I feel lucky to own a paperback version version of the Minnesota Laws of 1860. It was held for a number of years by the St. Paul Academy of Sciences, part of St. Paul Public Library, and owned before that by J.B. Chaney, who signed the inside and outside of the cover with a flourish. (This was probably Josiah B. Chaney, a printer. J.B. Chaney was paid for printing for the Legislature in the 1870s. example) The paper remains strong and un-crumbly, in contrast to the disintegrating 1899 volume that I further destroyed during my first history weaving experiment. The 1860 laws remain intact; scanned portions are in the weaving shown in this post.
1860 marked only the second meeting of the Legislature since statehood, so many of the laws dealt with writing and amending laws regarding the new state government, like banking regulation, town and county government, and prescribing the duties of county treasurers and auditors. The topic of the first chapter is not surprising, “To provide for the assessment and taxation of all property in this state, and for levying taxes thereon, according to its true value in money.”
Other interesting laws? Parties bringing civil suits in district court were required to pay the jury, a fee of $3.00. (Chapter 34) Legislators could use certificates issued by the Legislature for per diem and mileage expenses to pay their county taxes. (Chapter 78) “An act to encourage the destruction of blackbirds” was passed to help save farmers’ crops. (Chapter 44) No fewer than fifty blackbird scalps were to be delivered to any Justice of the Peace or Auditor, at the rate of 40 cents per hundred. (Is that a big pile? Aren’t blackbird scalps pretty tiny?)
Appropriations laws give interesting detail on how the state’s money was spent. Given the Legislature just voted to spend $109 million to continue repairing the state capitol, it seems quaint that appropriations of $5.50 to J.S. Palmer and $25.50 to J. DeCraw were authorized for repairs on the Capitol. An additional $1000 was allocated for repairs of the Capitol roof, cistern, and drain Legislators needed supplies, like candles ($23), newspapers ($2,200), and clocks in the House and Senate Chambers ($55). C.E. Mayo was paid $39.95 for spitoons, screens, zinc, boards, and other furniture for the Senate. Zinc? (Chapter 45)
Sometimes words in early laws seem sweetly archaic. Chapter 53 outlines the responsibility of dog owners for their dogs who kill or “worry” sheep and lambs. It’s easy to imagine worried sheep scattering in fear when a dog races towards them. But worrying is not a completely archaic word in that context, as it remains in the current state statutes. Minnesota Statutes 347.01 begins, “Owners or keepers of any dog or dogs, that kill, wound, or worry any domestic animal or animals, shall be jointly and severally liable to the owner of such animal or animals for all damages done by such dog or dogs.”
Minnesota History Weaving Experiment #2 incorporates the language of Chapter 103, with a background image of sheep taken from a 19th century agricultural bulletin. The words and images are woven into a traditional monks belt weave structure, with linen warp and weft and wool for the bands at each end. The dimensions are 12″ by 13.5″.
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