The business of dressmaking.

Christianson 1886-1904

Christianson Sumner W. Farnham residence, 726 South Second Avenue, Minneapolis. Lina Christianson headed her dressmaking business, in partnership with her sisters Belle and Anna. According to a 1904 Minneapolis Tribune article, "The Misses Christianson are Scandinavians and their parents are dead; They came to Minneapolis from Cottonwood Minn., eighteen years ago... They went out sewing by the day..." The Christiansons worked as dressmakers from the late 1880s until Lina's death in 1904. Having operated in Minneapolis for several years at 321 South Ninth Street [The Hampshire Arms], they relocated to 726 Second Avenue South in 1901. This was the former Sumner W. Farnham residence, built in 1880 in a residential district that offered clients a European salon experience.

Notes in local newspapers report Lina Christianson's extensive annual visits to Chicago, New York, or Paris for "imported dresses and materials." Her travels in 1899 included a "delightful summer in Norway, Sweden and Denmark" including a chance interview with King Oscar of Norway, who admired her Norwegian language skills. The account further recorded her conversation with Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen. "He is a very gloomy little man, about 70 years old, and he looks as though he found very little pleasure in life, is the way Miss Christianson described him."

Purple Silk Taffeta Wedding Gown.

A fire may have precipitated the move to the Farnham residence. In February of 1900, a fire ruined the stock of dress goods carried at Christianson's. Lina reported the stock insured for $28,500. Though her initial claim was rejected, the Minnesota Supreme Court eventually ruled in her favor. After two years in the Farnham building, the sisters closed their business and Lina took charge of L. S. Donaldson's dressmaking department. Tragedy struck in December of 1904 when--according to a Minneapolis Journal account--Lina was murdered by her "crazed lover," a Mr. Richmond, who subsequently killed himself. The account includes a description of Mr. Richmond's deteriorating mental and physical condition, the speculation of whether they planned to marry, financial misconduct, and a statement from his hotel manager that "he [Richmond] never loved the woman, but that she was indispensable to his business ambitions."

Lina Christianson ran one of Minneapolis's largest and most prosperous dressmaking businesses. She had a staff of at least 46 employees in 1900. Her estate was valued at $42,000, including land, stock in mining companies, and $35,000 in a cash account.