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Collection on the Minneapolis Public Schools

Identifier: M/A 0318
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Description of Contents

The collection consists of material pertaining to the Minneapolis Public School District assembled by staff at Hennepin County Library Special Collections. The bulk of the collection contains newspaper clippings, commencement and event programs, reports written by the School District and other agencies, curriculum guides, explanatory and promotional brochures, summative school histories, handbooks, other miscellaneous print material. The collection also includes a substantial number of photographs, as well as some audio-visual material and realia pertaining to specfic schools. Much of the textual material in the collection is organized into files providing background information on specific schools and files related to subjects affecting the school district as a whole. Major topics represented in the collection include school buildings, student activities, staff, teaching, and finances.

Researchers should note that because the collection was assembled from several sources there are many chronological gaps in the material. Effort was made to highlight significant gaps, but there may be gaps within date ranges given for specific files or runs of programs and clippings.

Some material related to athletics, minorities, and desegregation is included in the collection, but researchers should also consult the Minneapolis History Collection subject files for material on these topics. The collection contains some promotional and historical material related to high school reunions, but official reunion booklets and planning documentation are not included in the collection.

The collection does not contain material related to adult education classes sponsored by the Minneapolis Public Schools. School newspapers and newsletters for which Special Collections maintains substantial holdings are not included in this collection. See the Related Materials note for a list of titles in the Minneapolis History Collection periodicals. Literary magazines and yearbooks are also not included.

Four subseries of photographs--Joseph Quigley Aerial Photographs, School Building Photographs, Construction Progress Photographs, and Equipment and Supply Photographs--were transferred to the Hennepin County Library by the Minneapolis Public Schools. These subseries include photographs from the 1880s to the 1990s, with the bulk of the images dating from the 1920s and 1930s. Most images document school buildings, and few photos of people are present. Arrangement of these photographs reflects the original order used by the Minneapolis Public Schools.


  • 1894 - 2015


Access Restrictions

The physical collection is available for use in Special Collections during the department's open hours. Photographs from this collection are available in the Minneapolis Public Schools Collection in the Hennepin County Library Digital Collections.

Use Restrictions

This material may be protected by copyright law (Title 17 U.S. Code). Please contact Hennepin County Library Special Collections at or 612-543-8200 for more information.


The Minneapolis Public Schools (later known as Special School District No. 1) were started in the 1850s, shortly after public education was established in the state of Minnesota. Schools included elementary through high school-age students, but it was not until the 1870s that Minneapolis established a formal high school curriculum. Union School was erected in 1858 and was the first high school in the city. One of the next schools to be built was Central High School in 1878. By 1900, there were 60 schools in Minneapolis serving over 36,000 students. Only five schools constructed before 1900 still stand, and only one, Pratt School, is still in use as a school. Early curriculum emphasized vocational training, especially at the high school level. Home economics, manufacturing, bookkeeping, and typing were all taught in the public school system in the early 1900s. Health education and physical education were also componenets of the curriculum.

In 1917, Franklin Junior High School, Minneapolis' first junior high school, was constructed to serve students in grades 7, 8, and 9. By 1930, enrollment in the Minneapolis Public School District had risen to 88,000 students attending at 111 schools across the city. In the 1930s, curriculum in junior and senior high schools continued to include economic and industrial arts courses, but vocational education was mostly limited to the Boys' Vocational High School and the Miller Vocational High School for girls.

After World War II, enrollment had decreased from its peak of over 90,000 in 1933, but the postwar baby boom brought another increase in enrollment. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, districtwide enrollment stayed above 70,000 students. In elementary schools, curriculum focused on reading and language skills. For students in junior high and high schools, curriculum continued to be focused on preparing for specific vocations. Students could also participate in the Common Learnings program, an elective course of study which promoted civic involvement through the study of personal and social problems.

In the 1960s, community members began urging the District to integrate minority students into majority white schools throughout the city. Before the 1970s, schools in Minneapolis did enroll both white students and minority students in the same schools, but many schools had very low minority enrollment. In 1970, the State of Minnesota required that no school could have more than thirty percent minority enrollment. This prompted over three dozen elementary schools, Folwell Junior, Nokomis Junior, Anthony Junior, Sheridan Junior, Northeast Junior, Roosevelt High, South High, Southwest High, West High, Edison High, Henry High, and Marshall-University to increase minority enrollment. However, in 1971, the State found that many schools in Minneapolis were not in compliance with its requirements and ordered the District to develop a new desegregation plan. The District's new plan aimed to change attendance patterns by pairing and combining elementary schools. The plan also reduced junior high schools to two grade levels and increased high schools to four grade levels in order to expose students to classmates from a broader attendance area earlier in their school careers. Support for school desegregation was mixed throughout the city and varied by neighborhood. Some predominantly white areas of the city had a substantial number of residents who held racist views and opposed integration. The District's desegregation plan required busing many students outside of their home neighborhood. This became a point of contention, particularly in Northeast Minneapolis, where students from North Minneapolis were to be moved to new schools.

1980s - school closings, contested five-year plan


10 Linear Feet (62 boxes)

Language of Materials



The collection is organized into the following series:

  • School Files
  • Districtwide Files
  • Curriculum Materials
  • Realia
  • Media

Donor Information

The collection was compiled by Hennepin County Library Special Collections staff over several decades. It includes several small donations of material pertaining to specific schools in addition to a larger system-side donation and clipping files from the Minneapolis History Collection. Donations included the following:

Minneapolis Public Schools, system-wide with emphasis on Holland Elementary, donated by the Minneapolis Public Schools with help from staff member Peg Carlson as accession 2016.05.

South High School material donated by South High School, 2013.

Lake Harriet School material donated by Sheri Williams of the Lake Harriet PTO, 2015.

Minneapolis High School Record of Exams book, donated by Mr. Soyett, September, 1993.

Lake Harriet School Scrapbooks donated around 2000 by Mike Miller and other Lake Harriet School LHS PTA members, following a program on Lake Harriet School given by Mike Miller and others at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Linden Hills by the Linden Hills History Study Group.

Joseph Quigley Aerial Photographs, School Building Photographs, Construction Progress Photographs, and Equipment and Supply Photographs were donated by the Minneapolis Public Schools as accession 2017.33 in September 2018.

Related Materials in Hennepin County Library Special Collections

Minneapolis History Collection subject files

Minneapolis Council of Parent-Teacher Associations Collection (M/A 0218)

Minneapolis Council of Parent-Teacher Associations: Save Our School Campaign (SOS) Collection (M/A 0232)

Lake Harriet School Collection (M/A 0239)

Betty Bridgeman Collection on the West High School Class of 1932 (M/A 0043)

Star and Tribune Newspaper Clippings Collection

School newspapers, newsletters, literary magazines, reunion booklets, and yearbooks may be found in the Minneapolis History Collection periodicals and books or the Hennepin County Yearbook Collection (

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Carissa Hansen and Bailey Diers in 2016. Additional Central High School Handbooks added in July 2019.

Collection on the Minneapolis Public Schools
Carissa Hansen and Bailey Diers
February 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.