Table of contents for One day for democracy : Independence Day and the americanization of Iron Range immigrants / Mary Lou Nemanic.

Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog.

Note: Contents data are machine generated based on pre-publication provided by the publisher. Contents may have variations from the printed book or be incomplete or contain other coding.

List of Illustrations	000
Preface			000
Introduction	"Toivo's Airbus, 1992"	1
Chapter 1	Early Fourth of July Celebrations: From Rites of Resistance to Celebrations of 
American Nationalism	000
Chapter 2	The Frontier Period: Celebrations of Diversity in an Isolated Wilderness Region, 
1892/1905	000
Chapter 3	One Day for Democracy: Independence Day as a Festival of Freedom in an Era of 
Labor Oppression, 1906/24	000
Chapter 4	The Great Depression: Hard Times, the New Deal, and a New Nationalism, 1925/41	000
Chapter 5	The Queens of the Fourth of July: Mass Culture Comes to the Iron Range, 1941/92	000
Epilogue	Looking into the Twenty-first Century	000
Notes			000
Bibliography		000
Index			000
The Minnesota Iron Range 	frontispiece <designer: if this placement seems appropriate>
Following page 000
1	Toivo's Airbus group in Aurora, 1992
2	"We Found Freedom," 1996
3	Mr. American and the Ethnics, 1992
4	"Stewardess" from Toivo's Airbus, 1992
5	Eveleth Clown Band, 1992
6	Biwabik Clown Band, 1992
7	Toivo's Homeland Security float, Aurora, 2003
8	Toivo's Homeland Security Jeep, 2003
0.1	Mountain Iron, July 4, 1914	000
1.1	Declaration of Independence	000
1.2	Woman with fashionably high hairdo, 1776	000
1.3	"Raising the Liberty Pole," 1876 engraving	000
2.1	Merritt, 1892	000
2.2	Canton location, 1895	000
2.3	Early Iron Range location	000
2.4	Parade on Ely's main street, July 4, 1891	000
2.5	July Fourth "squaw" race in Ely, 1891	000
2.6	Native American powwow, Ely, 1891	000
2.7	Extracts from Ely Times and Ely Iron Home, 1891	000
2.8	Program from Duluth News Tribune, 1895	000
2.9	Sparta clown band, 1902	000
3.1	Extract from Biwabik Times, 1915	000
3.2	IWW march, Hibbing, 1916	000
3.3	Advertisement from Duluth News Tribune, 1900	000
3.4	Logrolling, Coleraine, 1910	000
3.5	Tug-of-war, Cuyuna Range, circa 1900	000
3.6	Races on Main Street, possibly Ely or Sparta, circa 1900	000
3.7	"Light of Education" float, Ely, 1914	000
3.8	Boy on rocket, Hibbing Daily News, 1923	000
4.1	Drugstore magazine rack, Cook, 1937	000
4.2	Woman with milk can, Aitkin County, 1939	000
4.3	Creamery owner, Coleraine, 1939	000
4.4	Extracts from Gilbert Herald, 1932	000
4.5	Fireworks advertisement, 1937	000
4.6	Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine pit, 1939	000
5.1	Mayor Frank Bolka and Miss Taconite I, 1952	000
5.2	Miss Taconite II and Miss Taconite III	000
5.3	McKinley firefighters, Aurora, 1978	000
5.4	Eveleth Fourth of July schedule, 1947	000
5.5	Miss Biwabik advertisement, 1954	000
5.6	Stanley "Pye" Sherek, circa 1950s	000
5.7	"He who drinks . . . ," Aurora, 1978	000
5.8	Welcome notice, Biwabik celebration, 1968	000
5.9	Biwabik Fourth of July schedule, 1966	000
5.10	Men's bathing beauty contestant, 1984	000
	When I was growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, during the 1950s, the Fourth of July was a 
big holiday. I looked forward to the constant popping of firecrackers, the family picnics, the 
parades, the fireworks, and the pungent smells of the big bright red railroad flares, burning into the 
night. As I reached adolescence, the Fourth was becoming a memory as St. Paul and many other 
towns and cities across America stopped holding public celebrations. Citywide celebrations cost too 
much and required too much volunteer time. The Fourth was becoming just another day off from 
work instead of a celebration of our nation's birthday. What happened? Where did all the fun go, 
and why didn't people seem to look forward to Independence Day any more?
	Not until 1978, when I was working as a documentary photographer, did I again find the 
Fourth of July. That year I traveled from the Twin Cities 250 miles north to Aurora, the hometown 
of my husband, Doug. There, in a small town in the multiethnic mining region called the Iron 
Range, I learned that Independence Day was not only alive and well but absolutely festive! I was 
amazed at how important this holiday was to the life of a town of less than two thousand as well as 
to many of the other small towns scattered throughout this mining region.
	Although Aurora and several other Range towns had parades, athletic events, games, and 
fireworks similar to what St. Paul used to have, things were definitely different on the Iron Range. 
There, big hairy men prancing around in tutus and silly floats that poked fun at social situations had 
me wondering what this had to do with Independence Day. On the morning of parade day in 
Aurora, a town of about 1,500, people waited, jammed together along the sidewalks of the short 
Main Street; some set up their lawn chairs, and others used blankets and rugs to stake out their 
places hours in advance. Iron Rangers from tots to senior citizens gathered together to kick off the 
Fourth. The street buzzed with excitement as people chattered away before the start of the big event. 
When the color guard appeared carrying the flag, the people became silent and rose to attention. 
They had seen this before, some of them eighty or more times, but they reacted as if it were new.
	Later in the day, the three blocks of Main Street's sidewalks were dotted with large and 
small clusters of people. Sometimes the groups spilled out onto the middle of Main 
Street; ignoring the accommodating traffic as it moved slowly around them. Aurora's sidewalks 
were lined with vendors' stands that were swarmed with young and old buying corn-on-the-cob on 
sticks, Polish sausage, burgers, and porketta sandwiches.1 Everywhere the town was alive with 
talking, drinking, eating, and loud, sustained laughter. The bars were packed like sardine cans, but 
the people inside were enjoying each other's company so much that no one complained; they just 
doubled or tripled their drink orders. I was amazed at how many people had come home to the 
Range for the Fourth; some traveled hundreds, even thousands, of miles to celebrate the holiday 
with relatives and friends or to attend all-family and all-class reunions.
	What was most intriguing to me was that the Fourth of July remained so important to 
community life in this region of northeastern Minnesota. It was fascinating that the holiday was so 
big here and so engaging to this entire town, when only 250 miles to the south, one might have no 
idea it was Independence Day.2
	Throughout the 1980s, Doug and I continued to document Iron Range life, especially 
Independence Day. Over the years, we traveled more than 50,000 miles of back roads while 
researching and documenting all three iron ranges. Eventually we created a collection of 35,000 
photographs, along with old photographs, hundreds of feet of 16 mm film, several hours of 
videotape, and about forty hours of oral histories. Although we officially completed our Iron Range 
documentation project in 1987, we were not finished for long. Returning to the University of 
Minnesota for a doctorate in American studies, I decided that my dissertation would be the cultural 
history of Independence Day and its relationship to the Minnesota Iron Range. Over four years, I 
traveled back and forth from the Twin Cities to the Iron Range, often staying with my father-in-law, 
Frank Nemanic.
	Pa was born on the Range in 1910 and had an amazing memory.3 His historical 
recollections, his involvement in organized labor, his knowledge of the mines, his work on Fourth of 
July committees, and his love for the Iron Range people and the land had inspired me to take on my 
dissertation project despite the dearth of historical records and the need to spend at least two years 
doing fieldwork. Over the course of four years, he helped me identify many old-timers for oral 
	After resuming work on the Iron Range collection, Doug and I added at least 2,000 
photographs to it. In 2003, we finally finished the second phase of our project by documenting the 
centennial of Doug's hometown of Aurora; commemorated over the Fourth of July.
. . . . <dingbat (or extra space)>
	I owe a great deal of thanks to numerous people who helped me with this book. First and 
foremost, I want to thank my husband, Doug. His great affinity for and knowledge of the 
Minnesota Iron Range inspired me to undertake this research, and none of this work would have 
been done without his sustained help, support, and encouragement. Doug has given me endless 
suggestions and resources for this study. I really do not have the words to express my gratitude, so 
I will just say thanks.
	Professor Lary May, my thesis adviser at Minnesota, was an outstanding adviser and is a 
good friend who has continued to support and encourage me over the years. His insightful 
perspectives on the connections between the Iron Range and the national culture have been 
invaluable. Lary pushed me to make larger connections and to consistently contextualize my work. I 
will always be grateful for his help and his friendship.
	Special thanks must go to Professor Elaine Tyler May for her important scholarly insights 
and for being a great mentor, supporter, and friend.
	When this book was yet a thesis-in-progress, I was most fortunate that Lary and Elaine 
May opened their home to a thesis group in which I was included. We shared insights, laughs, and 
excellent potluck fare. Besides expressing my gratitude to Lary and Elaine May, I would like to 
express my appreciation to my colleagues for their input and encouragement: Scott Zimmerman, 
Larry Samuel, Jonathan Munby, Joy Barbre, Joe Austin, Cindy Richter, Michiko Hase, Carrie 
Krasnow, Julia Mickenberg, Carla Bates, Randy Hanson, and Tony Smith. Professor David Noble 
also deserves special mention for his suggestions, his encouragement, his outstanding scholarship 
in intellectual history, and his devilish sense of humor. In addition, I am very grateful to Gillian 
Berchowitz, senior acquisitions editor at the Ohio University Press, for her help, support, and 
outstanding advice. I am also indebted to Sally Bennett and Nancy Basmajian for their excellent 
	I also wish to thank the Iron Range people who allowed me to come into their homes and 
businesses to record oral histories and ethnographies and who gave me valuable research 
information; they include Carl Urick, Peter Fugina, Veda Ponikvar, Mae Knute, Ann and Stanley 
(Pye) Sherek, David (Mose) and Linda Sherek, Conrad and Lenora Holter, Andy Larson, Tom 
Henderson, Louis Pazzelli, Anna Mismash, Lance and Janet Nemanic, Mario Colletti, Francis 
Houtala, Mary Anderson, Al Zdon, Nicholas Gosdonovic, Charles and Dixie Babin, Hank Paulisch, 
Vincent Lacer, June and Tom Duich, Dorothy Jamnick, Betty Orazem, Dolly Anderson, Tootsie 
Kotzian, Lillian Isaacson, Leland Seaman, Rose Bolca, Susan Beck, Helen Larson, Shelly Berts, Jill 
Dickinson, Gene Foote, Tom Swenson, John and Jean Kjelstrom, and Jerry Fink. I would also like 
to thank Federico U. Acceri, who helped me find many important research materials.
	Numerous libraries, historical societies, newspapers, and research institutions deserve 
acknowledgment. I would particularly like to thank Kathy Bergen of the Iron Range Historical 
Society in Gilbert, Minnesota, who tirelessly searched for obscure articles and photographs and 
spent many long hours hand-copying material when the photocopier was down. I am also indebted 
to the Immigration History Research Center, especially Professor Rudy Vecoli, curator Joel Wurl, 
and the late Timo Rippa.
	In addition, I wish to thank Al Zdon of the Hibbing Daily Tribune, Kitty Anderson of the 
Biwabik Times, and Carol Pratt of the Eveleth Range Scene; Penn State Altoona's librarians Cindy 
McCarty and Mila Su; and Western State College librarians Patrick Muckleroy and Nancy Gauss. 
I am also grateful to Dr. Kenneth Womack and Dr. Lori Bechtel of Penn State Altoona for their 
help and support on this book. Penn State Altoona generously contributed publication support to 
fund the printing of color photographs. I also wish to thank staff assistants Betty Agee and Gratia 
Lee at the University of Minnesota, Joanne Aliosi at Western State College, and Gail Dodson at 
Penn State Altoona for their help, support, and excellent company.
	Finally, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention my stepson, Geoffrey Nemanic, who 
traveled to the Iron Range with us for many years. We tragically lost him before this book could be 
completed. His memory is still an inspiration, and he is deeply missed.
"Toivo's Airbus, 1992"
	The Minnesota Iron Range is a rugged mining region of northeastern Minnesota. It was a 
remote, unsettled frontier just before the turn of the twentieth century, when iron ore discoveries 
there attracted more than thirty ethnic groups, mostly from central, southern, and eastern European 
countries. The Iron Range is the home of the world's largest iron ore pit, Hull-Rust-Mahoning 
Mine (see fig. 4.6), and was once known for having the world's largest iron ore deposits, which 
provided most of the ore for America's efforts in both world wars.
	Outside Minnesota, the Iron Range is primarily known for some of its illustrious natives 
and former residents, including the legendary entertainer Judy Garland, musician and composer 
Bob Dylan, basketball star Kevin McCahill, 1980 Olympic hockey gold medalist Mark Pavelich, 
billionaire food executive Jeno Paulucci, godfather of American hockey John Mariucci, and U.S. 
Communist Party leader and five-time presidential candidate Gus Hall.
	By far the most famous former resident of the Iron Range is Bob Dylan, who was raised in 
the town of Hibbing from the age of six. His house on Seventh Avenue East is a big tourist 
attraction, especially during Bob Dylan Days.1 Interestingly, some of Dylan's biographies partially 
attribute his rebellious, iconoclastic image to his early years among the tough and resilient 
multiethnic people of the Minnesota Iron Range.2
	For someone like Dylan with no interest in mining and no affinity for small-town life, the 
Iron Range could offer very little to keep him there beyond high school. Yet for others, work in the 
mines and the love of this ethnically diverse subculture rooted them to the Iron Range for their 
entire lives. Nonetheless, living in this remote region (which, on the eastern end, extends north to the 
Canadian border) is a challenge even for those with a deep love of the land. This book is about 
those immigrants and their children who created their own regional subculture. It examines more 
than a hundred years of Independence Day celebrations as a lens through which to view how these 
diverse immigrant groups created their own version of American identity, reflecting their ethnic and 
class interests.
	This is not a typical story of assimilation or ethnic separation but instead details the 
formation of an alternative Americanism expressing the needs and values of ethnic groups whose 
members shared identities as both workers and new Americans. It is also the story of the changes in 
Independence Day rituals nationally as well as on the Iron Range. As chapter 1 emphasizes, many 
of the Iron Range Fourth of July traditions resemble early America's rowdy, carnivalesque 
practices, which have largely been purged from modern commercialized Fourth of July celebrations. 
As the country has grown away from its radical roots, the deradicalization of Independence Day has 
resulted in part from the privatization of leisure and from the standardization of Independence Day 
celebrations to accommodate urban and industrial order in response to the bourgeois standards and 
homogenizing process that dominate contemporary mass-mediated culture.
	The primary purpose of this book is to lend insight into the history of the Fourth of July 
and its ritual styles and functions, with specific attention to what Independence Day on the 
Minnesota Iron Range can tell us about how ethnic Americans see themselves and what being 
American means to them. Because differing Fourth of July celebration styles represent different 
class interests as well as differing conceptions of American identity, this study also serves as a 
reminder that class is an important aspect of identity despite the appearance of our classless culture, 
which represents the American people as one enormous middle class.3
American Identity and Mass Culture
	This book poses a number of questions: What does it mean to be an American, and how 
does this change with the passage of time? How has the phenomenon of mass culture influenced 
the development of American identity? More specifically, how has the Iron Range working-class 
population been able to preserve its subculture and its own version of American identity when much 
of America has moved toward an urbanized consumerist identity reflecting the influence of mass 
culture's images, discourse, and material goods? Finally, why does Independence Day continue to 
be a significant holiday on the Iron Range when it has become merely a day off from work in many 
parts of the United States?
	Before elaborating on these questions, I must first define a few slippery terms. For years, 
scholars have debated definitions of mass culture, but the term has not yet been standardized. Some 
define mass culture in relation to class, with mass culture as the top-down official culture, as 
opposed to popular culture (also referred to as vernacular or folk culture), which is portrayed as a 
grassroots creation. Others see mass culture as a generic term interchangeable with popular 
culture. Increasingly, scholars have also been conflating mass culture, popular culture, and folk 
culture; no longer distinguishing between the cultural production from the grassroots and that of 
the middle-class hegemony as expressed in official or commercialized culture.
	Further, some scholars use popular culture to describe a broader category inclusive of both 
mass culture forms and nonmediated cultural forms, such as theater, amusement parks, nightclubs, 
crafts and folk culture, festivals, and other community and regional events.4 I am using the term 
mass culture to describe mass-mediated and mass-produced products, cultural forms, icons, and 
discourse, which is a top-down process reflecting middle-class values and norms. In contrast, I am 
using popular culture as a term for the bottom-up process through which, according to John Fiske, 
people act as producers of their own meanings and satisfy their needs using the resources of the 
dominant culture by subverting, resisting, or evading the dominant norms.5
	While it is generally agreed that mass culture brought about profound changes during the 
twentieth century, scholars are still assessing its influence on how we express our identities, on the 
ways in which we see ourselves as Americans, and on how we view the world. Although 
acknowledging mass culture's pervasive impact, I take issue with scholarship that defines mass 
culture as merely a conservative, top-down phenomenon that has been used to inculcate immigrants 
and the working class with middle-class values. Instead, my study of the Minnesota Iron Range 
reveals a more complex relationship between mass culture and its audiences during the post/World 
War II era.6
	Although scholars have traditionally agreed that exposure to mass culture results in a certain 
amount of cultural homogenization and reinforcement of the status quo, some scholars have 
focused on the agency of individuals and groups as they use the resources of mass culture for their 
own interests. While it is true that much of popular culture deals with fantasy and light 
entertainment reflecting hegemonic values, it is also true that such entertainment must reflect the 
values and interests of audience members to remain popular and to engage the largest possible 
audience. In other words, alternative interpretations and values embedded within the mass culture 
allow peopleto resist the status quo both directly and symbolically through popular culture.
	In studying mass culture, it would be ideal to be able to find a remote region of the country 
with limited exposure to mass culture and with a diverse immigrant demographic. The Minnesota 
Iron Range is as close as we can get in these days of satellite television and the Internet. The people 
of this northern region, comprising small towns separated by densely wooded areas, simultaneously 
accept, resist, and appropriate mass culture forms and influences. Their resistance to mass culture is 
especially evident in long-standing Fourth of July traditions, which reinforce their community 
bonds and also serve as venues for social criticism, satire, and parodies. These traditions include 
carnivalesque and rowdy celebration of Independence Day, rejecting middle-class values such as 
moderation, order, decorum, and deference to authority. Nonetheless, the relationship of the Iron 
Range people to mass culture is not simply a matter of resistance or appropriation of mass culture 
in their own interests. They have also embraced many of its icons and customs, especially the 
ideology of consumerism, which promises happiness through consumption.7
	One of the most powerful and overlooked components contributing to and reinforcing the 
links among the diverse people of the Iron Range has been the Fourth of July. For these immigrant 
workers, the Fourth has been a day on which to express their identities as Americans and Iron 
Rangers, reaffirming their regional/community ties. These ties are evident in the subculture's 
distinctive characteristics, including the sharing of a variety of ethnic foods such as potica and 
porketta, their own dialect, and their own version of English, called "mine English," created to 
protect each other from the hazards of working in the mines when so many groups spoke so many 
different languages.8 Their distinctively pluralistic version of American identity is expressed on 
Independence Day as they share carnivalesque European festive traditions such as noisy wake-up 
rituals, rough games, clown bands, and callithumpian parades.9
	Ethnic foods are also distinctive of Iron Range syncretism, or its mixture of ethnic customs 
and practices attached to its intertwining regional and American identities. Notably, several people 
whose oral histories were recorded for this book emphasized that Iron Range Fourth of July 
traditions; such as visiting and family reunions; revolve around sharing ethnic foods at picnics, 
potlucks, and smorgasbords. Common to festive menus are potica (Slovenian), porketta (Italian), 
apple strudel (German and Slavic), pasties (Cornish), Slovenian potato salad, sauerkraut (German), 
lasagna, Italian sausage, krofe (Slovenian), Polish sausage, and American Indian fry bread.
	Some interviewees also recalled distinctive family holiday food traditions passed on from 
generation to generation. Francis Houtala, an Iron Range native of Finnish descent, described 
doughnuts made from a special European recipe that was traditional with her family on the Fourth 
of July.10 Homemade wine and whiskey, common in European festive culture, are also traditional on 
Independence Day. In addition, Iron Range Independence Day feasts can include American foods 
such as hot dogs, pigs in a blanket, hamburgers, and ham, making this truly a day of eclectic 
cuisine. Significantly, another customary way to express freedom on the Fourth is to skip the three-
meal routines of everyday life and eat continually throughout the day.
	Ethnic music is also traditional on the Fourth; in addition, clown bands (often with 
homemade instruments) and button-box bands (named for the accordion-type instrument they play) 
have been very popular.11 As the Iron Range became modernized, Independence Day concerts and 
parades also came to feature contemporary musicians and bands, such as Mr. American and the 
Ethnics, a group that plays both traditional American and ethnic tunes.
Early Iron Range History
	Although immigrant histories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries typically 
depict uprooted people coming to America in search of the American Dream, many of the earliest 
immigrants to Minnesota's Iron Range did not come with the intention of staying. The first to mine 
were mostly young men who had been recruited to the richest iron ore region in the world. They 
had hoped to stockpile enough money to enable their return to their family and friends in the Old 
Country. Although such a fluid population typically hampers community development, some of 
these immigrants never left, and the pioneer towns of Tower and Ely and (later) Merritt grew 
rapidly. In addition, a common class base was a powerful incentive for these diverse workers to 
obscure their differences and forge strong community ties along the ore veins of northern 
	Yet community building was constantly challenged by the mining company's practice of 
recruiting men from a variety of cultures who spoke different languages, an industrial practice 
common across America in this era.12 Although this antiunion strategy was successfully used 
elsewhere to keep workers apart, survival in this harsh land and the common identities that Iron 
Range immigrants shared as miners and as new Americans largely bridged their differences. 
Consequently, despite the temporary status of many of the early miners, strong community and 
regional ties developed rapidly, and the mining boom soon began to attract families as well as men 
looking for a new start.
	The land they settled was particularly rugged, and its hills and rocky ridges were dotted with 
evergreens and pine stands. Its lowlands were covered with lakes, peat bogs, and cedar or tamarack 
swamps. Although this was a beautiful, pristine wilderness, the soil was so poor and the growing 
season was so short that farming was mostly limited to hay and potatoes.13
	The harshness of the Iron Range climate is reflected in an annual average temperature of 
only 37°F. In January, the coldest month of the year, temperature averages range from 5°F to 8°F 
but have been registered in the <designer: set minus sign>-50° range. Because of the high winds 
throughout the winter months, the wind chill can range from <designer: set minus sign>-40°F to 
<designer: set minus sign>-130°F. The Iron Range also holds the distinction of having 
Minnesota's heaviest snowfall: 23/37 inches annually.14
	Summer offers only short-lived relief from the cold, with a growing season of 
approximately one hundred days. Summer is typically extremely hot and humid, with temperatures 
at times rising to more than 100°F. During this time, the foliage, streams, and swamps are perfect 
breeding grounds for a large variety of biting and stinging insects, including wasps, bees, hornets, 
mosquitoes, gnats, horseflies, and deerflies. Stories still circulate about swarms so thick that they 
have been known to drive both men and animals into panic, causing them to run screaming from the 
woods to search for relief in a lake or stream. This is hardly an easy environment in which to settle 
and start a new life. Yet the hardy population survived and prospered, forging unique alliances and 
building a regional subculture.15 In the midst of summer, the Fourth of July reinforced their bonds, 
providing them with a time to celebrate both being Americans and surviving the harsh environment 
of northern Minnesota.
	Notably, while this region is often referred to as a single range, it is really three separate iron 
ranges: the Vermilion, the Mesabi, and the Cuyuna. Settled in the mid-1880s, the Vermilion is the 
northernmost range. In the 1890s, the Mesabi was settled. It is the most populous and most 
prosperous range and has the largest ore deposits. The third iron range, the Cuyuna, was settled in 
the first decade of the twentieth century (see chapter 2). The Mesabi Range in the early 1890s was a 
sparsely populated wilderness area, in the same condition as the Vermilion a decade earlier. 
Formerly, these areas had served as a hunting and gathering region for the Ojibway, but the Native 
Americans had been removed to reservations by the 1870s. In the 1880s, the Vermilion's primary 
residents were lumbermen who worked seasonally and moved between camps set up in the wooded 
areas that were scheduled to be cut.16
	Because of huge U.S. labor shortages in the early days of the Iron Range, the mining 
companies had to recruit overseas. They promised workers good jobs in the land of opportunity. Of 
course, their recruiting efforts often downplayed the harshness and isolation of this land in northern 
Minnesota and instead focused on the region's great resources and untapped potential. According 
to one recruitment brochure, the Iron Range had the "greatest possibilities known to the world." 
Another recruiting pitch euphemistically associated the Range with parkland: "Northeastern 
Minnesota was originally covered with a growth of timber of all varieties on the uplands while 
frequent lakes and streams served to beautify this district to such an extent that it has been termed 
'Park Region.'"17
	The first settlements on the Iron Range were small boomtowns, carved out of a thick forest 
of virgin pine. They emerged along the rich ore veins and were mostly populated by diverse groups 
of workers from southern, central, and eastern Europe as well as some northern European groups 
that included Swedes, Norwegians, and Finns. On both the Vermilion and the Mesabi ranges, the 
mining companies recruited the majority of immigrant workers from the older mining areas of the 
Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan. Later some were recruited directly from Europe or through 
arrangements with labor agents in other American cities. During this time, the Italian labor agents, 
called the padrone, were particularly notorious for their harsh treatment of Italian immigrants and 
for often cheating the immigrants of their wages.18 Some immigrants were also enticed by chain 
migration, encouraged by exaggerated letters from relatives and friends who had emigrated.19 First 
the Vermilion and then the Mesabi drew diverse groups, mostly from northern and central Europe 
in the early years, and later from southern, central, and eastern Europe. The first groups to settle 
were primarily northern Europeans: the Cornish and other English, the Welsh, the Irish, and 
Swedes, Finns, and Norwegians.
	After 1900, the emigrating groups consisted mostly of southern, central, and eastern 
Europeans, including Slavs, Croats, Serbs, Montenegrins, Italians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Poles, and 
Russians. In 1910, when the Iron Range population reached its peak, about thirty-five different 
ethnic groups were identified, with no single group being in the majority across the region.20
Toivo's Airbus: The Radical Spirit of the Fourth of July
	Looking back at the documentary photographs I have taken during more than twenty-five 
years of documenting American cultural history, I continue to be fascinated by the silly group 
shown in plate 1. Some of the people are in mechanics' suits, a man is dressed as a woman, and 
another man wears a captain's hat and an obviously fake beard. They are all clustered around a gray 
cardboard contraption that turns out to be a homemade "replica" of an airplane called the airbus. 
Other props include window fans, a clothesbasket on a cart, and a garbage can. At first glance, the 
tableau could be mistaken for a political demonstration, a guerrilla theater group, or even a band of 
eccentric musicians, but it is none of these. Instead, it is a unit competing for prizes in a Fourth of 
July parade on the Minnesota Iron Range. What I find fascinating is that this group seems out of 
sync with contemporary celebrations of Independence Day. There is no order to the group's 
formation; there are no American flags or Uncle Sam images; nor is solemn patriotism expressed. 
Nonetheless, to me this multiethnic group, which appeared under the name "Toivo's Airbus," 
embodies the radical spirit of the Fourth of July.
	"Toivo" is a common name for Finnish boys, but it also refers to a stock character in 
Finnish American jokes who is often paired up with a character named Eino. According to folklorist 
and historian James P. Leary, Toivo can be either a fool or a trickster and has been prominent in 
Finnish American jokes dating back to at least the 1940s in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, in 
northern Wisconsin, and in northern Minnesota.21
	On the Iron Range, "Toivo" can mean a stupid person, the butt of Finnish jokes, or a 
trickster or "wise fool." The Toivo's Airbus display uses Toivo as a wise fool to lampoon 
Minnesota's state aid package to the financially troubled Northwest Airlines, proposed in exchange 
for building a high-tech airbus maintenance base in the region. The cardboard airbus, the cheap 
window fans, and the garbage can for donations mock the loan, which people feared would come 
from their iron ore tax reserve. In return for the loan, Northwest promised jobs in the financially 
depressed region, which had been in decline since the early 1980s. The can, labeled "Put your 
$[hand]outs here," and the sign with the text "Lotta Jobs, Cheeper for D[the]-Range" caustically 
recall the money previously wasted on rejuvenating the Iron Range economy, including such ill-
fated plans as the construction of a chopsticks factory.22
	While the humor of this display makes it easy to dismiss as good-natured fun, one should 
note that the group departs from the orderly, commercialized public spectacles of urban holiday 
celebrations. Instead of delivering accolades to the nation on its "birthday," this group 
communicates social commentary. In a world of commercialized public spectacles, this group 
articulates different, noncommercial values; working-class or vernacular values; in its observance 
of Independence Day. Significantly, scholars of festive culture tell us that although vernacular or 
popular culture seems apolitical, it is in fact interactive, communal, informal, and unofficial: 
characteristics that reject middle-class standards of public behavior typified by such traits as 
rationality, individualism, moderation, and deference to authority.23 In the case of the Toivo group, 
working-class values move Independence Day beyond a mere holiday spectacle into the realm of 
community dialogue relating to a current issue in regional public discourse. The message is part of 
a larger, continuing critique of corporate middle-class hegemony. This criticism is rooted in 
European festive traditions, especially practices such as social criticism in carnival and popular 
street festivities, and it reflects the larger context of disorder and popular radicalism upon which 
America developed.24
	The intertwining of Independence Day and community is key to understanding the process 
of Americanization on the Minnesota Iron Range and explains why Fourth of July celebrations 
retained popularity there even as they died out in many other places. In this ethnically diverse 
region, the communities that made up these small towns were often populated by culturally clashing 
groups, and many of these groups had immigrated to the region without knowing English. Yet as 
new Americans they came together and formed communities tied to traditions so strong that more 
than a century later, the Fourth of July is still important in the community life of many of its 
surviving towns.25
	Further, the Toivo's Airbus group shows how community and the Fourth of July are linked 
on the Iron Range, with these celebrations reflecting a working-class value system that is inclusive, 
informal, and outspoken. This, of course, runs counter to the urban culture of contemporary 
America and its middle-class value system, expressed in commercialized parades and events based 
on hierarchy, order, solemnity, and formality. Significantly, the social criticism, clowning, and 
disorder of Toivo's Airbus are hallmarks of the carnival style of celebration. And while this 
informal style may seem strange in comparison to commercialized urban standards that require 
order and conformity, it has been part of Iron Range Fourth of July rituals since the area's 
settlement in the late nineteenth century and can be traced hundreds of years further into the past.26
Carnival and the Fourth of July
	To understand how Iron Range immigrants constructed their own version of American 
identity, as reflected in their Independence Day celebrations, one must focus on carnival and its ties 
to popular radicalism.27 Carnival is a grassroots festive form that involves disorderly processions, 
revelry, competitions, and rough games dating back at least to the Middle Ages in Europe. Carnival 
is a truly popular festive form that suspends the norms of everyday life and enables ordinary people 
to control public spaces, to express political and social criticism, and to temporarily overturn the 
social hierarchy. In both early America and on the Iron Range in the late nineteenth century, these 
characteristics made carnival a particularly suitable format for celebrating Independence Day and its 
spirit of popular radicalism.28
	Significantly, unlike the classic Americanization story based on multitudes of urban 
immigrants pressured to assimilate by breaking with their pasts, adopting English as their primary 
language as well as adopting middle-class norms associated with American identity, Iron Range 
Americanization did not require a complete dismissal of Old World customs and values.29 Instead, 
becoming new Americans involved assuming an American identity, which embraced the traits and 
values both of ethnic origin and of America.
	Because carnival's mocking laughter can uncrown the powerful and provide temporary 
relief from social control, it allows people to imagine an alternative to everyday life free from its 
restrictions and inequities. Through parody, satire, and other forms of festive humor, carnival 
dissolves class barriers; anyone can become the target of humor. Besides its unofficial, informal, 
and communal characteristics, carnival also features bodily pleasures and excess while it provides 
an outlet for opposing and mocking official and ceremonial culture through its inversions of class, 
gender, and other aspects of the social order.30
	Undoubtedly, class inversions and social critiques in the form of parody and satire are 
carnival's most subversive elements. Inversions reverse the power relationships of everyday life and 
call attention to the inequities of the dominant culture. They can include reversals of gender, age, 
class, race, and even what is considered animal as opposed to human. By far the most subversive 
inversion is that of class, which is considered a protest against class exploitation.31
	Despite the popularity of carnival and carnivalesque street festivities, as the cities and towns 
in the United States grew in population, these forms; with their emphasis on disorder and reversals 
of everyday life; increasingly interfered with urban order. In addition, the development of 
capitalism, which necessitated orderly and rational behavior in the public sphere, also made carnival 
problematic. For modern societies to thrive and for the powerful to remain in power, carnival needed 
to be suppressed or contained, and new celebratory traditions emphasizing gentility, order, and 
moderation had to eventually replace it. Significantly, carnival's demise in the United States 
parallels the deradicalization of Fourth of July celebrations as Independence Day observances 
evolved from rites of resistance to solemn civic ceremonies and finally to mere holidays from 
	The Minnesota Iron Range provides an excellent venue for examining the relationship of 
carnival and other Old World festive traditions to American identity. The remoteness of this area 
also makes it a unique site for examining how mass culture's images and messages, when removed 
from their commercial contexts, can take on a life of their own both locally and regionally as part of 
the popular culture and can also be used both for patriotic expression and for parody or criticism of 
the commercial culture from which they emerged.33 And because mass culture is familiar to 
younger generations, by incorporating it into Fourth of July celebrations, older generations could 
attract youths to the celebrations to maintain the subculture's traditions. Thus, this grassroots co-
optation process of mass culture can create interesting juxtapositions of mass culture with folk 
culture in Iron Range Fourth of July celebrations. This is evident in the 1996 photo of two girls in 
Slovak-style peasant costumes posing with Raggedy Ann and Andy in the background (plate 2). 
The message "We Found Freedom" speaks to a creative view of American identity in which the 
mixture of Old World and New World cultures expresses both American identity and Iron Range 
Ethnicity and American Identity
	This book's perspective on American identity is based on the idea that one's American 
identity is dynamic, sharing prominence at different times with other identity aspects such as 
ethnicity of origin, class, gender, and race.34 In providing a look at American identity as an 
immigrant construction reflected in an annual holiday, this study spans more than one hundred 
years with the hope of recovering some of the regional notions of American identity, which include 
alternative expressions of class and ethnicity. While the scholarly definitions of class and ethnicity 
are numerous and at issue, this book uses specific definitions for these terms. By class I am 
referring to a categorization combining economic level and social status.35 Although a bit more 
slippery, ethnicity can mean either an identity based on country of origin or an identity based on a 
combination of American and ethnic components.
	John Higham's "pluralistic integration" paradigm of American identity and ethnicity is 
particularly appropriate for the Iron Range because it departs from the classic view of ethnicity and 
American identity as mutually exclusive. While Higham sees American identity and ethnicity of 
origin as distinctive, he also sees them as having overlapping components. This challenges the 
traditional notion that American identity is uniquely characterized by new customs and a new 
worldview that breaks with Old World traditions and worldviews. Pluralistic integration aptly 
describes an Iron Range American identity in which core Old World traditions and values are 
blended into a nucleus of identity that is surrounded by layers of identity, flexible enough to 
accommodate "new traditions."36
	According to the late Robert Harney, Iron Rangers are unique because of their ties to their 
land and because their ethnic boundaries are porous. Although they are proud of their separate 
ethno-cultural backgrounds, their ethnicities are no longer distinct from their Iron Range 
(American) identity.37 From Harney's perspective, what matters for Iron Rangers "is not so much 
that one's father was a Slovene miner, but that he was a Slovene miner from the Iron Range."38
	Ethnicity/American identity on the Iron Range can be visualized via two Fourth of July 
photographs. The first is the photograph of Mr. American and the Ethnics, taken on July 3, 1992 
(plate 3). Here we can see how American identity can coexist with ethnicity of origin. This band's 
name highlights a pluralistic view of American identity, as does the fact that it was known for 
playing both American and ethnic tunes. An earlier example of the pluralism and cultural tolerance 
evident in the American identity of the Iron Range is reflected in a photograph from the 1914 
Fourth of July celebration in the town of Mountain Iron (fig. 0.1). There, both American flags and 
flags from countries of origin were flown over the main street.
{insert fig. 0.1 about here}
	This inclusive, culturally tolerant view of American identity was eloquently described by 
Harney, who encapsulated Iron Range identity into a descriptive term: "Tuteshi," or "the people 
from here." Tuteshi connotes "a marriage of population and locale to create a shared identity." 
The Range, according to Harney, "is not a place for a separate definition of ethnicity. . . . In terms 
of values, networks, and folkways everybody on the Range belongs at one level, to a single ethnos, 
whatever their different ethnic origins."39
Methodology and Structure
	While the Iron Range is basically a configuration of numerous small towns, this book 
features the town of Biwabik and its Fourth of July celebrations, cast against the backdrop of the 
national culture. Across the Iron Range, Biwabik is known as the town with the most elaborate, 
popular, and traditional of the Iron Range Fourth of July celebrations. The centerpiece of its 
program is the callithumpian parade; a costumed, disorderly, and humorous parade common in 
European festive culture. For breadth, Biwabik's celebrations are complemented by celebrations of 
other Iron Range towns.40
	One Day for Democracy begins with a history of the Fourth of July, from its first 
celebrations when America was born, up to the late nineteenth century, when Independence Day 
celebrations had just begun on the Iron Range. The focus then moves from Biwabik's birth in 1892 
to its centennial in 1992. Because the Fourth of July occurs only once a year, a span of more than 
one hundred years makes it possible to trace patterns of change over time.
	My methodology is interdisciplinary, drawing from anthropology, history, folk culture and 
folklore studies, cultural studies, sociology, and mass communication. Cultural history and 
anthropological methodologies have been most useful for analyzing the meanings and constructions 
of rituals, symbols, and images and for recording and interpreting oral interviews. I conducted these 
interviews with members of the first through the fourth generations; the interviews took place over a 
four-year period and produced more than fifty hours of audiotape. Other primary sources for this 
book include photographs; newspapers; regional, town, and ethnic group histories; and other 
research materials.41
	My rationale for using the Fourth of July as a cultural text or cultural artifact is based on the 
notion that products of cultures are imprinted with the cultural tensions and ambiguities of 
particular time periods. Because cultural texts reflect both normative and non-normative aspects of a 
particular era, they can be used as free spaces where people can derive the pleasure of resisting, 
subverting, or evading the status quo as it is presented in various cultural texts.
	Because audiences of mass culture can choose alternative meanings and individualized uses, 
they cannot be considered as mere "cultural dupes" or mindless victims, which many critics have 
dubbed them. Instead, as demonstrated by the carnivalesque celebrations of Iron Range Fourth of 
July celebrations, people can be active producers of meaning whether they are participating in public 
festivities or consuming mass-produced products.42
	This study also relies on photographs as important primary sources. Between 1978 and 
2003, I took many of these for the Tamarack Iron Range Collection. Others have been copied (with 
permission) from the collections of historical societies in different Iron Range towns, from the 
Minnesota Historical Society, and from the albums of Iron Range families. As with newspapers and 
other research material, I have adopted a "close reading" of photographs for their cultural patterns 
as well as for their factual data.43
	In conclusion, by examining the Fourth of July over time, One Day for Democracy argues 
that this holiday provides important insights into what it means to be American, particularly from 
the neglected perspective of immigrant workers. It also shows how July Fourth has been used to 
reflect and shape American nationalism from the bottom up. Significantly, this study also looks at 
the influence of mass culture on American life and identity in the second half of the twentieth 
century and shows how even isolated areas such as the Iron Range could not escape the influence 
of mass culture. Yet it also emphasizes that the relationship between Iron Rangers and mass culture 
is complex. In this region, mass culture's messages, icons, and values are not just passively 
absorbed. Rather, some of its components, such as its cold war rejection of radicalism (see chapter 
5), are incorporated by the people, while other components, such as those used within parody, are 
used to subvert mass culture.
	As Michal Holquist says in his prologue to Rabelais and His World, the subversive 
character of carnival laughter should not be underestimated in its relationship to freedom, so we 
must recognize that "necessary to the pursuit of liberty is the courage to laugh."44
	Finally, this book argues that although Independence Day's popularity rises and falls with 
cycles of patriotism, the Fourth of July will continue to provide insight into how people see 
themselves as Americans and to function as an important instrument in understanding American 
cultural history.

Library of Congress Subject Headings for this publication:

European Americans -- Minnesota -- Social life and customs.
European Americans -- Cultural assimilation -- Minnesota.
Fourth of July celebrations -- Minnesota -- History.
Immigrants -- Minnesota -- Social life and customs.
Miners -- Minnesota -- Social life and customs.
Iron ranges -- Minnesota -- History.
Minnesota -- Social life and customs.
Minnesota -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects -- History.
Europe, Eastern -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects -- History.
Europe, Southern -- Emigration and immigration -- Social aspects -- History.