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Lutefisk or Ludefisk?

Posted byLori Williamson on 24 Oct 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Whether one calls it lutefisk or ludefisk, whether one smothers it with melted butter or cream sauce, or whether one considers it an epicurean delight or a gelatinous mass of something to be feared, lutefisk holds a special place in the hearts of many Scandinavian-Minnesotans.  With the approaching holidays, food connoisseurs may be interested in knowing more about its history.

The Minnesota Historical Society recently received a collection of records of the Kildall Company, a Minneapolis-based firm that manufactured and distributed lutefisk and related fish products, vegetables and breads.  At one time purportedly the largest wholesaler of such products in the nation, the Kildall Company was founded in 1897 and established plants on the near north side of Minneapolis.  It also invested heavily in the growing and canning of pickles.  The Griffith family continued to run business until about 1954.

The collection contains advertising samples, price lists, correspondence, and other business records documenting the production, sale, and use of its various products.  When cataloged, the records will be available for study or simple enjoyment in the Minnesota Historical Society Library.

The following recipe for Old Style Ludefisk was recommended by the Kildall Company about 1949:

  1. Wash fish in cold water (Ludefisk may be stored in cold water until ready for cooking).
  2. Drop fish in BOILING water that has been well salted. (A cheesecloth bag helps hold the fish together).
  3. Cook to a brisk boiling point.
  4. Drain fish and remove any skin and bones.

Serve with drawn butter or cream sauce (and “for a truly delicious and unusual meal” it can be “accented by lingonberries or cranberries, boiled potatoes and possibly pickled beets and rice custard”).

When cooking any sea food, the most important thing is don’t overcook.

Duane Swanson
Manuscripts Curator


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New Library Resource Available – Military Records from Fold3!

Posted byLori Williamson on 25 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Fold3, formerly Footnote, is often considered the premiere tool for online access to military records. The MNHS Library has just started a subscription, so researchers in the Reading Room will have access to the tremendous holdings on military history and service from Library of Congress, National Archives, and other repositories.

This resource is a treasure trove for people doing family history; military history; veterans; researchers; and teachers. Learn more about it here.

The MNHS Library is free and open to the public; see our hours here. We have staff available to help get you started. Come see what you can find!

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Recommendations Required

Posted byLori Williamson on 08 Sep 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

October 4, 1848, then President of the American Fur Company Ramsay Crooks writes from La Pointe Lake Superior:

Na-gwon-ay-bie, Chief of the Mille Lac [sic] Band of Chippewas has uniformly conducted himself with uncommon propriety for an Indian.

With his traders he has proven himself an honest, trustworthy man, while with the agents of the United States he enjoys the reputation of a prudent, sensible, well-disposed Chief, whose good example and discreet counsel have had a salutary effect on the characters of his people—I therefore recommend Na-gwon-a-bie [sic] to the kind consideration of all who esteem public and private worth as a person fully entitled to their confidence and good offices.

The preceding transcription is from a document in a newly acquisitioned collection that gives a glimpse into the complex relationships between Native American and European fur traders in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Crooks letter of recommendation for Chief Negwanebi.

Negwanebi was First Chief of (what was then known as) the Mille Lacs Indians. He served as a tribal representative for the 1825 Treaty of Prairie du Chien Council and was also a signatory on the 1826 Treaty of Fond du Lac and the 1837 Treaty of St. Peters.

Ramsay Crooks (1787-1859) was an early Scottish-Canadian fur trader, who served as General Manager (1817-1834), then President of the American Fur Company (1834-1859). Early 20th century historians describe Crooks as exceptionally gifted in creating positive diplomatic relationships with Native fur traders. {1}

This new acquisition is a signed and sealed letter of recommendation written by Ramsay Crooks for “Na-gwon-ay-bie, Chief of the Mille Lac [sic] Band of Chippewas” (also known as Nayquonabe/Negwanebi or Tallest [Quill] feather). The letter’s value goes beyond its connection to one of the Great Lakes area’s most notable industries. The existence of such a letter begs for deeper consideration of the sort of environment where such a recommendation was necessary. So pervasive were the stereotypes of native peoples in the European ethos that a signed and sealed certificate by a well-respected white trader was considered a valid method of proving trustworthiness.

Before these important pieces of our past could be made available to our researchers, we had to address the 168 years of damage and deterioration that our staff members could repair.

Images of the letter pre-conservation work. Image courtesy of the MNHS Book and Paper Lab.

Extensive conservation work was performed on the Ramsay Crooks letter of recommendation for Chief Na-gwon-ay-bie and related papers. The letter was the oldest document in this collection and was most in need of care. It appears that as the letter deteriorated from age and use, layers of paper and cloth were adhered for support, with further damage caused by the addition of two now rusting metal fasteners.

The cloth backing of the letter shows damage left by a rusted paperclip and a yet to be removed metal fastener in the upper right hand corner. Image courtesy of the MNHS Book and Paper Lab.

Tears were apparent along the folds of the document and the ribbon and seal were frayed and cracked respectively.

Close up showing tears and cracked wax pre-conservation treatment. Image courtesy of the MNHS Book and Paper Lab.

Conservation staff cleaned and removed adhesive and metal fasteners from the document. Creases were removed by relaxing the paper with a moist swab and applying light pressure. Treatments disclosed a previously unseen line of text on the lowest crease of the letter. Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste were used to mend the tears along the edges of the document and the folds. A custom sink mat with cover was made to protect the document’s raised ribbon and wax seal.

Letter of recommendation following conservation treatment. Note the entire line of text uncovered during treatment! Image courtesy of the MNHS Book and Paper Lab.

A more detailed description of the conservation work done for these materials is included in the papers.

Special thanks to Society conservationists Sherelyn Ogden and Jenna Bluhm. The Conservation web page available on the MNHS’s website is a great resource for those interested in learning more about the Society’s conservation practices and how everyone can better preserve and protect their own documents and items. Access to this collection requires the permission of the curator.

Shelby Edwards, Assistant Curator of Manuscripts

{1} J. Ward Ruckman. “Ramsay Crooks and the fur trade of the Northwest.” Minnesota History Vol. 7, no. 1 (Mar. 1926).

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Artists Selected for 2014/15 Native American Artist-in-Residence Program

Posted byLori Williamson on 18 Aug 2014 | Tagged as: What's New


The Minnesota Historical Society has recently awarded three six-month paid residencies to artists Jessica Gokey, Pat Kruse and Gwen Westerman. Each artist works in a traditional media, which together represent many of the major historical art forms of the region: beadwork, birchbark, and textiles (ribbonwork).

These residencies were created to provide opportunities for artists to use collections at MNHS, as well as at other institutions, in order to develop their respective art forms. These residencies, while rooted in historical research, are designed to provide a platform for artists to move their art forward. While in residence, each of these artists will continue to develop research and community outreach plans that delve deeply and broadly into their communities, to gain new knowledge and to share their expertise.

Jessica Gokey, is a beadwork artist who lives in the Lac Courte Oreilles (LCO) community in Hayward, Wisconsin. She has been beading for more than ten years and shares her knowledge with members of the community by teaching at the LCO Ojibwa Community College. Gokey believes that sharing her “knowledge of traditional Ojibwe beadwork will help preserve the art of beadwork for future generations.” She plans on researching the extensive bandolier bag and other beadwork collections.


Pat Kruse, a birch bark artist who lives in the Mille Lacs community in Minnesota, has been working with birch bark for more than 30 years. Kruse creates birch bark products “to honor the old ways and the ancestors that practiced these ways.” He will research the birch bark collections and continue to build an apprentice relationship with his son, in order to pass on this traditional knowledge.

Gwen Westerman, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, is a textile artist who lives in Good Thunder, Minnesota. As a member of the six generations of women in her family who have made quilts, she sees quilts as having not only a utilitarian function but also as containing stories. Westerman has been expanding her textile arts with other traditional art forms to “find new ways to tell our stories.” She plans on researching and revitalizing traditions of Dakota ribbonwork.

The Artists-in-Residence were selected based on the recommendations of a panel consisting of experts in the field of Native American arts and culture. The panel members are Sasha Brown (Santee Dakota), Joe Horse Capture (A’aninin Tribe of Montana) and Scott Shoemaker (Miami Nation).

The Native American Artist-in-Residence program is made possible in part by a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation.

Rita Walaszek, Collections Assistant
Ben Gessner, Native American Artist-in-Residence Program Coordinator

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Hudson Bridge Drawing

Posted byLori Williamson on 31 Jul 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

One of the recent additions to the State Archives is a large collection of bridge plans from the Bridge Division of the Department of Transportation (DOT). This set is made up primarily of plans and blueprints for nearly 1,000 bridges from around the state spanning from 1895 to 1973. It also contains two unique pencil drawings, including this one for a bridge crossing the St. Croix River. This drawing shows a proposed plan for a truss bridge (DOT bridge number 5999) that wasn’t actually built, connecting Lakeland, Minnesota and Hudson, Wisconsin, dated October 10, 1945. The drawing has the initials R.W.C. but the full name of the illustrator is not known. This drawing was discovered by one of our volunteers as he went through the collection sheet by sheet and made a complete inventory of it. The other bridge in this collection that has a pencil drawing is bridge number 5895 in Hastings, MN.

This collection is an addition to bridge plans we already hold from the Department of Transportation.

Anjanette Schussler, Government Records Assistant

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New Library Lobby Exhibit: Icons of Minnesota

Posted byLori Williamson on 02 Jul 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Minnesota is many things to many people. We love our outdoors, our sports and cultural life, and our symbols. How do we define and identify ourselves? Who are we, in object form?

Shown in this small exhibit are some examples of things which have become iconic and represent Minnesota in popular culture. From official symbols such as the state flower and seal to our sporting personas to why we are called the Gopher state, see some of the basis for the stories we tell ourselves here.

This exhibit is on view during Library open hours through August 30, 2014.

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New Library Exhibit – From the Closet to the Altar: a Modern History of LGBTQ Communities in Minnesota

Posted byLori Williamson on 14 May 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Come to the MNHS library lobby during library open hours and take a walk through the recent history of LGBTQ politics, activism, and controversy in Minnesota.

The idea for the From the Closet to the Altar exhibit was in part prompted by a recent acquisition of organizational records from Project 515. Project 515 has the unique standing as being probably one of the only organizations in Minnesota pleased to be closing their doors in 2014. Their mission, “to achieve equal rights for same sex couples under the law”, was accomplished on May 14, 2013 when Governor Mark Dayton signed HF 1054 into law. This law changed the definition of civil marriage from “between a man and a women” to “between two persons”, while striking language designating lawful marriage as “only between two persons of the opposite sex”.  Minnesotans have a range of thoughts regarding same-sex relationships, love, and marriage but the fact remains that our state has a long and colorful history surrounding our LGBTQ populace.

While some of the content in this exhibit may be disturbing to modern viewers, the Society is proud to showcase materials from our collections reflecting the varied and sometimes contentious history of LGBTQ communities and interested parties in Minnesota.

The exhibit will be on view until July 7, 2014.

Shelby Edwards, Assistant Manuscript Curator

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Legacy Research Fellowship Announcement

Posted byLori Williamson on 25 Apr 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Awards were recently granted to several scholars to support research on Minnesota history conducted in the Minnesota Historical Society’s Gale Family Library. We are very pleased to share the winners of these grants and what they will be working on with you. All recipients will write MNopedia articles and several hope to produce Minnesota History articles as well.

William Millikan’s project is Financing the Development of Minnesota with Indian Lands.  As Rhoda Gilman said in her letter of recommendation: “…his proposed work on the use of public land acquired through Indian treaties to underwrite financial instruments that could be used by entrepreneurs to develop private industrial, transportation, and mining empires has the potential to have not only regional and national significance, but possibly international as well.”

Ellen Manovich is a graduate student in history at the University of Minnesota researching the history of four Minneapolis neighborhoods surrounding the University of Minnesota. The committee was pleased to recommend funding some urban history, since Minneapolis is especially lacking when it comes to good histories.

Bruce White will compile an annotated bibliography of primary sources on 19th-century MN politician Henry Rice, looking toward writing a biography of Rice once those are in hand.  Rice was very influential in Minnesota and regional politics and in Indian affairs, but unlike Ramsey and Sibley he left only a small collection of papers.

Andrea Klein Bergman is a social scientist who has studied vulnerable populations, including immigrant refugees. She has done oral histories with the Bhutanese community in Minnesota and here proposes “a case study of the socio-cultural integration of Tibetan Americans in Minnesota,” with a view to recommend changes in service to Tibetan immigrants to help them participate fully in Minnesota society.

Lois Glewwe will continue her research on the life of Dakota missionary Jane Smith Williamson, sister of Thomas Williamson, who founded the mission to the Dakota at Lac qui Parle.  In addition to Williamson’s personal story, Glewwe will investigate the mission school and their relationship with government schools for Native children.

Therese Cain brings training in political science and nonprofit management to her proposal to study why a single county in rural western Minnesota has voted Democratic in national elections since 1932, while all the surrounding counties have voted Republican.  Why is Swift County Blue? is the first stage of a project that Cain and her fellow researcher, anthropologist Sharon Doherty, have planned for a book.

Retired law professor Howard Vogel, a contributor to the award-winning book Mni Sota Makoce: Minnesota is a Dakota Place and a student of religion as well as law, will study Stephen R. Riggs’s role in the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux. Recently Vogel brought his work on Restorative Justice to the question of the US-Dakota War of 1862 and its results for the Dakota people. Looking at Riggs’s role in that treaty is part of a larger project to understand how Christian missionaries understood their role of proselytizing the Dakota.

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New Library Exhibit – Native American Beadwork in the MNHS’ Collections

Posted byLori Williamson on 13 Mar 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

Come see the new Library Lobby exhibit on Native America beadwork, open the same hours as the Library.

Minnesota Historical Society is the repository for approximately 9,000 ethnographic objects of Native American origin. These objects include everything from basketry and ceramics to clothing and pipes, and span two and a half centuries. Perhaps 1,000 of those objects are embellished with beads; necklaces, leggings, sashes, shirts, pipe bags, watch fobs, feather bonnets, and things made for sale to the tourist trade are all represented in the Society’s collection, as are objects from every corner of the U.S. and Canada. Due to MNHS’ mission to specifically collect objects that are meaningful to the history of the state of Minnesota, the overwhelming majority of these items come from the immediate area. As a reflection of this regional depth, most of the Native beadwork in our collection falls into either the Plains (for example, Dakota, Lakota, Cheyenne) or Woodland (Ojibwe, Ho-Chunk, Cree) category.

This small exhibit draws specifically from MNHS’ collection of Native American beadwork. It is organized chronologically, beginning with the vitrine to the left when facing the glass doors to the Gale Family Library, and continuing in a clockwise fashion around the library registration desk. Within this exhibit one can explore pre-contact precursors to indigenous beadwork; different techniques used in beadwork; a glimpse of the wide variety of cultural styles in Native beadwork across the U.S. and Canada; how beaded objects functioned in the changing 19th century Native economy; and the modern resurgence of Native American beadwork.

More information can be found on these objects at Minnesota Historical Society’s collections website:

www.mnhs.org/collections

This exhibit will be on view until the end of April.

Leah Bowe
Collections Associate, NAGPRA


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Swee-Tone perfume: what does a gallon of perfume have to do with bootlegging?

Posted byLori Williamson on 04 Feb 2014 | Tagged as: What's New

In the early 1960s Ancker Hospital was located at Jefferson Avenue and Colborne Street in St. Paul. The hospital was preparing to move to a new location and by 1967 the old campus was completely demolished. A local “chunker” or “picker” (antiquer) had a friend working on a demolition crew at the old campus. Behind a false wall in a warehouse building the men discovered a cache of 70 gallon bottles of perfume made by the Nipola Company of St. Paul. This perfume was manufactured in the late 1920s, during the Prohibition Era.

Throughout Prohibition (1920-1933), the United States government distributed denatured grain alcohol for industrial use. Denatured alcohol contained additives making it poisonous, though still useful for commercial purposes. Thousands died as a result of drinking denatured alcohol stolen and resold by bootleggers. Soon, chemists employed by bootleggers began to “renature” the industrial alcohol, redistilling it into drinkable liquor. One product targeted by bootleggers was commercial perfume, which had high alcohol content that could be chemically extracted for use in bootlegged liquor.

In February, 1930, thirty-one corporations across the country were indicted for illegally diverting 1,000,000 gallons of government alcohol from legitimate commercial uses to bootleggers, in violation of national Prohibition laws. These companies were accused of taking part in a nation-wide syndicate headquartered in Chicago. Among the businesses named in the indictment was Nipola Company of St. Paul, Minnesota, a perfume manufacturer.

Nipola produced a number of scents beginning in 1927, including Swee-Tone, Ramona, and Lucky Lindy (after Charles Lindbergh). Of these perfumes, at least Swee-Tone was distributed nationally. The label on the gallon jug reads: “SWEE-TONE gives a delightful odor, refreshes the premises, and is a deodorizer as well. It is a “Many-Purpose” perfume–a standard, high-grade product.” Whether officers of the company were active in bootlegging or its products were merely being used by bootleggers is unclear. Luckily for Nipola and the other companies named in the indictment, Prohibition was repealed before the case could come to trial.


Be sure to stop by the current Library exhibit Dry Times: Temperance, Prohibition, and Gangsters in Minnesota 1900 – 1933.

Learn More:

Sondra Reierson, Associate 3D Curator

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