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Archive for August, 2011

Child’s suit worn by Josiah Snelling

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Child's suit worn by Josiah Snelling

Hand-sewn silk suit worn by Josiah Snelling as a young boy, circa 1787. Snelling played a major role in the construction of Fort St. Anthony (later renamed Fort Snelling in his honor) and was its commanding officer from 1820-1827.

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“Local Affairs: The German Veteran Cavalry; Fort Snelling,” Saint Paul Daily Press – August 31, 1861

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

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1876 Northfield Bank Robbery Goes Digital

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011


Seven minutes: that’s how long it took for the James-Younger gang’s Northfield bank robbery to fail utterly.  Since September 7, 1876, the foiled raid has been discussed and disputed repeatedly.  The Minnesota Historical Society maintains a significant cache of material—from first-person testimonies and reminiscences to government records—documenting the attempted robbery and its aftereffects.  Now, much of this material has been digitized and is accessible via the Web.

Cole Younger's account of the Northfield bank robbery, [1897], page 1 of 18.

One interesting item is Cole Younger’s first written account of the robbery, penned to aid in his subsequent parole effort.  Other items include southern Minnesota residents’ recollections and impressions of the gang, both before the event and after.  One woman, for instance, recalls how as a six-year-old she and her family observed the gang spend the night prior to the attempted robbery in a rural school outside of Red Wing—and includes a map of the farmstead and school.

“An Incident in the Career of the James Brothers,” as told to Mrs. Herbert W. Meyer, circa 1962, page 2 of 2.

Most of the material comes from official state records, which derive from the criminal trial, prison terms, and paroles/pardons of the Younger brothers.  The materials on whole have significant research value, but some items are of singular interest.  For instance, on January 8, 1902, Miss Alix J. Mueller wrote Governor Van Sant “a woman’s prayer for mercy to one whom she loves.”  Miss Mueller had met Cole’s younger brother Jim at the Stillwater State Prison about 1896, and a romance and engagement ensued.  Though Jim was paroled in 1901, he was precluded from entering into legally binding contracts—including marriage.  Miss Mueller entreated the governor’s assistance, yet her very words foretold the end: “For he is sorely stricken, and I am an invalid.”  No pardon being granted, Jim Younger committed suicide nine months later in St. Paul, and Alix Mueller died of tuberculosis about a year and a half later.  Partly as a result of his brother’s fate, Cole Younger was granted a conditional pardon in 1903.

Alix J. Mueller (St. Paul) to Governor Van Sant, January 8, 1902, pages 1 and 3 of 3.Alix Mueller Photo

There are other novel items as well.  Upon being released from prison, Jim and Cole Younger had to submit monthly parole reports.  These reports essentially acted as employment records, and the current employer was obliged to vouch for the report’s accuracy.  Coincidentally, one of these reports links Minnesota’s most famous bank robbery—the Northfield raid—to perhaps its most infamous crime era—the gangland 1930s.  In April 1902, Cole was working for St. Paul Police Chief John J. O’Connor, watching his homestead and laborers.  O’Connor had provided safe haven for criminals in St. Paul during his tenure, as long as they didn’t perpetrate their crimes within city limits. Though O’Connor retired in 1920, his system persisted, ultimately proving an inducement to the likes of John Dillinger and the Barker-Karpis gang.

Monthly parole report, [April 21, 1902].Cole Younger pardon certificate, 1903, front.

Digitization of this material was made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on November 4, 2008.  Here follows the list of collections that contain digitized material about the attempted Northfield bank robbery:

Christopher Welter, Collections Assistant

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Copies of bills and letters regarding Culver and Farrington supplying the 1st regiment – August 30, 1861

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Correspondence between Culver and Farrington, Adjutant General Sanborn, and Governor Ramsey regarding the enclosed bill from Culver and Farrington for supplying the 1st Minnesota Regiment.

Transcription from page 2 of a letter from firm of Culver & Farrington to Adjutant General John B. Sanborn:

[…] “At the time we agreed with you to furnish this Regiment, you and Governor Ramsey both informed us that the President and Secretary of War instructed him to clothe and equip the Regiment and the General Government would pay for all that was so furnished, it was upon these statements that we relied, when we made so large advances to provide for the Regiment it seems from what has followed that yourself and the Governor must have been mistaken in regard to this matter, or the authorities at Washington are failing to do as they agreed.  We desire to have this account adjusted at once, and hope that you and the Governor may ascertain immediately whether or not you were correctly informed at the time we furnished the goods that the General Government would pay for them,
Yours very respectfully”

See full letter: 1861-08-30_1_full_text

Transcription from page 3 of a letter from Adjutant General John B. Sanborn to Governor Ramsey:

[…] “The accounts are correct and should be adjusted and paid by the General Government, but you will observe by the enclosed copy of the letter of this house to me, that for some reason the Officers of the General Government have failed to pay any attention to the accounts.  It is difficult to understand why this is, if you correctly understand the Secretary of War.  The Government have had a three months regiment and a three years furnished by this house to such an extent as to enable them to leave for the Seat of War in a comfortable respectable and fighting condition at only about one quarter of the expense charged by some States to the General Government (if we can judge from the reports of Legislative proceedings) for our three months regiment.  I think this matter demands attention and that the reasons why the Government do not adjust and pay for the small pitance furnished with sparing hands to our brave Regiments be ascertained.”

See full letter: 1861-08-30_2_full_text

Citation: August 30, 1861 Letters and bill between Culver & Farrington, Adjutant General Sanborn and Governor Ramsey, Letters Received–State Officials. Minnesota: Governor: Ramsey. Records. Minnesota Historical Society. State Archives.

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State Fair air freshener

Monday, August 29th, 2011

State Fair air freshener

Air freshener sachet made of hand-woven reeds with a pressure-fitted lid and green soutache hanging loop.  The sachet was exhibited and sold at the 1951 Minnesota State Fair.

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Human Hair Jewelry

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Hair work jewelry originated in France and England in the 1700’s, evolving from the craft of wig makers.  Initially, the jewelry functioned as a mourning memento and was a common funeral gift in the 18th century.  Rings, brooches, necklaces, watch fobs, earrings and much more were crafted from the lock of a loved one.  In the mid-1800s, the craft found its way to the United States including the growing metropolitan centers of Minnesota.  Often, jewelry stores would have an in-house hair weaver while the jeweler would create the gold fittings.   As the jewelry became more popular, it was also created at home as a woman’s parlor craft similar to knitting and crochet.   In  1867 Mark Campbell,  a hairwork distributor with outlets in both Chicago and New York, published the Self-Instructor in the Art of Hairwork, which advertised instructions on how to make hair jewelry of every description.  Campbell’s book helped make hair jewelry an accessible craft.  With a few home-made tools such as a braiding table with a rotating disc, lead weights, and simple forms such as a rod or pencil, anyone could make hair jewelry.  Today, many excellent examples of hair jewelry are preserved in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections.  A few were made from the hair of, or worn by, such well known Minnesotans as Josiah Snelling, Alexander Ramsey, and William Watts Folwell.

Hair necklace

The above watch chain is made of brown human hair in a square chain braid and twist chain braid.  First, the hair is cut, massed in a bundle, and washed with soda to remove the grease.  Groups of hairs are separated to make strands that are attached to metal weights to prevent tangling.  The hair strands are then braided in a pattern around a form.  This watch chain was probably braided around a wire, tubing, or a pencil.  Once braided, the hair was boiled for 10 minutes to set it.  After drying and cooling, the form was carefully removed and gold findings were attached.

Hair brooch

This brooch is crafted with blonde and brown hair in an open lace braid.

Hair bracelet

This is a loop and button clasp bracelet made with blonde and brown hair.  The blonde buttons and beads were made by rolling scrap paper into a form around which hair is wound.

Laura Marsolek, Collections Intern

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Letter from man with hernia requesting to serve in some way other than as a soldier – August 29, 1861

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Letter from E. Newton to Governor Ramsey to serve in some way other than as a soldier.

“Dear Sir, With pain and sorrow I read, a few days since, in the “St. Paul Press,” that the 2nd Min. Regiment was not yet full.  Were I “able bodied” as the law requires, I would, ore this, have offered myself, and esteemed it a favor to have been permitted to serve my country and adopted state as a soldier. But being troubled with “hernia” that would cause me to be rejected by the Surgeon, I must (tho with regret) forgo the privilege of serving my country in the ranks, in the most righteous cause in which men ever died on the field of battle, — I write you, to inquire, if there is not some capacity in which I can serve, instead perhaps, of some one, who might be accepted, where I should be rejected.  For, notwithstanding my complaint, I am capable of pretty hard service, which I would like to render in these trying times. Engagements, hitherto have prevented my making such an offer of my service.  I am a native of Mass. but have lived in Min. since Nov. 1855, – am 43 years old – a minister of the gospel – Congregationalist –Now, if there is any situation, among the Min. troops, in which I can serve my country, and adopted state please let me know, and I will be on hand. “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”
Very truly yours, E. Newton”

Citation: August 29, 1861 Letter from E. Newton to Governor Ramsey, Letters Received–Offers to Serve or raise men. Minnesota: Governor: Ramsey. Records. Minnesota Historical Society. State Archives.

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Letter on behalf of Governor Ramsey to Gorman regarding replacement instruments for the 1st regiment’s band – August 28, 1861

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Letter on behalf of Governor Ramsey to Col. W. A. Gorman regarding regimental instruments.

“Sir:  I am instructed by Gov. Ramsey to acknowledge yours of the 21st and say –
– That, on the 19th of August, a letter dated the 10th was received here from Lt. Col. Miller, Commanding the 1st Regt at that time, asking the State to replace the instruments of the Regimental Band, which were damaged so as to be useless in the retreat after the action of July 21st. […]
“And that, on the day following, the 20th, the Commanding officer of the Regt was again written to and advised, that arrangements had been made that day with R. [C.] Munger of St. Paul (with limits as to price) to forward immediately from New York to your Head Quarters, for your Band, a set of the improved style of brass instruments to supply those damaged or lost.
It is, therefore, suggested to you to countermand your order as soon as possible, as in nothing is the State Administration so tenacious, in her present embarrassed condition financially, than that all disbursements for which our treasury becomes responsible, shall be first authorized by the Executive Department here – and by no one else.
Very Respectfully, Thomas Foster, Private Secretary to the Govr”

See full letter: 1861-08-28_full_text

Citation:  August 28, 1861 Letter from Thomas Foster to Willis A. Gorman, Correspondence, May – Aug 1861.  Willis A. Gorman and family papers 1847-1899.  Minnesota Historical Society.

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“Our Neighbor On Treason,” Mankato Semi-Weekly Record – August 27, 1861

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

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Civil War rain hat

Friday, August 26th, 2011

Civil War rain hat

Non-regulation tarred cloth (oilcloth) rain hat reportedly used during the Civil War by First Lieutenant Abner St. Cyr of the 4th Minnesota Regiment, Company G.  The hat has a visor and a shoulder-length cape that can be wrapped across the face to cover all but the eyes.

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