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Disaster Relief in Minnesota: Grasshopper Plagues

Grasshopper Plagues Overview

Image: Grangers versus Grasshoppers or the irrepressible conflict, c. 1880

From 1873 to 1877, grasshoppers destroyed vast amounts of Minnesota farmland. These grasshopper, also known as locust, "plagues" led many farmers to apply for relief to local and state governments. While slow to respond to the crisis, agencies throughout the state received pleas to help relieve the economic and food burdens resulting from the grasshopper infestation. 

Many collections at the Minnesota Historical Society document the destruction and pleas for assistance from residents throughout the state.



Resources on Grasshopper Plagues in Minnesota

Harvest of Grief: Grasshopper Plagues and Public Assistance in Minnesota, 1873-78, by Annette Atkins.
Book providing an overview of the grasshopper plagues, destruction, and assistance provided to Minnesota farmers. 
St. Paul : Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1984.
MNHS Call Number: Reading Room HD1775.M6 A85 1984, also available for purchase

The Grasshopper, or Rocky Mountain Locust, and its Ravages in Minnesota: a Special Report to the Hon. C.K. Davis, Governor of Minnesota.
Official report to the Governor describing the severity of the grasshopper plagues in Minnesota. 
MNHS call number: SB945 .L8 M6

The Minnesota Legislator and the Grasshopper, 1873-77, by Walter Trenerry.
In Minnesota History, vol. 36, no. 2 (1958): pp. 54-61
MNHS call numberOnline copy 

Grasshopper Land, by Margaret W. Morley
An overview of grasshoppers written for young adults. Includes a chapter on the Rocky Mountain Locust and its destruction in the United States. 
Chicago, A.C. McClurg & Co., 1907.
MNHS call number: SB945 .L8 M8

John R. Cummins Papers, 1835-1931
Diaries of an Eden Prarie-based farmer, scientist, and traveler. Diary entries contain information on multiple grasshopper plagues from 1857-1880. 
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota Executive Council, Grasshopper Control Records, 1931-1945
Reports, correspondence, and financial records reflecting the Executive Council’s role in financing efforts during the 1930s and early 1940s to control grasshopper predation on field crops.
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (State Archives Notebooks: Executive Council)

Lyon County Board of County Commissioners, Meeting Files, 1870-1918
These meeting files include statements of grasshopper damage (1874-1876) in Lyon County.
MNHS Call Number: See finding aid in the library (State Archives Notebooks: Lyon County)

Records of Governor Horace Austin, 1869-1879 
Official records of Governor Austin in the Minnesota State Archives includes files on relief for people affected by the grasshopper plague and by the snowstorm of January, 1873.
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Records of Governor Cushman K. Davis, 1874-1882
Assorted files from Governor Davis, included documents related to grasshopper relief and seed grain assistance. 
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Records of Governor John S. Pillsbury, 1875-1891 (bulk 1876-1882)
Official records of Governor Pillsbury, including files related to grasshopper relief and seed grain assistance. 
MNHS Call Number: Digital Finding Aid

Minnesota State Entomologist, Records 1895-1975
Correspondence, reports, circulars, and miscellany regarding the activities of the State Entomologist, including grasshopper control. 
MNHS call number: 107.K.11.8F

Interested in more materials about grasshopper infestations in Minnesota? Search the MNHS Catalog to locate other sources. 

Personal Accounts

Many personal papers or letters in the Minnesota Historical Society manuscripts collections mention or describe the grasshopper plagues. While these descriptions are brief, they do help paint a vivid picture of the hardships of the time. Collections with such mentions include: 

Becker County

William Pollard Letters and Genealogical Charts, 1873-1880, 1888
MNHS call number: P2050

Martin County

Reminiscences of Arthur Reginald Moro
MNHS call number: P939

Polk County

Reminiscences and Memoranda, by Barnum, George Granville, 1843-1936.
MNHS call number: P939

Rock County

Diary of Jane Grout and Data on the Grout Family, 1861, 1873, 1927
MNHS call number: P939

Scott County

Newton Southworth and Family Papers, 1852-1917
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (Manuscripts notebooks: A/.S728)

Sherburne County

Memoirs of a Grandmother Eighty Three Years Old, 1930
MNHS call number: P939

Stevens County

Minnesota: Ox-Cart to Airplane, undated
MNHS call number: P939

White Earth Reservation

J. J. Enmegahbowh Letters to Samuel Hollingsworth, 1870-1879
MNHS call numberDigital Finding Aid

Miscellaneous Locations

The Farmer Collection of Reminiscences, 1949, 1958
MNHS call number: See finding aid in the library (P2081)

George W. Smith Letters, 1857-1858
MNHS call number: P2179

Ole Nilsen, the Younger, and Family Papers, 1857-1933
MNHS call number: Digital Finding Aid


Search the manuscripts collection with the MNHS Catalog to locate other personal accounts of grasshopper infestations. 

Sample Images, Maps, & Artifacts

Search for images related to grasshopper plagues at MNHS through our Collections Online database. Enter your search terms, then filter the results using the options in the system's left-hand column.

You may want to try specific terms like:

  • grasshopper or locust

Map of Minnesota : published for the State Geological & Natural History Survey : showing the areas where eggs were deposited by the Rocky Mountain locust in 1873-4-5-6Minnesota locusts of the seventies.The grasshopper plague in Minnesota--Method of capturing the young grasshoppersSt. Urho bobblehead doll

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