 1996 Minnesota legislature.
Statewide concern about rising crime rates has caused the legislature to stiffen sentencing guidelines for criminals. This, in turn, resulted in more prisoners, longer sentences, and the need to build more prisons, to which Governor Arne Carlson promised to give high priority in 1996. Minneapolis’s record homicide rate in 1995 focused attention on the issue of crime. In response, both the governor and legislative leaders proposed increased funding for urban police forces, and some called for reinstituting the death penalty, which Minnesota had abolished in 1909.
Minnesotans have historically prided themselves for maintaining an efficient, innovative public school system and a well-educated citizenry. In 1987 the state boasted a high school graduation rate of 91.4 percent, the best in the nation at that time, and in 1990 Minnesota ranked 14th among states in the percentage of residents possessing a high school diploma and 10th in the percentage possessing a bachelor’s degree. Nonetheless, the school system is beset with problems. Rising costs and accompanying property-tax increases have diminished public support while expectations increased. The legislature and the state Department of Education have responded by requiring specific competencies as high school graduation requirements.
Rising costs in higher education have reduced state aid, increased tuition, and changed the administration of much of the higher-education system. In 1995, by legislative mandate, the state universities, community colleges, and technical colleges were merged under a single governing board. This action did not include the University of Minnesota, whose unique constitutional status limits legislative control.
In 1998 Minnesota voters revived their tradition of supporting third-party candidates when they elected as governor Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler and a member of the Reform Party. Ventura won a close three-way race against Norm Coleman of the Republican Party and Hubert H. Humphrey III of the DFL. Ventura campaigned as a populist outsider with socially liberal but fiscally conservative views. In February 2000, after a dispute with members of the national Reform Party, Ventura left the party. The following month he led the state’s Reform Party to secede from the national party and reorganize as the Independence Party of Minnesota.
After one term in the U.S. Senate, Grams was defeated for reelection in 2000 by DFL candidate Mark Dayton. In 2002, while campaigning for reelection, Paul Wellstone was killed in an airplane crash. He was succeeded by Republican Norm Coleman. In 2003 Republican Tim Pawlenty succeeded Ventura as governor.
The history section of this article was contributed by William E. Lass. The remainder of the article was contributed by Judith A. Martin.