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Veritas Caput

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Down the Great River

I only know of one book on our list that was so controversial it required the intervention of the Minnesota Historical Society. It was…

Willard Glazier. Down the Great River: Embracing an Account of the Discovery of the True Source of the Mississippi… Philadelphia: 1887.

Civil War Captain, Willard Glazier, mounted an expedition to the source of the Mississippi in 1881 and claimed to have discovered a lake beyond Lake Itasca that was the true source of the river. He named the new veritas caput “Lake Glazier.” The author and his expedition then continued their journey down the Mississippi stopping to tout Glazier’s discovery at towns along the way.

Glazier’s book Down the Great River was published in 1887 and reprinted in 1888, ’89, ’91, and ’93. Each edition grew as the author added testimonials backing his claim. These came from authorities like the Ex-Mayor of Brainerd, the Postmaster at Leech Lake, and various clergymen.

Down the Great River Title PageThe controversy became a significant economic issue when a textbook publisher endorsed Glazier’s claim. Another textbook company, not wanting the expense of reprinting their geography, mounted yet another expedition which concluded that Glazier’s lake was in fact “Elk Lake” and had been known since 1803. Nicollet had shown it as an extension of Itasca on his 1836 map.

The Minnesota Historical Society asked the State Legislature to prohibit textbooks from mentioning Willard Glazier’s claim. Legendary politician Ignatius Donnelly successfully shepherded that bill into law. Not satisfied to let the issue die there the MHS hired J. V. Brower to survey and report on the headwaters. Glazier also returned in 1891 to press his lost cause.

The book is a fun read and was lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in gold embossed decorative bindings of various colors. Collect them all.

Patrick Coleman with two edition of Down the Great River

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Brenda Ueland and Sinclair Lewis

Friday, July 30th, 2010

Brenda Ueland

A recent addition to the papers of Brenda Ueland (1891-1985), Minneapolis feminist, diarist, and author, includes extensive family correspondence, a childhood diary, and correspondence from literary and political figures.  A new inventory to the entire collection is available on the Library web site. Embedded in the inventory are digital images of five letters from Sinclair Lewis, single letters from Langston Hughes, Eleanor Roosevelt and Carl Sandburg, and an autograph card of Henrik Ibsen.  In an especially poignant letter of February 27, 1942, Sinclair Lewis writes:

“I’ve for years thought that I’d like really to live in Minnesota.  I wish I had one small root in some one solid area….Now that I’m fifty-seven (though only for 20 days have I been in that horribly advanced age) and practically grown-up, I ought to do something serious about this root business….I love the hills of Connecticut, and hate the grudging people; I love the gay people of New York City, and hate the steel and cement prison corridors that are called streets. I think that some day, if I ever got settled down, I might become a novelist, and I am informed that that is a very fine and happy state of being!”

Thanks to cataloger Chris Welter and interns Shelby Edwards and Julia Weisgram, working under Monica Ralston’s direction, for enhancing access to this important manuscript collection.

Duane Swanson, Curator of Manuscripts

Letter from Lewis to Ueland

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“High Priestess of the Women’s Magazine”

Friday, July 16th, 2010

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I wrongly assumed that I we already had this book on our list of 150 Best Minnesota Books because she was my nominee for inclusion into the MHS’s MN 150 exhibit. Let us rectify this now…

Margaret Culkin Banning. Mesabi. Harper and Row Publishers: New York, 1969.

The title of this blog is a quote from the local literary critic James Gray. I am not sure if he was tweaking her or praising her but since she wrote over 400 short stories and essays for magazines he clearly had a point. Over her sixty year career she also wrote, by my count, 36 novels. Many Minnesotans of her day considered Margaret Banning a much greater literary light than Sinclair Lewis.

Minnesota, Duluth in particular, was always Banning’s home base but she experienced a lot of life from Vasser [where she met Lady Gregory], to a settlement house in Chicago, to London during the Blitz, and to delegate to a Republican National Convention. Her experiences qualified her to write about women in society and how their roles were changing. She even tackled issues like birth control which many Catholic writers might have shied away from.

Mesabi, may not be her most typical book but it is a great one for our list. It is about the city she loved, Duluth, and “one of the men that matter” in that town, Hugh Champlain, the President of Greysolon, the major Iron Range mining company. In a holographic note on the half title of the MHS’s library copy, Banning says that in order to get the novel right it “took three years of research to feel that I was sure of my facts.” She goes on to write that these facts “have not been disputed by men in the mining industry, who like it almost with out exception”. One of those men surely was LeRoy Salsich the president of the Oliver mining company and Banning’s second husband!

Here is what we wanna know from you, dear readers… Have you read any of Banning’s books? Do you have a favorite? How does her work hold up? Was she an inspiration to the modern woman’s movement? Is she too prissy and prudish for today’s readers? Let us hear from you.

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Minnesota’s Connection to Glacier National Park

Friday, July 9th, 2010

The Minnesota Historical Society is home to a large variety of documents, books, and photographs related to Glacier National Park in Northwestern Montana. In this podcast Collections Assistant Jillian Odland explains Minnesota’s connection to the foundation and history this spectacular park.

 
icon for podpress  YouTube: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
icon for podpress  Podcast Video [5:13m]: Download (1150)
icon for podpress  View Transcript: Download (751)

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An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs