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Alarm Ball

Friday, December 17th, 2010

Alarm Ball

This round metal “Alarm Ball” was designed by L.S. BUFFINGTON and the patent for it was approved in 1894. The bell was designed to warn homeowners of intruders. When placed against a door or a window, the ball’s weight pushes its three small legs down and stills the bell within the device. The movement of the door or window upsets the device, causing the legs to thrust outward, ringing the bell and warning the homeowner of an intruder. This Alarm Ball is not in working condition.

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Victorian Wire Wrap Ornaments

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The Minnesota Historical Society holds many Christmas-related objects, including a number of elaborate, hand-made ornaments from the Victorian era. Volunteer Kelly Ryan explains the materials and techniques commonly used in making these ornaments and highlights several examples from the Collection.

 
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Prohibition button

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Prohibition button

Small red, white and blue round litho pinback metal pro-prohibition button and card reading, “Wear this button! Save the 18th Amendment – help build up- don’t tear down – Fight Wet Propaganda – Show your colors!” Circa 1918.

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Cement Mixer

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Cement Mixer

Cement Mixer
Painter: Syd Fossum (American, 1909-1978)
Art Collection, Watercolor 1930
Location no. AV1990.197.9
Negative no. 60128

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Colt Baby Dragoon Revolver Owned By Alexander Ramsey

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon

It’s remarkable that truly unique objects continue to surface. Such is the case with this handgun recently donated by a member of the North Star Circle. The weapon belonged to Minnesota politician Alexander Ramsey, and it dates to our earliest territorial days.

The gun is a Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon. The five-shot, .31 caliber, percussion cap revolver represents Colt’s first foray into the civilian market. While the military Dragoon was designed for cavalry forces, the “Baby” Dragoon was scaled down for easy portability and concealment. It should be no surprise that a practical civilian handgun was a big seller in an age of westward expansion and pre-war anxiety. More than 350,000 Dragoons were sold before production ended in 1873.

One of those buyers was Alexander Ramsey. Appointed Minnesota’s first territorial governor in 1849, Ramsey likely purchased the gun for personal protection on the northwest frontier. While we have no record of the governor taking part in gunfights, wear on the revolver suggests that it has been fired. Ramsey carefully preserved the gun, along with its leather-covered wooden case, a powder charger, a bullet mold, and a wrench for extracting spent percussion caps.

For years after Ramsey’s death in 1903, the Baby Dragoon sat in his bedroom closet in St. Paul, alongside a more ornamental pair of dueling pistols. Ramsey’s granddaughters sold the Dragoon in the early 1960s. The dueling pistols came to the Minnesota Historical Society (along with the Ramsey House itself) after the governor’s last granddaughter passed away in 1964.

With the Baby Dragoon now in the Society’s collection, Alexander Ramsey’s guns will be reunited for the first time in 50 years. It’s a most exciting addition to our holdings.

Matt Anderson
Objects Curator

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Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon and accessories

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Life…

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Life is just one damn thing after another

Postcard created by Pillsbury Flour Mills Company painter, H. Elmer Benell.
1911
Photograph Collection; location no. Ferrell VI.269.

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Beatlemania in Minnesota

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Beatles at the Metropolitan Stadium, 1965Beatles at the Metropolitan Stadium, 1965

On August 21, 1965, the Beatles played their first and only concert in Minnesota to a packed crowd at the Metropolitan Stadium. The Minnesota Historical Society has a large number of photographs of this event.

Beatles at the Metropolitan Stadium, 1965Beatles at the Metropolitan Stadium, 1965

Twin Cities photographer Bill Carlson attended the event and brings to Beatles fans, photography aficionados, and history buffs more than 100 never-before-published photographs that document one day of the Beatles on tour in his book The Beatles! A One-Night Stand in the Heartland.

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Zombies, Vampires, or What?

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

I Giganti Di Pietra

This is the Italian edition of Minnesota science fiction author Donald Wandrei’s The Web of Easter Island. However, the Italian title literally translates as The Stone Giants. The original English edition was published in 1948; this Italian version was published in 1956, with its great gothic cover.

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Mendota South

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Mendota South

Mendota South
Alexander Masley
Wood Engraving on Paper, circa 1935.

Alexander Simeon Masley grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota where he began a long career as an artist, student, and educator.  During the early 1930s, after attending the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis School of Art, Masley moved to Munich, Germany and began to study with Hans Hofmann, presently known as an abstract expressionist. Throughout these years and beyond, Masley developed both his formal compositional skills and technical printmaking abilities, especially in the area of wood engraving.

Wood engraving is a relief printmaking process similar to other woodblock printing methods; a picture is composed and engraved into a piece of wood. When preparing a standard woodcut for printing, an artist uses the side grain of a soft wood; however, when the wood engraving technique is utilized, the end-grain of a hardwood is used. This allows the printed image much more intricacy in detail, as can be seen here.

During the 1930s Masley used these techniques to produce prints which often featured Minnesota landscapes as subjects. In many of his prints from this period, he used a shifting, stacked perspective, an example of which is a prominent feature in this composition.

The confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers has historically been important to different groups of people for disparate reasons. The Dakota word for the confluence of the rivers is B’dote, which means “where the waters meet” or “where one river joins another.” Historically it has and continues to be considered a sacred place, and held by some Dakota to be an area of their origin.

Near the time of the founding of Fort Snelling, one of the first permanent non-Indian settlements developed across the Minnesota River. Settlers and fur traders transformed “B’dote” into “Mendota” and the settlement retains that name today. Currently the city of Mendota houses Saint Peter’s Catholic Church, home to the oldest parish in the state. It is also home to the Henry Hastings Sibley house, the Faribault house, and several buildings associated with the American Fur Company.

The wood engraving presented here is of a view of the city of Mendota, completed by Masley circa 1935.

Benjamin Gessner, Collections Assistant

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St. Paul: Gangster Haven

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

St. Paul had a widespread – if inglorious – reputation as a criminal safe haven during the Gangster Era of the 1930s. In this episode, Government Records Specialist Charles Rodgers shares several items from the Society’s collection associated with that colorful age.


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