History

Amazing at the Time: Dad’s First Calculator in 1973

Adler 81 calculatorA few weeks ago my sisters and I held an estate sale at my father’s house since he had passed away in March at the age of 87 (a tribute site to him is here). One device didn’t sell and I should never have put it into the estate sale in any event: Dad’s first calculator.

In 1973 my Dad brought home an amazing device: a small hand-held electronic calculator called the Adler 81. We were stunned that it could do addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and you could (sort of) slip it in to your pocket or purse. He showed it off to the neighbors, brought it out at a party mom and dad had at our house to “wow” their guests, and everyone else he showed it off to were suitably impressed.

Until they found out the price, that is: At the time it listed for $175 and his company bought it for him for $150 dollars in early 1973. To put that into perspective in today’s dollars (using the Consumer Price Index as a measure) the relative value of that $150 in today’s dollars would be $775!   Read More

Historic Minneapolis Photos

Whenever I poke around the internet I discover treasures and today was no exception. The Hennepin County Library system has “The Minneapolis Collection” of historical photos, newspapers and more. 

Here are three you photos you might find interesting. I certainly did and added a comment as to why they had meaning below each (click on the photo to see a larger version and there is a link under each one which will take you to the Hennepin County page for that photo):

1860: THE FIRST MINNESOTA STATE FAIR HELD AT FORT SNELLINGTaken looking across the parade grounds towards the commandant's house. Most of the people are grouped at the far end around some sort of a stand, Well is visible at front center. Broad expanse of the river valley is also visible. (Steve: in 1860, my great-great grandparents had just settled in after emigrating from Germany and the State Fair is nearly upon us)

1860: THE FIRST MINNESOTA STATE FAIR HELD AT FORT SNELLING
Taken looking across the parade grounds towards the commandant’s house. Most of the people are grouped at the far end around some sort of a stand, Well is visible at front center. Broad expanse of the river valley is also visible.

In 1860, my great-great grandparents had just settled in after emigrating from Germany and the Minnesota State Fair starts this coming Thursday. Here is stuff about Fort Snelling and the MN State Fair

Read More

Chronicling America is an Amazing Resource

The front page of the Minneapolis Journal from January 2, 1904 and an ad for "One Good Buffalo Coat" from the classified section placed by my great-grandfather, John E. Borsch

As a family historian, seeking out resources and bringing them together is a delight. If you have the same sort of interest in history, then you really need to go poke around in the Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers project.

Their mission, “Chronicling America is a Website providing access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages, and is produced by the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). NDNP, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress (LC), is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and select digitization of historic pages. Supported by NEH, this rich digital resource will be developed and permanently maintained at the Library of Congress. An NEH award program will fund the contribution of content from, eventually, all U.S. states and territories.

A curious ad for a furniture dealer who doubles as a funeral director...with a fine hearse too!

So far, they have 22 States and the District of Columbia newspapers encompassing the years 1860-1922. They are not just image scans…they optically character recognized all of the text within them so you can search for text! I chose “Minnesota” and typed in the string “borsch delano” since my great-grandfather had a store in Delano, MN and was a fairly prominent businessman. There were dozens of hits, many for real estate he bought and sold, but during this search I came across the ad above as well as all sorts of articles and ads, some of which made me laugh out loud like the one to your right.

Right on the interface as you view a page from a paper are links to view only text, view a PDF (or download it) as well as a JPEG2000 format image. I’ve downloaded high resolution PDFs of every instance where JE Borsch appears. 

Go and give it a try…

My 2011 Road Trip

treasurecityAfter coming to the realization that the compulsion to jump in the car with my new camera and head out on a road trip was not going away, I took off for a week and did it.

The following slideshow is not representative of the 700+ photos I took—many of those taken were done for dramatic and photographic effect—but these select ones give an overview of this adventure.

The most profound thing was all of the history I discovered and had reinforced on this trip. I’m still absorbing what transpired on this road trip and may post about it again soon.

Click the photo below to view my Flickr photo album:

Steve's 2011 Road Trip - 1

Saint Paul, MN in 1908 — Dentists, Dentists and more Dentists!

Robert Street in Saint Paul, circa 1908 -- Shorpy.com -- Click to view larger size

As a big fan of Shorpy’s historical photography site, I absolutely love it when I come across a Minnesota-centric photo like the one above of Robert Street in downtown St. Paul in 1908.

When describing this photo, Shorpy pointed the “Starbucks-like” number of dentists on seemingly every street corner. Without a doubt dentistry was a booming business, what with the probability of incredible tooth decay still rampant at the time and fluoride in our drinking water not appearing until the 1940s. If you view the larger image (there is even a larger one here at Shorpys) you can see all of the offices. But it’s fun to look at the people and how they’re dressed, the street cars and the automobiles. Guess we’ve come a ways, heh?

At the Minnesota Historical Society there is also a page of photos of a pioneering woman dentist named Dr. Olga Lentz. Since I don’t often focus on Minnesota women’s history, I was delighted to come across these photos of Dr. Lentz which then led me to this page at the Society on women’s suffrage. Hopefully she was a bit gentler on tooth extraction than history shows.

L: Dr. Olga A. Lentz in her dental office -- R: Dr. Lentz working on a patient (courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society)

Friends and family often ask me why I care about old photos, shows like Antiques Roadshow, and investing so much of my time scanning and retouching old family photographs and documents.

It’s because history matters. It sets context. If you don’t know how we got to where we are today, it’s less likely you’ll be competent when it comes to mapping out and directing your own future. I’ve come to believe strongly that not understanding the past means we cannot truly and intuitively grasp how to invent, innovate, improve, and accelerate our work, education and competitiveness.

Besides, as I get older the past becomes sweeter, more interesting, and directly taps in to my extremely strong need to constantly be learning. I’ll be you didn’t think all of THAT would come out of stumbling across an old photo of downtown St. Paul, heh?