Viewing "Minnesota State Prison" (1909).
The first prison was constructed in Stillwater in 1851-1853. There were no prisoners in 1853, and only 2 the next year, although it held 7 or 8 prisoners from counties that did not have suitable jails. The population rapidly increased over the decades, from 16 in 1860, to 39 in1870, 254 in 1880, 314 in 1890, and 703 in 1905 (14 of whom were women). In its first years, the few convicts had one-half of their heads shaved to distinguish them; later they were outfitted with uniforms. The "contract labor" system by which convicts were leased to private companies was prohibited by the legislature in 1895. Thereafter inmates were put to work manufacturing twine and shoes; in 1907, 225 convicts worked in the twine factory and 250 in the shoe factory. They were profitable: in 1907, the prison grossed $2,250,000 from both enterprises.