Don’t Know Much About (Minnesota) History

My parents are visiting the Twin Cities over the weekend for Cameron’s First Communion. I was looking for something free and interesting to do today with the little guys since it was raining this morning and found out that free tours of the State Capitol are offered daily. So the five of us climbed in the van and headed to St. Paul to get our history on.

Honestly I can’t believe I’ve lived in this state for 15 years (Good Lord, can that be right?) and haven’t done that. Kind of embarrassing. This is statehood week. That was one of the things I learned about the state of Minnesota today. Here are a few others.

  • Minnesota was admitted to the union on May 11, 1858 (May 11 is my Grandma Schmidt’s birthday!).
  • Justice Alan Page is the most senior member of the Minnesota State Supreme Court.
  • Minnesota has two state constitutions. When it was drafted, the Republicans wouldn’t sign the Democrats’ version, and the Democrats wouldn’t sign the Republicans’ draft. So when people comment on current events and say that they’ve never seen such partisan politics? That’s because they weren’t around 150 years ago.
  • Something about the marble and St. Peter’s at the Vatican and how the Capitol used the second biggest slab so as not to show up the Pope. I didn’t really catch all of that.
  • Fleur de pêche means peach blossom. It’s a kind of marble used in the House chambers.
  • Minnesota was almost carved in half around the middle of the state and extended way west before the current land area was decided upon.
  • I liked our tour guide, Carol, but didn’t think it was necessary for her to volunteer how happy she was that former governor, Tim Pawlenty was now out of office. “He’s not a people person,” she said.
  • People from England are unfamiliar with the word “gopher.”
  • Murals in the State Supreme Court chambers were painted by the world’s most famous muralist of the time. They feature scenes from history’s greatest lawmakers, including Moses, Confucius, some Greeks, and a French guy named something like Avant-Garde Pierre de la Toulouse LaTrec. I think he shot the sheriff, but he didn’t shoot the deputy.
  • The architect of the Minnesota State Capitol, Cass Gilbert, went on to some renown and designed the capitol buildings of Arkansas and West Virginia, and the U.S. Supreme Court building.
  • A German-style Rathskeller, with German mottos stenciled on the walls, was part of the original building because at the time 40% of settlers in Minnesota were German, but it was painted over in 1917 when everyone started hating on all the Krauts. By 1999 the state let bygones be bygones, and restored it to its former glory.
  • Politicians aren’t “loud.” They “project.”
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011

3 thoughts on “Don’t Know Much About (Minnesota) History

  1. I’m a Canadian, but my husband is from Minnesota, so I find anything about his home state very interesting. I also enjoy your style of writing, which is why I subscribed to your blog. I especially liked that last little nugget about politicians. I’ll have to remember that 😛

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