What Year Was It? Vaccinations, Assault, Free Trade and Snow Shoveling

I’ve been researching several park topics lately in archival newspapers and stumbled across peripheral incidents that made me double-check the date of publication. These aren’t directly park-related, but fascinating if you’re interested in the arcs of history. I consider myself an optimist, mostly because I think our kids are smarter than we are, but sometimes you wonder whether we learn. See if you can guess when these events occurred.

What year was it when…

Minneapolis’s Health Officer made a concerted effort to vaccinate more citizens against a potentially lethal disease only to be opposed by activists who claimed the vaccine was more dangerous than the disease it was meant to prevent?

1902

The Health Officer was Dr. Pearl Hall who was battling an outbreak of smallpox that was worse in Wisconsin and Minnesota than the rest of the nation. He was joined in his vaccination campaign by Dr. Ohage, the chief health officer of St. Paul. They were opposed by Anti-Vaccination Societies in both cities. The common refrain of those societies was that smallpox had killed thousands but the vaccine had killed tens of thousands. That claim, as pointed out by a letter writer to one newspaper, was attributed to “they say.”

Caricature,1902-09-12

A caricature of Dr. Hall. The issue he “explains” here was why the city should build a garbage burner on an island in the river he had acquired and given to the city, hence the name Hall’s Island. (Minneapolis Journal, September 12, 1902.)

Hall said he had two job openings at the Minneapolis quarantine hospital and he invited the anti-vaxers to provide two workers for those jobs who had never been vaccinated to measure their health against the rest of the staff, all of whom had been vaccinated and had not contracted smallpox. The offer was declined because the jobs were for a laundry worker and a housekeeper at low pay.  The Tribune opined that the city attorney would never have allowed such an experiment to go forward anyway.

Hall claimed that of the 1000 patients who had been treated at the smallpox hospital only five had been vaccinated and four of those probably had been vaccinated incorrectly. Hall estimated that 70-80% of Minneapolitans had been vaccinated at that time.

The argument raged for much of the winter of 1902 with the Minneapolis and St. Paul newspapers carrying multiple articles many days on the disease and the debate. Editorially all the papers sided with Dr. Hall.

The last known case of smallpox—in the world—was reported in 1977, after a coordinated campaign of vaccination worldwide. Gee, maybe vaccines work. And, yet, here we are a century of knowledge later with vaccine “doubters.”

(Sources: St. Paul Daily Globe, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, Minneapolis Evening Journal, February, 1902; World Health Organization)

What year was it when…

A woman who was verbally accosted in downtown Minneapolis asked a policeman to arrest the man for assault. He did and the next day she testified about the incident in court and the offensive man was given 20 days in the workhouse for disorderly conduct?

1912

Katherine Halvorson was walking along Nicollet Avenue when she stumbled on an imperfection in the sidewalk. Charles Canington, who was standing nearby, then made “several rude and indelicate remarks and waxed familiar,” in the words of the Morning Tribune. Halvorson walked to a nearby patrolman and said, “That man insulted me. Won’t you please arrest him?” The patrolman complied and Canington was charged and convicted. Miss Halvorson’s closing thought on the incident: “It will be nice when girls can walk the streets in Minneapolis without having men call out to them.”

Are we closer to that day?

(Source: Minneapolis Morning Tribune, July 25, 1912)

What year was it when…

An influential group of Minneapolis business people urged Congress to secure a commercial treaty that would facilitate free trade with Canada?

1888

The Minneapolis Board of Trade (the Chamber of Commerce of its time) passed a resolution urging the “present congress” to “use their influence” to secure such a treaty because “in the opinion of this board, free trade and uninterrupted trade and intercourse between the people of the United States and the people of the Dominion of Canada… would be alike advantageous to both.”

We’ve known trade barriers were a bad idea for quite a while.

(Source: St. Paul Daily Globe, Jan. 24, 1888)

What year was it when…

Minneapolis threatened to charge property owners for shoveling their sidewalks if they didn’t do it themselves.

1897

The most famous case of refusing to shovel was the eccentric millionaire lawyer Levi Stewart who lived on the corner of Hennepin and 4th. He claimed it was the city’s responsibility to clear the walks the same as it was to clear the streets. (The city had sued Stewart in 1871 to force him to put in a sidewalk—which were then made of planks—so he considered it the city’s responsibility to maintain it.) An article in 1885 claimed slippery sidewalks were a particular hazard at Stewart’s property because the fence he put around his yard was made of barbed wire.

Minneapolis had tried to create a shoveling ordinance in 1891 but due to technicalities it had to be rewritten. In 1897 Stewart suggested that they take the issue to the courts again to determine the legality of the rewritten ordinances. The City must not have accepted Stewart’s challenge then because in 1905 a Journal editorial urged the City to take Stewart to court to test the new/old ordinance because he still wasn’t shoveling his walks. That’s as far as I’ve gotten into investigating that particular argument between Stewart and the City, there were many others, but I hope to tell much more in a forthcoming longer piece on Levi Stewart.

I saw what looked like a city crew out shoveling and plowing a sidewalk in my neighborhood this week in the most recent crackdown on snowy walks.

(Sources: St. Paul Daily Globe, Feb. 1, 1885; Minneapolis Morning Tribune, March 9, 1897; Minneapolis Journal, Dec. 19, 1905)

While snow-covered sidewalks might not be in the same category of threat to the common good as infectious disease, verbal assault and protectionism, accessibility is a much more serious issue today than 120 years ago—and evidence of how public opinion and policy have changed significantly over time.

David C. Smith

 

 

7 comments so far

  1. Liz Star on

    Thank you for these reminders of how human history has been a constant sine wave of re-learning the same societal lessons infinitely. :)

  2. Joel Rowland on

    I really appreciate your articles and your style of historical writing. Thanks again

  3. Rita Sandstrom on

    Excellent article and research – thanks! I’d love to see photos of Hennepin Ave. in the 1800s – are there any?

    • David C. Smith on

      Thanks, Rita. There are photos of Hennepin Ave. from the 1800s. Quite a few in fact. The Minnesota Historical Society has many (mnhs.org) as does the Hennepin County Library (hclib.org) if you search their collections. I have acquired a number of photos, as well, especially on the river end of the Avenue, near Bridge Square, which I hope to include in future posts.

  4. JOAN HUNTER PUDVAN on

    HI DAVID, OPINIONS ABOUT SHOVELING PUBLIC SIDEWALKS ON SEYMOUR HILL IN PROSPECT PARK WERE DIFFERENT FOR THE KIDS THAN THE PARENTS. EVERYONE SHOVELED THE LENGTHY SIDEWALKS DOWN TO THE PUBLIC ONES, BUT ONLY A COUPLE PEOPLE SHOVELED THE ONES AT STREET LEVEL IF YOU WERE A KID SLIDING DOWN WONDERFUL SEYMOUR HILL’S SIDEWALK ON YOUR SLED EVERY NIGHT AFTER SUPPER, YOU WERE NOT HAPPY WHEN ENCOUNTERING A BARE SPOT ON THE PACKED AND SLIPPERY TRAIL. THAT LONG HILL WAS CONSIDERED “OURS” AND WE COMPLAINED TO ONE ANOTHER ABOUT THE FEW SHOVELED SPOTS. REALLY GOOD RUNS DOWN THE WHOLE BLOCK’S HILL REQUIRED A RUNNING START AT THE TOP BEFORE “BELLY FLOPPING” ON YOUR SLED….PART WAY DOWN, IF YOU HIT A BARE SPOT, SMALL AREAS OF ALMOST BARE CEMENT GENERATED SPARKS FROM SLED RUNNERS AND THE FRICTION SLOWED DOWN YOUR RACE TO SEE WHOSE SLED WAS THE FASTEST THAT NIGHT….WE COMPLAINED A LOT TO ONE ANOTHER…WHY WOULD ANYONE SHOVEL WAY DOWN IN FRONT AND SLOW OUR SPEED?
    SO MUCH FOR ANOTHER VIEW ON SHOVELING IN PP, IN THE 1940’S.
    ON THE OTHER HAND, MOST OF THE KIDS I KNEW MADE GOOD POCKET MONEY SHOVELING THOSE LONG SIDEWALKS ANYPLACE IN UPPER PP, AFTER A GOOD SNOW STORM…..

    • David C. Smith on

      Good to hear from you, Joan. Were there no good sledding spots in the park? Or was it too wooded?
      I earned much of my spending money for the year shoveling sidewalks on the Eastside of St. Paul. I loved snowstorms partly because of that. This morning reinforced my less-enthusiastic view of snow now.

      • JOAN HUNTER PUDVAN on

        HI AGAIN, DAVID…YES, LOTS OF KIDS, =ESP. OLDER BOYS, SLID & ALSO SKIED ON TOWER HILL, BUT OF COURSE, THERE WERE TREES TO WORRY ABOUT THERE. YOUNGISH ONES, THEN. NOT ALL OVERGROWN LIKE IT IS NOW…. MY OLDER BRO AND BUDDIES BUILT A BIG & GLORI0US SKI JUMP ONE SNOWY WINTER. IT FACED THE CLARENCE AVE. SIDE…THEY WORKED FOR DAYS AND DAYS ON THAT…AND CHASED US YOUNGER ONES AWAY FROM IT, LEST WE DAMAGE IT. I REMEMBER STILL HOW THEY WORKED AND ENJOYED THIER BIG JUMP. I GUESS MY FRIENDS AND I CHOSE SEYMOUR FOR SLIDING CUZ WE LIVED ON IT, BUT IT WAS ALSO THE LONGEST AND BY FAR THE BEST, HILL IN UPPER PP THEN. IN MYMEMORIES BOOK, ONE OF THE SHELDON BOYS DESCRIBES STARTING AT THE TOP OF SEYMOUR AND GOING PAST FRANKLIN AND ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE RIVER….WITH A LOOK-OUT PERSON AT FRANKLIN’S CORNER IN CASE OF A CAR. (NOT SO MANY CARS THEN, OF COURSE) I DON’T SEE HOW THAT COULD BE, BUT HE SWORE IT WAS TRUE…MY FRIENDS AND I WENT THE ONE BLOCK AND HIKED BACK UP AS MANY TIMES A NIGHT AS WE COULD UNTIL WE ” HAD TO GO IN” ABOUT NINE… WE MUST HAVE BEEN THE HARDIEST KIDS IN TOWN WITH ALL THAT EXERCISE!!
        A COUPLE OF YEARS AFTER THAT, WE GRADUATED TO SKATING ALL THE TIME.. WENT DOWN THE BACK ALLEYS TO THE RINK EVERY NIGHT,CARRIED OUR SKATES AROUND OUR NECKS. WARMING HOUSE OPEN UNTIL 9 OR SO WHEN THEY LOCKED UP AND TURNED OFF THE RINK LIGHTS. THEY HAD CUBBIES FOR YOUR BOOTS AND “THE MAN” SOLD CANDY & STUFF TO THE KIDS WHO HAD MONEY…(NOT MANY) SOMEHOW, THE WORD WENT OUT AT SCHOOL (SIDNEY PRATT WENT TO 8TH GRADE) IN DEC. WHEN IT WAS COLD ENOUGH FOR THE FIRE DEPT. TO COME AND FLOOD THE RINK. “THEY FLOODED THE RINK!!) A BIG DAY!!
        TENNIS COURTS AT ONE END THERE WERE FOR HOCKEY…AND AGAIN, BAD FOR ANY GIRLS OR YOUNGER BOYS WHO SKATED OVER THERE AND WERE IN THE WAY OF THE WILD HOCKEY GAMES….EVERY BOY I EVER KNEW HAD A HOCKEY STICK ALL DONE UP IN FRICTION TAPE. I ENVIED THAT AND WISHED I WAS A BOY IN THE EARLIER WINTERS. ( THEN THE BOYS STARTED ASKING ME TO SKATE WITH THEM AND I LIKED BEING A GIRL A LOT BETTER
        MY BROTHER (ALMOST 8 YRS. OLDER) SPENT TIME IN OUR BASEMENT WAXING HIS SKIES, MAKING SURE HE HAD GOOD, WHOLE RAWHIDES (LACES( FOR HIS HOCKEY SKATES…..IT WAS ALL OUTDOORS EVERY DAY AFTER SCHOOL (CARRIED YOUR SKATES TO SCHOOL AND HUNG THEM UP WITH YOUR COAT SO AS NOT TO WASTE TIME GOING HOME FOR THEM.) AND SERIOUS BUSINESS…..NO TV, NO VIDEO GAMES…BUT IT WAS HEAVEN…. OUTDOOR HEAVEN, UNTIL IT WAS REALLY JUST TOO COLD TO GO….THIS WENT ON FROM LATE DECEMBER UNTIL THE THAWS…..MAKES ME TIRED NOW JUST THINKING ABOUT IT…
        JOAN
        .


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