Minneapolis Moline, Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota (1902-1962)
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|Address:||Lake and Minnehaha Street E|
|Neighborhood/s:||Longfellow, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|Hennepin County, Minnesota|
Few shoppers at the Minnehaha Mall may be aware that this site has a rich, surprising history. In 1902, the Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company had its beginnings at the very same location on Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue. It later combined with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. and the Moline Plow Co. to form Minneapolis Moline. Minneapolis Moline produced farm implements that were used all across Midwestern fields (and beyond).
The Minneapolis Moline factory visually dominated the Lake Street landscape, and served an important purpose, both for the neighborhood and the entire country, during times of need. The factory was a valuable source of income for the neighborhood’s residents, and during wartime, the factory produced shells, warheads, and jeeps. Minneapolis Moline was also the site of numerous labor struggles. One strike in 1946, resulted in a demonstration that cut off all Lake Street traffic for 45 minutes, and shut down the factory for two months.After years of prominence in the Lake Street neighborhood, the factory began a slow decline in the 1950’s, until it closed in 1962. The shopping complex that occupies the site today was built in 1975.
Industry on Lake Street
1902: Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company (MSM) is created from Twin City Iron Works and Minnesota Malleable Iron Company. It purchases a site near Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue.
1902-World War I: The company manufactures many steel products including tractors. It becomes a major source of employment for Lake Street communities and an important part of the urban landscape.
World War I and Labor Unrest
1916: Machinists go on strike at the Lake Street plant. The machinists demand an eight-hour day and better working conditions.
1917-1918: MSM production supports the war effort. It produces shells for the United States and allied countries. MSM begins to employ women in manufacturing for war production.
1918-1919: Strike talk resumes. The National War Labor Relations Board (NWLRB) intervenes in the labor disputes. It orders changes, including increased wages, overtime, equal pay for women and the rights of workers at the plant to unionize. MSM with the help of the Citizens Alliance, an organization committed to keeping Minneapolis an open (union-free) city, delays implementation. This leads to a protracted court fight that does not end until the 1940s.
1920s: MSM continues to expand its production.
The Great Depression
1929: Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Co. combines with the Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. and the Moline Plow Co. to form Minneapolis Moline, one of the largest agricultural machinery companies in the country. It offers a full line of tractors, engines and farm implements.
Great Depression: Minneapolis Moline has an important role in the Hiawatha-Lake Street neighborhood, offering jobs that support local working-class families.
1935: Minneapolis Moline signs an agreement with the AFL Machinists Local 382.
1937: Standard “U” and Standard “R” tractors are released, as part of its “Visionline” design that enabled farmers to see both sides of the tractor’s operation at once, without straining.
1938: “U de Luxe” (UDLX) Comfort-tractor released
The 1940’s and World War II
1941-1945: Minneapolis Moline continues to produce tractors and farm implements, but the factory also participates in the manufacture of shells, warheads and army tractors. It receives multiple awards from the military lauding its war-time spirit.
While army production continued steadily, farmers are encouraged to make do with farm implements they already had, and steel, rubber and gasoline all remain under strict ration.
Minneapolis Moline converts many of their commercial tractor designs for army use – often just by changing the color from “Prairie Gold” to army green.
Women join the war effort at Minneapolis Moline, participating at many levels of production. Post-war women continue to work in the factory, contributing strength, labor and ingenuity to the Minneapolis Moline production line.
1942: The first “Jeep” is produced. Possibly coined from a name of a character on Popeye cartoons, the word “Jeep” was first used when referring to any new vehicle arrived for testing in the military. As M-M begins manufacturing tractors designed for the military, the term becomes more specific.
1946: Just 5 days after the end of the war, 476 employees are fired by M-M, because management claimed that the union was orchestrating a work slow-down. Strike talk begins, led by the CIO Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers Local 1146, resulting in a 2-month strike. Labor tension continues throughout the 1940s.
Boom-Time and Slow-Down
1950s: With new emphasis on input from farmers, Minneapolis Moline releases one of the last “great lines” of tractors, the 5-Star Powerline Series.
1951: M-M merges with B.F. Avery, a farm implement manufacturing company and receives $25 million defense contract from the U.S. government
1953: Net sales topped $107 million. But the Como Avenue plant was closed and there are large employment cuts at its artillery plant.
1954: With decreased export sales, declining domestic sales, and high operating costs, sales drop to $77 million.
1956: The Lake Street plant is temporarily shut down, leaving 1,100 workers to live off their savings.
De-industrialization and the End of Minneapolis Moline
1963: Minneapolis Moline is purchased by the White Motor Company. After 10 years of decline, Minneapolis Moline is folded into the Tractor Division of White Motor Corp. for just $21 million – only $2 million more than the Moline Plow Company was worth in 1917.
1972: Lake Street plant is closed. After laying off 1,300 employees, the White Motor Corp. announces the decision to phase out production in Minneapolis. Fewer than 100 employees are offered job transfers to Charles City, Iowa. On June 6, the last Moline tractor comes off the factory line.
1973: When White Motor Corp. is unable to find a buyer for the factory, demolition teams begin tearing down the buildings.
1974: White Motor Company cuts pension payments. 1,100 employees with over 10 years of experience had been guaranteed $200-400 monthly, but would receive only $90. The case spends years back and forth in courts while former employees struggle to pay their bills.
Redevelopment of Moline Site
1975: Despite controversy, ground is broken to build Minnehaha Mall on the 26-acre former Moline site. After rezoning the land from industrial to commercial, developers begin construction of an $11 million indoor shopping complex. It includes the first Target store built within Minneapolis city limits. Some citizens wonder if it is appropriate to replace the site of one of Minneapolis’ largest employers with a “big box” store. The development has drawn shoppers and still stands on the old Moline site today.
Memories and stories
As a child I lived across from Sheltering Arms, my neighbor worked for Mpls Moline and made me a special wooden Tractor in the Moline colors. I remember the street car of 46th Avenue and walking over to the River Road and noting the WPA bridge. And when I was older, there was Bridgeman's and the Lalapalooza.