The bump on Minnesota’s head

Minnesota’s little topknot was the result of an incorrect assumption made by the Congress when it was finalizing its border with Canada (then known as British North America).  To the east the border was erratic and uneven, and it appealed to all involved to just declare a straight line and use it for the remainder of the border as it stretched west.  The line they chose was the 49th parallel.  One wonders why they didn’t pick a nice round number like 50, but placing the border at the 50th parallel would have cut Canada completely off from the Great Lakes.

 

They began the line at a western notch of Lake Superior and then had to work their way back up to the 49th parallel.  They used a chain of lakes as their guide, which is how the northeast border of Minnesota got that series of zig zag lines.  The problem was that the treaty had assumed that the Lake of the Woods topped out at the 49th parallel, and in the original wording of the charter they described the line through the chain of lakes ending at the northeast corner of the Lake of the Woods at which point it would continue straight west.

 

When the boots on the ground actually began the task of surveying the line, they discovered that Lake of the Woods actually extended further north than they thought.  Given the choice of changing the charter and cutting Lake of the Woods in half, or just redrawing the line, the decision makers opted to just bend the line to encompass the lake, thus creating the bump at the top of Minnesota.

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6 Responses to The bump on Minnesota’s head

  1. I didn’t even now we had a “bump.” How did you ever come up with your idea for this book? I love it!

  2. Hi Sandy. It all started when my husband and I had a conversation about the Upper Peninsula and we both realized we had no idea how it became part of Michigan. That caused me to start some research and I discovered a book called (perfectly) “How the States Got Their Shapes” by Mark Stein. It’s an excellent book, but written for an academic market and I kept thinking that someone needed to re-write it for a younger (i.e. 5th grade) audience and appeal to curious adults as well. I have used Mark’s book as a starting point but have a long list of other resources that I’ve used for my information. Still writing it one state at a time. I’m on Louisiana right now…

  3. Gloria VanD. says:

    You’re doing good work Lynn — keep it up! It’s much fun to read about your discoveries and I’m eager to see the finished product.

  4. Thanks Gloria. You’ve been a wonderful support throughout this project as I slog through it.

  5. Very cool! I learn something new everyday. Great project too!

  6. Thanks Valerie. I post something new every Tuesday – so check back next week!

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