The chronicles of Minnesota's staunch Norwegian politico
Tuesday, February 04, 2014 2:15 AM
We are bound to see the reelection rhetoric heating up any time soon, so it might be fun to consider the interesting career of a Minnesota politician from almost a hundred years ago. Perhaps he visited Spring Valley and left behind the cards you see in the photo which were turned in to the historical society among other personal papers. Henrik Shipstead was born Jan. 8, 1881, in Kandiyohi County of Norwegian immigrant parents. Most of the boys of that era attended school through eighth grade and stayed on the farm, getting married and setting up their own farmstead. Very few went on to high school and college, but Henrik was an exception. He graduated from Northwestern University in the dental program, and then set up his dentist office in Glenwood, Minn., where he was elected president of the city council, and remained as dentist from 1904 to 1920. Shipstead married Lula Anderson, and they had one adopted son, Weston.
We think the coat he's wearing would have felt awfully good, riding in the open cockpit of the plane while campaigning among his farmer friends. Hang on to that hat!
The family moved to Minneapolis, again a dentist office was established, and he decided to "enter politics." He started out as a Republican, and was an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1918 and for governor in 1920. Obviously he is out campaigning in the plane we see in the photo. The card shows "League candidates on the Republican ticket, indorsed by Farmers and Labor." Shipstead is listed for governor, plus candidates for Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, Railroad and Warehouse Commissioner and Justice of Supreme Court.
At the time, farmers were totally disillusioned with the federal government, and looking to Washington for help. Shipstead joined the Farmer-Labor Party, and this group helped elect him to the Senate in 1922. As the only Farmer-Laborite in the Senate, it was surprising that he was appointed to the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.
According to Wikipedia, "He is remembered as one of the most adamant isolationists of his time." In 1945 he was one of only two senators who opposed the United States joining the United Nations and the World Court. He called for the cancellation of German reparations which he considered vindictive. He went on to object to the occupation of Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua on the grounds the United States would soon turn into an arrogant "policeman of the Western Continent." He also argued that high tariffs would "raise consumer prices and make monopolies richer and people poorer." One wonders what impact this staunch Norwegian would make on the Senate today. It must have taken "guts" to oppose what most others thought was a good idea.
It was said that because of his affable and dignified personage, even his adversaries generally liked him. He was quoted as saying, "It doesn't necessarily follow that a radical has to be a damned fool."
In the late 1930s he defected from the Farmer-Labor party, charging that the Communists were taking control. He returned to the Republican Party and was reelected in 1940. He fought FDR's effort to enter the war in Europe. Why was he so against the United Nations? Shipstead was vehemently opposed to foreign entanglements as he felt it would foster a world super state where the major powers would dominate smaller countries. When he voted his opposition, he knew perfectly well it was political suicide, but he stayed true to his convictions. He indeed lost his reelection bid in 1946. A new breed of "internationals" had assumed leadership in the state Republican Party, led by Gov. Ed Thye and former governor, Harold Stassen. Shipstead returned to the farm, where he died in 1960.