Sherburne History Center

Sherburne History Center
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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

More About Sherburne County Depression Era Programs

Young men, most likely from the NYA, taking a break
 from working on the Handke Stadium, a joint NYC and
WPA project in Elk River

Recent blog posts regarding Depression era programs in Sherburne County suggest a number of county residents received federal assistance.  Further reading the pages of the county newspaper, the Sherburne County Star News, shows the county nearly dependent on federal programs for survival. 

Several articles in the newspapers report the Sherburne County farming community received significant support from Franklin Roosevelt’s economic programs.  In 1940 and 1941 nearly 90 percent of the farms in Sherburne County received benefits from the Agriculture Adjustment Administration.  In 1941, 1630 farms in Sherburne County, out of a total of 1822 farms, received some payments from the AAA programs. 

In addition to farm aid, depression era programs included the construction around Handke Stadium.  The Works Progress Administration (the WPA) funded a variety of road construction and gravel paving projects throughout Sherburne county.  The federal program also funded construction of a 115-foot steel and concrete bridge in Big Lake.  The WPA also funded a hot lunch program at Elk River school.  The program fed 125 children.  The WPA also funded book repair programs and community education programs in Sherburne County. 

Simple mental calculations show the amount of federal aid spent in Sherburne County significantly assisted the community in recovering from the 1930s economic depression.  With the WPA, AAA, CCC, and NYA the county clearly received significant benefits and assistance, assistance impossible to fully calculate.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Information Updates


Yet, another follow-up detail from the pages of the Sherburne County Star News. 

Recent research noted a depression era program offering mattresses to farm families in the county.  A program offering low income families an opportunity to “make your own mattresses.”

Although this image originates from the mattress program
 in New Orleans, it provides an understanding of the entire
mattress making process. 
Photo courtesy of the National Archives
In a follow-up article from 1941, the newspaper reported families requested and made 470 pieces of bedding in Sherburne County during the first six months of the year.  Operating out of Bowles' Garage in Zimmerman and the Clear Lake Town Hall, the program provided quite a few families with mattresses in this brief aid experiment.  Under the direction of Mrs. Charles Hetrick in Zimmerman and Mrs. John Leitha in Clear Lake, the Sherburne County Extension Office taught families how to make the mattresses and expedited the process to provide comfortable sleeping for county residents. 

Although the program offered opportunity to low income families, “Make Your Own Mattresses” developed as a plan to reduce surplus cotton supplies in the Southern United States.   Although the plan originated with the Agriculture Adjustment Administration, a second, lesser known agency provided assistance in the program. 

The National Youth Administration, another New deal agency, provided job training and work to young people between the ages of 16 and 25.  The N.Y.A. uniquely trained women and men for work outside of the home.  In the case of the “Make Your Own Mattress” program the N.Y.A. employees assisted in the construction and sewing of the mattresses.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sherburne County Prepares for World War Two






Although the United States did not enter World War Two until December 1941, the government instituted preparations for war as early as 1940.  The plans for war impacted Sherburne County as the army drafted a number of young men in the county.  The local newspaper, Sherburne County Star News reported the draft calls and also noted national efforts to get ready for war. 




Friday, September 7, 2018

Giant Visits Elk River

Robert Wadlow strikes a
pose with the
Greupner brothers during
his promotional stop in Elk River

Business relies on publicity.  In 1939, Greupner Shoe Store carried this adage to an unusual end. Appearing to promote Peters Shoe Company, and the local distributor: Greupner Shoes, the tallest man in the world arrived in Elk River.

Robert Wadlow, of Illinois, spent a day in August 1939, in Elk River.  He busied himself signing autographs and promoting the quality footwear of Peters’ Shoes.  Pointing out his own shoes, Wadlow noted the size as 37AA. 

Using a cane and braces to move through the city, Wadlow struck a variety of poses beside individuals and automobiles to illustrate his great height.  On the day of his visit, the Sherburne County Star News measured him at 8 feet, 9 ½ inches.  A year later, at his death he was measured at 8 feet 11 inches. 

During his visit to Elk River, his most memorable pose provided comparison to the height of William and Fred Greupner.  The newspaper reported Wadlow as the “giant as big as is claimed.” 

The paper concluded the report by congratulating the Greupner brothers for the enterprising promotion in bringing Wadlow to Elk River and the publicity for Greupner shoes and for Elk River.

Friday, August 31, 2018

"Make Your Own Mattress" in Sherburne County


“Make Your Own Mattress:” served as a program developed by the United States Department of Agriculture in the Fall 1940 to eliminate a cotton surplus from the South.  The USDA targeted Sherburne County as a potential location to benefit from the program.  Although small in economic impact, it provided some aid to local families.

According to reports from Washington. D. C., an over-abundance of cotton hit the market in the fall of 1940.  The Agriculture Adjustment Administration, a depression era program to help farmers, created the “Make Your Own Mattress” program to reduce the cotton surplus.

The preliminary plans reported by the Sherburne County Star News, noted an undisclosed warehouse will store cotton and “good grade ticking” so that individuals might sew their own mattresses.  The government developed the program for low income, rural families in Minnesota.  Income could not exceed $500 for a family of four and households received one mattress for two household members, not to exceed three of the mattresses.

Adult family members paid a fee of one dollar to cover the cost of needles and thread, the newspaper reported.  The families worked in the warehouse as a team to sew their own mattresses and take them home.  The County Extension Office and the Agricultural Adjustment Administration provided trained instructors to supervise the manufacturing process.  

Although a minor event in the greater activities of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the “Make Your Own Mattress” program serves as another example of the multitude of Depression Era economic experiments to aid Sherburne County.  Although smaller than the WPA or the CCC, “Make Your Own Mattress” and other AAA projects certainly provided significant aid to the county.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Electricity Expands in Sherburne County

demand for electricity in rural Sherburne County reached a fevered pitch in the last years of the 1930s.  Reading ads in the Sherburne County Star News reveals a rising demand for electricity in areas immediately around Elk River.  Although power did not reach every corner of Sherburne county until the 1950s, the pre-war period witnessed a rising demand.


Advertising in the Sherburne County Star News in 1938, 39 and 1940.

Friday, August 10, 2018

WW II Draft Explained to Sherburne County


History describes the draft in World War Two as an arbitrary, straight-forward, yet fair method of selecting young me to serve in the armed forces.  We all understand men between the ages of 21 and 45 registered for the draft.  Local draft boards would determine the fitness of each man and his ability to serve.  A man could be excused from service for several reasons: family and dependents or possibly essential occupations.  Yet rarely is the arbitrary nature of the draft explained. 

Each man receives a number.  The numbers are drawn from a lottery in Washington, D.C.  But, how are these numbers assigned?  And, how does Washington determine the quota for each state? 

Shortly after the creation of the draft process in 1940, the Sherburne County Star News explained the process to readers.  According to the newspaper, local draft board registered and examined between 6,000 and 6,500 men.  Based on the population of Sherburne county in 1940, in all likelihood, one draft board examined the entire county.  After all men were registered, the local board shuffled the cards and assigned numbers to each card.  When young men speak of their draft number, this is the number they reference. 

During the process, the board placed each potential soldier into four categories:
1-      available for immediate service.
2-      Deferred as a result of an essential occupation
3-      Deferred because of family and dependents
4-      Deferred by law, such as legislators, judges and others.

Drafted men received an examination to determine their physical ability to serve.  If the quota, assigned to the state and the local draft board, could not be met by men available for immediate service, the board then drafted from the deferment categories.

Washington D.C. assigned a quota to each state.  The number took into consideration the population and the number of men already serving in the army or navy. 

The World War Two draft started October 1940.  The requirements quietly expanded so the men ages 18 to 45 eventually registered for the draft.  The arbitrary assignment of numbers provided a sense of fairness to the draft, something that had plagued earlier call-ups from wars dating back to the Civil War. 

The World War Two draft, the first peace time draft enacted in the United States, provided an equitable method to build an army.  By the end of the war, the United states armed forces totaled 16 million.  Almost 11 percent of the total population served.  The draft, with the limited deferments, provided an equitable method to call men into war.