Ten fun facts about Minnesota


  1. Voyageurs in French Minnesota: “The word ‘voyageur’ originally referred to any sort of traveler or explorer, but by the mid-18th century it had a more precise meaning. It referred to men who signed contracts, usually for three years, with Montreal merchants who were licensed by the government to trade with the Native Americans.” Voyageurs greased their hair as protection against mosquitoes and wore brightly colored sashes (Norman K. Risjord's A Popular History of Minnesota, 2005, p. 32-33).

  2. The Mississippi River’s headwaters received its current name from American geographer Henry R. Schoolcraft (1793-1864), who created the word "Itasca" from the last syllable of “veritas” and the first syllable of “caput" (Risjord 2005, p/ 49).

  3. Minneapolis received its name in a similar fashion: The citizenry used the Dakota word for falls, “Minne ha-ha,”or “laughing water,” and added the Greek word for city, “polis.” The result was Minnehapolis, “Laughing Water City.” The “h” was silent and was soon dropped (Risjord 2005, p. 71).

  4. Stephen Douglas’ bill for establishing the Minnesota Territory proposed Mendota as the territory’s capital, “but Douglas yielded to [Henry Hastings] Sibley’s preference for St. Paul. Sibley, who owned parcels in both communities, likely voted for St. Paul because of its commercial potential as head of steamboat navigation on the Mississippi River” (Risjord 2005, p. 63).

  5. The U.S.-Dakota War of 1862: This should be an entry all on its own: http://www.usdakotawar.org/history/war

  6. In 1870, Daniel Hoyt suggested that the village of Nelsontown change its name to “something more lofty and scientific” in order to convince universities to relocate there. The town was renamed Cosmos.

  7. Paul Bunyan was popularized by a Detroit News-Tribune journalist, James McGillivray, who wrote a story on July 24, 1910, about a heroic lumberjack of immense size and strength. A Minnesota lumber company issued a pamphlet in 1914 that embellished the tales of Bunyan, then later used Bunyan as its trademark (Risjord 2005, p. 143).

  8. Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, was born in Grand Rapids on June 10, 1922.

  9. Flour milling in Minneapolis peaked in 1916 and thereafter declined due to competition from other milling centers. "Washburn-Crosby, the most imaginative of Minneapolis milling companies since the 1870s when Cadwallader Washburn introduced a process for milling spring wheat, battled the milling decline with new ready-made products and resourceful advertising.” The company introduced a fictitious food “expert” named Betty Crocker, and a new breakfast cereal, Wheaties. In 1928, the company became the centerpiece of a holding company named General Mills and the rest is history (Risjord 2005, p. 187).

  10. The nation's first polka mass was celebrated at Resurrection Catholic Church (301 Adams Ave.) in Eveleth on May 5, 1973 (Pohlen 2003, p. 63).