Happy Fourth, everyone. Before you start firing gas-soaked bottle rockets into haystacks, a cautionary note. On this day in 1862, downtown Winona sort of got, well, flamey, and burned down, thanks to “raucous” revelers. But one store survived. Why? Well, if you want to sum up 19th century America in one sentence, this will do:
Hannibal Choate (kept) members of the fire department near his store by supplying them with whiskey, and his business was the only one saved.
Hannibal Choate: what a grand name. A young fellow grows into a name like that, you suspect.
Eight years later, during an enthusiastic patriotic stemwinder speech, Dr. Thomas Foster called Duluth – which seems to be buzz.mn’s city of the month – the “Zenith City of the Unsalted Seas!” Final Jeopardy question: who was the author who would use this nickname in a novel that castigated the blinkered Minnesota middle-class? (A writer we later embraced, of course, as One of Us.)
Weather news on this date in 1859, the temps slipped below freezing. In 1876, the ice finally vanished in Lake Superior. In 1936, the nightmare heatwave began in Minnesota, with temps surging into the triple digits. When it ended a few weeks later, almost 800 people had died from the heat. April may be the cruelest month for poets, but July is when the hammer hits the anvil.
We’ll be back in a while with photos of a local Fourth celebration. In the meantime – assuming you’re spending any time today in front of a computer – one simple question. See many flags flying today?