Hail to the Queen City, no matter how that nickname came to be
A marketing gimmick for a business college became the identity for what most now call the Med City.
The Rochester Queens baseball team carried with them a proud moniker when they took the field against Southeast Minny League opponents in 1945. The same was true for the Rochester Queens hockey team that played at Mayo Civic Auditorium.
Both of these teams were made up entirely of men, but there was no question of calling them the “Kings.”
That’s because as “Queens” they were honoring Rochester’s quasi-official nickname of “the Queen City.”
It was a name that had been around since the 1870s, according to some sources. Apparently, it was part of a boastful advertising slogan for a business college and soon became an appellation for Rochester itself.
In a report to the Olmsted County Historical Society in 1944, Robert Waldron, an early settler of the county, said that Delbert Darling used “Queen City” in advertising for his Darling Business College and Photographic Institute.
Darling had purchased the former Niles College in 1879 and named it after himself. Darling’s school was competing with similar business colleges in Winona and Mankato. To differentiate the Rochester school from others, he declared that his college was located in “the Queen City of Minnesota.”
The basis for Darling’s claim is not known. There was certainly nothing royal about Rochester, which at the time was typical of cities on what was still in many ways the frontier. Plus, hadn’t Americans rejected royal titles back in 1776?
But like Rochester, many other American cities have made an empty boast by claiming to be a Queen City.
The most prominent is Cincinnati, which has called itself the Queen City since 1819. Marquette, Michigan, has called itself “the Queen City of the North.” Denver is “Queen City of the Plains.” Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is “Queen City of the West.” Springfield, Missouri, is “Queen City of the Ozarks.” Buffalo, New York, was proclaimed as “the Queen City” because it was the second-largest city in the state.
In Rochester, “Queen City” became a way to advertise more than just a business college. The Queen City Band was organized in 1894, followed by the Queen City Orchestra in 1895. There was a Queen City Cafeteria and a Queen City Gun Club, as well as the Queen City Candy Co.
Decades later, the Queen City name was still going strong, compliments of the Queen City Finance Co., the Queen City Oil Co., the Queen City Nursery, the Queen City Creamery, the Queen City Bar & Cafe, and Queen City Real Estate.
Some of the two dozen or so cities that have called themselves Queen City of this-or-that, have dropped the habit and have adopted more modern nicknames.
Such is the case with Rochester, which is now commonly referred to as the Med City. Just as they did with “Queen City,” local businesses have branded themselves with “Med City” – Med City Taxi, Med City Concrete, Med City Vapors, and so on.
One organization, though, seems to have hit upon the right way to honor the regal standards of Rochester’s past: the state champion Rochester Royals amateur baseball team. Now, that’s a name fit for a Queen City.
Thomas Weber is a former Post Bulletin reporter who enjoys writing about local history.