Calumet-Hecla Mine, MichiganContinuing with excerpts from my great-grandfather David Blumenfeld's diary, which I discovered two years ago.
Travelling salesmanWhile working in St. Paul, Minnesota, David meets a travelling salesman, who tells him that the “Copper Country” is “a real paradise for tailoring trade to a willing worker.” David decides to rent an upstairs apartment in Calumet, in the Upper Michigan Peninsula, where the Calumet, Hecla, and Tomrak copper mines were then located.
CalumetBut he found [it hard] to make ends meet, as the inhabitants were mostly Italians and Finnish people and very clannish. He found the country overrun with solicitors [peddlers] from the larger cities in every kind of work, soliciting from house to house for the little that was there. Food was very costly, for nothing grew there. Everything had to be shipped in from the Twin Cities [Minneapolis/St. Paul].
Saloon in the mining community of Red Jacket, CalumetDavid became disillusioned. The house-to-house begging [for tailoring work] and delivering work, the heavy cold, deep snowdrifts –- all these had put a crimp in his ambition.
One day a medical student from Bombay appears at the door and asks for room and board. He is selling maps in the area to pay his way. The family takes him in for a few weeks to add to their meager income. Despite the disappointing results of the last advice David took from a stranger, he is desperate enough to be convinced by the man to
[take] up the map selling business and ...set aside his tailoring ways. The Hindu then taught David the game for a few days, showed him how it worked, and departed.
The first three months things were fairly good. ...But after four months David came up against stiff competition as newspapers began to give away maps as subscription premiums. The driving and jumping about among the farmers in the rural section, the irregular meals, loss of sleep, and the like soon began to tell on David’s health and he came home sick physically and despondent mentally over the entire Copper Country venture. He said it seemed that luck had deserted him, that if he tried to sell coffins people would stop dying!
David continues to keep “networking” and casting about for new possibilities.
One morning in July, 1902, Mr. Charleston, a friend of David’s, told him that he had located in Hopkins, Minnesota, and advised him to go and try in South St. Paul, as it was only 18 miles distance from Minneapolis. [As the name implies, this town is south of the city of St. Paul proper, where they had settled not long before.] He suggested that David start there from the bottom up and grow along with the community, as that town had a good future, being in the early stage of development as a meat-packing town.
Hopkins, Minnesota, 1898Ever doggedly optimistic, David and Lena decide to check out South St. Paul...
To be continued…
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