World War II to the Present
It was only natural that the Farmer-Labor Party and the Democrats would merge. Though politicians had promoted the union for many years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party was officially forged in 1944. Soon DFLers like Hubert H. Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, and Walter Mondale took to the national stage.
While DFL politicians have spent more time in the spotlight and the party has been in control more often than not from the 1950s on, power in both St. Paul and Washington has seesawed between the Democrats and Republicans.
World War II led to record iron production in Minnesota’s mines, but at the same time it became clear that the high-grade iron ore was running out. In response, the state invested heavily with research funding and tax breaks to encourage mining companies to begin extracting iron from abundant low-grade taconite (a low-grade iron-bearing rock).
Engineers had been trying for decades to develop a cost-effective process to extract the iron from the solid rock, and, thanks to generous state funding, Dr. E. W. Davis at the University of Minnesota School of Mines perfected one. The world’s first taconite plant opened at Silver Bay in 1956, and a decade later taconite production exceeded regular ore—the last direct ore shipment left the Mesabi Range in 1984.
The war not only stimulated the iron industry, but it also spurred Minnesota’s industrial sector (led by companies like 3M, Honeywell, and Medtronic), and by 1948 manufactured goods exceeded the value of farm products for the first time. Though agriculture remains vital, the resulting diversification distinguishes the state’s economy today.
In 1973 Time magazine put Governor Wendell Anderson on the cover and proclaimed “Minnesota: A State That Works,” lauding Minnesota for doing just about everything right. The overall solid economy of the past half-century has made Minnesota the fastest-growing state in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the country.
Two of the most remarkable events of Minnesota’s 20th century came right at the end. The Mall of America opened in 1992 and proved doubters wrong by thriving. And, in a scenario so unlikely that the writers for the WWE wouldn’t have dreamed it up, former professional wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura was elected governor in 1998.
© Tim Bewer from Moon Minnesota, 3rd Edition