Old Images of Minneapolis, Minnesota: Historic Photos & Film

minneapolis minnesota old images

Glimpse history through fascinating old images of Minneapolis in Minnesota, USA.

Old Photos of Minneapolis

These first early photos of the city shown here are unfortunately undated in the archives.

However, we can see that cars are entirely absent, and American cities often saw these in downtown streets from the early 20th Century, so they are likely to be before 1905.

We also know that in 1889, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution to convert Fourth Avenue’s horse car line into an electric line. It success then led to the development of electric car lines in other streets, so that helps us date those photos with streetcars and rails in the roads.

Minneapolis Lumber Industry

Minnesota was covered in trees in 1849, when it became a territory. Forests, especially white and red pine forests, covered about two thirds of the state, creating plentiful supplies of large pine trees sent by water and rail to Minneapolis.

At one time, the Saint Anthony Falls powered 17 sawmills in the city.

Unfortunately, the logging industry in Minnesota was so successful, and processed such great quantities of pine, by the 1920s the amount of lumber-quality timber to be found in the state’s forests was less than could support the large-scale industry costs, such as running logging camps and the timber freight railroads.


The next two photos seem to show Minneapolis with high levels of floodwaters.

This was the land of the Dakota Sioux until arrival of the European settlers, who saw the potential for trade and later industry thanks to the water routes and hydropower sources. The city’s name in the Dakota language is Bdeóta Othúŋwe (Many Lakes City).

A sluice is a simple and effective way to provide water level control and reduce flooding risk.

Minneapolis in the 1930s

Minneapolis experienced unrest in 1934. The Truck Drivers strike turned into a general strike, a riot on May 21, and brawls between the unemployed and police. Even the women working in food and candy manufacturing were picketing.

This newsreel from 1934 features the strike riots of the truck drivers, 5,000 of whom turned out to stop food trucks driving away.

The police arrived and were given batons. If the men outnumbered the police 10 to 1, it implies there were about 500 police officers.

The resulting hand-to-hand fighting with the police led to one officer’s death and injury to scores of people. Please be aware this newsreel includes footage of some of the beatings which may be distressing.

Strike Riots In Minneapolis (1934) – British Pathé on YouTube

War Time Guns 1943

This footage is only half a minute long, but is an important reminder of the war time contribution the city made during World War II.

In a munitions factory in Minneapolis in 1943, workers were recorded mass producing big naval guns. A giant banner reminded them to “Remember Pearl Harbour”.

USA / DEFENCE: World War II: Mass production of naval guns in Minneapolis (1943) – British Pathé on YouTube

Grain Warehouse Fire 1947

This was a million dollar fire which was so hot it kept the firefighters at a distance.

Grain storage fire in Minneapolis (1947) – British Pathé on YouTube

Minneapolis in the 1960s

This promotional film highlighting some of Minneapolis’s landmarks and cultural, leisure, and sporting facilities is just three minutes long but covers a lot of ground.

Minneapolis Promotional Film (Circa 1968) – Augsburg University Archives on YouTube

Minneapolis in the 1970s

Find out how a shy 17 year old student in the 1970s accidentally captured the city’s history when he was learning how to use his photography camera.

Finding Minnesota: Capturing ‘Old Minneapolis’ – WCCO – CBS Minnesota on YouTube

Minneapolis 1994

This home movie was recorded in January 1994 by someone who was on a research tour partly financed by the Danish Lommer Grant and the Erma Foundation.

Some of the many different views of the city include the Fallon McElligott ad agency, the Minneapolis Skyway, Downtown, the snowy Mississippi river, the Northwestern National Life Building, the Hubert H.Humphrey Metrodome, and the Mall of America.

Minneapolis, January 1994 – Rasmussens Rejseliv on YouTube

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