Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

25 Warm (and Welcoming) Facts About Minnesota

Chloe Effron
Chloe Effron

Minnesota is known for its polite residents, cold winters, and thousands of sparkling lakes. Here are 25 fascinating facts about America’s northernmost mainland state

1. Minnesota gets its name from the Minnesota River. The word “Minnesota” is an Anglicized form of the Sioux Indian word “Minisota,” which means “sky tinted” or “cloudy water.” 

2. While Minnesota is famous for its dense forests and plentiful bodies of water, it’s also home to two neighboring metropolitan centers: Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Minneapolis is the larger city, with a skyscraper-filled downtown. Meanwhile, Saint Paul is the state’s capital, and boasts old Victorian houses and stately civic architecture. 

3. Speaking of the Twin Cities, the area is home to one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 Companies in the country, including Target, Best Buy, General Mills, and Land O’Lakes.

4. Bob Dylan, Prince, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, and countless other famous musical acts hail from Minnesota.


5. Former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura served as Minnesota’s 38th governor from 1999 to 2003.

6. With 4.3 miles of total store front footage, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota is the biggest mall in the country 

7. Minnesota has a proud literary history. Sinclair Lewis, Tim O’Brien, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Garrison Keillor, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Neil Gaiman are just a sampling of writers who were born or have lived in the state. 

8. The mighty Mississippi has humble roots: It begins in Lake Itasca, a small body of water in Northern Minnesota that’s less than two square miles in area. 

9. Then-Vice President Theodore Roosevelt gave his now-famous “Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick” speech at the 1901 Minnesota State Fair

10. Long before it aired on Comedy Central and the Sci-Fi Channel, cult TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000 premiered on Minneapolis public access television in the late 1980s. 

11. In 1876, notorious outlaw Jesse James and his gang were thwarted from robbing a bank in Northfield, Minnesota. Several members of his posse were captured and killed, and in subsequent years the group slowly dissolved before Robert Ford finally assassinated Jesse James in 1882. Each September, the town celebrates the historic event in a five-day celebration called The Defeat of Jesse James Days. The showdown was also immortalized in films like The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972) and The Long Riders (1980).

12. The world’s biggest ball of twine made by one person sits in Darwin, Minnesota. Each August, Darwin holds a “Twine Ball Day" to celebrate the 17,400-pound creation. Weird Al also immortalized Darwin’s twine ball in his 1989 song “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota.”

13. Northern Minnesota was once the nation’s richest source of iron ore. Today, the area is home to one of the world’s largest open pit mines, the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine in Hibbing, Minnesota. 

14. Minnesota’s state bird is the loon, its state flower is the pink and white ladyslipper, and its state motto is "L'Etoile du nord," which is French for “The Star of the North.” 

15. Although Minnesota is known for its Scandinavian and Germanic heritage, Minneapolis and Saint Paul are also home to the country’s largest Hmong and Somali populations. 

16. Aside from The Mighty Ducks franchise, many other films have been filmed in Minnesota, including Purple Rain (1984), Jingle All the Way (1996), Grumpy Old Men (1993) and much of the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre. 

17. Meanwhile, famous show biz figures like Judy Garland, Terry Gilliam, Chris Pratt, and Winona Ryder were all born in Minnesota. (Ryder is actually named after the town of Winona, Minnesota.)  

18. Die-hard hockey fans can pay a visit to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame Museum, which is located in Eveleth, Minnesota.

19. With more miles of bike trails than any other state, Minnesota is a cyclist’s paradise. 

20. Nicknames for Minnesota include The Gopher State, the North Star State, the Bread and Butter State, and the Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

21. Speaking of “Land of 10,000 Lakes,“ this nickname is misleading, as the state technically has more than 11,000 lakes

22. Believe it or not, SPAM isn’t manufactured in Hawaii. Hormel Foods Corporation, which is based in Austin, Minnesota, makes the popular canned meat product. Austin is also home to the Spam Museum, which has dubbed itself “the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts.” 

23. According to a analysis, Minneapolis is the coldest major city in America, based on 30-year average temperatures from the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center during December, January, and February. On average, the city experiences 23 to 25 subzero cold days each year. 

24. When Minnesotans refer to mosquitos as their “unofficial state bird,” they’re only being half-sarcastic. The state is home to more than 50 different mosquito species—meaning you should pack plenty of bug spray before going camping or canoeing in one of its many state parks. 

25. Scotch tape, the bundt pan, rollerblades, Milky Way candy bars, and the world’s first practical pair of water skis were all invented in Minnesota. 

getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards' near-90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. BEST ACTOR // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (female writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), and Beery won for The Champ, which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.


By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. BEST ACTRESS // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.


The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.


More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars Richard E. Grant (Girls, Withnail & I) as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.


The latest Oscar tie happened only three years ago, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg said to the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

11 Haunting Facts About Beloved

Toni Morrison—who was born on February 18, 1931—made a name for herself with The Bluest Eye, Sula and Song of Solomon, but it wasn’t until 1987’s Beloved, about a runaway slave haunted by the death of her infant daughter, that her legacy was secured. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and was a key factor in the decision to award Morrison the Nobel Prize in 1993. All the awards aside, Beloved is a testament to the horrors of slavery, with its narrative of suffering and repressed memory and its dedication to the more than 60 million who died in bondage. Here are some notable facts about Morrison’s process and the novel’s legacy.


While compiling research for 1974's The Black Book, Morrison came across the story of Margaret Garner, a runaway slave from Kentucky who escaped with her husband and four children to Ohio in 1856. A posse caught up with Garner, who killed her youngest daughter and attempted to do the same to her other children rather than let them return to bondage. Once apprehended, her trial transfixed the nation. "She was very calm; she said, 'I’d do it again,'" Morrison told The Paris Review. "That was more than enough to fire my imagination."


The book was originally going to be about the haunting of Sethe by her infant daughter, who she killed (just as Garner did) rather than allow her to return to slavery. A third of the way through writing, though, Morrison realized she needed a flesh-and-blood character who could judge Sethe’s decision. She needed the daughter to come back to life in another form (some interpret it as a grief-driven case of mistaken identity). As she told the National Endowment for the Arts’ NEA Magazine: "I thought the only person who was legitimate, who could decide whether [the killing] was a good thing or not, was the dead girl."


Morrison has said she likes to know the ending of her books early on, and to write them down once she does. With Beloved, she wrote the ending about a quarter of the way in. "You are forced into having a certain kind of language that will keep the reader asking questions," she told author Carolyn Denard in Toni Morrison: Conversations.


To help readers understand the particulars of slavery, Morrison carefully researched historical documents and artifacts. One particular item she became fascinated with: the "bit" that masters would put in slaves' mouths as punishment. She couldn’t find much in the way of pictures or descriptions, but she found enough to imagine the shame slaves would feel. In Beloved, Paul D. tells Sethe that a rooster smiled at him while he wore the bit, indicating that he felt lower than a barnyard animal.


In an appearance on The Colbert Report last year, Morrison said she finally got around to reading Beloved after almost 30 years. Her verdict: "It’s really good!"


When accepting an award from the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1988, Morrison observed that there is no suitable memorial to slavery, "no small bench by the road." Inspired by this line, the Toni Morrison Society started the Bench by the Road Project to remedy the issue. Since 2006, the project has placed 15 benches in locations significant to the history of slavery and the Civil Rights movement, including Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, which served as the point of entry for 40% of slaves brought to America.


After the snub, 48 African-American writers, including Maya Angelou, John Edgar Wideman and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., signed a letter that appeared in the New York Times Book Review. "For all of America, for all of American letters," the letter addressing Morrison read, "you have advanced the moral and artistic standards by which we must measure the daring and the love of our national imagination and our collective intelligence as a people."


Between 2000 and 2009, Beloved ranked 26th on the American Library Association’s list of most banned/challenged books. A recent challenge in Fairfax County, Virginia, cited the novel as too intense for teenage readers, while another challenge in Michigan said the book was, incredibly, overly simplistic and pornographic. Thankfully, both challenges were denied.


Ten years ago, Morrison collaborated with Grammy-winning composer Richard Danielpour on Margaret Garner, an opera about the real-life inspiration behind Beloved. It opened in Detroit in 2005, and played in Charlotte, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York before closing in 2008.


Although she publicly claims otherwise, according to a New York magazine story, Morrison told friends she didn’t want Beloved made into a movie. And she didn’t want Oprah Winfrey (who bought the film rights in 1988) to be in it. Nevertheless, the film came out in 1998 and was a total flop.


The Folio Society, a London-based company that creates fancy special editions of classic books, released the first-ever illustrated Beloved in 2015. Artist Joe Morse had to be personally approved by Morrison for the project. Check out a few of his hauntingly beautiful illustrations here.

This article originally appeared in 2015.


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