US and Minnesota Flags on Our Flag Pole

Minnesota – The North Star State

Introduction:

Minnesota is a state in the Upper Midwest and northern regions of the United States.

Minnesota in the United States

Minnesota in the United States

Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858, created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory.  The state has a large number of lakes, and is known by the slogan the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”. Its official motto is L’Étoile du Nord, which translates from the French as Star of the North.

Origin of the Name:

The word Minnesota comes from the Dakota name for the Minnesota River.

Minnesota River in Fort Snelling State Park

Minnesota River in Fort Snelling State Park

The river got its name from one of two words in the Dakota language, ‘Mní sóta’ which means “clear blue water,” or ‘Mnißota’, which means cloudy water.  Native Americans demonstrated the name to early settlers by dropping milk into water and calling it mnisota.  Many places in the state have similar names, such as Minnehaha Falls (“curling water” or waterfall), Minneiska (“white water”), Minneota (“much water”), Minnetonka (“big water”), Minnetrista (“crooked water”), and Minneapolis, a combination of mni and polis, the Greek word for “city”.

Geography:

Minnesota is the second northernmost U.S. state (after Alaska) and northernmost contiguous state.  Its isolated Northwest Angle in Lake of the Woods county is the only part of the 48 contiguous states lying north of the 49th parallel.

Northwest Angle

Northwest Angle

The state is part of the U.S. region known as the Upper Midwest and part of North America’s Great Lakes Region.  It shares a Lake Superior water border with Michigan and a land and water border with Wisconsin to the east.  Iowa is to the south, North Dakota and South Dakota are to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba are to the north.  Minnesota is the 12th-largest state.

History:

Pre-European Settlement:

Before European settlement of North America, Minnesota was populated by a subculture of Sioux called the Dakota people.

Dakota People

Dakota People

As Europeans settled the east coast, Native Americans moved away from them causing migration of the Anishinaabe, also known as Ojibwe, and other Native Americans into the Minnesota area.  The first Europeans in the area were French voyageur fur traders who arrived in the 17th century and began using the Grand Portage to access trapping and trading areas further inland.  Late that century, Anishinaabe migrated westward to Minnesota, causing tensions with the Dakota people.  Explorers such as Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, Father Louis Hennepin, Jonathan Carver, Henry Schoolcraft, and Joseph Nicollet mapped out the state.

Settlement and Statehood:

In 1762 the region became part of Spanish Louisiana until 1802.  The portion of the state east of the Mississippi River became part of the United States at the end of the American Revolutionary War, when the Second Treaty of Paris was signed.  Land west of the Mississippi River was acquired with the Louisiana Purchase, although a portion of the Red River Valley was disputed until the Treaty of 1818.  By the late 1700s, the North West Company had established the post of Fort Charlotte at the Lake Superior end of the Grand Portage, until moving 50 miles northeast to Fort William in 1803.  In 1805, Zebulon Pike bargained with Native Americans to acquire land at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. The construction of Fort Snelling followed between 1819 and 1825.

Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling

Its soldiers built a grist mill and a sawmill at Saint Anthony Falls, the first of the water-powered industries around which the city of Minneapolis later grew.  Meanwhile, squatters, government officials, and tourists had settled near the fort.  In 1839, the army forced them to move downriver and they settled in the area that became St. Paul.  The Minnesota Territory was formed on March 3, 1849.  Minnesota became the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858.  The founding population was so overwhelmingly of New England origins that the state was dubbed “the New England of the West”.

Treaties between European settlers and the Dakota and Ojibwe gradually forced the natives off their lands and on to smaller reservations.  In 1861, residents of Mankato formed the Knights of the Forest, with a goal of eliminating all Indians from Minnesota.  As conditions deteriorated for the Dakota, tensions rose, leading to the Dakota War of 1862.

Settlers Escaping the Dakota War of 1862

Settlers Escaping the Dakota War of 1862

The result of the six-week war was the execution of 38 Dakota and the exile of most of the rest of the Dakota to the Crow Creek Reservation in Dakota Territory.  As many as 800 white settlers died during the war.

Logging and farming were mainstays of Minnesota’s early economy.  The sawmills at Saint Anthony Falls, and logging centers like Marine on St. Croix, Stillwater, and Winona, processed high volumes of lumber.  These cities were situated on rivers that were ideal for transportation.  Later, Saint Anthony Falls was tapped to provide power for flour mills.  By 1900, Minnesota mills, led by Pillsbury, Northwestern and the Washburn-Crosby Company, a forerunner of General Mills, were grinding 14.1 percent of the nation’s grain.

The state’s iron-mining industry was established with the discovery of iron in the Vermilion Range and the Mesabi Range in the 1880s, and in the Cuyuna Range in the early 20th century.

Minnesota Iron Ore Mine

Minnesota Iron Ore Mine

The ore was shipped by rail to Duluth and Two Harbors, then loaded onto ships and transported eastward over the Great Lakes.

20th Century:

Industrial development and the rise of manufacturing caused the population to shift gradually from rural areas to cities during the early 20th century.  Nevertheless, farming remained prevalent.  Minnesota’s economy was hard-hit by the Great Depression, resulting in lower prices for farmers, layoffs among iron miners, and labor unrest.  Compounding the adversity, western Minnesota and the Dakotas were hit by drought from 1931 to 1935.  New Deal programs provided some economic turnaround.  The Civilian Conservation Corps and other programs around the state established some jobs for Indians on their reservations, and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 provided the tribes with a mechanism of self-government.

Civilian Conservation Corps Builds A Road in Minnesota

Civilian Conservation Corps Builds A Road in Minnesota

This provided natives a greater voice within the state, and promoted more respect for tribal customs because religious ceremonies and native languages were no longer suppressed.

After World War II, industrial development quickened.  New technology increased farm productivity through automation of feedlots for hogs and cattle, machine milking at dairy farms, and raising chickens in large buildings.  Planting became more specialized with hybridization of corn and wheat, and the use of farm machinery such as tractors and combines became the norm.  Suburban development accelerated due to increased postwar housing demand and convenient transportation. Increased mobility, in turn, enabled more specialized jobs.  Minnesota became a center of technology after World War II.

Economy:

Once primarily a producer of raw materials, Minnesota’s economy has transformed to emphasize finished products and services.  Perhaps the most significant characteristic of the economy is its diversity; the relative outputs of its business sectors closely match the United States as a whole.

Target Stores

Target Stores

In 2008, thirty-three of the United States’ top 1,000 publicly traded companies, by revenue, were headquartered in Minnesota, including Target, UnitedHealth Group, 3M, General Mills, U.S. Bancorp, Ameriprise, Hormel, Land O’ Lakes, SuperValu, Best Buy, and Valspar.  Private companies based in Minnesota include Cargill, the largest privately owned company in the United States, and Carlson Companies, the parent company of Radisson Hotels.

Industry and Commerce:

Minnesota’s earliest industries were fur trading and agriculture.  The city of Minneapolis grew around the flour mills powered by St. Anthony Falls.  Although less than one percent of the population is now employed in the agricultural sector, it remains a major part of the state’s economy, ranking sixth in the nation in the value of products sold.  The state is the U.S.’s largest producer of sugar beets, sweet corn, and green peas for processing, and farm-raised turkeys.  Minnesota is also a large producer of corn and soybeans.  Minnesota has the most food cooperatives per capita in the United States.  Forestry remains strong, including logging, pulpwood processing and paper production, and forest products manufacturing.  Minnesota was famous for its soft-ore mines, which produced a significant portion of the world’s iron ore for over a century.  Although the high-grade ore is now depleted, taconite mining continues, using processes developed locally to save the industry.

Taconite

Taconite

In 2004, the state produced 75 percent of the country’s usable iron ore.  The mining boom created the port of Duluth which continues to be important for shipping ore, coal, and agricultural products.  The manufacturing sector now includes technology and biomedical firms, in addition to the older food processors and heavy industry. The nation’s first indoor shopping mall was Edina’s Southdale Center, and its largest is Bloomington’s Mall of America.

Mall of America

Mall of America

Energy Use and Production:

Minnesota produces ethanol fuel and is the first to mandate its use, a ten percent mix (E10).  A two percent biodiesel blend has been required in diesel fuel since 2005.  As of December 2006, the state was the country’s fourth-largest producer of wind power, with 895 megawatts installed and another 200 megawatts planned, much of it on the windy Buffalo Ridge in the southwest part of the state.

Transportation:

Roadways:

Transportation in Minnesota is overseen by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Transportation Map of Minnesota

Transportation Map of Minnesota

Principal transportation corridors radiate from the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area and Duluth.  The major Interstate highways are Interstate 35 (I-35), I-90, and I-94, with I-35 and I-94 passing through the Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan area, and I-90 traveling east-west along the southern edge of the state.

Air:

Minnesota’s principal airport is Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP), a major passenger and freight hub for Delta Air Lines and Sun Country Airlines.

MSP Airport

MSP Airport

Most other domestic carriers serve the airport.  Large commercial jet service is provided at Duluth and Rochester, with scheduled commuter service to four smaller cities via Delta Connection carriers SkyWest Airlines, Compass Airlines, and Endeavor Air:

St. Cloud (STC) has seasonal and charter services available but no year round scheduled commercial service.

Train:

Amtrak’s daily Empire Builder (Chicago–Seattle/Portland) train runs through Minnesota, calling at the Saint Paul Union Depot and five other stations.  The Northstar Line commuter rail service runs from Big Lake to the Target Field station in downtown Minneapolis.

Metro Blue Line

Metro Blue Line

From there, light rail runs to Saint Paul Union Depot on the Green Line, and to the MSP airport and the Mall of America via the Blue Line.

Bus:

Intercity bus providers include Jefferson Lines, Greyhound, and Megabus.  Local public transit is provided by bus networks in the larger cities and by two rail services.

The Flag:

History:

Because Minnesota was sponsoring an exhibition at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the then-current governor of Minnesota, William Merriam, appointed an all-male board to supervise the preparations.  However, a group known as the Women’s Auxiliary Board took over the ‘women’s work’ and created a six-person committee to design the state flag.  The boards then held a contest to design the flag, and 200 entries were submitted.  The winner of the contest was Amelia Hyde Center, who received $15 for her winning design.

Minnesota Flag from 1893 to 1957 Obverse

Center’s design was white on one side and light blue on the other.

Flag of Minnesota from 1893 to 1957 Reverse

In the center was the state seal wreathed with white moccasin flowers, on a blue field.  A red ribbon in the seal bore a motto, L’Étoile du Nord, French for “The Star of the North”.  The years 1819 (establishment of Fort Snelling), 1858 (statehood), and 1893 (adoption of the flag) appeared in gold around the state seal. “Minnesota” was written under the state seal in gold and 19 gold stars arranged in clusters to form the points of a star, representing the fact that Minnesota was the 19th state to be admitted after the original 13 states.  The first Minnesota flag was made of silk and was embroidered by Pauline and Thomane Fjelde, who won a gold medal for their creation.  The flag was adopted on April 4, 1893.

Design Changes:

The flag was redesigned in 1957 for the 1958 state centennial, eliminating the different-colored sides in favor of a royal blue field on both sides to save on manufacturing costs and to make the flag more durable, especially in high winds.  This opportunity was used to correct an error of the flowers used on the seal; instead of a Pink and White Lady’s Slipper, the 1893 flag showed a variant that was not native to the state.

Flag of Minnesota from 1957 to 1983

In 1983, the state seal was changed, and the flag also changed to reflect that.

Seal of Minnesota Until 1971 Changes

Seal of Minnesota Until 1971 Changes

The background color was also lightened from a royal blue to a medium blue.

The Symbolism of the State Seal:

Current State Seal of Minnesota

Current State Seal of Minnesota

A Native American rides on horseback in the background, symbolizing Minnesota’s Native American heritage.  In a field in the foreground, a farmer plows a field, while his axe, gun, and powder horn rest on a stump nearby.  The field and plow represent the importance of agriculture.  The tools used by the Native American and the farmer represent the tools used for labor and hunting in the past, while the stump represents the importance of lumber in Minnesota’s history.  Next to the field, a river and waterfall symbolize the Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls.  Three pine trees in the background represent the pine regions of St. Croix, Mississippi, and Lake Superior.

The Symbolism of the Flag:

Current Minnesota Flag

Current Minnesota Flag

The flag is rectangular, and consists of a design on a medium blue background.  According to the official statute, the flag contains a thin gold border and gold fringe, however, this is rarely used.  A white circle in the center contains the word MINNESOTA across the bottom, four groups of four stars and one group of three stars spread out evenly around the edge, and designs from the state seal in the center.  The star at the top symbolizes the North Star.  The design in the center is surrounded by pink-and-white lady’s slippers, the state flower.  The border also contains the dates 1819 (founding of Fort Snelling), 1858 (date of statehood), and 1893 (adoption of first flag).

The State Nickname:

The official nickname for Minnesota is “The North Star State” which originates from the French motto appearing on Minnesota’s state flag and seal: “l’étoile du nord.”  As French trappers were the first Europeans to explore what is today Minnesota a French phrase reflecting the geographic position of the state is a logical extension of history.

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