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panorama map of St. Paul with the river in the foreground
St. Paul, Minnesota,, c1906.

As Seen in the Appeal – St. Paul’s African American Business Community

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While doing research in Chronicling America, I ran across an edition of Saint Paul, Minnesota’s Appeal from September 24, 1910. The Western Appeal and the Appeal were noted African-American weekly newspapers published in St. Paul that covered news but also provided a way for African American businesses to advertise in the St. Paul area.

The publication was celebrating their quarto-centennial (25th) anniversary and along with this souvenir edition, the paper held a celebration at the Junior Pioneer Hall that featured a number of speeches and musical performances. While the front page displayed a few advertisements from some of the local business, for me, the many photographs were more interesting, because they gave life to people and places.

Portrait photo of a man in a suit coat and tie looking directly ahead.
George P. Lowe, September 24, 1910.
Photograph of a shop with picture frames of different shapes and sizes hanging on the wall from the floor to the ceiling.
Lowe Picture Frame Co, September 24, 1910 .

The photographs were of prominent African Americans in the community, from lawyers like F. L. McGhee and W.R. Morris, to Rev. M. W. Whither, pastor of the Zion Baptist Church. It also featured local businessmen like George B. Lowe, owner of the Lowe Picture Frame Company, and J. H. Dillingham, owner of the People’s Barber Shop.

There were a few other photographs, such as interior images of the barbershop on E. 5th Street, the Little Savoy Café on E. 3rd, and the Dublin Inn on Minnesota Street. There were also a few exterior shots of tailor C. A. Smith shop on E. 8th Street, the stores/residences of W. B. Elliott and B. R. Durant, and the Pekin Hotel on E. 7th.

A line of barber shop chairs with clients in the seats and barbers standing behind their clients.
TW.J. Utley’s barbershop, September 24, 1910.
Man standing outside of a store front with store name C.A. Smith Tailor. The left window says Repairing, and the right window says Pressing.
Shop of C.A. Smith., September 24, 1910.

The photographs and advertisements in this issue can only provide a small window into the African American community of St. Paul, but more information can be found by looking at articles and advertisements in other issues of the Appeal.  Since Chronicling America has issues from 1889-1922 I decided to look at other issues to see what else I could find. The souvenir edition featured an image of the interior of H. I. Williams’ dentist office but an edition in 1915 included an advertisement. I also found a 1910 piece about the Silver Grill on 138 E. 3rd owned by L. J. Thompson that included his photo as well as a list of the foods served. Advertisements from 1922 advertised the Walker Williams’ club while a 1914 issue had a picture of the inside.

For those doing historical research on African American-owned businesses, there are good general statistical sources I wrote about in an earlier post, but finding resources that look more specifically at St. Paul (and Minneapolis) requires looking at local/state or national directories, state and Census-related data, and even resources that aren’t ostensibly business – like The Scott Collection : Minnesota’s Black Community in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. For good visual perspective, the Library also has the digitized Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Minneapolis in Hennepin County (1885, 1912) and St. Paul in Ramsey County (1885/88, 1903/04).


  1. Great story

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