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Enterprising Minnesotans: 150 Years of Business Pioneers

Stephen George
Foreword by Marilyn Carlson Nelson
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Enterprising Minnesotans
    Book Description:

    In Enterprising Minnesotans we read stories of the men and women throughout Minnesota’s history who have created exceptional businesses from 1849 to the present, including Cargill, the Mayo Clinic, Andersen Windows, Ecolab, Schwan’s, and Leeann Chin, Inc. Through fascinating stories, Enterprising Minnesotans honors the creativity, tenacity, and boldness that enabled these men and women to transform their dreams into success.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9524-9
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Marilyn Carlson Nelson

    The ancient Greeks, who seemingly had a saying for everything, said, “A people are known by the heroes they crown.” In other words, “Tell me who you admire, and I’ll tell you who you are.” It’s a saying especially appropriate for a book about enterprising Minnesotans.

    InEnterprising Minnesotans, Stephen George has collected the essence of Minnesota—the unflagging spirit, the sense of community, the crystal-clear vision of the future that have been the hallmark of those who have formed the business and social fabric of our state.

    What is it about this place that produces so many visionaries with...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xv-xviii)

    At the beginning of the 2001 Toys for Tots campaign, a representative of Best Buy appeared on a Twin Cities television news program to hand over a check for $250,000. The meteorologist who accepted the electronics superstore’s gift on behalf of the charity seemed stunned by the sum, and the news anchors wondered aloud if the annual campaign had ever received such an enormous single donation. A delegate from the national Toys for Tots program provided perspective by pointing out that, in 2000, citizens and companies in the Twin Cities area contributed one toy of every twenty-five collected nationally by...

  6. Pioneering Spirit (1849–1865)
    (pp. 1-16)

    The first heavy snow of the season fell on the first day of November 1848 in St. Paul, Minnesota, and remained until March. A few days after the snowfall the country elected a president, although the town’s nine hundred residents didn’t learn who had won until January, because they had no way of getting the election results. The nearest mail-distribution point lay two hundred miles down the frozen Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and when ice locked the river, the citizens of St. Paul were isolated. In January 1849, however, a dogsled driver arrived with two news items:...

  7. Betting on the Future (1865–1890)
    (pp. 17-52)

    When the railroad reached Rock Island, Illinois, in 1854, its owners decided to promote the new line with an event they called “the Great Railroad Excursion.” They invited hundreds of guests, including former U.S. president Millard Fillmore (who had named Alexander Wilkin secretary of the Minnesota Territory and whose half-brother helped Wilkin start the St. Paul Mutual Insurance Company), to discover the frontier now within easy reach because of the railroad. The guests took the train from points east to Rock Island before boarding a steamboat for St. Paul.

    Few took better advantage of this new connection than a German...

  8. Seizing Opportunity (1890–1915)
    (pp. 53-80)

    In September 1894, in a newly constructed edifice decorated with banners and bunting, Theodore Hamm opened a modern brewery. He had been making beer for more than thirty years in the same small building on St. Paul’s east side, a butcher turned brewer by circumstance more than intent.

    Hamm and his wife, Louise, had moved to an area of St. Paul near Fort Snelling in 1856, where he raised and butchered cattle while she opened and operated aBier-garten. The fort provided a sense of security for the German immigrants whose meat and meals attracted other Germans to settle nearby....

  9. Surviving and Thriving (1915–1940)
    (pp. 81-106)

    One could argue that anyone able to sell a product called Digesto would excel at any business he or she chose. Shortly after opening its new St. Paul brewery in 1894, the Theodore Hamm Brewing Company hired Merritt Osborn to promote Digesto, its medicinal malt extract. Osborn not only sold it, he developed national distribution for the product. His achievement earned him the position of advertising manager for Hamm’s, and he became the president of the St. Paul Advertising Club.

    But he was restless. In 1910, at the age of thirty-one, Osborn left Hamm’s to run his own business. After...

  10. Building on Talent (1940–1965)
    (pp. 107-136)

    The entrepreneur who may best exemplify Curt Carlson’s advice to “never, ever give up” came to Minnesota late in her life, having served as a nurse during World War I before fighting her own decades-long battle against the medical establishment. While she had started several hospitals and clinics in her native land, she was sixty-one years old when her Minneapolis clinic opened, affirming the timeless value of a good idea.

    Sister Elizabeth Kenny came to Minneapolis from Australia in 1940 at the age of fifty-nine. A controversial advocate of a radical treatment for poliomyelitis, she arrived in a year that...

  11. Growing the Business (1965–2000)
    (pp. 137-158)

    In the aftermath of the Vietnam War and civil rights protests of the 1960s, the American economy tanked. The confidence of the 1950s and early 1960s gave way to a collective angst fueled by losing a war, confronting racial prejudice, and nearly impeaching a president. An oil embargo aggravated the situation by forcing drivers to conserve the gasoline they had to wait in line to buy. Interest rates and unemployment soared. The stock market stagnated.

    Joel Ronning started his first company in the worst of times, selling auto parts to dealers while attending the University of Minnesota in the mid-1970s....

  12. Conclusion: In a Pig’s Eye
    (pp. 159-168)

    An old Yiddish proverb says, “With money in your pocket, you are wise and you are handsome and you sing well too.” When we read about Minnesota’s exceptional entrepreneurs, it’s easy to glorify their accomplishments while overlooking the fears, mistakes, and failures that informed their decisions and shaped their destinies. We do so at our own peril, for like these entrepreneurs, we can learn from failure as well as success. And the first lesson is that everyone fails.

    Few have failed more often than Ecolab’s Merritt Osborn, who dealt with at least seven serious setbacks in his first fourteen years...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 169-172)
  14. Index
    (pp. 173-178)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-179)