Friday, May 29, 2009

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 9: Wedding & Honeymoon

Postcard from Basin Harbor Lodge, Vergennes, Vermont, 1941.

"We set a wedding date of September 1, 1932, almost three years from the day we had met. We were only twenty-three and twenty-one when we married, yet I think we were ready. We were sure of our feelings for each other and as secure as two young people could be in the midst of terrible economic times. Eleanor decided to leave the university when we got married, and postpone the completion of her degree. That was quite a concession her part. I thought, now she has really decided that this is OK. We had better get married, before she changes her mind!"

"The day after our wedding, Eleanor and I drove to Milwaukee and took a boat to Muskegon. The next day we drove to Detroit, got on another boat to Buffalo, then drove to Basin Harbor Lodge in Vergennes, Vermont, where we stayed for one week. I had never been to that part of the country before. But we had read about it in advertisements and had chosen it well in advance. When I travel, I always like to make my arrangements ahead of time, so I know where I am going. I do not like to spend time planning a trip while traveling. I think that detracts from the enjoyment of what I am seeing and doing."

Image from eBay/Snyders Postcards

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 8: Elmer's Memoir

A Man’s Reach. Edited by Lori Sturdevant. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000.

"Andersen’s story is the Horatio Alger myth made real, but his life is about much more than money and politics. He believes in public service, in democracy, and in striving to meet the needs of all citizens, especially those in the worst circumstances. Andersen’s strong faith and values resonate from the first page of this autobiography. His writing is honest, personable, straightforward, portraying both the personal rigor and thoughtfulness of his business and newspaper careers." —St. Paul Pioneer Press

"Andersen and his skillful editor Sturdevant have produced a book that refreshes the spirit by reminding us of the possibilities of a life devoted to the service of others. This delightful memoir will rejuvenate the faith of all who believe in the value of honesty and the power of perseverance harnessed to a noble cause." —Minnesota History

"A Man's Reach is a book that warms the heart and should inspire any reader to be a better person. It's also the detailed account of the life of a very successful businessman, politician, and most important, a great humanitarian. . . . It's simply but forcefully told, it's shrewd, and it's quietly humorous and warm." —Dave Wood's Book Report

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 7: Eleanor Anne Johnson

Portrait of Eleanor Andersen, by Edward Brewer, 1965

"I found Eleanor Anne Johnson at Grace University Lutheran Church." The pastor, C. A. Wendell, had invited Elmer to a welcoming party for new students at the church. "Early in the evening, I noticed a beautiful blonde girl in a blue polka-dot dress. I can still see her. I was just smitten…. She had a pristine, natural Scandinavian beauty. It was almost as if a vision had come true…. She was on the party committee. She was out in the kitchen, washing dishes. In a flash, I was in the kitchen, wiping dishes. That was how we met, washing and wiping dishes. I did not ask her out right away…. I learned right away that first evening that she was reserved and deliberate. I knew it was going to take me quite a while to attract her interest."

Image courtesy Elmer L. and Eleanor J. Andersen Family

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 6: College Graduate

Elmer as a young man, upon graduation from the University of Minnesota, 1931.

Elmer graduated from junior college in 1928. For the next year he worked as a salesman for the Sheldon Company, working out of Minneapolis. "A year in Minneapolis left me convinced that I wanted something more. I wanted to enroll at the University of Minnesota. I usually approach a new venture with specific objectives. In aiming for the University of Minnesota, I had three: I wanted to get a degree for reasons of job protection. I did not want somebody to push ahead of me because he had a degree and I did not. Another object was to meet a woman whom I might marry. I was beginning to long for a home life and a family. I was lonely. I discovered that being a traveling salesman, on the road all the time, was no way to meet the kind of women I wanted to meet…. My third objective was to have a good time! I had been a fairly successful salesman and quite frugal with my earnings....So, having fun, finding a girl, getting a degree—those were my objectives. If I was able to learn anything along the way, that would be purely incidental!"

Image courtesy H. B. Fuller Company

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 5: An Early Life of Work and Learning

At the age of fourteen, Elmer joined his brothers at work for the Sheldon furniture factory in Muskegon. In 1926 he left Sheldon to attend the newly established Muskegon Junior College. He was a member of the first class and, on graduation, received the first diploma from the school. While in college, he held a sales job with J. J. Fagan and Company, a real estate firm, and also worked as a stringer for the Muskegon Chronicle, while starting a newspaper, the Bay Window, for the junior college. Not long after, Elmer and his brothers started their own company, Muskegon Realty, which also sold casualty insurance for the Mercury Insurance Company. "I matured fast in those years. I was selling homes and farms. I was selling insurance. I was editing a college newspaper and stringing for a daily newspaper. I was studying and learning about things I had never known existed. It was almost an incredible time."

Photo from Muskegon Community College web site

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 4: Journeys Through Bookland

Sylvester, Charles Herbert. Journeys Through Bookland: A New and Original Plan for Reading, Applied to the World's Best Literature for Children. [5th ed.] Chicago : Bellows-Reeve Company, [1913], c1909.

These volumes were read by Elmer as a child and were some of the last books he parted with as his library was moved to the University of Minnesota in 1999. "My desire to own my own books began in childhood. In the home of my aunt Lillian Johnson, an unmarried teacher, I loved to touch, hold, and page through a set of books she owned. It was 'Journeys through Book Land,' a compilation of children's literature. Whenever I went to her home, I headed straight for her bookshelf to find some of my favorite stories. Our little home did not include such luxury. I went to the library and checked out a lot of books, and read a great deal. But the books always went back to the library again. How grand it would be, I thought, to own these precious objects and be able to hold and read them whenever I pleased."

University of Minnesota Libraries, Children's Literature Research Collections, PN6014 .S985x 1913

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 3: Arnold, Elmer, and Marvin Andersen at Lake Michigan Park in Muskegon, about 1916

Elmer's mother, Jennie, died in 1925 with Elmer at her bedside. Within a year his father, Arne, was gone as well, from a sudden heart attack in Chicago. The children were alone. "But my two older brothers were reliable and resourceful and a stabilizing influence on the two younger children. Arnold was nine years older that I was. He was a father figure to Caroline and me. He had our father's determination to work hard and get ahead. What he decided, we accepted, because we trusted his judgment…. Marvin was more of a brother and a companion to me. He was seven years my senior. He was gentle, kind, a very humane person."

Image courtesy H. B. Fuller Company

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 2: Elmer as a Young Boy on a Goat Cart, Circa 1915

It was about this time, at the age of six, that Elmer was moving with his mother, Jennie, and infant sister, Caroline, to Muskegon, Michigan. His parents had separated; his father remained in Chicago. "We were on our way to Muskegon—not for a visit, but a permanent move. My mother was taking two of her four children and leaving Chicago for an uncertain future. I remember going down to the big boat dock at dawn, my sister a baby in my mother's arms, I a small boy trudging beside them. It was my first trip on a big boat, my first trip to my mother's home in Muskegon. It was a momentous day for me, but the only memory I retain is of that early morning walk to the dock."

Image courtesy H. B. Fuller Company

A Man's Reach -- A Transforming Life, 1: Birth and Beginnings

"I was born in Chicago, Illinois, on June 17, 1909. My father was Arne Andersen, an immigrant from Sølør, Norway. As a young man, he left his parents and siblings behind on a modest farm and came to the United States, looking for opportunity. My mother was Jennie Olivia Johnson Andersen, of North Muskegon, Michigan. Her father was a seaman from Lulea, in northern Sweden, who came to America as a young man and worked in the timbering business. That was what brought him to Muskegon, where he met my grandmother. My father was a streetcar motorman in Chicago, operating on the Halsted streetcar line out of the Ashland Avenue car barns. My earliest memory is of riding with him on the streetcar and being permitted to clang the bell as we came to street crossings. The bell was a foot-driven device in the floor of the driving area. Stepping on it sounded a bell below the floor that rang loudly in the street."

Early in his life, Elmer's parents separated. "Just what were the circumstances of my parents' separation, or what provoked it, I have never known. There was no divorce. Efforts at reconciliation, if there were any, were not successful. It was never discussed among the family—or, at least, not with me. It was just accepted that there had been a change, and we went on."

A New Exhibit: A Man's Reach--A Transforming Life

What: Exhibit: A Man's Reach: A Transforming Life
When: Through Saturday, August 15, 2009
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library
Free and open to the public.

Commemorating the June 17th centennial of Governor Elmer L. Andersen’s birth, this exhibit explores his broad interests, his philosophies regarding government and business practices, and his impact on the University, the state, and the nation.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Elmer's Library

Another little gem about Elmer Andersen from the TPT web site. Here's the blurb that goes with it: "Back in the 1950s when public television in Minnesota was still a dream, educational television had a champion in the state legislature in Elmer L. Anderson. In 1960, the republican was elected governor of our state. A year later, KTCA made a special program with Andersen, in which the governor showed off his impressive private collection of Minnesota history books. Here’s a clip."

Friday, May 22, 2009

1963 Minnesota Recount

Click here for an interesting video clip from the Minnesota Historical Society on the 1962 Minnesota gubernatorial election recount.

Elmer L. Andersen Centenary Celebration

More news to share: click here for information on the upcoming celebration.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Another new exhibit

We've been's the announcement of another exhibit now appearing from Special Collections & Rare Books

Forty Years After Stonewall: The Gay Movement in America


What: Exhibit: Forty Years After Stonewall: The Gay Movement in America
When: Through July 11, 2009
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library Atrium Gallery
Free and open to the public.

On the early morning of June 28, 1969, a riot broke out at Greenwich Village’s Stonewall Inn, the patrons fighting back after years of harassment and police raids on Gay establishments. Images from the Tretter Collection in Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies celebrate the launching of the modern Gay rights movement in the United States.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Life is a Blur

Just a short note to let anyone interested know that I do plan on posting a bit about the BSI symposium in Boston. I'll do that in the next day or so, but for the moment life is still a blur. After Boston I was in Chicago for a CIC/Big Ten meeting of special collections folks, and then it was back home and some long (yet enjoyable) days working on final details of our latest exhibit on the life and times of the late Governor Elmer L. Andersen. The exhibit, entitled "A Man's Reach--A Transforming Life" opened today (although we're still tweaking things and adding a little bit here and there) and will run until August 15. I plan on posting daily entries about the exhibit as well, so in case you can't visit you'll at least get a flavor for what's there. And, with the Andersen exhibit nearly done its time to move on to the P. G. Wodehouse exhibit (in our other exhibit space in Wilson Library) that needs to get up and mounted in the next couple of weeks, in time for the big Wodehouse conference. Not a boring moment here! Pip, pip!