Meridel LeSueur Recalls Swede Hollow Before Prohibition

Keg delivery wagon, Hamm’s Brewery (Photo courtesy Minnesota Historical Society)

Patrick Coleman writes: "LeSueur was perhaps Minnesota’s most famous proletarian writer, so it is not surprising that she wrote about the humble people of Saint Paul’s Swede Hollow. The following selection was written during Prohibition, ushered in by passage of the Volstead Act in 1919." Extract from Meridel LeSueur, “Beer Town,” Life in the United States: A Collection of Narratives of Contemporary American Life from First-Hand Experience or Observation (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933); pages 31–33, 40.

Great-Grandma’s Fur Coat

Mary Peck Laber in her fur coat, sometime in the 1940s (Photo: Rosemary Ruffenach)

As coats made from the pelts of animals go, the one that I inherited three years ago probably wasn’t that expensive: It isn’t mink, beaver, sable, or even fox. Rather, it’s made from the pelts of brown rabbits, dyed black. We figure it came to my Austro-Hungarian great-grandma in the 1930s; family lore has it that Great-Uncle Ted presented it as a gift to his mother. Inside, embroidered in champagne-colored thread on small slips of satin that match the lining, are her initials: M. L., for Mary (Peck) Laber. But there is a bit of mystery associated with the coat—a photo shows Grandma Laber in a dark fur that’s a slightly different style from the one I inherited.