Saturday, November 30, 2013

One Hundred Years Ago Today in the Zenith City

Behind the Oldenburg House in Carlton
"Historical knowledge is no more and no less than carefully and critically constructed collective memory." ~American Historical Association

One reason I can't totally disparage television is because The History Channel is there, single-handedly redeeming the medium. History is something that seems to fascinate everyone in one way or another. Learning about history somehow gives meaning to our lives as we see our connectedness to everything that went before. I myself have derived much inspiration from my own history, having dug back into my genealogical roots two to three centuries and more.

Going back in time to see how life was lived in other periods gives us a great appreciation for the advances of technology and innovation that have made our lives easier in many levels. We no longer fear polio, scarlet fever and many other maladies that once tore our families' hearts. Plumbing, heating and reliable electricity are things most Americans take for granted, but this has not always been the case.

Every discipline has its history, often bleeding across into other disciplines. The history of philosophy, the history of art, the history of literature, of cities, of countries, of cultures, of psychology, of religion, of ethics and morals, of law, of entertainment... and of man's inhumanity to man. It's all been documented, can be explored and examined.

Since people for much of history were illiterate, the books and stories about the past have often been written from the point of view of the wealthy and important. In more recent times the stories of common people have been getting additional attention as efforts to unearth the extra-ordinariness of the ordinary. A visit to Ellis Island is a moving experience because of the incredibly diverse stories of immigrant peoples who arrived on our shores, stories which have been preserved for us there.

The Kitchi Gammi Club is a story.
Every city has a story as well. And just as there seems to be one or two people in most families who has dug in to preserve the family traditions, we find that the hard work of a few helps to bring benefit to the many, which seems to be one of the functions of museums and historical societies everywhere, our Northland being no exception.

Yesterday I came across a story about the opening in Morgan Park of a new blast furnace that was opened one hundred years ago in Morgan Park, a community in the western part of Duluth. This simple story ties to so much other history here, the expansion of the Iron Range, the manner in which the Twin Ports became the largest inland port in the world, how the steel mills provided jobs and the city grew to over 126,000 people during the boom that followed.

One hundred years ago today, prohibitionist William E. "Pussyfoot" Johnson arrived in the Northland to help clean up some of the saloons in Chisholm and Hibbing. I know this because I am reading it on Tony Dierckens' Remembering Our (Duluth) History website at Zenith City Online. It's both an entertaining and informative resource. Even though we have a relatively brief time frame (two hundred years ago there were only the local native cultures and a few fur trappers) the region is rich with tales and lore.

It's interesting to think about how everything that is was at one time not. That is, everything has a starting point before which it did not exist, including human history, and our personal histories, and the communities we live in.

Make the most of your day. Maybe one hundred years from now someone will read about it on the next iteration of the Internet. On Mars.

There is always more to discover, tho' not everything has been preserved.

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