Column: A promotional boost for ‘The Paradise of Health Seekers’

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 27, 2002

With today’s paper will be Impact 2002, a supplement to the Tribune which can be considered as both a review of the local economy and as a promotional plug for Albert Lea.

Promoting the city is a worthwhile activity which has been a part of local life since the very earliest days.

Partial proof of this was found in late 1960 by then Mayor Niles Shoff. The copy I’m using was published in the January 1961 issue of The Community Magazine. It was a full sheet of information about the city which was published with five illustrations about 110 years ago.

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Please keep the year of 1892 in mind for the information featured in the rest of this column. Also, be prepared to be surprised by some of the promotional claims made for the city and county from a really

different era.

Albert Lea’s population in 1892 was 5,000. One of the city’s major assets was the railroad system. The listing shows service by six rail lines, making the city a real transportation hub, and 26 daily passenger trains.

Under the heading of education was the following information: three public school buildings for 1,200 pupils, the Albert Lea College for Young Women, Luther Academy and Business College, 16 church societies, Science Association with 75 members, Chautauqua Circle, Ladies Travel Class, and Philharmonic Society.

In 1892 the city had a new county courthouse which cost $100,000, waterworks costing $50,000, and an electric lighting system. Perhaps the oddest listing was for 20 artesian (free-flowing) wells and &uot;mineral water.&uot; Fountain Lake was listed as being &uot;adjacent to city.&uot; Lake Avenue Boulevard was five miles long. There were two parks, fairgrounds and racing track, (volunteer) fire department, a building and loan association, secret societies (lodges), opera house, and &uot;Handsome Modern Residences, imposing business blocks, fine Churches, and purest and best Climate in America. The Paradise of Health Seekers.&uot;

Under the heading of &uot;Manufactories&uot; were the following:

&uot;Two merchant flouring Mills, capacity 600 barrels daily. Three custom Mills. Woolen Mill. Corset factory, Foundry, Barrel and Tub factory. Three Wagon and Carriage factories. Ditching machine, Stump-pulling, Cockle Mill and Three Horse Equalizer factories. Four Cigar factories, Cracker factory, Power Converter, Windmill grinder, Washing Machine and fence factory. Steam laundry and Baths. Two bottling works, Two Marble and Granite works, Creamery, brick yard, Candy factory. Two nurseries, Greenhouse, Cold Storage Egg and Poultry packing, wholesale grocery house, wholesale crackers and baking, Asphalt and Cement sidewalk works, beef and pork packing house, Northwestern headquarters McCormick Harvester Co., Five Newspapers and periodicals, Three job printing houses.&uot;

This 1892 report listed what were called &uot;A Few Pointers.&uot; Thus, the assessed valuation for the city was a million dollars. The population of Freeborn County was an estimated 18,000 people. There were 138 public schools in the county, plus 22 creameries. Those creameries produced nearly a million dollars worth of products a year. Diversified farming featured fine horses and other stock, all kinds of grain and small fruits, and those farmers were &uot;prosperous and rich,&uot; according to this sheet.

This sheet concluded with, &uot;No city offers better facilities central to the great West, near to coal fields, abundance of good water, unrivaled attractions of lake, hill and vale and woodland scenery, unsurpassed advantages for business, education, society, and pleasant enduring homes.&uot;

Again, that’s what this city was like 110 years ago.

– The photo of the teacher and students in District #120 in Moscow Township which appeared in the Lifestyles section of the Sept. 22, 2002, issue of the Tribune was taken 50 years ago. Somehow I missed a decade. To emphasize this fact, the photo was taken in 1952.

Feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Sundays in the Tribune.