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Reddy Kilowatt Clock

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Reddy Kilowatt Clock, 1956

Reddy Kilowatt, retired mascot for the electric utility industry, remains a familiar figure. Created in 1926 by Ashton Collins of the Alabama Power Company, Reddy’s slogans and advertising products were used by more than 300 power companies across the country.  This clock in the Society’s collection is just one example of the products that carried his lightning bolt figure and accompanying slogans into the homes and memories of families growing up in the mid 20th century.  Years after hearing it, his “electricity is penny cheap…” jingle still plays in my head. Besides his light bulb nose and his light socket ears, this Reddy Kilowatt is dressed up for kitchen duty.   Named one of the top twenty product mascots in the United States, Reddy Kilowatt is a pop culture star with his jingles and products; even the Granite Falls, Minnesota high school adopted him as their mascot.

Linda McShannock, Objects Curator

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Victorian Christmas

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Winter sledding scene

The turn of the century ushered in some of the most beautiful and elaborate examples of Christmas ornaments and cards.  Stop in to the Library Lobby and see cards, ornaments, and other decorations from holidays past. All pieces are from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Collection.

This display will be up until January 11, 2010.

Christmas greeting cardSanta image, 19th century

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Daguerreotype of St. Anthony Falls

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Daguerreotype of St. Anthony Falls

The Minnesota Historical Society recently acquired a rare and historic quarter plate daguerreotype of the Falls of St. Anthony in Minnesota Territory, present day Minneapolis. The village of St. Anthony stood on the east side of the river and was a bustling area of settlement and industry by the mid-1850s when John W. Monell created this daguerreotype.

Daguerreotypes were mirror-like, one-of-a-kind photographs that first appeared in 1839 and peaked in popularity by 1856. These extremely fragile images on silvered copper plates were protected behind glass in attractive cases. This view of the waterfall is housed in its original case with a raised imprint on its velvet pad identifying the artist and location.

John W. Monell established his studio in St. Anthony in April 1854. The following year he won first prize at the Territorial Fair for his exhibit case of daguerreotype portraits and views of St. Anthony Falls, Minnehaha Falls, the Suspension Bridge, and other local sites. The view in this daguerreotype shows St. Anthony Falls from Hennepin Island. It is a variant of two similar views in the Society’s collections, taken by unidentified daguerreotypists. This perspective is from a position further back and shows a raised conveyance made of lumber, across the foreground.  It is likely a chute used for facilitating the handling of lumber, shingles, and other wood products as they were sent downstream well below the falls.

Funds from the Virginia Moe Endowment for Historic Photographs and Lila Goff Acquisitions Endowment made it possible to make this important purchase. It is a significant addition to the Minnesota Historical Society’s nationally-recognized collection of daguerreotypes of St. Anthony Falls and contributes to our earliest photographic history.

Diane Adams-Graf
Sound & Visual Curator
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Philadelphia-style Fire Pumper

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Philadelphia Pumper

Visitors to the exhibit Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World may be surprised to see an early 19th Century Pennsylvania fire pumper from the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection. Franklin helped to establish the first Philadelphia volunteer fire company in 1735, which became a model for other cities, so the pumper certainly has a rightful place in the exhibit. But how did the pumper get here in the first place?

The answer lies with the Waterous Company of Minnesota. In 1886, Fred and Frank Waterous moved their father’s fire engine manufacturing company from Winnipeg to South St. Paul. The company introduced the first fire pump powered by a gasoline engine in 1898. Waterous continues to produce pumps and other firefighting equipment to this day.

Even with its reputation for innovation, Waterous honored the industry’s past. The company assembled a collection of historic vehicles and equipment, consisting both of significant Waterous products and more general apparatus. The Philadelphia-style pumper was a part of that assembly, and in 1966 the company transferred ownership of the lot to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Philadelphia-style pumpers, named for the city in which they were introduced, are characterized by “double-decker” configurations. The design allows four rows of firefighters – two on each end – to work the hand-powered pumping mechanism. Our example is a product of the Merrick & Agnew Company of Philadelphia, built around 1835. The pumper served the Friendship Fire Company of Danville, Pennsylvania.

The Benjamin Franklin exhibit gave us the perfect opportunity to put the pumper on display. Our conservators cleaned the wood, polished the brass, replicated missing components, and generally restored some of the luster to this intriguing artifact. We’re pleased to be able to share it with the public once again.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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Minnesotans and the Space Program

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. We commemorate this milestone with a look at some of the Minnesotans who have contributed their talents to NASA over the years, along with some of the space-related objects in the Society’s collection. The space program endures as another legacy of Minnesota’s Greatest Generation.

 
icon for podpress  Minnesotans and the Space Program: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
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An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs