Thomas Lowry's Ghost
View of Downtown Minneapolis from Munsingwear Factory (ca. 1925)
(image via MHS Visual Resources Database)

View of Downtown Minneapolis from Munsingwear Factory (ca. 1925)

(image via MHS Visual Resources Database)

Hennepin Ave between 10th & 11th St, Minneapolis. Shown: former central branch of the Minneapolis Public Library, . (ca. 1953)
(image via Minnesota Reflections)

Hennepin Ave between 10th & 11th St, Minneapolis. Shown: former central branch of the Minneapolis Public Library, . (ca. 1953)

(image via Minnesota Reflections)

Minneapolis makes good, a community of law abiding citizens (ca 1910)
(image via MHS Visual Resources Database)

Minneapolis makes good, a community of law abiding citizens (ca 1910)

(image via MHS Visual Resources Database)

On this day in 1935–one year after the resolution of the Teamsters’ Strike–police and workers again clashed in the streets of Minneapolis. When dawn broke on September 12, two people were dead and 28 injured after a gun battle erupted between police and a crowd protesting the labor policies of the Flour City Ornamental Iron Company.
The Flour City Ornamental Iron Company had been a fixture in the working-class Seward neighborhood since 1901. The company had been non-union and owner, Walter Tetzlaff, an active member of the Citizen’s Alliance, worked hard to ensure it remained that way.
In 1935–no doubt emboldened by the Teamsters’ victory–workers decided to challenge Tetzlaff. They organized collectively, forming a union that demanded a wage hike, a 40-hour work week and other workplace protections like a grievance and seniority system.
Tetzlaff rejected these demands. Workers responded by calling a strike, drawing support from other iron workers around Minneapolis, who also walked off the job. The factory managed to remain open, at least at first. Some employees remained loyal to their boss, even filing a restraining order against Union Local 1313. In July of 1935, Tetzlaff took out an ad in the Minneapolis Journal that called union supporters an “organized mob.” But as the strike dragged on, the factory was besieged. A hostile crowd threatened workers as they entered the building. Flour City was forced to close its doors.
The factory re-opened on July 25, after police escorted strike breakers into the building. By that night, union supporters had again surrounded the facility. The strike breakers were stoned. The factory went dark again.
Tetzlaff remained defiant, working with the Citizens’ Alliance to violate city ordinances and sneak workers into the facility. When the factory re-opened on September 9th –with a court order to house workers in the factory and under police protection–the union was ready. Protesters surrounded the building. The crowd threw rocks and shouted at the strike-breakers.
By the next night, September 10, the throng had swelled to 5000 people. The police used tear gas to drive protesters away. The next day, picketers were back in force. The police resorted again to tear gas, sending clouds of gas into the surrounding neighborhood and forcing bars and local businesses to close. But the protesters refused to leave. Police found themselves overwhelmed by wave after wave of union supporters.
The conflict came to a head just before midnight, when the crowd heard gun shots. A melee ensued. Hand-to-hand fighting broke out. Stones flew. Some protesters ran for cover, ducking down residential alleys and between houses.
Two hours later the battle was over. Two by-standers had been killed and 28 people had been injured. These casualties included a man who was shot in the arm as he sat on his back porch on 26th Avenue, another shot in the leg as he walked up the steps of his home on E. 26th Street and a woman who was hit in the face with a tear-gas bomb as she stepped off a streetcar. It was not clear who had done the shooting; police claimed that a group of picketers fired on them, union leaders denied the charges. Other claimed that Tetzlaff’s armed guards fired the shots.
Tetzlaff reached an agreement with strikers later in the month. The public largely forgot the battle in Seward. Flour City continued to operate until 1992.
(image and text via The Historyapolis Project)

On this day in 1935–one year after the resolution of the Teamsters’ Strike–police and workers again clashed in the streets of Minneapolis. When dawn broke on September 12, two people were dead and 28 injured after a gun battle erupted between police and a crowd protesting the labor policies of the Flour City Ornamental Iron Company.

The Flour City Ornamental Iron Company had been a fixture in the working-class Seward neighborhood since 1901. The company had been non-union and owner, Walter Tetzlaff, an active member of the Citizen’s Alliance, worked hard to ensure it remained that way.

In 1935–no doubt emboldened by the Teamsters’ victory–workers decided to challenge Tetzlaff. They organized collectively, forming a union that demanded a wage hike, a 40-hour work week and other workplace protections like a grievance and seniority system.

Tetzlaff rejected these demands. Workers responded by calling a strike, drawing support from other iron workers around Minneapolis, who also walked off the job. The factory managed to remain open, at least at first. Some employees remained loyal to their boss, even filing a restraining order against Union Local 1313. In July of 1935, Tetzlaff took out an ad in the Minneapolis Journal that called union supporters an “organized mob.” But as the strike dragged on, the factory was besieged. A hostile crowd threatened workers as they entered the building. Flour City was forced to close its doors.

The factory re-opened on July 25, after police escorted strike breakers into the building. By that night, union supporters had again surrounded the facility. The strike breakers were stoned. The factory went dark again.

Tetzlaff remained defiant, working with the Citizens’ Alliance to violate city ordinances and sneak workers into the facility. When the factory re-opened on September 9th –with a court order to house workers in the factory and under police protection–the union was ready. Protesters surrounded the building. The crowd threw rocks and shouted at the strike-breakers.

By the next night, September 10, the throng had swelled to 5000 people. The police used tear gas to drive protesters away. The next day, picketers were back in force. The police resorted again to tear gas, sending clouds of gas into the surrounding neighborhood and forcing bars and local businesses to close. But the protesters refused to leave. Police found themselves overwhelmed by wave after wave of union supporters.

The conflict came to a head just before midnight, when the crowd heard gun shots. A melee ensued. Hand-to-hand fighting broke out. Stones flew. Some protesters ran for cover, ducking down residential alleys and between houses.

Two hours later the battle was over. Two by-standers had been killed and 28 people had been injured. These casualties included a man who was shot in the arm as he sat on his back porch on 26th Avenue, another shot in the leg as he walked up the steps of his home on E. 26th Street and a woman who was hit in the face with a tear-gas bomb as she stepped off a streetcar. It was not clear who had done the shooting; police claimed that a group of picketers fired on them, union leaders denied the charges. Other claimed that Tetzlaff’s armed guards fired the shots.

Tetzlaff reached an agreement with strikers later in the month. The public largely forgot the battle in Seward. Flour City continued to operate until 1992.

(image and text via The Historyapolis Project)

Panorama of Minneapolis (1915)
(image via)

Panorama of Minneapolis (1915)

(image via)

Lowry HIll bottleneck, looking south. Minneapolis (1949)
(image via Eric Roper, Minneapolis Star Tribune archives)

Lowry HIll bottleneck, looking south. Minneapolis (1949)

(image via Eric Roper, Minneapolis Star Tribune archives)

Granada (later Suburban World) Theater. 3020 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis (1928)
(image via Hennepin County Library - Minneapolis Photo Collection)

Granada (later Suburban World) Theater. 3020 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis (1928)

(image via Hennepin County Library - Minneapolis Photo Collection)

Page from the Twin City Streetcar and Bus Guide (1948)
(image via Minnesota Reflections)

Page from the Twin City Streetcar and Bus Guide (1948)

(image via Minnesota Reflections)

Minneapolis Star article about WCCO-AM’s new location at 8th St. & 2nd Ave, Minneapolis (1938)
(image via RadioTapes)

Minneapolis Star article about WCCO-AM’s new location at 8th St. & 2nd Ave, Minneapolis (1938)

(image via RadioTapes)

Today I was fortunate to get an informal tour of the Minneapolis Star Tribune building on Portland Ave. Most of the interior looks like any other mid-century office building; lots of cubicles and computers. (more on the history of the building here) Long gone is the hustle and noise you may used to associate with a big-city newsroom. But my guide showed me a number of things that piqued my history and news-loving interests. 

The paper will be getting new digs in a few months. The building, mostly empty and cavernous, will be razed as part of the new Downtown East development, which includes a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. But I was very grateful to pull back the curtain of the Fourth Estate, how ever superficial, and get a cursory glimpse of how news is made. (the story behind the spelling of the door can be found here)

(all photos by me)