For Labor Day weekend, I asked a few antique shop owners what they have for “Made in Minnesota” items. Signs for Minnesota-made products are popular in bars and restaurants.
Paul Larsen, Mantorville Square Antiques: “I have a Schmidt Beer revolving light at Mantorville Square Antiques. Schmidt Beer operated in St. Paul from the early 1900s until about 1990. Stained-glass look hanging bar lights were popular in the 1970s-'80s. Schmidt Beer hanging lights were also made in a round shape, but this square style is more difficult to find. This light is in excellent working condition.”
Joan Thilges, New Generations of Harmony: “We have a variety of locally produced vintage and antique products with the name of the city as the maker's mark. Most are dairy or beverage products, but we have others, including Red Wing Boot Oil and Watkins Polish. These can be found from $10 to $30, depending on rarity. Milk bottles abound, including those from dairies like Onstad in Spring Grove, Preston Creamery, Streverling Farms in Austin, and Allen Farms in Caledonia. Prices can range from $20 to almost $100 for a hard-to-find bottle. Butter boxes from creameries in Spring Valley, Goodhue, Eyota and many others range from $10 to $38. Pop bottles from Spring Grove, beer cans and bottles, and spice cans are common.”
Chris Rand Kujath, Old River Valley Antique Mall, Stewartville: “Hormel is a good one. We usually have some Geo. A. Hormel & Co. items in the shop, since we are so close to Austin, where it is made.”
Did you know that in 1912, Walter Deubener owned St. Paul’s first cash-and-carry grocery store (until then, all grocers were delivered)?
To make it easier for his customers to carry out their purchases, he created a bag with a loop of string supporting the bottom that formed convenient handles at the top. It was such an innovation that the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce still names its annual business awards after Deubener. Next time you are at the grocery store and see a bag with a handle, think of his invention.
The company originally known as Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing moved away from mining (and the North Shore), and has been developing new products since. One of 3M’s earliest innovations, in 1925, was masking tape, originally created for use by auto painters for two-tone paint jobs. The tape’s inventor, Richard Drew, would go on to develop the first transparent cellophane adhesive tape, which 3M branded as Scotch tape.
Then we have the historic mill nestled along the Cannon River in Minnesota, the Faribault Woolen Mill. Today, fifth-generation craftspeople take raw wool and create blankets, throws, scarves and accessories of remarkable comfort and quality. The company also made blankets and sleeping bags for the U.S. military, supplying more than 200,000 blankets to soldiers during World War II.
By the mid-1900s, Faribault blankets were sold in most major department stores, and around the world. Wool blankets might have a high price tag, even at a thrift store, as they are considered a fine collectible.
Today we can be proud of some of the first items “Made in Minnesota,” and there are many, many more.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and certified appraiser concentrating on vintage, antique and collectible items. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at email@example.com.