Category Archives: Minnesota History

1952 and 1954 Solar Eclipses

SovietEclipseCoverMillions of Americans were able to witness the Great American Eclipse of 2017 or will be able  to see the eclipse of April 8, 2024.  The 2017 eclipse crossed the United States from northwest to southeast, and the 2024 eclipse will run from southwest to northeast.  The Soviet Union had a similar pair of eclipses on 25 February 1952 and 30 June 1954.  The intersection of the two American eclipses is near Carbondale, Illinois.  The paths of the two Soviet eclipses had their intersection at a point in northern Iran, just south of the Caspian Sea.


The illustrations shown here are from a Soviet booklet published in 1950.  In addition to discussing solar and lunar eclipses generally, it contains information about the two Soviet eclipses of the 1950’s, including the map shown above.  It also contains a table showing all total solar eclipses worldwide through 1999.

The booklet, Солнечные и лунные затмения (Solar and Lunar Eclipses) by Prof. A.A. Mikhailov, part of the series Научно-популярная библиотека (Popular science library), reveals that the path of the 1954 eclipse came very close to a number of Soviet cities, including Kaliningrad, Vilnius, Minsk, Kiev, Rostov, and Baku.   The 1954 eclipse had also been visible in the United States, starting at sunrise in Nebraska, and passing over South Dakota and Minnesota (including Minneapolis and St. Paul).  It then passed over Canada, Greenland, a tiny portion of Iceland, Norway, and Sweden, before entering the Soviet Union near Kaliningrad.

The 1952 eclipse, after passing over Africa, went over a less populated area of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Asiatic Russia.

This video shows the 1954 eclipse from Minneapolis:

This page contains a reminiscence and photo of the same eclipse from Kiev.  The Google translate function does an admirable job of making it readable in English.

One of the scientific observations made during the 1954 eclipse was the measurement of radio emissions by the sun on various frequencies, documented in this 1955 article in the journal Astrophisica Norvegica, vol. 5, p. 131.  The graph below shows the signal as received in Vesterøya, Norway, on 200 MHz.  As would be expected, the solar noise reaches a minimum value at the time of total eclipse.


1942 September Snowstorm

1942Sept26ChiTribThe young man shown here, David Hamilton, then two years old, of 18309 Riegel Road, Homewood, Illinois, got his picture in the Chicago Tribune on August 26, 1942, courtesy of an early snowstorm that covered much of the Midwest, starting 75 years ago today on August 24.

While there was enough snow to keep young Mr. Hamilton amused in the Land of Lincoln, the heaviest snow of the storm was in Minnesota. Numerous overhead wire systems were damaged by the wet snow, with the damage estimated at $25,000 in the state. The heaviest snows were reported in Bird Island, with 8 inches, and Sauk Centre with 9. New records for September snowfall were set throughout the southern half of the state, with a few such records also being set in northern Minnesota.

Since the snow was accompanied by cold temperatures, there was crop damage throughout the state. Many Friday night football games were cancelled, and phone service was out between Minneapolis and Rochester.

Snow was reported from in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana during the three day storm.


Staples, MN, Earthquake of Sept. 3, 1917

1917MNEarthquakeIf you don’t like earthquakes, then Minnesota is about the best place on earth, since earthquakes are extremely rare.  However, they’re not unheard of, and today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the largest, the Staples Earthquake of September 3, 1917.

The earthquake was described by geology Professor C.J. Posey of the University of Minnesota in an article in the November, 1917 issue of Monthly Weather Review. According to Prof. Posey, the earthquake, the exact causes of which were obscure, hit at about 3:30 PM and was felt in central Minnesota. While there were no written accounts of earlier earthquakes, after the quake, pioneers came forward with reports of smaller earthquakes in 1860 and 1870.

The 1917 quake was felt in places approximately 110 miles apart, over an area of about 10,000 square miles. The duration was about 10 seconds, and observers reported a rumbling noise similar to an incoming train. Dishes and pans were rattled in Alexandria, and bricks fell from a chimney in Brainerd. In Staples, where the earthquake was strongest, walls were cracked and a cement floor cracked. Despite earlier press reports, no windows were broken by the quake.

The quake is estimated to have measured 4.3 on the modern Richter scale.



KSTP, St. Paul, MN, 1937


Eighty years ago today, the September 1, 1937, issue of Broadcasting magazine carried this ad for KSTP, St. Paul, Minnesota. The station was boasting its then 25,000 watt signal, and noted that it had received fan mail from 42 states and 8 foreign countries. While the station acknowledged that it did not suggest that it could deliver sales messages to Shanghai, China, it did have a loyal following in the nation’s 7th largest retail market.

1942 Rochester, MN, Flood


This photo of a flooded KROC, Rochester, MN, appeared in Broadcasting magazine 75 years ago today, June 15, 1942.

The picture was apparently taken on June 4, 1942, during a localized flash flood  along the Cascade creek which caused one death. Between June 3-5, the Rochester airport had recorded 3.26″ of rain, with 2.33″ of that falling within a single day. The creek basin had apparently received even higher rainfall.

The magazine noted that the station staff had to ignore the biggest news story of the year as it literally flooded right into the station’s doors. Due to wartime restrictions on weather reports, the announcer on duty had to ignore the waters rising around him, despite his strong desire to tell listeners about it as the water slowly climbed to waist depth.

“Just as the tubes began to sizzle,” they cut power and waited calmly for three hours until being rescued. While they waited, they were said to amuse themselves by warding off the rabbits, field mice, gophers, frogs, and pheasants that had sought sanctuary on the tiny island.

Damage was estimated at $1500, and the station was back on the air in less than 12 hours.

KSTP Morse Code Lessons, 1942

1942April27BCOn this day 75 years ago, April 26, 1942, KSTP radio in St. Paul, MN, began an innovative program, as described in the article shown here from the April 27, 1942, issue of Broadcasting.

According to the report, the station was doing its part to help satisfy the great demand by the armed forces for radio operators, by conducting weekly programs designed to teach young men and women the international Morse code.

The weekly program aired Sundays at 9:30 AM, and “used drama, as sugar-coating for the lessons.” It was built around a small family, one of whom was an amateur operator. Script writing was done by Jack Hill of the St. Paul Radio Club, using lessons from the American Radio Relay League.

After the third week’s episode, the station planned to incorporate “teaser announcements” into the program in an effort to determine how many would be interested in lessons one night a week in classrooms in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The St. Paul Radio Club would furnish instructors for those courses.

The program seems to have been a great success, as reported in the September 1942 issue of QST (pp. 80-81). The fifteen minute weekly programs resulted in a total of 325 Twin City residents signing up for the classes, initially held at KSTP’s Minneapolis and St. Paul studios, with advanced students moving on to classes at the YMCA.

According to QST, transcripts of the radio broadcasts, featuring the “Strong” family, were available by mail by writing to Hill at 1138 Fauquier Avenue (now known as Bush Avenue) in St. Paul.

WTCN-FM Minneapolis, 1947


Seventy years ago, the February 1947 issue of FM magazine carried this two-page ad from Federal, proudly showing off the transmitter and 80-foot-tall 8-element antenna of WTCN-FM, then on 96.1 MHz, (now KTCZ at 97.1) atop the Foshay Tower in Minnneapolis, then the city’s tallest building.

Thanks to the antenna gain, the 3 KW transmitter put out an effective radiated power of 25 KW, allowing excellent reception over the 30,000 square mile area shown on the map, extending from Duluth to Albert Lea.

Shown at the bottom is the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, whose broadcast over the station allowed listeners at home to tune in to the same brilliance and tonal quality as the studio audience.

One of the inset photos at the bottom shows Minnesota Governor Luther Youngdahl. At the bottom right, conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos is listening to his own orchestra over the air during a rehersal, which he proclaimed to sound “wonderful” and “magnificent.”

1957 TV Network


This map in the January 1957 issue of Radio Electronics, shows the status of the TV networks sixty years ago (in black), ans shows the explosive growth from the network as it had existed just six years earlier in 1950 (in red). By 1956, most American and Canadian cities were on the network, and were capable of receiving live network programming by this network of coaxial cable and microwave links. By 1957, a certain amount of redundancy was developing. For example, in 1950, Minneapolis-St. Paul got its first link, via coaxial cable to Des Moines, which was in turn linked to the nationwide network via microwave relay from Chicago. By 1957, there is a second link shown from Chicago through Wisconsin.

The diagram also shows at least two interconnections between the U.S. and Canadian networks. The U.S. Network was operated by AT&T, which had coast-to-coast service in place by 1951.

1957janradioelec2The issue also carried a listing of all stations then on the air.  The Minnesota listing here reveals that in the Twin Cities, channels 4, 5, 9, and 11 were at their familiar spots on the dial.  In Duluth, channels 3 and 6 were on the air, and Austin and Rochester each had one station.

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year from!

As we enter 2017, we look back 75 years to January 1, 1942, the first New Year’s Day of the War. The nation’s industry was already largely on a wartime footing, as shown by these night shift workers at the Northern Pump Company in Minneapolis. They took a half hour break to don paper caps and give 1942 a short defiant cheer. Then, they went back to work making anti-aircraft guns for the Navy.

The company was founded in 1929 by the merger of Northern Fire Apparatus Company and the Pagel Pipe Company. It moved to the Fridley plant shown here in January 1941. In 1942, it created subsidiary Northern Ordinance Incorporated. Northern Ordinance continued naval production until 1964 when it was purchased by Food Machinery Corporation (FMC), which operated the site until 1994. BAE Systems currently owns and operates the Fridley site.

Northern Pump currently operates in Grantsburg, Wisconsin.

This photo appeared in the January 12, 1942, issue of Life Magazine.

KSTP St. Paul, MN, 1941

1941dec22bcWith America’s entry into the war, the nation’s broadcast stations were essential to inform and warn the public, and to maintain morale. As such, they were placed under military protection.

The photo shown here appeared 75 years ago today, in the December 22, 1941, issue of Broadcasting magazine.  It shows a military policeman, stationed at Fort Snelling, standing guard over KSTP, St. Paul, MN.  The caption notes that the station housed both the 50,000 watt main transmitter as well as an auxiliary 5000 watt transmitter with its own tower.  Both transmitters had been equipped for code transmission on Army and Navy frequencies.

kstptransmittersiteThe transmitter site remains at the same location today on the east side of U.S. Highway 61 in Maplewood, MN.  The modern image here is the Google street view.