Minnesota – History & Geography

Minnesota (MN) became the 32nd state on May 11, 1858.  It has a large number of lakes and is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  MN is the 22nd most populous state in the US, with almost 60 percent of its residents living in the twin cities of Minneapolis–Saint Paul.  The remainder of the state consists of prairies now given over to agriculture, deciduous forests in the southeast, and the less populated North Woods, mainly used for mining, forestry, and recreation.

Minnesota was inhabited by the Dakota and Ojibwe/Anishinaabe people until European settlement.  Then, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, many European settlers entered the state, emigrating mainly from Scandinavia and Germany.

Known for its high rate of civic participation and voter turnout, Minnesotans tend toward a progressive political orientation.  In recent decades, immigration from Asia, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and Central America has broadened the state’s cultural composition.  Among the best-educated and wealthiest states in the nation, MN also enjoys one of the highest standards of living indexes.

Industry & Tourism

MN’s early economy consisted mostly of logging and mining.  Later on, innovations by Minneapolis millers led to the production of MN “patent” flour, which brought in almost double the price of the more traditional “baker’s” or “clear” flour, which it replaced.  Minnesota mills led by Pillsbury, Northwestern, and the Washburn-Crosby Company (a forerunner of General Mills), were grinding 14.1 percent of the nation’s grain by 1800.

When iron was discovered in the Vermilion Range and the Mesabi Range in the 1880s, and the Cuyuna Range in the early 20th century, mining became a major industry.  Though industry and the rise of manufacturing moved Minnesota’s population from rural areas to cities, farming remained prevalent.  During the Great Depression, western Minnesota and the Dakotas were hit by drought from 1931 to 1935, compounding loss of income and jobs caused by draught.

After World War II, industrial development quickened.  New technology increased farm productivity through automation, and planting became more specialized with the hybridization of corn and wheat.  After World War II, Minnesota also became a center of technology, with Engineering Research Associates developing computers for the United States Navy and Medtronic, a maker of medical devices, starting business in the Twin Cities in 1949.

MN boasts professional men’s teams in football, baseball, basketball, and hockey.  Playing in the National Football League since 1961, the Minnesota Vikings are a mainstay for sports enthusiasts.  The Twins have been a Major League Baseball team since 1961 and won the 1987 and 1991 World Series.

The Minneapolis Lakers of the National Basketball Association played in Minnesota from 1947 to 1960 and then moved to Los Angeles.  The MN Timberwolves joined the NBA in 1989.

The MN Wild of the National Hockey League plays in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, selling out 300 consecutive games on January 16, 2008.  Before the Wild, the MN North Stars skated in NHL from 1967 to 1993, playing the 1981 and 1991 Stanley Cup Finals.