Work History

Each winter, I get a case of history fever. Its cause is unknown (the death of the old year?) and its duration is fleeting (by spring, I’ll have moved on to lawn care or butter-sculpting). But the symptoms are acute: Books pile up on the end tables that flank the sofa; maps and atlases creep across our dining-room table; and DVDs with such riveting titles as Eleanor Roosevelt: A Restless Spirit arrive in the mail from Netflix. For much of December, January, and February, I’ve got my nose in a book, consumed by a hot interest in ancient religions, the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the salt trade, the rise of photography, or the Golden Age of candy bars.

Lately, I’ve been immersed in Minnesota’s early history. As you might expect, it’s a story dominated by men with money and muttonchops, but as I’ve learned more about the industrial engines that built our state—logging, mining, milling—I’ve become increasingly interested in the people who are mentioned only by occupation: the cruisers and hook tenders, brass pounders and crumb bosses, tatters and wainwrights, fishmongers, milkmaids, cub pilots, and chimney sweeps. Some of these people saw their profession take form and vanish within the same decade, as trains overtook steamers and telephones overtook telegraphs.

The mutating nature of labor was on my mind as we finished this month’s cover story about “Hot Jobs ” (page 56). The industries that fueled Minnesota’s growth a century or even a decade ago have changed significantly. Wainwrights and milkmaids looking for a new career would be wise to note the forces shaping tomorrow’s job market: demographic shifts (an aging population), environmental trends (interest in alternative energy), and an ongoing demand for essential goods (food products) and services (healthcare). Happily, Minnesota is home to companies in all these burgeoning fields—and smart job-seekers would be wise to read the “Hot Jobs” story, produced by writers Erin Peterson and Andy Steiner.

Meantime, I figure if magazine publishing goes the way of steamboating, I can always get a job in history. It’s made fresh, every day, right?


If the illustrations that accompany our story “New Year, New You” (page 68) look familiar, it’s probably because the Philadelphia artist behind them, Jude Buffum, has contributed to the magazine before: His work appeared in a 2008 piece about Minnesota’s future. Buffum, who illustrated the best-selling book The Baby Owner’s Manual, has also worked for such clients as GQ, Entertainment Weekly, and Newsweek.

Former Minnesota Monthly style editor Elizabeth Dehn returns to our pages this month after an arduous trek through the Twin Cities spa world. Her piece on new treatments “New Year, New You” (page 68) offers ideas for rejuvenation and refreshment—two things that often seem in short supply during a Minnesota winter. Dehn is also the lip-gloss-loving writer and editor behind the blog

If you’ve logged on to recently, you’ve seen some of the contributions of the newest member of Minnesota Monthly’s editorial team, Ellen Burkhardt. A Burnsville native and graduate of the University of Minnesota’s School for Journalism and Mass Communication, Burkhardt enjoys theater and jazz, not to mention crossword puzzles, coffee, cooking, and yoga. She joined the magazine’s staff in early November.

Joel Hoekstra writes frequently about design and architecture for Midwest Home and has contributed to a wide range of publications, including This Old House, Metropolis, ASID Icon and Architecture Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis in a 1906 Dutch Colonial that is overdue for a full remodel—or at least a coat of fresh paint.