Minnesota's One-Armed Governor Once Fought the Editor of the Pioneer Press

Lind (bottom row, second from the left) hosting friends at his Minneapolis home

Lind (bottom row, second from the left) hosting friends at his Minneapolis home

John Lind became Minnesota's first progressive, Democrat governor in 39 years when he was elected to a two-year term in 1899, and the Republican-leaning press spared no opportunity to savage him.

Of all of the attacks he endured, Lind, who lost part of his left arm in a farm accident when he was 13, was most upset over a St. Paul Dispatch* editorial cartoon published a few months before he lost his reelection bid. The cartoon implied Lind was a traitor -- a charge he had zero tolerance for.

See also: Minnesotans Seem to Like Their Governors Young

"I will whip any d--d [damned?] man who calls me a traitor," Lind told the Minneapolis Journal on Jan. 10, 1901. "When one becomes so effeminate he will not fight when called a traitor it is time for him to sell up and get out."

Lind lost his 1901 reelection bid (governors had two-year terms back then) and was officially relieved of his gubernatorial duties at noon on Jan. 9, 1901. By 2 p.m. that day he was in the St. Paul Dispatch's office, demanding a retraction from its editor, Harry T. Black.

Black refused, so Lind punched him square in the face.


"His blow wasn't as hard as a horse would kick, but it stung a bit," wrote the St. Paul Globe, in an article entitled "Wiped Out an Old Score. "Another pass was made and then the newspaper man closed in on the governor, and they did a shuffle around the room."

Although Lind singled out editor Black, he was the constantly belittled by a number of different newspapers during his term.

"[At the time] newspapers were super gossipy and I recall at least a few MN newspapers that outright mocked Lind's injury, which probably irritated him," wrote Joshua Preston, an author and research fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine, in an email to City Pages. Preston published an in-depth article on Lind's life last November.

"One source had a joke that went something like this: "What a poor guy -- even his good shoulder has a chip on it," wrote Preston.

Black kept trolling Lind after the incident. Here's Black's account of the fight, as told to the Minneapolis Journal:

"Mr. Lind came in here, talked a few minutes and then reached over and struck me with a ring, I believe. What could a man do under the circumstances other than eject the aggressor from his office? That is what I did. Mr. Lind is not a man with whom a satisfactory fight is possible."

Lind had a remarkable political career despite spending only two years as governor. He served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was known as an outspoken progressive without a real allegiance to any party.

He famously called himself a "political orphan" after leaving the Republican Party and winning the 1899 governor's race with support from a weird faction of Democrats, Populists, and "Silver Republicans," who had split from the Republican Party over economic issues.

Lind is celebrated for championing the eight-hour workday, direct election of state officials, and a more equitable tax burden. He also wasn't afraid to throw down with anyone who called him a traitor. Even Jesse "The Body" Ventura never did that.

* The St. Paul Dispatch merged with the Pioneer Press in 1985

h/t @tptAlmanac and the very helpful librarians at the Minnesota Historical Society

Send story tips to Ben Johnson.