Historic North Loop

Loop Back: Lutefisk Processing

The Kildall Fish Company of Minneapolis billed itself as the “world’s largest ludefisk producers.” (Today, the word is more commonly spelled lutefisk).

Founded by Norwegian immigrant Joseph Kildall, the company imported mass quantities of dried whitefish, hauled in from the icy fjords of Lofoten, Norway. By sea, lake, river and rail, the shipments arrived at 5th and Washington. Workers would then soak the fish in large concrete tanks of artesian well water to get them soft and plump again for church suppers and family gatherings.

1937 photo: Hennepin Co Library

Before it was packaged, each piece of fish would be pierced with a mini harpoon with Kildall’s copyrighted barrel trademark on it, which the company said was “your guarantee that it’s Genuine Old Style.”

The plant was also used to process “Smorgos-Sill,’ or spiced herring. A 1939 newspaper article showed several women around a table with names like Odergaard, Olson, Gustafson and Gunderson, packing the herring “with spices from the far corners of the world—cloves from Madagascar and Zanzibar, cinnamon from China, celery seed from France and bay leaves from Jugoslavia (sic).” The writer marveled at the fact that Minnesotans could be eating these fish less than a month after they were caught in Norway.

Kildall also distributed a spearmint-flavored cod liver oil—“tonic with a pleasant taste” according to a newspaper ad.

The company had an aggressive marketing strategy, buying newspaper and radio ads, and even producing a short film that played in theaters, documenting the process from the time the fish were caught in Norway to their arrival in Minneapolis. Kildall also hosted radio programs on WTCN-AM in the 1930s.

This facility was built in 1914 with a third story added in 1965.

We have several more pages of neighborhood history in our Historic North Loop section.

By Mike Binkley, North Loop Neighborhood Association

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