Monday, December 19, 2011

Minneapolis - The Brightest Christmas City



Here I have three postcards of Christmas time street scenes in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota around 7th Street and Nicollet Avenue. All are labeled "A Merry Christmas from Minneapolis" The Brightest Christmas City. The postcard above has a "7th Street" sign strung across the 7th Street. On the left side of the street is Dayton's department store and the Radisson Hotel. On the right, a Walgreen's drugstore sign is visible.

I thought the traffic signal looked interesting, so I enlarged that detail. It may be manually operated, though I don't see a policeman operating it. I couldn't find a picture of a similar traffic signal. The Minnesota Historical Society website has a picture of a manual traffic signal here that was used in downtown Minneapolis until approximately 1930. The Santa visible behind the car is on the side of Dayton's.


In the late 1920s (and probably 1930s), Minneapolis described itself as "The Brightest Christmas City." A column in the New York Times on Dec 25, 1927 describes a challenge made to ten other cities defying them to dispute Minneapolis's claim to the title of brightest Christmas city in the United States. The cities challenged were Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Buffalo, Kansas City, Davenport, Iowa; Denver, Fargo,N. D.; Duluth and La Crosse, Wisconsin. The challenge read as follows:
Minneapolis is the brightest Christmas city in America. A downtown district with streets under a canopy of evergreen festoons and thousands of tiny lights twinkling from the streamers. Every downtown lamppost a Christmas tree against a lighted background of red. A towering municipal Christmas tree in the loop gateway, its branches glittering with the light of thousands of tiny color lights and its top holding a flashing star of Bethlehem seventy-five feet in the air. Floodlights illuminating the Christmas tree, the arbor and every part of the gateway.

Ten thousand lighted outdoor Christmas trees in the residential sections, each entered in a contest for twelve prizes for the winners in four districts and a sweepstakes prize to the best tree in the city.

Christmas carols broadcast by radio and carried through every street and alley of the city by hundreds of loud- speakers set in windows of Minneapolis homes.

All that in Minneapolis at Christmas time. Minneapolis challenges the world to dispute its claim to the brightest Christmas city in America.
Most of the major U.S. cities were not included in the challenge. Even though Milwaukee wasn't on the 1927 list, that city took up the challenge the following year (The Milwaukee Sentinel - Dec 21, 1928).


The next postcard shows the view north on Nicollet from the same intersection. Part of the Walgreen's sign is visible on the left. Donaldson's department store is in the right foreground. Signs for Standard Clothing company and Powers department store can be seen farther up the street.



The last postcard also shows Donaldson's on the right. The decorations are different so it must be a different (probably later) year. Part of the Andrus Building sign is visible near the top left of the photo.



Visit Sepia Saturday to see more vintage images

14 comments:

  1. It almost makes you yearn for colour. I bet they looked fantastic.

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  2. These make our Christmas decorations look tame even without the colour. That stop sign and the car are interesting.

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  3. A fantastic selection of postcards.

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  4. I think I've seen that style of stop sign in a silent movie. These are pretty wonderful pictures. Interesting that Radisson and Walgreen's are still around.

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  5. It's neat to see old images of cities all decked out for Christmas. Back when the main shopping area of any given community was its downtown area they decorated in grand fashion. Good memories!

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  6. Great selection of cards. I can almost smell the pine boughs. I bet they were all real. Have a Merry Christmas!

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  7. Oh how I long to see city streets decorated in a grand manner. Now it's all little white lights and subtle decorations that become almost invisible. Would love to step back in time and visit these streets on a nippy December night.

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  8. I don't think I would have enjoyed the 1,000s of Carols blasting from speakers in people's windows!!

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  9. They sure knew how to decorate a pretty city back then...not quite the same here any more.... These are just fantastic photos, and great info supplied too...wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we all got into such silly kinds of contests now, such spirit they had...decorating even every lamp post!!! and we'd all have great fun if we did really work together on fun stuff like this.....Great Post!

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  10. Wishing You & Yours A Bright New Year.

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  11. They certainly did Christmas in a big way!

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  12. A fun seasonal choice. I like that displaying "7th Street" was as important as the Christmas symbols. Best wishes for 2012

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  13. Government is to PC now for a grand display of this magnitude. God forbid anyone is offended. Merry Christmas everyone!

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