Collections Carousel: The Early 20th Century at Schwanke’s Hotel and Saloon in Randall, Minnesota

On December 16, 1910, Jack Miller entered the August Schwanke Hotel and Saloon in Randall, Minnesota and ordered a brandy for which he paid .50 cents. That wasn’t the only time Jack visited Schwanke’s Saloon. Jack was a frequent visitor along with numerous other Morrison County residents or hotel guests, like Charles Hawkinson who ordered two beers on January 19th, 1910 and Jack Kingsley who ordered three treats on November 11th, 1910. Thankfully, August kept this bar tab ledger from his days running the hotel and saloon, and passed it down to his family. The ledger was donated to the Morrison County Historical Society in 2017 by DeWayne Schwanke, August Sr.’s grandson. We often get record books and ledgers that give us information about business practices of the past, but this bar tab ledger is unique in that it gives us a glimpse of the every-day life of the people of Morrison County, during the early twentieth century.

Schwanke Hotel and Saloon, Randal, MN.

According to Norma E. Nelson, who wrote a short history of Randall (1990), August Schwanke, Sr. bought the hotel, saloon and livery in 1906 from Fred Rassier. “The hotel has sleeping quarters, dining rooms, pool tables, and a saloon. A livery in the alley housed travellers’ horses.  Schwanke’s family, wife Amalia, daughters Emmie and Minnie, and sons Fannet, Joner, and Babe assisted in running the hotel” (48).

Children of August Schwanke Sr.

The pages of the ledger cover saloon transactions in 1909 and 1910 and highlight the drinks, activities, and other items offered at the hotel and saloon. Popular drinks offered at the saloon included; whiskey, beer, brandy, rum, wine, and rock and rye. According to Whisky Advocate, rock and rye was often used as a medicinal drink for coughs, sore throats and other ailments and was made from citrus and rye whiskey sweetened with rock candy. If your taste was for whiskey, you could buy it by the dram, pint or bottle. If you preferred beer, it could be bought by the pint, bottle, pail, case or keg. Familiar brands of alcohol offered included Hennessy brandy and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Drinking alcohol wasn’t the only offering at the saloon. Various recreational activities could be found at the saloon such as dice, cards, and pool. You could also get “treats”, cigars, and on one occasion, a guest bought “milk from the house.” In addition to items available at the hotel and saloon, Schwanke also sold items from the livery, such as a “buggy pole”, and did repairs on carriages and buggies.

Schwanke Saloon Ledger

After paging through the ledger entries you get a picture of the important role the Schwanke Hotel and Saloon played in Randall, Minnesota. Not only was it a place to rest your head after a long day of travel, or the place “where everybody knows your name”, it was also that business with everything you needed from treats and cigars to buggy poles and lumber.

Souces: Nelson, Norma E. 1990. Welcom to Randall: Little City with a Big Heart.

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