A timeline showcasing events from 1929 to 1959 that shaped "Minnesota's Greatest Generation", men and women born between 1910 and 1929 who spent a portion of their lives in Minnesota.
Created by MinnesotaHistory on Feb 12, 2009
Last updated: 03/11/10 at 10:13 PM
Tags: Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota's Greatest Generation Depression War Boom
Photo: Hubert H. Humphrey at podium, ca. 1968. Location no. por4185 p17, © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Minnesotan Hubert H. Humphrey, Vice President of the United States, ran as the Democratic candidate for President in the 1968 election, but lost to Richard Nixon.
Photo: Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Governor Aronson, MT; Interior Secretary Fred Secton; Governor Herseth, SD; Governor Orville L. Freeman, MN. Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, Minneapolis. 7/12/1959, pg. 9B, Minnesota Historical Society Newspaper Collection.
The British freighter Ramon de Larrinaga passes through the St. Lawrence Seaway and becomes the first deep draft ocean ship to enter Duluth’s harbor, making the city a world port.
Photo: Booker T. Cafe & Tavern, 381-383 Rondo, St. Paul, 6/9/1960. Photographer: St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press. Location no. MR2.9 SP3.1B p118. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
The post-war years saw the construction of thousands of miles of highways built in Minnesota, including the stretch of Interstate 94 between Minneapolis and St. Paul. The route chosen meant the loss of a significant African American neighborhood on Rondo Avenue, and the exodus of its residents to other neighborhoods in the Twin Cities. The Booker T. Cafe & Tavern, shown here, was one of the Rondo businesses lost when the freeway was built.
Photo: Southdale, Edina, 8/14/1956. Photographer: Minneapolis Star Journal Tribune. Location no. MH5.9 ED3.1 p17. Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
To cater to families moving to the suburbs, the Dayton Company opened Southdale Shopping Center in 1956 - the first fully enclosed shopping mall in the country. The center had 72 stores offering a variety of products and services for consumers, including a Red Owl grocery store, Woolworth's, a hardware store, and other practical shops, in addition to the first suburban Dayton's department store. The Dayton family would go on to build three other "dales": Brookdale, Rosedale and Ridgedale.
Read stories about shopping in the 1950s:
Emily Day: "It Was An Event To Go Downtown"
Martha Turner Doughty: "Good Shopping"
Photo: First boat into Silver Bay, 4/6/1956. Photographer: Basgen Photography. Location no. HD3.25 p1. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
The ore boat C.L. Austin picked up the first load of taconite at Silver Bay in 1956. Most of the nation's high grade iron deposits were mined out duirng World War II. Taconite, a sedimentary rock with bands of iron and shale or chert, became the new source for iron and has been mined extensively on Minnesota's Iron Range. The iron is extracted from the taconite and processed into pellets, which are shipped out of such inland ports as Silver Bay, Two Harbors, and Duluth-Superior.
Photo: Ethel Ray Nance with Roy Wilkins and others at the San Francisco regional office of the NAACP, 1953.Location no. por 3825 p1. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Roy Wilkins of St. Paul began his career as the editor of a small Black newspaper, the Northwest Bulletin. In 1931 he was invited to join the staff of NAACP, where he soon became the editor of the organization's journal. In 1955 he was chosen to lead the NAACP as its Executive Director, serving at a crucial time in the Civil Rights movement. For his work, Roy Wilkins received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson, and was awarded the NAACP's Spingarn Medal in 1964. He was immortalized through a memorial erected on the Minnesota State Capitol mall in 1995.
Read stories about Minnesotans involved in the fight for civil rights:
Matthew Little: Fighting The Fires Of Injustice
John Leslie Brown: African American Entrepreneur
Robert Samples: Hard Road To The American Dream
Emily Day: Integrating Richfield
Bemidji native Jane Russell and her co-star in the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Marilyn Monroe, were immortalized when they were invited to leave their handprints in the "Forecourt of the Stars" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Illustration: The Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, Minneapolis: General Mills, 1950.
Minneapolis-based General Mills published its iconic Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book in 1950 to meet the need of post-war housewives for new recipes developed for modern appliances and new convenience food items. Now in its tenth edition, millions of copies of the cookbook have been sold.
While many women were relegated back to the kitchen with the end of the war, many continued to work to help support their growing families and suburban lifestyles and to follow their dreams. Read their stories:
Bee Hanlon: From Veteran to Veterinarian
Selina (Lee) Sworsky: Hard-Working War Bride
Emily Day: Community Is Essential For Family
Learn more about the history of General Mills and Betty Crocker by visiting Mill City Museum.
Photo: Men drafted during Korean conflict waiting for bus, Union Station, Stillwater, 1950. Photographer: Kenneth Melvin Wright,
Location no. MW4.9 ST8 r10. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
The Korean War arose from attempts to unite North and South Korea by both countries' governments. The conflict began after North Korean troops crossed the 38th parallel to invade South Korea. The United States intervened shortly afterward, believing action necessary to halt the spread of communism. Often referred to as "the forgotten war," the Korean War cost the lives of nearly 37,000 Americans, including 700 Minnesotans, before an armistice was signed in 1953.
Melrose native Captain James Gallagher of the U.S. Air Force completes the first non-stop flight around the world. He and his crew of thirteen completed the 23,452-mile trip in ninety-four hours and one minute.
Photo: Hubert H. Humphrey speaking at the 1948 Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia. Location no. por 4185 p66, 83939. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Minneapolis Mayor Hubert H. Humphrey worked hard for civil rights during his political career. He delivered a rousing speech at the 1948 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 14, 1948.
Photo: Andy Tomasic of the Millers scores a home run at Lexington Ball Park, 5/30/1948. Photographer: St. Paul Pioneer Press, © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection, Location no. GV3.11P p135
KSTP-TV made the first commercial television broadcast in Minnesota, showing the Minneapolis Millers baseball game to the approximately 2,500 owners of television sets in the Twin Cities.
Photo: Male veterans becoming students at the University of Minnesota, 1946. Location no. FM6.879 p3. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Returning servicemen and women were eager to return to civilian lives interrupted by war. The G.I. Bill enabled millions to pursue a college education, and by 1947, nearly half of all students enrolled in higher education in Minnesota were veterans. Post-war enrollment at the University of Minnesota peaked in the 1946-1947 academic year, when nearly 52% of the 36,578 students were World War II veterans.
Read stories about the G.I. Bill Education Benefit:
Glen H. Nelson: Give Us A Veterinary College!
Carl A. Kuhrmeyer: U of M "Jammed" With G.I.s
AndrewJ. Cardinal, Sr.: Agriculture School
Never So Young Again," by Dan Brennan. New York: Reinhart & Co., 1946.
The war influenced American culture and consciousness for years after it's end, and was a strong presence in literature and film. In 1946 U.S. Army Air Force veteran and author Dan Brennan published a fictitious account of World War II entitled, Never So Young Again. The book, which tells the story of young men flying bombing missions into Germany, gives a starkly honest presentation of the realities of war.
Image: St. Paul Dispatch, August 14, 1945. Minnesota Historical Society Newspaper Collection.
The end of World War II came with the surrender of Japan to the Allied Forces on August 14, 1945. The official "V-J Day" (Victory over Japan) was held on September 2, 1945.
Read stories about V-J Day:
Anne Bosanko Green: "Thrilling Times!"
Arlett Bredeson: "Hurrah! The War Is Over!"
Josephine Downey: "What A Day!"
Doris Shea Strand: "A Wile Celebration!"
Frank Soboleski: "Hard to Adjust"
Photo: Launching of the Genesee at Port Cargill, Savage, 9/4/1943. Location no. HE5.25 m6 © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
The Cargill Company built Navy tankers at a shipyard in Savage, Minnesota during the war. The ships were floated fourteen miles up the Minnesota River to the Mississippi, making their way to the ocean for service. The shipyard, which employed about 3,500 people, was active from 1943 until early in 1946, and produced more than 20 ships, the last of which was the Wacissa.
Photo: 22nd Anniversary Lenin Memorial Meeting, main speakers Nellie Stone and William L. Patterson. Location no. J1.7 p4. Minnesota Historical Society Poster Collection.
Nellie Stone Johnson, a civil rights activist, became the first African American to be elected to a citywide post in Minneapolis when voters chose her to serve on the Minneapolis Library board of directors in 1945.
The song, "Hail, Minnesota!", was written by Truman Rickard and LeRoy Arnold, two University of Minnesota students in 1904 as a class song. It was first performed on Class Day at the University on May 28, 1904. The song made such an impression, it was chosen to be the university's official song, at which time Arthur Upson, literary editor for the University's Minnesota Daily newspaper, wrote an additional verse. The state legislature voted on a resolution to make the song the official state song of Minnesota in 1945.
Image: Minneapolis Morning Tribune, May 8, 1945. Minnesota Historical Society Newspaper Collection.
Germany surrendered to the Allies on May 8, 1945, signaling the end of the war in Europe.
Read stories about V-E (Victory in Europe) Day:
Betty M. Olson: V-E Day In Paris
Arlett Bredeson: "Today Is V-E Day"
Film: Coming Home, by Matt Ehling.
The Farm-Labor Party and the state Democratic Party agreed to merge at their joint convention in 1944. The Democratic-Farm-Labor (DFL) Party is unique to Minnesota.
Photo: Fathers in caps and gowns with their children, University Village, St. Paul, 1951. Photographer: Minneapolis Star Journal Tribune, Location no. FM6.833 p11. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
To help the millions of Americans returning from the war to readjust to civilian life, Congress passed the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, or "G.I. Bill," in 1944. The Bill provided financial assistance to veterans wishing to return to school, and provided loans for starting a business or purchasing a home. The G.I. Bill was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944.
Read stories of how the G.I. Bill changed lives:
Glen H. Nelson: Give Us A Veterinary College!
Carl A. Kuhrmeyer: U of M "Jammed" With G.I.s
AndrewJ. Cardinal, Sr.: Agriculture School
Photo: Virginia Mae Hope, Women's Air Force Service pilot, ca. 1943. Location no. HE1.5 p90.
© Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Winnebago native Virginia Mae Hope enrolled as a Women’s Air Service Pilot (WASP) in 1943, part of the Army Air Force’s civilian recruitment program. WASPs shuttled aircraft and supplies to bases in the United States, freeing up male pilots for combat flights.
Assigned to the Weather Wing at Patterson Field in Ohio, Hope transported Weather Service crews and planes. She logged 650 hours in the air while stationed at Patterson. On December 10, 1944, Hope and sixteen other military pilots died when their plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Omaha, Nebraska.
Photo: Private Milburn Henke of Hutchinson, MN, 1942. Courtesy of Iola Henke, used with permission. Private Milburn Henke of Hutchinson, MN, who served with the 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division, was the first enlisted man to step on shore in Europe in WWII. Private Henke later wrote about his selection for the honor of being the first to disembark in Belfast, Northern Ireland: "After being at sea for about eleven days, we entered Belfast, North Ireland harbor on the early morning of January 26, 1942. our company was transferred to a small ferry boat by the name of Chateau Thierry which brought us into the dock. "As we were getting ready to unload, some of us were sitting on a bunch of locker trunks and barracks bags piled failry high so we could see what was going on. A Colonel came up to our Lt. Sprenger and said to him, 'I want an enlisted man from Co. B 133rd Inf.' I happened to be sitting close to the Lt. and he turned around and said, 'Henks, go with him.' Of course, the first thing I thought of was unloading details. ...As I reached the end of the gangplank, they began playing our National Anthem. We stopped and saluted. I then stepped off the gangplank and shook hands with the Prime Minister and Representative of the British government. ...I walked off the gangplank six times to satisfy photographers to get the picture they wanted." Read stories about shipping out for war duty: Donald S. Frederick: "Swarming With U-Boats" William L. Anderson: Last Letter From The U.S."
Photo: USS Arizona burning after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Courtesy of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library.
Early in the morning, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a major military base on the Island of Oahu in Hawaii. More than 2,400 lives were lost and 21 ships and more than 300 planes were destroyed or sustained damage. The next day, President Roosevelt declared war on Japan.
Read stories about Pearl Harbor:
William L. Anderson: "An Insult To America"
Edwin Nakasone: "Japan Is Attacking Us!"
Charles M. Pearson: "A Duty To Perform"
Wilbert LeRoy Bartlett: "You Are Going To Be Inducted"
Photo: Munsingwear Victory Promotion Bra and Girdle, 1941. © Minnesota Historical Society.
The Munsingwear Company, headquartered in Minneapolis, designed and manufactured a wide variety of undergarments for men, women and children. In 1941 the company produced this patriotic "Victory Promotion" bra and girdle set with a red, white and blue, "stars & stripes" motif. This set was not marketed but was used as a gimmick to support the war effort and promote Munsingwear’s wartime underwear sales.
Illustration: Charles Lindbergh Jr.
Painter: Frederick S. Manning, Location no. AV1988.45.208. © Minnesota Historical Society Art Collection, Oil ca. 1930.
Famed Minnesota aviator Charles Lindbergh took an early isolationist stance as war broke out in Europe. On May 10, 1941, Lindbergh attended an "America First" rally in Minneapolis where he spoke out against American involvement in the war in Europe. Rally attendees opposed not only U.S. involvement in the war, but also the policy of providing aid to warring nations. Lindbergh's anti-war views tarnished his popularity with many Americans who thought him unpatriotic.
Learn more about Charles Lindbergh by visiting the Charles A. Lindbergh Historic Site in Little Falls, MN.
Photograph: The Andrews Sisters (l-r), Maxene, Patty and LaVerne, with their mother, Olga. Courtesy: Tom Rockvam & Westonka Historical Society. The Minnesota born Andrews Sisters - Maxene, Patty and LaVerne - achieved fame as one of the most popular female musical groups of the World War II era. Their wartime hits, including "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree," and "Rum and Coca-Cola", were favorites with G.I.s stationed around the world. The sisters served their country during the war by entertaining the troops both at home and on a USO tour, and enjoyed success in radio and film.
Photo: Inductees on their way to Fort Snelling, 1942. Location no. E448.21 p16, © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
With war in Europe and a growing threat of US involvement, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act on September 16, 1940. The Act initally required all men between the ages of 21 and 30 to register for the draft. When the U.S. entered the war, the age range was expanded to those 18 to 45 years of age.
Fort Snelling, an outpost built in 1819 at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, was re-opened as an induction center that same year. During World War II, the fort processed more than 300,000 recruits. By 1944 Fort Snelling had also become the home of the Military Intelligence Service Language School, training Japanese American soldiers as interpreters for intelligence purposes. At the end of the war, the fort served as a Point of Separation, capable of out-processing veterans within 36 hours. All military operations at Fort Snelling were suspended in 1946.
Learn more about Fort Snelling's role in World War II.
Winning Football, by Coach Bernie Bierman, New York & London: Whittlesey House, McGraw-Hill, 1938. Winning Football is former University of Minnesota head football coach Bernie Bierman's approach to coaching and teaching football. The book includes Bierman's take on the principles and methods in the game of football, along with strategy, psychology, and technique. Minnesota native Bernard W. Bierman (1894-1977) was head football coach at the University of Minnesota from 1932 until 1950. While at Minnesota, Coach Bierman's Golden Gophers collected six Big Ten championships, five national championships, and five undefeated seasons. Visit the Minnesota's Greatest Generation Project Books of an Era timeline:
Photo: Hormel Meat Packing Plant in Austin.
Location no. MM8.9 AU3.1 p1, © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Spam, a canned, precooked luncheon meat consisting of pork shoulder meat, was developed by the Hormel Foods Company in Austin, Minnesota in 1937. It became a staple in the diet of American soldiers during World War II, and continues to be a popular food item today. Learn more about SPAM.
Photo: KSTP broadcasting from Governor's office. Location no. HC3.2 p14, © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Local Twin Cities radio station KSTP began in 1928 as a merger between two existing stations, WAMD ("Where All Minneapolis Dances"), and KFOY. In 1935 the station increased its broadcast power to 5,000 watts, and claimed to be the only high-fidelity, high-power radio transmitter in the West, and the first U.S. station to broadcast to Australia.
Photo: Incline railway, Duluth. Postcard, Location no. MS2.9 DU9I r25, © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
The city of Duluth began to phase out its streetcar public transportation system in the mid-1930s, replacing the cars with trolley buses. The city's "incline railway," pictured here, was removed in 1939.
Learn about streetcar transportation in the Twin Cities.
Photo: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway Company's streamlined passenger train, the Hiawatha. Photographer: Harry Darius Ayer. Location no. HE6.2M p6. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Train travel was still the most popular method of cross-country transportation in the years before World War II. The Milwaukee Road Railroad sought to improve its passenger service between Chicago and the Twin Cities with the introduction of its Hiawatha high-speed service in 1935. The Hiawatha engines were capable of reaching speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour on the straight-away, making the trip from St. Paul to Chicago in 6 hours and 15 minutes. With the rise of diesel engines in the 1940s, the Hiawatha engines were relegated to local passenger service and freight carriage.
Learn more about Minnesota's railroads.
Wheaties, the popular cereal produced by Minneapolis-based General Mills, first used the advertising slogan "The Breakfast of Champions" in 1934.
Photo: Maggie Noonday, Mille Lacs Indian Reservation, 1935. Location no. E97.1N r24. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Congress passed the Indian Reorganization Act in 1934, which allowed Native Americans to govern themselves on a tribal basis, manage natural resources on reservations and incorporate as a tribe to facilitate business ventures.
Photograph: Johnny Buskowiak's Civilian Conservation Corps Footlocker, © Minnesota Historical Society 3-D Objects Collection.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was established in April 1933 at the height of the Great Depression as a means of putting thousands of young men, aged 17 to 25, to work building National and State Parks, planting trees in our forests, and assisting farmers with soil conservation. In return for hard work, CCC enrollees received $30 pay each month, $25 of which had to be sent home to family. They also gained self-discipline and self-respect.
To learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota, read The Civilian Conservation Corps: A New Deal for Youth, and The CCC Indian Division from Minnesota History Magazine.
What's in the footlocker? Find out!
Read personal stories about life in the CCCs:
James Clark: An American Indian Perspective
R. John Buskowiak: A Great Adventure
R. John Buskowiak: I Just Loved It!
Alfred E. Nelson: a Pretty Close Schedule
Teachers! Download lesson plans:
My Days In The CCC.
Photo: General Mills complex (Washburn-Crosby), Minneapolis milling district, 1935. Photographer: Norton & Peel. Location no. MH5.9 MP3.1W p89. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
General Mills introduced its Bisquick® baking mix in 1931. Designed to be a time-saver for homemakers during the Great Depression, the mix was the brainchild of sales executive Carl Smith. Mr. Smith got the idea for pre-mixed ingredients from a railroad chef on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Smith brought the idea to General Mills chemist Charlie Kress, who perfected the formula. The resulting mix could be used to make biscuits and pancakes, and later other recipes as promoted in a 1933 cookbook with the Betty Crocker™ seal of approval. Bisquick® continues to be a staple for many family-oriented recipes today.
Visit Mill City Museum, the birthplace of General Mills.
Photo: Bobby Jones golfing at Interlachen, Minneapolis, 1930. Location no. GV3.17 p33. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Golf legend Bobby Jones wowed local crowds when he won his fourth U.S. Open Championship at Interlachen Country Club in Edina in 1930. In that year, Jones won both the US and British Opens, and both the US and British Amateur golf tournaments, a record that still stands today. He retired that same year at the age of 28 with 13 national championships to his credit.
Richard Drew, an engineer working at the St. Paul-based 3M Company, developed the first cellulose (later, cellophane) tape in 1930. The product, known as "Scotch Tape", was designed for use by grocers, bakers, and meat packers as a way to seal packages but was quickly adopted by general consumers.
Photo: Foshay Tower, Ninth and Marquette, Minneapolis. Photographer: Norton & Peel. Location no. Norton & Peel 76415. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection.
Wilbur Foshay built his 32-story skyscraper, modeled after the Washington Monument, in downtown Minneapolis just before the market crashed in 1929. Foshay lost his fortune and the tower was put up for sale in 1930. The Foshay Tower would remain the tallest building in Minneapolis until it was dwarfed by the IDS Center was completed in 1972.
Photograph: Starving farm family who appealed for aid, Hollandale, 1929. © Minnesota Historical Society Photograph Collection. Loc. no. E440 p13
The Roaring Twenties came to a crashing halt - literally - on October 24, 28 and 29, 1929 when stocks on Wall Street plummeted, banks began to fail, and Americans were plunged into what would become the Great Depression.
The members of Minnesota's Greatest Generation were children in the 1920s and 1930s. Many found odd jobs to help contribute to the family's income, and all found inexpensive ways to entertain themselves.
Special feature: Kemper Home Movies, ca. 1920s. Home movies of Minnesota children playing, made by Bernard Kemper of Perham, MN.
Read stories about growing up in the Great Depression:
Mary Joy Dean Breton: A New Start
Robert D. Hill: Going Hungry
Michael T. Sanchelli: On Relief