Construction of the Apron at St. Anthony Falls, Mississippi River
by Anna Freyberg, Public Programs Intern, Hennepin History Museum
Think Like a Historian
Observe a Primary Source Item and Record Your Thoughts
- What is happening in the photograph or letter, diary, etc.? What just happened, or what is about to happen?
- Describe the people you see in the image. How do they relate to each other and to the photographer? If there are no people in the image, what is the subject of the photograph?
- Look for details that show when the photo was taken – time of day, season, and year. Do the people in the photograph look different than people today? How are their clothing, shoes, and hair styles different? Also look for differences in things like transportation, housing, equipment, and general infrastructure.
Think about the Creator, Audience, Context, Relationships
- What is the author/creator's point of view? What was the author's purpose?
- Who is the intended audience for this primary source material?
- Explain how the source tells its story.
- What was happening locally, regionally, or nationally when this primary source material was created?
- How does this item relate to other content in this Primary Source Set and/or the rest of the Minnesota Digital Library collection? Compare and contrast two resources.
Finally, using the clues you have observed, try to figure out why the source was created. By asking these questions, you have begun to understand the what, who, where, when and why of the primary source material – and ultimately, the story it tells.
Discussion Questions & Activities
1. What is the purpose of an apron? How was it able to preserve the falls?
2. What makes St. Anthony Falls unique? Think in terms of geology, economics, history, etc.
3. Which important industries in Minneapolis did the water power of St. Anthony Falls make possible?
4. Why was Congress willing to give Franklin Cook such a large amount of funding to repair the falls?
5. What would have happened if Cook and the Army Corps had not been successful in preserving the power of the falls? Think about and discuss the importance of St. Anthony Falls within Minneapolis’ history.
6. Identify all the ways in which the water power of St. Anthony Falls has impacted your life. Think about where you live or what you ate for breakfast. (If you had cereal, what company manufactured it?)
7. How many products can you name that were made through the power of St. Anthony Falls?
8. Look at the photos from the set and think about how the apron would have been constructed using 1870’s resources and technology. What are your initial reactions? How would the construction processes of the apron be different if it was built today?
eLibrary Minnesota Resources (for Minnesota residents)
1. "Minneapolis." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 14 May. 2018. Accessed 18 Jun. 2020.
2. "Mississippi River." Geography, Gale, 2016. Kids InfoBits Presents. Gale In Context: Elementary. Accessed 18 June 2020.
3. "Pillsbury Company: Pillsbury A Mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota, c. 1900–1910." Image. Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 8 Feb. 2020. Accessed 18 Jun. 2020.
Additional Resources for Research
1. Anfinson, John O. “St. Anthony Falls: Timber, Flour and Electricity.” in River of History: A Historic Resources Study of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, National Park Service, November 22, 2019.
2. Carroll, Jane Lamm. “Engineering the Falls: The Corps of Engineers' Role at St. Anthony Falls.” U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Oct. 27, 2015.
3. Flour Power: The Significance of Flour Milling at the Falls (PDF). Minnesota History Magazine, Spring/Summer 2003.
4. Flour Power. Season 1: Episode 1 in “Minnesota Experience.” tpt.org, 2018.
5. Huber, Molly. “St. Anthony Falls Tunnel Collapse, October 5, 1869.” MNopedia, May 10, 2011.
6. “Minneapolis Flour Milling Boom,” Mill City Museum, Minnesota Historical Society.
7. St. Anthony Falls Heritage Board. Minnesota Historical Society. 2011.