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A History of Minneapolis: an Overview by Staff at the Hennepin County Library

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Featuring historical photos and items from the collections of the Hennepin County Library, with contemporary photos from the Phototour of Minneapolis by Chris Gregerson.

Other Industries

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In the 1890/91 Minneapolis City Directory, four advertising agencies were listed. By 1925, there were 60 advertising agents listed in Minneapolis. One of the fairly early agencies was the John H. Mitchell Advertising Agency. Mitchell began in the business in 1903. His agency managed accounts for companies such as Munsingwear, Toastmaster, Anacin, Minneapolis Moline, and Pure Oil. Minneapolis began to come into its own as a force in the advertising and creative services industry during the Great Depression. The products promoted for the clients were mostly food products, heavy equipment and electronics. As communication improved, it became less and less significant for the client and the advertising agency to be in the same state, much less the same city. Campbell-Mithun Advertising (now Campbell Mithun Esty) started in 1933, with offices in downtown Minneapolis. The firm quickly began to gain prestigious accounts, and established a name for itself as one of the most reliable and creative advertising firms west of the Mississippi. Other advertising agencies, both large and small, began to spring up in Minneapolis and surrounding cities. Martin/Williams Inc. started in 1947 in the productive post-war years. Other agencies that are still a large force in the local advertising scene include Fallon McElligott, founded in 1981, and Carmichel Lynch Spong, started in 1962. These four Minneapolis firms, the largest in the state, had almost $2 billion in billings in 1998, making them, along with a number of smaller firms, a force in the city's economy.

Manufacturing interests were also growing during the early part of the 20th century as well. A local firm, Minneapolis Electric Heat Regulator Company, was manufacturing the automatic thermostat, which was finally catching on with consumers. That company moved into a new factory at 4th Avenue and 28th Street and changed its name to the Minneapolis Heat Regulator Company. In 1927, the company merged with its principal competitor, Honeywell Heating Specialties Co., of Indiana. The newly formed company, Honeywell, was headquartered in Minneapolis. Honeywell went on to become a Fortune 500 company, and was based in Minneapolis until late 1999.

Minneapolis' diverse economy has always included a significant high-technology component. In the 1960s and 1970s the city had a strong computer hardware manufacturing industry, bolstered by such giants as Honeywell and Control Data Corporation. Although not headquartered in Minneapolis, Control Data had a major presence in the city at a Northside manufacturing plant, which company founder William Norris started to provide employment and economic development for that part of the city. Both companies were major competitors to IBM; Control Data focused on supplying large-scale scientific computers, while Honeywell concentrated on large sharing systems and communications. By the early 1970s, Honeywell was the second largest U.S. computer company, and 47 computer companies were located in Minneapolis. However, in the 1980s, the computer industry began to migrate from mainframes to personal computers. That industry never developed to a large extent locally, and business and employment shifted to other technology industries.

Local technology companies have been bolstered by such organizations as the Minnesota Business Partnership and Minnesota Technology, Inc., both located in Minneapolis, and by the continuing interest of the University of Minnesota in supporting technology-based development. One of the industries that began to develop in Minneapolis in the 1980s and 90s was the computer software industry. These businesses, though typically smaller in size than those in the heyday of the large computer, are a significant source of employment and economic growth, with a total of 106 software companies located in Minnesota in 1999.

Also important is the biomedical industry, which is epitomized by Medtronic Inc. Medtronic, founded in 1949 in Minneapolis by Earl Bakken, is still one of the leading medical technology companies in the world. The state's medical technology industry, referred to as the "Medical Alley," owes much to the University of Minnesota medical school. Many of the state's more than 500 medical device companies trace their beginning to the University of Minnesota, either through alumni or scientific innovation, making Minneapolis a pivotal hub even for those companies not headquartered here.

Gold Bond stamps and "Savers Books" from the Gold Bond Stamp Company founded by Curt Carlson.
Minneapolis Collection

Page from the "Gold Bond Gift Book", circa 1963. (The most expensive item on the page is the Maytag washer, at 109 books.)
Minneapolis Collection

Another of the company giants in Minneapolis was started by Curtis Carlson, an industrious University of Minnesota graduate in 1938. Carlson noted with interest the relatively new practice of giving trading stamps as a premium to store customers. This premium was a new incentive to build customer store loyalty. The Gold Bond Stamp Company was the brainchild of Curt Carlson. The original company was a mail drop and desk space in the Plymouth Building in downtown Minneapolis. A very modest beginning with years of struggle eventually led to landing a major client, the Super Valu Food Store chain. At many stores where people shopped, both locally and around the country, they received Gold Bond stamps with their purchases. The stamps could be saved and redeemed for premiums, and many people today can remember having their moms sit them down at the kitchen table to glue stamps into books. Trading stamps became extremely successful. By the 1960s when companies began to lose interest in trading stamps, Curt Carlson diversified into other areas: hotels, restaurants, catalog showrooms, real estate and manufacturing and transformed the company into Carlson Companies. Carlson headed the Carlson Companies until his daughter Marilyn Carlson Nelson succeeded him to became the chief operating officer in 1998, and was elected chair of the board in 1999.

Dayton's Department Store at 7th and Nicollet Mall, January 2000
Photo courtesy of Chris Gregerson

Customers line up to purchase the first nylon stockings available for sale after the Second World War, October 1945.
Minneapolis Collection, Uncat Stores: Dayton's.

One of the most important retailers headquartered in Minneapolis is Dayton Hudson Corporation, which in January 2000 changed its corporate name to Target. From its beginnings in 1902, Dayton Hudson had by the late 1990s grown to be the fourth largest retailer in the United States, with stores in 38 states. The company is legendary for its philanthropy, contributing to a wide variety of charitable organizations, and is also recognized for corporate responsibility in other areas and good management. In 2001, the stores formerly known as Dayton's, owned by Target Corporation, were renamed Marshall Field's.

Best Buy, a major U.S. consumer electronics retailer, got its start in Minneapolis as Sound of Music, Inc., in 1963. Richard Schulze started the company to capture a share of the home and car stereo retail market and the company continued to expand, becoming Best Buy in 1983.

The city continues to have a strong, resilient and diverse economy. One indicator is the city's perfect bond rating from 1963 to 2000. (In 2001, two bond houses, Standard & Poors and Fitch, continued the City's top rating, while Moody's downgraded their rating by one notch.)

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