Victor L. Power
The main question that springs to mind about Hibbing is why -- unlike mining towns around the world -- this town was so prosperous with investment in buildings, facilities and education on a lavish, staggering scale.
Socialist and Communist ideas were widespread in the region especially in the Finnish and Jewish communities. Mining company officials and local politicians knew the most prosperous way forward was to provide the best of everything for the community and all workers, opportunities for children and a range of entertainment.
The best known of the political figures is Vic Power. The tax arrangements he negotiated, with the help of others, are remarkable, no one ever got more out of mining companies for a local community.
Vic Power was a local businessman, a lawyer and ten time mayor of Hibbing. He was a firm defender of labour issues which included supporting the 1916 miners' strike. "The men are justified in shedding blood when they are interfered with in the exercise of their natural rights," said Mayor Power in defence of the pickets. "The mining companies are asking protection for their men, but the only ones injured so far have been the strikers."
"The Men Who Are At The Head
Two men in Hibbing tower head and shoulders above everybody else. They are Michael Godfrey, superintendent of the Oliver mining Company -- and everybody calls him “Mike” --and Victor L. Power, the mayor -- everybody calls him “Vic.”
Mr. Godfrey came to Hibbing to represent the United States Steel Corporation, as superintendent of the Oliver Mining Company, when the village was engaged in its tax war with the mining companies. Heading the steel corporation’s side of the case -- and the steel corporation, controlling the biggest mines in the vicinity, was the chief “enemy” -- he helped to bring about a settlement that satisfied both the mining companies and the townspeople. The people of Hibbing have been “strong for Mike” ever since.
Mr. Power is a former miner, having started his career at the bottom as a helper. He worked his way up, got an education, and became a lawyer. Now he has headed the Hibbing administration for seven consecutive terms. Hibbing has the village form of government, and his position technically is that of president of the village council. “Vic” Power has superintended the spending of Hibbing’s $2,300,000 a year since he and “Mike” Godfrey, with the aid of their respective followers, reached a settlement."
-- Delmarvia Star, 2 October 1921, page 16.
President Truman and his wife, Bess, arriving in Hibbing, 1952.
Did you ever have the standard boyhood dream of growing up to be President?
DYLAN: No. When I was a boy, Harry Truman was President; who'd want to be Harry Truman?
-- Playboy, 1966.
The Finnish Workers’ Hall
Lincoln Street, Hibbing, MN 55746.
This socialist club for stage plays, dances and other social events would have been familiar, but was this use of the American flag in anyone's mind's eye when the backdrop for Paris 1966 was planned?
"Dylan’s 1966 performance in Paris at which he draped a U.S flag on the stage for the second half of the concert eliciting ”U.S. go home!” jeers from the French audience: … the curtains part, and there they see to their horror, attached to the backdrop, the emblem of everything they are coming to hate, the emblem of napalm and Coca-Cola and white racism and colonialism and imagination’s death. It is a huge fifty-star American flag. And Bob Dylan, the emblem of American rebellion and imagination’s rebirth, has hoisted it aloft." -- Wilentz, Sean. Bob Dylan in America. New York: Doubleday, 2010, 9780385529884, page 261.
The Finnish Socialist Federation was founded in Hibbing. A number of Hibbing Finns received a Marxist education at the Work Peoples' College in Duluth. So while many who are interested in Bob Dylan's work have acknowledged the Jewish intellectuals in Hibbing discussing socialism as world events unfolded, our hero also will have known many Finnish socialist radicals and their children in his youth. The strike of 1907, co-operative stores and boarding houses (providing competition to company stores and businesses) with an officially Communist purchasing organisation until 1930, the moving of the town, the German concentration camps, many topics over time in a politically lively atmosphere...
In its early years, the co-operative movement was unabashedly Communist, as a glance at the goods lining the shelves showed: They had the red star, the blue star, and the yellow star and all of them had a sickle and hammer. The Central Cooperative Exchange truck had a big sickle and hammer on the side of the truck. This was when the co-op movement was most successful. It created unity. It wasn't only to get a can of beans.
It may be surprising to think now but there was more prejudice against Finns in Hibbing than there was against Jews... The derogatory term for a Finn was a "China Swede" and Finns were considered by racists to be Asians related to Mongols. Racists made a case for Finns to be excluded under the Asian Exclusion Act! (Public Law 68-139, 43 Statute at Large 153, enacted May 26, 1924.) And bear in mind Americans enjoyed lynching Finns every bit as much as lynching African Americans, the Finns just never made it onto the postcards... Olli Kinkonnen springs to mind. He was a pacifist opposed to war and killing, not a wise thing to be in America then or now.
Red Star Coffee
Close up of an actual tin, rather than a stage set.
The Red Star Chorus girls pose for a photograph. The women wear flour sacks with the words "Operator's Best Flour" printed on the front. The flour is produced by the Central Cooperative Wholesale mill.
A Communist approach with an American twist.
Hibbing election cartoon
Hibbing Tribune displays the dangers for all to see...
Engel, Dave. Dylan in Minnesota: Just Like Bob Zimmerman's Blues. Rudolph: River City Memoirs-Mesabi, 1997, 0942495616, page 190.