Jan. 4, 1935: Those humorless Nazis

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

In June 1934, Adolf Hitler broke onto the dark comedy scene with this howler: “At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years! … Don’t forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!”

Six months later, the Minneapolis Star published an editorial that took the Nazis to task for failing to see a joke at their expense. Was anyone still laughing at der Führer by then?

Those Humorless Nazis

A dead-serious War Production Board poster from 1942. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)

People whose position of power is none too stable are notoriously unable to see a joke at their expense. The man with a loud but flimsy argument is generally poorly armed against fun aimed at himself.

Similarly, the Nazis of Germany, in high and mighty dudgeon, are going to banish from Germany forever (or at least until the Nazis are thrown out) a naturalized American girl who had the temerity to laugh at Nazi storm troop uniforms.

The poor girl probably couldn’t help herself, and forgot that in Germany you can’t do what in America is perfectly natural and also constitutional — laugh when the impulse strikes you to laugh. The inability of the Nazis to see a joke on themselves may help, eventually, to topple them. A sense of humor is a vital ingredient of stability. How else could the American democratic form of government have endured so long?

April 22, 1876: Pioneer Press, Tribune merge

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

A merger of the Minneapolis and St. Paul daily newspapers, once unthinkable, is now thinkable. But the unthinkable has been thought of before. More than 130 years ago, the Minneapolis Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press combined to form a metrowide morning newspaper called the Dual City Pioneer Press and Tribune.

It’s a complicated story, but according to “History of the City of Minneapolis,” by Isaac Atwater, it came down to this: The owners of the Pioneer Press attempted to buy the Tribune to reduce the number of morning papers in Minneapolis and St. Paul to one, and thus boost circulation and corner the market on advertising.

The Minneapolis Tribune called City Hall home in 1876. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

In the weeks leading up to the launch of the merged newspaper, 12 prominent citizens of Minneapolis, dubbed the Twelve Apostles, learned of an “old chattel mortgage on the Tribune” and used it to seize control of the paper. A compromise was reached that allowed the merged paper to launch as planned for morning distribution, with the morning Minneapolis Tribune, in name at least, living on as evening paper, replacing the Minneapolis Evening Mail, a small operation that buckled under threat of ruin from the deep-pocketed consortium. Modern accounts describe the DC P-P T merger as “brief.” Exactly how brief is unclear, but judging from the microfilm, the merged paper hit the streets on May 1, 1876, and was still being published in January 1877.

In the wake of the merger, the evening Tribune hardly mentioned the ownership change on its front page and, except for a few terse comments on its editorial page, relied on brief dispatches from Chicago, Detroit, St. Peter, St. Cloud and Windom. But I did find this marvelous account of merger machinations in the St. Paul Dispatch, whose owners were delighted to see the effort by the enemy papers hit an unexpected roadblock.

Topped by this gleeful headline, the Dispatch’s detailed account of the merger’s apparent collapse occupied nearly three full columns of the front page.


You Better Believe It
Some First Class Fun

With the Great Consolidated.
Minneapolis On Its Ear.
Buys Mortgage by Telegraph
And Captures the Tribune.
That Paper is Wiped Out
Quicker than the Dual Plan.
The Sheriff Runs the Machine,
But Keeps It Standing Still,
While Driscoll and Blakely Look On.
The Issue of the “Mail” Doubtful.
Minneapolis Has no Papers.
But the People Still Rejoice,
For they Can Get the Dispatch!
The Lamb is Inside of the Lion,
Or the Lion is Inside of the Lamb.
It Don’t Make Much Difference Which.
We Are All Consolidating,
Excepting Those of Us Who Aren’t.
Arise and Shout, Hoop La!

Minneapolis, April 21st 5 p.m. – It’s all up. The great consolidation is not to take place. This afternoon, about four o’clock, the officers entered the Tribune counting room and took possession of the entire establishment on a chattel mortgage, held by W.W. Woods, of Ohio, or rather George Brackett, R.B. Langdon and attorneys. They paid the money to Mr. Woods’ attorney and took possession.

The mortgage is of the variety known as “cut throat,” the condition being that it could be sold at public or private sale without reserve.

Mr. Driscoll was in the counting room when Brackett, Langdon and the officers entered, and, gazing about him in a dazed sort of way for a moment, he took a bee line for St. Paul to carry the news to Joseph.

The best attorneys in the city claim that the title to the entire Tribune establishment, under the mortgage, is perfect – the mortgage covering the franchise as well as all the types, presses and material. There is great rejoicing in the city over the coup d’etat of our capitalists who have sprung this trap upon the shrewd Frederick and but very little sympathy for him from the fact that he has known of the existence of the mortgage all along, and was waiting to close up all other matters before tackling that, when that should have been the first thing paid.

Who will be the editors under the new management, no one knows, but that the Tribune will continue to exist, at least until the matter is arbitrated though all the courts of the State, there is not a particle of doubt, for the parties interested have the money and the will to fight it through.


It appears that last December, to guard against any accidents which might result from the green grocer’s, L.M. Stewart’s and divers other libel suits, a chattel mortgage, of violent strength, was put upon the concern for $10,000. The mortgage ran to W.W. Woods, of Ohio, the father-in-law of A.G. Wilcox, one of the stockholders and the business manager of the Tribune. The mortgage reads as follows:

Know all men by these presents, That the Tribune Publishing Company, by James T. Hendryx, President, and A.G. Wilcox, Secretary and Treasurer of said Company, hereunto duly authorized of Minneapolis, in the county of Hennepin and State of Minnesota, party of the first part, being justly indebted to W.W. Woods of Marysville, in the State of Ohio, party of the second part, in the sum of ten thousand ($10,000) dollars, has for the purpose of securing the payment of said debt granted, bargained, sold and mortgaged, and by theses presents do grant, bargain sell and mortgage, unto the said W.W. Woods all that certain personal property now in the possession of said Tribune Publishing Company in Minneapolis, in the county of Hennepin and State of Minnesota, and described as follows, to wit: All the furniture, fixtures, machinery, type cases and printing material, binding stock and papers stock, all firewood, (being about 450 cords,) and all personal property of whatever description owned by said Publishing Company, a schedule of which is hereto annexed, marked “Exhibit H,” which is hereby referred to and made a part of this mortgage.

Including, also, all book accounts and evidences of indebtedness, the subscription list of the daily and weekly Tribune, and one share of stock in the Western Associated Press Association. The above described personal property being now in that portion of the City Hall building (so called) in said Minneapolis leased to, and occupied by said Tribune Publishing Company, except said firewood which is on lots in rear of Homer’s Hall East Division Minneapolis. …

In witness whereof the said party of the first part has hereunto set their hands and seal, and the hand and seal of the President and secretary of said company, the 18th day of December, 1875.


J.T. HENDRYX, President;
A.G. WILCOX, Secretary.

The Pioneer Press occupied an entire block of St. Paul in 1885. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

It appears that the grand consolidation scheme was to be carried out by the purchase of the stock held by Messrs. Hendryx, father and son, which, combined with the stock held or controlled by Bill King and Dr. Butler, gave the consolidation power to run the machine. Mr. Wilcox in the business department and the Messrs. Rea in the editorial department were then placed in the position of minority stockholders. The new deal management, however, voted to retain Wilcox and the Messrs. Rea in their respective positions, and the programme for the consolidation was made public with the announcement that all of the stockholders were harmonious. This statement does not seem to have been strictly true, for the Pioneer Press this morning states that the Messrs. Wilcox and Rea endeavored to have some of the citizens capture the office under that chattel mortgage before the Pioneer Press crowd gobbled the majority of the stock.

The Pioneer Press, this morning, which ought to be good authority, gives the following description of the capture of the concern:

About half past four in the afternoon the Tribune counting room was invaded by – well, not by an army with banners but by a dozen or two of our “leading citizens” leastwise, they led the procession – J.M. Shaw, C.H. Woods, Charley Johnson, Col. Plummer, G.A. Bracket. R.B. Langdon, L. Fletcher, and others; and to the great surprise of at least a good portion of the joint force of the “great consolidated” (as was) they proceeded to “buy the Tribune” under that Judge Wood’s $10,000 mortgage, “without notice” of more than ten seconds, which was as little as the mortgage positively required. C.H. Woods, “attorney for Judge Woods,” was the party who “sold” the concern. He stuck his head into the door of the private office and mildly remarked to the Messrs. Driscoll and Wilcox: “I have sold this office, under a chattel mortgage, for $20,000,” laid the mortgage upon the table, took from Hon. R.R. Langdon three pieces of paper, supposed to be checks, passed over a receipt to him and walked out.

George A. Brackett

Fred C. Brackett at once “took possession,” or thinks he did, for the “purchasers” who are said to be the following named gentlemen:

Geo. A. Brackett, C.A. Pillsbury, J.B. Gilfilan, A. Kelly, J.K. Sidle, E.S. Corser, Franklin Steele, Levi Butler, R.B. Langdon, L. Fletcher, T.B. Walker, and M. B. Higgins.

Messrs. Wilcox and Rea expressed great surprise at yesterday’s transaction.

Mr. Wilcox states that he wrote Judge Woods, the holder of the mortgage, of the proposed consolidation and a few days since received a reply from Mr. Woods, heartily concurring in the scheme.

Mr. Rea, editor of the Tribune, also stated to our reporter that he was surprised at the sudden uprising. He says that some days ago, when negotiations for the consolidation were first opened, a considerable number of citizens, among them several of yesterday’s “purchasers,” were called upon by the minority interested in the Tribune (the Messrs. Rea and Wilcox) the situation was explained to them, and they were asked to come to the rescue by the very method yesterday, but they refused or neglected to do so.


The result was that the Sheriff with a posse of police to aid him, stood guard all night, forbidding the issue of the paper this morning. Messrs. Driscoll and Blakely also sat up with the concern. The dual managers endeavored to induce the holders of the mortgage to allow the paper to issue, but this was refused. The following written proposition was submitted about midnight:

“We, as attorneys of the Tribune, stockholders, agree that the Minneapolis Tribune shall be published on the morning of April 22, 1876, without injury to the legal rights of any one.”

The men who held the mortgage did not propose to lose their grip, and this also was refused, and the publication of the paper this morning was thus forcibly suspended, the sheriff forbidding the employees from continuing their labors.


The excitement lately caused by the election of Mayor Ames and a Democratic city council dwindles into utter insignificance when compared with the furor prevailing to-day over the bursting of the consolidation, whereby the newspaporial existence of Minneapolis was virtually swallowed by the Pioneer Press. The post office corridor has been thronged all the morning by an eager crowd of merchants, lawyers, politicians and general riff-raff, among who it was almost impossible to elbow one’s way. One sentiment is universal and its expression is undisguised. The people of the city are a unit in their determination that St. Paul shall not run the Minneapolis newspaper machine, and everybody rejoices that the combination is “busted,” even though temporarily, while the solid men of the city declare that they will fight it out on this line all summer for the permanent possession of the establishment. This morning both sides are sitting opposite each other in grim defiance, and all operations are completely suspended, though the parties who purchased the mortgage say they will issue a paper themselves.

The Pioneer Press staff lined up for this group shot in about 1885. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

Blakely and Driscoll seem to take the situation somewhat differently. The former sits subdued in the business office, the picture of dejection, while Driscoll flits about somewhat lively, but his flushed countenance betrays the excitement within him, which he endeavors to hide beneath an outward show of nonchalance. The denunciations of the multitude are mainly directed against the head of Joe Wheelock. He, they say, was always an avowed, hearty enemy of Minneapolis, and all its interests. He cannot be trusted. The interest of the two cities will clash in the future as in the past, and the citizens are firm in their conviction that, should a conflict arise, Minneapolis would be betrayed by Wheelock. Considerable felicitation is indulged in because of the best laid schemes of Driscoll going so terribly aglee. He, the Napoleon, the Bismarck of Minnesota journalism, has been outwitted! He, the keen, cunning man of business, did not have foresight enough to settle that mortgage!

Bill King

But Bill King – what is said of him, the sweet William of this Congressional district? He has estranged from him every sentiment of respect that may have possibly lingered in his favor. His course in cursing publicly and privately the citizens of Minneapolis, who will not chime in with the consolidation, has turned every man’s hand against him. He is the Ishmaelite of the city to-day. This was proved last night, when an excited multitude was gathered in and about the Tribune business office after the seizure. Under the new possession by the citizens King began to fear concerning his $20,000 in stock which he had transferred to the proposed hyphenate compound. Excitedly he exclaimed: “Where in hell has my $20,000 gone to?”

“Gone to the dogs, Bill,” cried a voice in the crowd. In fact, there are none so poor to do him reverence, and among all the murmurings and mutterings only one man, D.A. Secombe, was heard to express himself in favor of the consolidation.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press ring may well throw up the sponge. Its occupation has gone as far as Minneapolis is concerned. Her citizens will not only not support the new compound, but they will withdraw their support from the Pioneer Press. They have already begun to throw aside the Tribune, because they consider it was a party to the betrayal of the city. The principal carrier of the Tribune informed a reporter of the Dispatch that the subscribers on his route were diminishing at the rate of fifty a day. These facts, this whirlwind of hornets, cannot but convince Driscoll, Wheelock et al., that they have sorely put their foot into it, and that this course has damaged them so severely that it will take years to recover from the shock. Their cormorant-like action has had the effect of cementing the people more solidly together in their determination to have a morning paper of their own, run and owned in their own city, and patronized by them to the exclusion of St. Paul morning dailies and those who control them. When cautious bankers will unite, as they did yesterday, to furnish the money wherewith to close down on the combination, it is plain that beneath all this hubbub there is an undercurrent of fixed resolve that the city’s newspaporial tub shall stand upon its own bottom. And this sentiment has no political significance in it. The unity pervades the ranks of both parties. Neither Democrats nor Republicans view the matter politically. They look upon it from a business standpoint merely. They claim their local interests can only be supported and advanced by a local paper of their own. To submit to the tender mercies of a bitter rival for the representation of their business to the outside world would absolutely result in their destruction.

The hard-working, underpaid kids who hawked newspapers in the 19th century never got much ink beyond what ended up on their faces, hands and clothing. That’s Sid Hartman at far right in this 1882 photo of the first Minneapolis Journal Newsboys’ Club. Just kidding, Mr. Hartman! (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

A special ambassador of the Dispatch put in his appearance this morning in the business office of the Tribune. In answer to inquiries, Mr. Blakely said there was no change in the position of affairs since the report given in the Pioneer Press this morning. Both parties were waiting for the next move, and he believed the owners of the mortgage were in consultation with their counsel. (Among the latter ex-Governor Davis is employed.) This mortgage business, continued Mr. Blakely, had been sprung upon them very suddenly. No one had waited upon them to ascertain what were the intentions of the new company. Nobody had said a word to them, nor had any premonitions been afforded of this unexpected action in the purchase of the mortgage, which the consolidated company was about to provide for. In short, everything was in statu quo until they received a proposition from the other side, their hands being completely tied for the present.

The editorial rooms up stairs were peaceful when compared with the stir down stairs. Nind was busy grinding out locals for the Mail, and Johnny Rea was in the editorial chair. Mart Williams was wandering round the streets disconsolately. The fun of it is the Mail is tied up also. Since its removal to the Tribune building it is without a press and, if issued at all, will have to be printed elsewhere – most probably at the Citizen office.

Another complication befell the too-much-consolidated Tribune this morning. The employees thereof this morning attached upon a large quantity of paper and a barrel of ink to satisfy them for their wages due. The material was taken by the constable to Brackett’s block.

From Another Reporter.

Our reporter had an interview with Charley Johnson this morning and the following facts were obtained:

Reporter. Mr. Johnson, do you know of any further developments as regards the Tribune purchase?

Johnson. I know this much that we have the Tribune under our complete control, and the lawyers are now examining all aspects of the case, and before night we will probably move all the property of the new company to some other building and turn these parties out, and to-morrow morning publish a paper.

Rep. Will the Press company throw the matter into litigation and stop the publication of the Tribune? There is some talk on the street of their intending to do so.

Johnson. No, sir; we have bought it. It was a fair and square deal, and they cannot embarrass the Tribune at all; but don’t mention this on the street, and by the time the Dispatch comes out we will have everything OK, and its numerous readers can then get all the particulars.

Rep. Will the Mail be issued to-night?

Johnson. Well, we shall not allow them to publish it from this office. They talk of getting the Citizen to print it if they can.

Charles A. Pillsbury

Rep. Will they print it for them?

Johnson. I don’t know.

Interview with C.A. Pillsbury.

C.A. Pillsbury. .. [T]he paper has been bought to save the city from disgrace, and not for a political move, as some suppose. The former owners may be able to get it back if they can give good security. We do not expect to make any money by the transaction. [We] may lose a little, very likely will, but we will beat St. Paul. What do the St. Paul people say? Do they laugh at Blakely and Driscoll?

Rep. Yes, they are much amused, and think it was a sharp move on the part of Minneapolis.

Feb. 4, 1912: Bless their hearts

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

An editorial in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune:

Well, Why Shouldn’t They?

An officer of the Anti-Women Suffrage society of Washington earns her salary by writing to a New York paper that the vote of every married woman would undoubtedly represent the interest of her husband and her family, whether he were a saloon keeper, a gambler, a banker or a protected manufacturer.

A 1912 wedding portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Tormandsen gives little indication of how the bride or groom might vote. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

We have too much confidence in the faithfulness and good sense of American women to doubt this statement for a moment. We are inclined to go farther and believe that the so-called unattached or independent women, spinsters, widows and divorced women, would vote conscientiously in the interests of men or families to whom they are attached by sympathy, interest or affection.

No woman is unattached in her own mind and nearly all women unconsciously place the interests of somebody else above their own, whether from nature or education. We do not see why this should be considered an argument against suffrage for women, married or spinsters, widowed or divorced.

While the net result would be to duplicate the votes of men, we are inclined to think that women would bring to the joint consideration with husbands, lovers or friends of their individual interest in connection with the larger interest of the whole public, a higher conception of the latter and that the double votes would be more conscientious and patriotic than the single votes are now.

Once more, we know of only one argument against suffrage for women. Bless their hearts, they don’t want it.