Despite being dubbed “flyover country” by the coasties, who primarily experience the central United States from the comfort of their transcontinental flights thousands of feet in the air, the Midwest is a surprisingly rich and diverse region.
Today, let’s take a closer look at the Midwestern state of Minnesota by diving into several “firsts” that can be credited to the North Star State. By the end of this short venture into the Land of 10,000 Lakes, you will hopefully have a new top destination for your next international excursion.
To get to Minnesota, you’re more than likely going to hop on a passenger plane. Surprisingly enough, the first closed-cabin commercial passenger flight offered in America took a whopping three passengers on a twelve-and-a-half-hour flight from St. Paul, Minnesota to Chicago, Illinois (a route that takes about 90 minutes today), stopping three times along the way. Prior to closed-cabin planes, flying was loud, cold, and uncomfortable. Quite a different experience than what we have access to today! Since tickets were made available on the first passenger flight almost 100 years ago in 1927, the global number of daily commercial flights has skyrocketed to over 100,000.
If you have ever visited a climate-controlled indoor shopping mall, you can thank—you guessed it!—the blistering cold state of Minnesota. Inspired by European city centers, Victor Gruen designed the Southdale Shopping Center in Edina, Minnesota to create a community space for commerce, leisure, and socializing. When the first shopping mall in the US opened in 1956, it housed more than 70 stores, in addition to two massive department stores to draw customers in. The indoor shopping center model conceived in Minnesota has been imitated and iterated upon globally, creating comfortable spaces to spend time with friends and family.
The origins of the handled paper shopping bag can also be traced back to Minnesota. In 1912, Walter Deubener patented his design (a continuous loop of string running under the bottom of a paper bag) to increase the carrying capacity of the customers that came to his grocery store. This design, like the indoor shopping mall, has been modernized and simplified, though its original design is not far off from the paper bags we use to this day.
Leaders in Invention…
Many other creations that we use on a daily basis can also be traced to Minnesota: the pop-up toaster, masking and cellophane tape, re-stickable note sheets, the refrigerated shipping truck, shelf-stable cake mix, and a certain brand of canned pork often used in Okinawan musubi.
But Minnesota’s most famous hub of innovation is probably the Mayo Clinic, located in Rochester, about an hour south of the Twin Cities. Often ranked the number one hospital in the nation, as well as leading the rankings for fourteen different types of care, the Mayo Clinic is a non-profit hospital well-known for specializing in treating rare and difficult medical cases. The three campuses in the US additionally spend over 600 million dollars a year on research, in constant pursuit of improving clinical practices and understanding the diseases that affect the human population.
Yet another Minnesota “first” was in the realm of international relations: The first sister-city relationship formed between a US city and a city in Asia was made in 1955 between Nagasaki, Japan and St. Paul, Minnesota. This relationship has proven to be more than just symbolic. The Ordway Japanese Garden in St. Paul was designed by the late Masami Matsuda. Matsuda blended his knowledge of traditional Japanese style with plants native to Minnesota to create a uniquely beautiful natural space that would not exist without international collaboration. The two cities also exchanged cherry and maple trees to root their established connection.
Nagasaki and St. Paul have also held, and continue to hold, events to educate and connect the two communities. Children’s and semi-professional baseball teams, tennis players, runners, orchestras, dance troupes, and the mayors themselves are just the beginning of the list of groups and individuals that have crossed the sea to bring the two distant cities closer together.
Since the formation of the first relationship, Japan and the US have continued to form additional sister cities to create and foster opportunities for exchange, resulting in more than 440 sister-city relationships between the two countries.
Innovation and invention have been consistently present throughout Minnesota’s history, and Minnesotans continue to foster clever minds through their support of the robust private university culture that is prevalent across the state. These schools offer a liberal arts educational experience to their student population. Of course, if a small, private school isn’t your preferred option, the University of Minnesota (ranked #26 public school by US News) is located in the heart of the Twin Cities.
If you want to learn more about studying abroad, make an appointment with one of YGC’s advisors by calling 03-3379-7771.