Yeah, it’s taken a long time to get Minnesota written up, I admit it. But then again Minnesota took a long time to become Minnesota. On May 11, 1858 Minnesota became the 38th State, but they took their own sweet time before adopting a State flag. The flag (which is rather dull to tell the truth) was not adopted until 1957. The legislature must have found it wanting too, because they altered it in 1983. They did a little better with a State seal, adopting one in 1858. This was also changed in 1971 and again in 1983.
Archeologists have determined that human habitation can be traced back to the area encompassed by Minnesota to as long as 9,000 years ago (a lot older than the supposed Viking Runestone found in a farmer’s field in 1898, which was supposedly proof of a Viking invasion in the area in 1342, which has since been deemed a fraud). After the aforementioned “Browns Valley Man”, the Dakota and the Ojibwe tribes of Native Americans called Minnesota home before the French showed up around 1660. Pierre Esprit Radisson and Medard Chouart are credited with being the first European settlers in the area. I was not able to confirm or deny if the former immediately opened an over-priced hotel or not. Either way, something tells me that the Dakota decided to move on since we are talking about Minnesota here, not a Dakota.
Being fashionably late, the French did not claim the area until 1679 when French explorer Daniel Greysolon claimed it for whomever was running France into the ground at the time. Somehow or other, the western part of Minnesota became part of the Louisiana Territory in 1762. At that time the Louisiana Territory was claimed by Spain, but again changed hands so we could buy the western part of Minnesota as part of the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. The eastern part of Minnesota came under the US control after the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Then east and west got together and eventually became a state.
One large and pretty wet state. And that water doesn’t just stay put either. Minnesota is the only State where the water flows OUT in three different directions! The waters flow to the north to Hudson Bay in Canada, east to the Atlantic Ocean, and south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Minnesota has been called the land of 10,000 lakes. Well, that is just wrong. Minnesota can actually boast between 11,892 and 15,291 lakes, more than any other State than Alaska! See one reason this article was so long in coming is that it took forever to count all the lakes on a map of Minnesota. The exact number depends on where my cat decided to sleep when I was trying to count them, and how many times Loki rolled over, now you tell one.
Minnesota’s vast number of lakes gave the basketball team the “Lakers” its name too. Yep, the Lakers were originally homed in Minnesota, but moved to someplace with more basketball-friendly weather.
With so many lakes (and streams and rivers) it should come as no surprise that water skiing was invented in Minnesota in 1922. The most common names for lakes in Minnesota are Mud Lake (201), Long Lake (154) and Rice Lake (123). And where did all these lakes come from? Melting glaciers. With all those lakes it should also not be a surprise that there is one recreational boat for every six people in the State. Water is a pretty big deal in Minnesota, besides being the reason that the State claims to have more shoreline than the States of Hawaii, California and Florida put together. I am not sure I buy that one, but at least they aren’t trying to throw Alaska in there too. Speaking of Alaska, that is the only state with more wolves than Minnesota.
Minnesota is home to some pretty amazing things, besides the Mall of America. Now to get the stats out of the way for that little piece of capitalistic and consumer heaven: the Mall of America:
• Is the size of 78 football fields (not including parking)
• It could hold 32 Boeing 747s
• Is the largest mall in the Western Hemisphere
• Is the only Mall with two “Build A Bear” workshops
• Has an indoor amusement park within its walls
• Also is home to the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium
• Brings in over 40 million visitors every year AND generates over $2 billion in revenue to Minnesota (all without having any sales tax on clothing)
Besides being home to a ridiculously large indoor shopping opportunity (and you could not pay me enough to go there after Thanksgiving..) Minnesota has other claims to fame. For example, the lutefisk capitol of the Western Hemisphere is Madison, Minnesota. If you are not familiar with lutefisk, congratulations. Personally, I am opposed to any food product that requires lye to be made “properly”.
Besides trying to foist lutefisk on the rest of us, Minnesota gave us a surprising number of good things. The humble stapler was invented in Spring Valley, Minnesota. In 1889 Minneapolis was the first public library to separate children’s books into their own section. Polaris Industries of Roseau, Minnesota invented the snowmobile (probably out of necessity since the average winter temperatures in Minnesota are colder than the average winter temperatures in Moscow, Russia, and, having been to the latter in February of 1972, that’s pretty nippy). The late and lamented former Northwest Airlines was the first to ban smoking on all of its international flights, long before the FAA did. On September 2, 1952, a 5-year-old girl was the first patient to undergo a heart operation in which the deep freezing technique was employed. Her body temperature, except for her head, was reduced to 79 degrees Fahrenheit. Dr. Floyd Lewis at the Medical School of the University of Minnesota performed the operation. In 1919 the world’s first armored cars were produced in a Minneapolis factory. The bane of my mother’s ankles, Tonka Trucks, were first produced to litter living room floors every Christmas morning in Minnetonka, Minnesota. In 1926 Austin, Minnesota was the first to produce canned ham! (Thus paving the way for the eventual creation of SPAM) In August 1962 the world’s first supercomputer, the Control Data 6600 was created in Chippewa Falls. Other items of note that we can thank Minnesota for are Bundt cake, wild rice soup, “hotdish” (a casserole that frequently contains tater tots), Spam, Ojibwe fry bread, puffed rice, and Cheerios. Minnesota also claims to be the original home of corn dogs and public libraries, but I know I have seen those claims before.
Finally, like everywhere else. Minnesota has its fair share of weird laws:
• it’s against the law to cross the state line with a chicken or duck on your head (I swear I saw this one for other states too….
• It is illegal to drive a red car down Lake Street in Minneapolis
• Up until 2015, a State law prohibited Nursing Homes and/or Senior Centers from having bingo games more than two days a week
• No airplanes can be parked in city or public parks
• It is illegal to sleep in the nude
• There is a 1937 law making it illegal to drive a car in neutral
• In Minneapolis it is illegal to walk through an alley or otherwise use it as a through street as a pedestrian. The law doesn’t say anything about driving through an alley though…
• In International Falls it is illegal for cats to chase dogs up telephone poles
• In Hazelhurst, it is illegal to go fishing using an Uzi
• In Alexandria, a wife can require a husband to brush his teeth before making love to her if his breath smells of garlic, onions, or sardines (the law does not address the issue of lutefisk-breath)