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July 26, 2013

Letter from Charles Goddard to his younger brother and uncle, reporting on his mother’s activities since her arrival in Philadelphia – July 26, 1863

Filed under: Civil War Daybook — Lori Williamson @ 9:00 am

Broad and Cherry Street
July 26th 1863
Dear Brother Orren
Mother is withe me, she is stoping at the hotell not far from here, she says you are out to Uncle John’s. and I know you are getting along fine for you must be a pretty brave boy by this time[.]
Mother is coming back to
Winona in a few days
Good by

Uncle JC
Mother desired me to write a few lines to Brother and knowing as I do that he is with you I take the liberty to direct in your name also to write a few lines to you[.]
Mother arrived here a few days ago, it surprised me very much indeed to see her comming up the steps in this ward[,] and Mrs Ely her companion[.] They have been distributing eatibles to the wounded 1st[.] wine: cake: jelly: &c[,] but it is against orders and I think they had better do as all the rest do that come here – give to the matron[.] they would not do that at first thinking the matron would not give it to the 1st Minn boys. The Matron gives to those that she has on her diet book and they ar soldiers that are wounded so bad they cant eat the regular grub that is served to us, so if a Minn boys happens to be on the diet book he will rec[eive] the same attention that any boddy does[.]
All of the boys out of our Company are getting along fine. Most all in this Hosp are slightly wounded[;] only a few bad or[,] as the Doctor calls them[,] “interesting cases”[.]
They are drafting in the city, now no body attempts to resist the draft.
There are about 700 Patiants in this Hospt, some 72 in this Ward. Mother and Mrs Ely went out to Chestnuts Hill Hospt looking up the Min boys yesterday, they found a good many names there and saw a good many of the Regt[.]
Tell Brother Mother desires him to be a good boy untill she comes back[.]
I thought I would write a few words so that he could read them, maby it will pleas him[.]
I recd a letter from Laird McCormic and he say’s that Aunt and Mr Miller are down to Gran-Father. Gran Father and Miller went as far as Harrisburg for state defence[.]
Nothing more at present[.]
With respect
CE Goddard
Respects to Aunt and Mrs Black
Love to Brother and Willie

See full letter: 1863-07-26_Smith_combined

Citation: July 26, 1863, Letter from Charles Goddard to his mother (Catherine Smith), Correspondence 1863-1929. Smith, Orrin Fruit and Family Papers, 1829-1932. Minnesota Historical Society. [P1434 box 1]

May 1, 2012

Letter requesting son’s remains explaing she doesn’t want remains “to be trodden on by those that slain him” – May 1, 1862

Filed under: Civil War Daybook — Lori Williamson @ 9:00 am

Letter from Mrs. M. S. Tilson to Governor Ramsey requesting her son’s remains.

“Lake City May 1st/62
Gov Ramsey Dear Sir
In looking over the list of killed of the 1st Battery of Light Artillery Minn 1st My son is among [the] them:  none but a Mother can sympathize with me in this hour of affliction he was 18 years of age and went with my consent[.] Noble Boy[.]  he has lain down his life for his country[.] may God give me strength in this hour of Affliction.  I ask one boon and that is his Body[.] grant me this and a Mothers prayers and blessing will follow you. his Father died when he was 4 years old and I have reared and Educated him and his younger Brother[.] could you have his remains coffined and sent to me it [will] a great relief and sooth my aching heart[.] hard for me to believe that my son is no more and yet harder still to feel that remains shall molder and crumble in that rebel land to be trodden by those that have slain him[.] my own Fatherless boy sleepless nights and days of anguish, will be my lot. none to share my sorrow.  My son went out from Winona County—Richard [O] Tilson[.]
Should a hospital be opened for the sick and wounded soldiers, will you grant me the Position of Matron[?] Mr. Thomas Simpson of Winona or Rev.ed David [Beurtt] of the same place as reference from the [P__ss][.] The matter has been suggested[.] I have filled a position of the king family.
Yours Truly M S Tilson”

Citation:  May 1, 1862 Letter from Mrs. M. S. Tilson, Letters Received–Requests for Assistance. Minnesota: Governor: Ramsey. Records. Minnesota Historical Society. State Archives. Minnesota Historical Society.

August 30, 2011

1876 Northfield Bank Robbery Goes Digital

Filed under: What's New — Lori Williamson @ 10:20 am


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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September 10, 2009

The Northfield Duster

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — Matt Anderson @ 7:33 am

Duster used in Northfield bank raid

Like the First Minnesota’s charge at Gettysburg, or the Dillinger gang’s escapades in St. Paul, every good Minnesotan knows the story of the Northfield Raid. On September 7, 1876, Frank and Jesse James, along with Cole, Jim, and Bob Younger, attempted to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota. When clerk Joseph Lee Haywood refused to open the vault, the James-Younger gang shot him dead. Northfield citizens heard the shot, grabbed their own guns, and ambushed the gang in the street. Gang members Clell Miller and William Stiles were killed, as was Northfield resident Nicholas Gustavson. The James brothers got away, but the Youngers were captured near Madelia, Minnesota, after several days of pursuit. Sentenced to life in the Stillwater State Prison, Cole and Jim were paroled in 1901 (Bob died in prison in 1889).

Among the most revered objects in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection is this linen duster. It was recovered outside of the Northfield bank just after the raid, and is known to have been worn by one of the James-Younger gang members (purportedly, Cole Younger himself). Dusters were common in the horse-and-buggy era (and even in the days of open automobiles). Just as its name implies, a lightweight duster keeps dust and dirt off of one’s clothes while traveling. For the robbers, though, their dusters served a darker purpose. The long, loose garments concealed their guns. As soon as the gang members walked into the bank, they shed their outerwear and revealed their weapons. This duster was left behind as the gang fled from the ambush.

The duster came to the Society in 1890 as a donation from George N. Baxter, the prosecuting attorney for Rice County in 1876. Baxter apparently held onto this piece of evidence after the Youngers’ trial, and saw to it that it was preserved for future generations. While the Youngers’ prison sentences may have been cut short, the duster’s survival seems far more permanent.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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February 26, 2009

Delisle globe, 1765

Filed under: Podcasts and Slideshows, What's New — Pat Coleman @ 8:56 am

Map Curator Pat Coleman gives us an introduction to ‘Minnesota on the Map:’ Four Centuries of Maps from the Minnesota Historical Society Collection: an exhibit he has curated that opens on February 28. The exhibit includes 100 maps from the MHS collection of over 22,000. Pat also shares his insights to a recently acquired globe from 1765.

View 3-D version of the Delisle globe

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Guillaume Delisle

Globe Terrestre: Revu et Corrige sur les Dernieres Observations et les Meilleurs Carties… Paris: Desnos.

As beautiful and as informational as maps can be, globes literally add a third dimension. They are fabulous artifacts that allow a user to interact with maps in a way that a two dimensional map cannot. Mid 18th -century French globes are considered to be among the finest examples of the art of globe making. This globe, based on the cartographic work of Guillaume Delisle, is interesting in the extreme.

To begin with, Delisle was a cartographic “rock star”. He was born in Paris in 1675, the son of Claude Delisle, a famous geographer and historian. Trained in mathematics and astronomy, Guillaume was perfectly suited to make scientific corrections on earlier Dutch cartography. Delisle made giant leaps forward in mapmaking. For his work he was appointed “Premier Geographe du Roi” in 1718.

This globe is not representative of Delisle’s most accurate cartography, however. There are many inaccuracies on the North American continent alone. Notice the two North West passages, which are clearly based on wishful thinking, and the Mer de l’Ouest, (Sea of the West), is shockingly incorrect. Since Delisle had been dead for 40 years when this globe was made, and since Delisle was know for excluding hearsay on his maps, it seems safe to conclude that his successors- his younger brother, Joseph-Nicholas Delisle and his nephew Philippe Buache – were responsible for the “Mer de l’Ouest,” based on the supposed voyage of an Admiral de Fonte who claimed to have found a river that flowed through North America. Ten years later Cook’s voyage would disprove the existence of both these inaccuracies. California is still attached to the mainland on this globe, but the shape of the Great Lakes are poorly rendered for the time period and the Missouri and Rio Grande (Rio del Norte) have nearly identical headwaters. The Mississippi River takes an exaggerated eastward bend but the location of the head of the river is a fairly accurate guess. All of these strange features add to the fascination of the globe.

There are two cartouches (think of a cartouche as the title page and copyright page of a book) and an advertisement printed on the globe. The main cartouche promises that the globe is “revised and corrected on the latest observations and the best maps” and, of course, is dedicated to the king of France. The other main cartouche mentions “Delisle, the astronomer…” as the cartographer behind this terrestrial globe that was “Monte par l’Auteur” or “mounted” by Desnos the publisher. The globe also shows the routes of the explorers via dotted lines suggesting the inclusion of information gathered from those excursions.

Globes dating from the 18th century are extremely rare, which might lead one to assume that they were not widely used in their day. This is not the case at all. Globes were common educational tools used in classrooms, libraries, and even as navigational instruments on ships. It is their inherent fragility that has led to their scarcity.

Help us preserve and display the Delisle Globe.

October 13, 2008

The Younger Brothers: After the Attempted Robbery

Filed under: Podcasts and Slideshows — Lori Williamson @ 4:38 pm

Everyone knows the story of the attempted bank robbery in Northfield by the James-Younger gang, when the townspeople rose up to defend their bank and thwarted the infamous would-be robbers. The gang fled the scene and split up; however, the Younger Brothers were captured later near Madelia, Minnesota. Government Records Specialist Charlie Rodgers tells the story of what happened to the brothers after their capture in this podcast.

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February 5, 2008

Keeping Warm: Knits and Heaters Preserved at MHS

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — Matt Anderson @ 2:18 pm

Clockwise from top: knitted hat, wrist warmers, scarf, mittens, dickey, and stockingsHow do you keep warm in a Minnesota winter when freezing is not just the temperature, but the condition you feel whether indoors in a draft or outdoors in the wind? Common sense, long traditions and modern technology combine to provide us means to keep warm until that long awaited spring weather arrives.

What could be more basic to keeping warm than a hand-knitted accessory? The Society’s collection of hand-knitted items includes great examples of beauty and practicality that date from the mid 19th Century to the present. Minnesota’s knitting history includes examples from Northern European immigrants who expected family members to produce knitted items as part of their everyday duties. Thus, among others, we have examples from skilled knitters who have made Swedish wrist warmers, Latvian mittens, and Norwegian stockings. Our collection of helmet liners, chest warmers and hand-knit stockings remind us that patriotic, charitable knitting warms hearts and protects soldiers.

Clockwise from top: insulated seat cushion, vacuum flask, soapstone foot warmer, fuel-operated hand warmer, and electric heaterA younger generation of 21st-Century knitters fuels the popularity of this craft to add their own style. Jayne Cobb, the character from the TV series Firefly, may have worn his ugly hat to honor his mother, but its popularity among fans is just as much about consciously creating the most glaringly offensive color combinations possible. Keeping warm has never been more stylish.

Cozy clothing is only one answer to the problem of keeping warm. Minnesotans have used a number of interesting devices for portable, personal warmth. Soapstone hand and foot warmers were early solutions. Once heated in an oven or in front of a fire, a stone could be wrapped in a mitten or placed in a pocket to provide radiant heat for a half hour. Fuel-operated hand warmers lasted longer – and lit cigarettes to boot – but were bulkier. Modern chemical-reaction hand warmers combine lasting heat with minimal size.

Portable kerosene heaters provided warmth for everyone in the room, but required open flames and liquid fuel. Electric heaters eliminated the fire and fuel, but required a nearby outlet. Seat cushions retailed under names like “Hot Seat” were said to work like magic. In fact there was a bit of illusion involved: the foam pellets inside reflected the user’s body heat rather than producing warmth of their own. Other devices added heat inside the body. What could be better, for example, than a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee on a bitter winter day? The Society’s collection includes an early brass vacuum flask, complete with cork stopper, from 1909, as well as the stainless steel and plastic bottle explorer Ann Bancroft used on her journey across Antarctica in 2000-2001.

The Minnesota Historical Society preserves a number of knitted clothing articles and personal heaters. The items in these photos are some of our favorite warmth-providing and chill-chasing objects from the Society’s collection.

Linda McShannock, Objects Curator

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

January 10, 2008

WCCO-TV Goes Behind the Scenes at MHS

Filed under: What's New — Matt Anderson @ 1:20 pm

WCCO-TV reporter Jeanette Trompeter recently peeked behind the scenes of the Minnesota Historical Society’s History Center. Trompeter interviewed curators Linda McShannock and Matt Anderson about interesting pieces from the Society’s collection, including a handgun used to wound John Dillinger, a duster worn by a James-Younger Gang member during the Northfield Raid, and pieces of Munsingwear underwear.

See Trompeter’s report here: http://wcco.com/specialreports/minnesota.history.center.2.609055.html

November 6, 2007

Stillwater State Prison Log

Filed under: What's New — Matt Anderson @ 2:05 pm

Stillwater State Prison log, handcuffs and keySeptember 7, 2006 marked the 130th anniversary of the Northfield First National Bank robbery attempt by the notorius James-Younger Gang. After two weeks on the run, the Younger brothers, Cole, Jim, and Bob, were captured and sentenced to 25 years in the state prison at Stillwater in November 1876.

Recently, the Minnesota Historical Society acquired a Stillwater State Prison record book that includes information about all three brothers. The record book is entitled “Cell Room Daily Report”, and dates from June 1, 1880 through September 28, 1882. The record book is the prison’s daily record listing prisoners who were sick in their cell, isolated in the “dungeon”, sent on work details, or staying in the prison for the day. The Younger brothers were often “sick in cell”, especially Cole Younger. Why Cole was sick in his cell is not detailed. During the period the record book was compiled there were 210 to 280 inmates, males and females, in the state prison.

It is unclear if the record book is for the entire prison, or for just one cellblock, but the book gives some insights about the Younger brothers and their incarceration. The record book is particularly valuable, since there are few, if any, records documenting the Younger Brothers imprisonment in the state prison. The Younger brothers (Cole, cell no. 64; Bob, cell no. 65; Jim, cell no. 66) are frequently mentioned in the record book, and the State Archives of the Minnesota Historical Society has only a few records documenting the brothers imprisonment in the Stillwater State Prison. Bob Younger died in prison in 1889; Jim was pardoned in 1901 and committed suicide in 1902; Cole, also pardoned in 1901, died in 1916.

The Stillwater State Prison was initally established as a territorial prison in 1853 and become the first state prison when Minnesota became a state in 1858. The State Archives holds a variety of records from the prison including convict registers, case files, annual reports, and photographs.

Charles Rodgers, Government Records Specialist

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October 31, 2007

Olmsted County Coroner Records

Filed under: What's New — Matt Anderson @ 10:00 am

Carbolic acid bottle and coroner’s documents“His death was not caused feloniously.”

These are the words of the Olmsted County coroner’s jury concerning the 1901 death of a Henry Schmelzer in Rochester, Minnesota. Mr. Schmelzer committed suicide by drinking carbolic acid, and the bottle containing the poison is pictured here. The bottle was discovered in the coroner’s inquest file (no. 151) for Mr. Schmelzer, along with statements given by coroner’s inquest witnesses. Witnesses included Henry’s two brothers and his spouse, Emma. According to the testimony, Henry had been depressed for sometime about his failing crops. His body was found three days after he went missing in the unfinished basement of the new part of a Catholic church. The empty bottle of carbolic acid was found near Henry’s body.

Recently the State Archives collection received coroner’s inquest files dating from the 1880s to the 1980s from the Olmsted County District Court. Usually, a coroner’s inquest was only conducted if a death was caused by homicide and suicide, or if the death was somehow suspicious. Not all of the files contain such details about a death, such as Mr. Schmelzer’s, but coroner’s records are useful for family history. The State Archives preserves coroner’s inquest files, and coroner’s registers and record books from most of Minnesota’s counties. These records are available for use in the Society’s Library.

Charles Rodgers, Government Records Specialist

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