On this day in history, Minnesota joined the Union.
Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory, which included the current Minnesota region, and most of what later became Dakota Territory east of the Missouri River. Minnesota Territory also included portions of Wisconsin Territory that did not become part of Wisconsin.
The small extension on the northern tip of Minnesota makes Minnesota the northernmost point of all 48 contiguous states. This area is known as the “Northwest Angle” and is only accessible by land through Canada. As a CBS news story reports, this part of the border was the result of a mistake made during the 1783 Treaty of Paris: “The border being drawn between the U.S. and then Britain was supposed to cut through Lake of the Woods at a northwest angle — hence the name. Problem was, the map the Founding Fathers used of Lake of the Woods was completely wrong. They were way off, but that weird boundary bump stuck.”
A bill for the admission of Minnesota into the Union was submitted to congress in December of 1857. The bill encountered the usual antebellum obstacle in Congress of the desire by the South to retain (or better yet, exceed) the balance of power in Congress between slave states and free states. Admission of (free) Minnesota was therefore supposed to be coupled with the admission of (slave) Kansas. The Kansas admission was highly problematic, however, and the Senate was able to get the states considered separately.
On May 11, 1858, the bill for the admission of Minnesota was finally passed and approved by President James Buchanan. However, word of its passage did not reach St. Paul until almost two weeks later. Minnesota had no telegraph lines or railroads, so a telegram was sent to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and carried up the Mississippi River to St. Paul by steamboat. On May 24, 1858, the state officers took their oaths of office, and Minnesota’s state government began to function.
St. Paul, Minnesota is the capital and second-most populous city of Minnesota. It was originally known as “Pig’s Eye” after Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parrant, the first white settler to live within the borders of what would eventually become the city. The French-Canadian fur trapper was nicknamed Pig’s Eye because he was blind in one eye. When the first Catholic pastor of the region established the Log Chapel of Saint Paul, he asked for the settlement to be renamed Saint Paul, and was successful with his request.
Minneapolis is a major city in Minnesota that forms the “Twin Cities” with the neighboring state capital of St. Paul. The Minneapolis Skyway System is the largest continuous network of enclosed pedestrian footbridges in the world. It connects over 69 city blocks and spreads eight miles. It was built as a response to the harsh winters in Minnesota. As a Minneapolis tourism site exclaims, “The Minneapolis winters can be brutal, but that doesn’t mean Minneapolis adventures need to stop!”
Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, although it actually has more than 10,000. (To that end, Minnesota has one recreational boat per every six people, more than any other state.) For many years, Minnesota also had the world’s largest twine ball, at Darwin, weighing in at 17,400 pounds. (The honor of the home of the world’s largest twine ball now belongs to Kansas. As of September 2013, the Kansas Ball weighs 19,873 pounds. The Darwin ball still claims to be the largest one made by one man.) The world’s largest pelican, some 15 feet tall, is in Pelican Rapids. And of course The Mall of America in Bloomington is the size of 78 football fields — 9.5 million square feet.