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Archive for March, 2013

Go If You Think It Your Duty, a Play About Love During the Civil War

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Madison and Lizzie Bowler

War can strain the bonds of love. No one understood that better than Minnesotans Madison and Lizzie Bowler. During the American Civil War, Madison and Lizzie courted, married, became parents, and bought a farm. They attended dances, talked politics, and confided their deepest fears. Because of the war, however, they experienced all of these events separately, sharing them through hundreds of letters. Discover how Madison and Lizzie maintained their steadfast commitment to one another, even as they struggled to balance extraordinary duty and distance with ordinary life and love in time of war.

Written by Minnesota playwright Victoria Stewart, this original play is based on the Bowlers’ letters, held in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection and published in the 2008 MHS Press book Go If You Think It Your Duty by Andrea R. Foroughi. It  is directed by Ivey Award-winner Craig Johnson, with popular and award-winning local actors Peter Hansen, Anna Sundberg, Dietrich Poppen, and Abby DeSanto. The play features live performances of Civil War-era music with original musical direction by James Lekatz.

There are two show times: Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. or Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m. Cost is $15 or $11 for MHS members. Advance purchase is required and can be made by calling 651-259-3015 or online.

This program is made possible with support from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, voted into law by the people of Minnesota in 2008.

More information on upcoming Civil War-related events and programs.

Minnesota and the Civil War Exhibit

Tweeting the Civil War

The Rockwell Heist: An Interview with Author Bruce Rubenstein

Thursday, March 21st, 2013

The Rockwell Heist by Bruce RubensteinIn 1978 seven Norman Rockwell paintings and a supposed Renoir, later discovered to be a forgery, were stolen from Elayne Galleries in St. Louis Park. It is still the biggest theft in Minnesota history, and no one was ever convicted of the crime. Veteran crime writer Bruce Rubenstein, author of the new book The Rockwell Heist, details the story of the theft, the investigation, and the twenty-year quest to return the art to its rightful owners. Mr. Rubenstein recently answered some questions about his new book.

Why do you write crime stories, Mr. Rubenstein?

Because I always have something to write about. At least that was my standard answer when I was a freelancer selling articles to weeklies and monthlies. There is more to it than that, of course. People who write about business, or politics, or any number of other things always have something to write about too. But with crime your story has a dramatic hinge. And people are fascinated by crime.

Why were you drawn to the story of The Rockwell Heist?

It had everything a writer could ask for–feisty, sympathetic victims, bold villains who were part of a colorful local underworld, a sexy female con artist and her quasi-sympathetic dupe, a quest to recover the stolen paintings that went on for decades with one twist after another, hundreds of pages of files and many knowledgeable people to interview. And nobody got killed. I’ve been writing about crime for a long time, and I’m pretty tired of murders. This art theft and the many attempts to trade the loot for cash or something else of value seemed good-natured compared to the kind of crimes I’ve written about in the past.

Did you manage to solve the crime?

I found out who did it. So had the investigators. Like many crimes, it went into the books unsolved, even though the perpetrators, locally based professional criminals, were identified. There simply was not enough evidence to indict them. Their names were blacked out of the files, but I got in touch with one of the FBI’s informants and he told me who they were.

Why? Did he want credit? Notoriety?

No, in fact he went to great lengths to remain anonymous. It’s a phenomenon I’ve encountered many times. There are people who like to talk. There’s nothing in it for them. Just the opposite. In many cases they are risking their lives.

You say that the value of the paintings that were stolen has mushroomed to more than $1 million by now. How much did the thieves realize?

Not much. The value of Norman Rockwell’s work waxed and waned during the time they retained possession of the art, but it didn’t really take off until long after they’d turned it over for a pretty minimal price to the mobsters who’d hired them to steal it.

So the theft was a failure, even though they got away with it?

Not at all. It accomplished exactly what the real authors of the act, Miami-based mobsters, wanted it to accomplish.

What was that?

I’m afraid you’ll have to buy the book to find out. I’ll tell you this much: the Rockwell paintings were peripheral to their real objective.

Well, if the mobsters didn’t really want the Rockwell paintings, what did they do once they got them?

They offered them for sale through a stolen art network in Europe. The evidence suggests that the paintings were  bought and sold several times there, and maybe again in Argentina, before someone who was attempting to enter Brazil surrendered them to the Federal Police in Rio de Janeiro, probably in return for expedited processing of an application for Brazilian citizenship. Brazil doesn’t extradite its citizens to face charges in other countries, and wanted criminals often seek refuge there.

How much are the paintings worth now?

Rockwell’s work has undergone a critical re-evaluation in the last decade or so, and several of his paintings have sold for more than $1 million. The collective value of the Rockwells that were stolen from Elayne Galleries is conservatively $4 million.

Bruce Rubenstein will talk about his book and sign copies next Thursday, March 28, at 7 pm at Common Good Books, and Thursday, April 4, at 7 pm at Once Upon a Crime. Please click the hyperlink to the title, above, for details.

The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

We are honored to publish The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters/Dakota Kaskapi Okicize Wowapi, translated by Dakota elders and scholars Dr. Clifford Canku and Mr. Michael Simon.

Dr. Canku and Mr. Simon will talk about the book and project at two special events on April 11th at Zandbroz Bookstore in Fargo, ND, and April 19th with Birchbark Bookstore in Minneapolis, MN. (Please click on the book title, above, for details.)

The following is an excerpt from the foreword to the book by Dr. John Peacock (Spirit Lake Dakota).

Camp Kearney at Davenport, Iowa, December 20, 1865. The Dakota Prison is at top left. Drawing by W.S. Harnon. National Archives. Courtesy Jim Jacobsen and Davenport Public Library.

“For participating in the Dakota–U.S. War of 1862, thirty-eight Dakota men were hanged at Mankato on December 26 of that year. The following April, approximately 265 more Dakota men, also condemned to death, but not executed, were marched in shackles into Camp McClellan, a military prison at Davenport, Iowa. There they wrote letters in the Dakota language. Fifty of these, written by more than three dozen of the condemned men, have now been translated into English by two of the letter writers’ Christian Dakota descendants, Dr. Clifford Canku and Mr. Michael Simon, themselves members of the last generation in the United States of mother-tongue, fluent Dakota speakers.

Both translators were born on the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Nation’s reservation in South Dakota and grew up speaking Dakota as their first language. Now in their seventies, they are traditional Sun Dancers and retired Dakota Presbyterian ministers (Mr. Simon formerly headed the Dakota Presbytery). Both men have told me that their training at seminary in translating Biblical languages helped them translate the Dakota letters. They think of the letters not merely as historic documents but as sacred texts—as revelation of a Dakota apocalypse and as prophesy of the Dakota expulsion and exodus from their Minnesota homelands, the male letter writers to Davenport; their wives, children, and dependent elders first to a prison camp at Fort Snelling and then into the desert at Crow Creek.

These letters were written from a place of sadness and loss. As Mr. Simon says in his preface, the prisoners were held at Camp Kearney, a portion marked off from Camp McClellan in December 1863. The overcrowded barracks, built of green wood, offered little protection from the Iowa winter, and the prisoners were not provided adequate fuel. They were kept shackled for months. Sixteen Dakota women, brought along to cook and launder for the prisoners, also lived in the camp with their children. By 1864, men were taken out of the camp under guard to cut wood and work in nearby farm fields. That summer, a group of Dakota families—ninety men, women, and children who had been picked up at Pembina—were imprisoned with them. At least 120 people died of smallpox and other ailments at Camp Kearney. In the spring of 1866, President Andrew Johnson finally pardoned the men, who were then sent west to meet their families.

The letter writers first learned to write in the Dakota language in prison at Davenport, earlier in another prison at Mankato, or earlier still in mission schools. In all these places, missionaries worked to convert Dakota people to Christianity, in part by teaching them to read and write their once entirely oral language, for which missionaries had created a writing system and into which they had translated the Bible and various Christian hymns and liturgies.

With the exception of a letter addressed to General Henry Hastings Sibley, most of the Davenport letters are addressed to Tamakoce (His Country), the name the Dakota had given to missionary Stephen Riggs, whom the writers also frequently address in the body of their letters as mitakuye, Dakota for ‘my relative.’”

Modern Maple

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Red cabbage and Berry Salad by Teresa Marrone from Modern MapleModern Maple by Teresa MarroneToday’s post is an excerpt from our new cookbook, Modern Maple by Teresa Marrone, the second title in our Northern Plate series.


A maple tree is a lovely thing. Its hard, fine-grained wood is used to craft beautiful furniture and specialty items as diverse as bowling pins, butcher blocks, and stringed instruments. In summer, its lush canopy of leaves provides welcome shade, and in fall, those same leaves—minus their chlorophyll, which provides the green hue—adorn cityscapes, fencerows, and lakeshores with their stunning displays of autumn color. Some would argue, however, that late winter to early spring is the maple’s finest time, for that is when groundwater pumping through the wood of the tree, rising from the roots to the branch tips, can be tapped to make maple syrup.

Red Cabbage and Berry Salad

Ever get a craving for fresh, raw, colorful vegetables and fruits that are simply prepared? Here’s the perfect fix. I came up with this combination one day when I was staring down a half of a red cabbage lurking in the crisper drawer. Suddenly I knew I wanted to combine it with blueberries and raspberries. The method just came together as I was fixing supper, and I have to say, it’s really delicious. I’m sure it’s chock-full of vitamins and antioxidants; deep purple, red, or blue foods simply radiate good health. Serves 4–5.

½  medium red cabbage (you might not need it all)

½ cup thinly sliced white onion

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 ½  teaspoons kosher salt

½-¾ orange, peeled

1 tablespoon maple syrup

2 teaspoons olive oil or vegetable oil (Smude Farm’s sunflower oil is very good here)

1 cup fresh blueberries

½  cup fresh raspberries, large berries halved before measuring

Cut cabbage into two quarters. Remove core from one quarter and discard, then cut the wedge crosswise into ¼-inch-wide slices. You’ll need about 3 cups of sliced cabbage, so you may also need to core and slice some of the second quarter. In a large nonreactive mixing bowl, combine sliced cabbage, onion, vinegar, and salt; stir well. Set aside at room temperature to marinate for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring several times. At the end of the marinating time, fill the bowl with cold tap water and swirl the cabbage to rinse off the salt and vinegar. Pour into a wire-mesh strainer and drain, then rinse again; let drain for 5 to 10 minutes.

While cabbage is draining, separate the orange into segments. Use your fingers to break each segment into ½-inch pieces, holding the segment over the empty mixing bowl so the juices drip into the bowl; add the orange pieces to the bowl as you go. Add syrup and oil to the bowl; stir to mix. Return drained cabbage mixture to the bowl; add blueberries and raspberries and stir gently to mix.


For a listing of upcoming events, demos, and classes with Teresa, please click on the title’s hyperlink, at the beginning of this post.