Archive for the ‘William Watts Folwell’ Tag

University of Minnesota Honorary Degrees and Minneapolis Park Names

Here’s an exclusive club: William Watts Folwell, Thomas Sadler Roberts and Edward Foote Waite. Each has had a Minneapolis park property named for him, and each also received an honorary degree from the University of Minnesota.

William Watts Folwell

1925 was a big year for Folwell when, at age 92, he received the first honorary Doctor of Laws degree ever awarded by the University of Minnesota and Folwell Park was dedicated in his honor. The name for the park had been chosen in 1917, but it took eight years for the park to be finished and dedicated.

Folwell was hired as the first president of the University of Minnesota in 1869. He was elected to the Minneapolis park board in 1888 and served on the board — many years as its president — until 1906. He was the first to propose the name “Grand Rounds” for the city’s ring of parkways.

He is pictured in 1925 when he received his honorary degree, apparently in ceremonies at Memorial Stadium. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.

Thomas Sadler Roberts

Roberts was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree by the University of Minnesota in 1940, when he was 82. In the photo, taken sometime that year, he is perusing a book of Audubon prints.

The Thomas Sadler Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Lyndale Park near the north shore of Lake Harriet was named in his honor in 1947, a year after his death.

Roberts was a doctor known for his extraordinary capacity to diagnose unusual diseases and illnesses largely due to his prodigious memory. He retired from medicine in his 50s and devoted his time to ornithology. He taught at the University of Minnesota and was a director of the Museum of Natural History. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society.

Edward Foote Waite

Waite received his honorary degree from the University of Minnesota and had a Minneapolis park named for him in the same year — 1949 — when he was 89. His Doctor of Science degree honored a legal career best known for years of service as a juvenile court judge in Minneapolis. But he was far more than a wise and compassionate judge; he helped shape the field of juvenile law in the United States.

Waite is less well-known for his five-month stint as Minneapolis’s police chief in 1902. It was not an easy job in the wake of a scandal known nationally as the “Shame of Minneapolis,” centered around corrupt Mayor Albert Ames and his brother Fred, whom he had appointed police chief. David P. Jones was appointed mayor to replace the fugitive Mayor Ames and turned to his friend, Waite, an assistant district attorney with no police experience, to clean up a corrupt police force and restore public faith in law enforcement.

Waite Park was developed along with Waite Elementary School as a joint project between the park board and school board from 1949-1951. The park and school opened for the 1950 school year but final improvements to the site were not completed until the following year.

Waite is pictured snowshoeing in about 1945 at the age of 85. Photo: Minnesota Historical Society. (See another photo of Waite at the school named for him.)

From this very exclusive list it would appear that the good do not die young.

David C. Smith

Advertisements

Minneapolis Park History Resources: Hathitrust

If you’re researching early Minneapolis history, particularly parks, you absolutely must know about this resource: hathitrust.org.

HathiTrust is a digital library that has millions of books from university and public libraries. Most of the books are no longer copyrighted so they are in the public domain. (This includes most books published before 1923.)

What is most useful is that the volumes are searchable. Fortunately the annual reports and the proceedings of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners were widely sought after nationally and widely distributed. In old park board files, there are many cards and letters from individuals and institutions around the country requesting copies of the annual reports. Hathitrust has scanned most years of the park board’s annual reports and some proceedings up to 1923 either from the collections of the New York Public Library or the University of Michigan. The University of Minnesota also participates in Hathitrust.

“No other city gets out such artistic and complete records of its park work as does Minneapolis.”

Warren Manning’s magazine, Billerica (“The Fugitive Literature of the Landscape Art,” Vol. IV, March 1916, No. 10, Part 2), singled out the annual reports of the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners for praise. The article particularly recommended the Fourteenth (1896) and Eighteenth (1900) annual reports, which were “notable for their illustrations.”

Both reports were produced while William Watts Folwell was president of the park board. As a historian Folwell understood well the value of documenting the efforts of an organization such as the park board.

An illustration from the 1896 annual report praised by Manning

HathiTrust also allows you to create an account and establish your own “collections” from its vast catalog. It’s easy to set up a guest account. Here’s what I did: I put all available issues of the park board’s annual reports and proceedings, as well as most of the early books about Minneapolis history, such as Isaac Atwater’s and Horace Hudson’s histories, into a single “collection.” I can then search the collection for any terms I want. That means I can search for Lake Harriet or Powderhorn Park and find every reference to those park properties in park board documents—and other books—over many years. Such a capability saves hours of research because the park board annual reports and proceedings in the early years did not have indexes.

Annual reports are not available for some years in the Minneapolis park board’s first decade, but all annual reports 1895-1922 are available. HathiTrust also has many issues of the Minneapolis City Council proceedings, which provides for another layer of research. HathiTrust has also scanned many park board annual reports from 1923-1960. Due to copyright restrictions the full text of those reports is not available online, but a search will reveal if and how often terms do appear in those volumes. Not as helpful as full-view text searches, but still a big time-saver. You can then go straight to the pages you want in a library.

Give hathitrust.org a try. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll be able to find. The digitization for HathiTrust was done by Google, but the collection is far more extensive than what is available at Google Books.

David C. Smith

William Watts Folwell: Show them in their best days

William Watts Folwell was an accomplished man: Union Army engineer, first president of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis park commissioner for 18 years, author of a four-volume history of Minnesota. The list goes on and on. Not least, he is one of my heroes.

Many photographs of Folwell exist, including some posted on this site, but today I will follow Folwell’s advice. In 1911, when Folwell was 78, he wrote to Minnesota Historical Society President Warren Upham:

“Let me make a suggestion in regard to portraits of men in all your publications. Don’t print “old man pictures,” but show the men as they were in their best days if possible. The likeness of General Sibley in General Baker’s book is atrocious. Sibley was a splendid figure in his prime, and ought so to be remembered.”

(Wiliam Watts Folwell: Autobiography and Letters of a Pioneer of Culture, Ed. Solon J. Buck. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1933)

So here is William Watts Folwell dressed for his wedding to Sarah Heywood when he was 30 in 1863. At the time he was an enlisted engineer in the Union Army. While it appears from his shoulder patch here that he was a captain at the time, he attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, the highest possible for an enlisted man, and commanded an engineering company of 450 men in several important Civil War battles. Folwell was hired as the first president of the University of Minnesota six years after he was married.

 

 

William Watts Folwell photographed in his Union Army uniform for his wedding in 1863 to Sarah Heywood. (Powelson, Minnesota Historical Society)

 

David C. Smith

Inspiration, Ideas and Ideals (Courtesy of William Watts Folwell)

Park history provides more than pretty pictures. Thanks to people such as William Folwell, it also gives us inspiring words. Such inspiration has perhaps never been needed more than now when political discourse is dominated by petty self-interest and shallow swagger.

“We owe it to our children and to all future dwellers in Minneapolis to plan on a great and generous scale. If we fail to accomplish, let them know it was not for lack of ideas or ideals.”

— William W. Folwell, President, Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners, Eighteenth Annual Report, 1900

William W. Folwell attended the dedication of facilities at Folwell Park, July 4, 1925. He was 92. (Minnesota Historical Society, por 12574 r18)

David C. Smith