Museum Collections Up Close : MNHS.ORG » What’s New Every object tells a story, and Collections Up Close presents short, illustrated features that highlight the stories and history behind selected items in the Minnesota Historical Society's museum collections. Wed, 22 Mar 2017 05:01:24 +0000 en hourly 1 ©Minnesota Historical Society (Minnesota Historical Society) Historical Society) History, Society, Culture, American History, Education, Museums, Collections 1440 video, story, museum, history, preservation, civil war, Minnesota, Native American The stories behind selected items at the Minnesota Historical Society. Every object tells a story, and Collections Up Close presents short, illustrated features that highlight the stories and history behind selected items in the Minnesota Historical Society's museum collections. Minnesota Historical Society Minnesota Historical Society No clean Museum Collections Up Close : MNHS.ORG 144 144 1908 Minneapolis Colored Keystones Wed, 15 Feb 2017 14:36:38 +0000 Lori Williamson Photo of baseball team Minneapolis Colored Keystones, 1908

February is Black History Month, and to honor the contributions of Black players to the history of Minnesota sports, the Minnesota Historical Society is pleased to feature one of its newest Acquisitions – a 16 x 20 photograph of the Minneapolis Colored Keystones from 1908. At the time, baseball teams were segregated, and the Negro National League had not yet formed. The Keystones played teams around Minnesota from approximately 1908-1911, including the St. Paul Colored Gophers. The Keystones’ manager, Kidd Mitchell and his wife, Mamie, ran the Keystone Saloon at 1313 Washington Avenue South in Minneapolis.

This particular image, labeled 1908, likely dates to the early part of the season based on the lineup of players. It was not uncommon for players to switch teams, and many players had ties to Chicago and Chicago-area teams. The names and positions are annotated on mat and identified as follows.

Back row, left to right: Fred “Pop” Roberts (2nd Base), Dick “Noisy” Wallace (Right Field), Eugene “Cherry” Barton (Left Field), Charles Jessup (Pitcher), “Topeka” Jack Johnson (1st Base), Bobby Marshall (Captain, Utility), George Hopkins (Center Field), Bill Binga (3rd Base). Middle row, left to right: Walter Ball (Pitcher), Edward “Kidd” “K.F” Mitchell (Pres. Manager/Owner), Mamie Lacey Mitchell, Eddie Davis (Secretary), Andrew Campbell (Catcher).

The Keystones appear in some books in the Historical Society’s Collections. They Played for the Love of the Game: Untold Stories of Black Baseball in Minnesota by Frank White and Swinging for the Fences: Black Baseball in Minnesota edited by Steve Hoffbeck provide rich histories of Black baseball in Minnesota.

Jennifer Huebscher, Curator of Photography and Moving Images

Keystone Buffet, 1313 Washington Avenue South, Minneapolis

]]> 0 New Library Lobby Display: Rondo and Chinese Immigration Thu, 02 Feb 2017 18:55:07 +0000 Lori Williamson Why might the Rondo neighborhood and Chinese Immigration be featured together in a Library Lobby display? The History Theater in downtown Saint Paul has two upcoming shows on these topics; we saw it as a chance to highlight what we have and continue telling the stories of all Minnesotans.

This world premiere drama is set in 1956. The construction of Interstate 94 destroyed the thriving, tight-knit Rondo neighborhood where homes, stores and businesses once stood. The new freeway tore through the heart of St. Paul’s largest African-American community.

While the neighborhood of Rondo was forever changed, the voices and stories live on. On view in this display are just some of the materials in the collection which document that important community.

The play runs February 4 – 26, 2017.

The Paper Dreams of Harry Chin

This play follows the true story of Harry Chin, one of the many Chinese nationals who landed in the U.S. through a loophole in the Chinese Exclusion Act; it explores the personal and political repercussions of making a group of people “illegal.”

This display shows materials relating to the Chinese immigrant experience in Minnesota.

The play runs March 18 – April 9, 2017.

Use the History Center Promo Code:  HC2017 for $30 tickets at History Theater!

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History is Now: Women’s March Thu, 26 Jan 2017 17:50:27 +0000 Lori Williamson

MNHS is collecting material documenting contemporary social activism and we have received many inquiries about the Women’s March on January 21, 2017, which was one of the largest protests in state history. While we can’t preserve everything, we are interested in collecting items and photos. We are aiming to document:

  • Diverse voices
  • Varied reasons for marching
  • Multiple locations around Minnesota as well as Washington DC

We are taking submissions until March 1, 2017, at which point we will make a selection from the submissions and contact potential donors.

Please submit photos of the event and/or photos of objects with a short description of your experience and the items you are submitting to with the subject line “Women’s March 2017” no later than March 1, 2017.

To offer items not related to this event, please see our Potential Donation to the Collection form. For more information see our How to Donate FAQ.

Thank you!

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Minnesota Dressmakers Resource Fri, 16 Dec 2016 15:29:47 +0000 Lori Williamson

Visually stunning women’s formal wear is a highlight of the MNHS costume collection.   Minnesota Dressmakers:  The Business of Dressmaking is expanded research about costume in the MNHS collection dating between 1880-1920. About 100 garments are identified by the label of the dressmaker’s business sewn into the garment and represent 25 different prominent businesses operating in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Dressmaking by 1900 had become the third most important occupation for women.  These business owners and the seamstresses they hired supplied custom-made fashion to their clients at a time when ready-to-wear was an emerging concept.   Enjoy this new resource   that provides business histories and biographical information on the women engaged in this work.

The research to identify these businesses took on a life of its own as staff, volunteers and interns combed city directories, newspapers, census data, death records, birth records, family papers, photographs, maps, and probate records.  Occasionally, we found family members to interview. We looked at every possible source of information for clues into these women’s lives in order to imagine their relationships as proprietors, workers or clients.

This project was supported by The Bean family grant for business history, the Ken and Nina Rothschild Endowment fund for business history and women’s history, and support from Art and Cultural Heritage Funding.

Linda McShannock, Associate Curator

Minnesota Dressmakers:  The Business of Dressmaking

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Remembering Miles Lord Mon, 12 Dec 2016 21:40:15 +0000 Lori Williamson

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Judge Miles Lord last Saturday. He was born on the Iron Range and became a towering legal figure in Minnesota and the nation. Prior to being appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, he served as Minnesota’s Attorney General from 1955 – 1960 and U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota from 1961 – 1966. He was known for issuing rulings in favor of those regularly disenfranchised, such as minorities, women, consumers, and environmentalists.  His friend Hubert Humphrey called him “the people’s judge.”

Learn more about this important figure here:

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Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate Fri, 14 Oct 2016 19:37:24 +0000 Lori Williamson

Many years ago, when I was the young Head of Library Acquisitions at the Minnesota Historical Society, an auditor walked into my office. He had been charged with making sure the Society was appropriately spending the State’s money. Perhaps frustrated by our squeaky clean finances, he was excited to find malfeasance. Waving a list of books the Library had purchased that year, he accused me of buying a book about Bob Dylan and his music for my personal use. Biting my tongue, I signaled him to follow me into the locked library stacks. We walked to a section overflowing with the great literary works of Minnesotans, the likes of O. E. Rolvaag, Sinclair Lewis (our other Nobel Laureate), Ann Chidester, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There among those giants were two shelves of books about Dylan, including the title in question. Deflated, the bean counter went away. I hoped he learned what we knew well, that Bob Dylan has had an unprecedented influence on our State’s culture and that his work was the unquestionable product of the unique environment that is Minnesota’s Iron Range. That it is the sacred duty of the Historical Society to document his Minnesota voice.

Occasionally, skeptical eyebrows have been raised not only by auditors but by my colleagues as well. When I came back from an Antiquarian Book Fair in New York with Dylan’s hand written lyrics for “Temporary Like Achilles,” I had to assure them, on my reputation, that $10,000 would seem like a bargain someday. Proof of its historic value came just last year. The manuscript spent a year on exhibit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential library as an iconic representation of the 1960’s.

We continue looking for rare Dylan works to fill in our collection. Coincidentally, less than 12 hours before Dylan was announced as the 2016 Nobel Prize winner for Literature I bought a first edition of his “Poem to Joanie.” I swore to the rare book dealer that I had no advance knowledge of the coming announcement.

Over the nearly four decades of my tenure at the MNHS, the Society has done an excellent job documenting Dylan. We regularly, if quixotically, bid for Dylan material at auctions against better endowed institutions and fabulously well-heeled private collectors. While those efforts seldom work, a library search of Dylan’s name still turns up over 250 items. From his earliest recorded “party tape;” to his three interviews in Playboy Magazine; to the “bootlegged” edition of Tarantula (Hibbing: Wimp Press); to Denis Anderson’s unique Dylan research collection (compiled while he taught Dylan at a German University), the MNHS Collection is rich. If you want to learn or write about Bob Dylan, or if you want to understand why the Nobel Committee took the unprecedented step of awarding him the 2016 Prize for Literature, you’ll want to visit the MNHS Library.

Patrick Coleman, Acquisitions Librarian

Learn More:

If you are a fan of Minnesota music, make sure not to miss Heyday: 35 Years of Music in Minneapolis, coming out from the MNHS Press on November 1!

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Fore! Golf! Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:43:58 +0000 Lori Williamson

With the Ryder Cup happening this weekend in the Twin Cities and the golf season itself beginning to wind down, we thought now would be a good time to take a look at our golf collections before the long winter begins.

Golf has a long history in Minnesota due to our fresh air and open spaces. While the fashions may have changed, the opportunity for fun outside remains the same.

Two women playing golf, 1925.

This Munsingwear promotional item features golf professional Billy Casper, seen wearing a Munsingwear polo shirt (Grand Slam). Circa 1964-1965.

Although golf has a long and sordid history as a segregated sport, there were occasionally opportunities for African-Americans to play. This photo of the Sterling Club golf tournament in 1948 is one.

The golf club, bag, and glove belonged to golf professional Patty Berg.

This beautiful magazine started in 1927 and went through several name changes before ending in 1946. A mix of sport, outdoors, and society news, it is definitely is a glimpse into a different time. It was published by Fawcett Publishing, the same company that published Captain Billy’s Whiz Bang. One has to wonder at how often those audiences overlapped.

If you weren’t ability to get tickets to the Ryder Cup itself, come to the MNHS Library Lobby and see golf-related materials through time! And if that’s not enough sport visit Gridiron Glory, the major traveling exhibit from the National Football Hall of Fame, now open at the History Center just upstairs from the Library.

]]> 0 Remembering Governor Wendell Anderson Mon, 15 Aug 2016 15:45:34 +0000 Lori Williamson

The public memorial service is being held today, August 15, for one of our most beloved governors. Wendell Anderson was elected in 1970 when he was just 37.  While Governor Anderson was a member of the DFL party, he went on to pass one of the most important and impressive pieces of bipartisan legislation, the “Minnesota Miracle,” credited with transforming public schools in the state. He grew up on Saint Paul’s East Side and won a silver medal with the USA hockey team in the 1956 Olympics.

The Minnesota Historical Society is proud to hold his papers as well as several photographs and objects relating to his life and work.

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History is Now: Remembering Prince Tue, 14 Jun 2016 18:53:42 +0000 Lori Williamson
The Minnesota Historical Society is seeking to document the tragic passing of Prince by placing a call for personal photos at memorials and celebrations dedicated to the talented musician and cultural icon.

Prince memorial at the Minnesota Historical Society, April 2016

First Avenue, April 23, 2016

Our goal is to collect 100 photographs to illustrate how Minnesotans celebrated and grieved after the news of his death, whether it was a purple flower beneath his First Avenue Star, attending an all-night dance party, or making the trek to Paisley Park.

Please consider sending us one digital image based on the criteria below. If your photo is selected, you will be sent an official donor form and your image will become part of the Minnesota Historical Society permanent photograph collection and included in our Collections Online database.


  • Please submit only one digital photo. File format must be JPEG or TIFF, with a preferred resolution between 300-600 pixels per inch.  The date and location of the image must also be included.
  • The image must have been taken between April 21, 2016-May 5, 2016.
  • You must submit contact information for follow up, and be willing to sign a donor agreement form that includes granting copyright to the Minnesota Historical Society.
  • Please email the image to with the subject line History is Now.
  • Images should be emailed no later than July 15, 2016.

The MNHS Curatorial Staff will select up to 100 images.  Thank you for your consideration!

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Purple Rain buttons by Button Works Thu, 02 Jun 2016 18:43:06 +0000 Lori Williamson

Since the untimely death of the Minnesota music legend, tributes and memorials have flowed from every corner of the globe. At the Minnesota History Center, the purple suit Prince wore in the 1984 film Purple Rain (filmed at First Avenue) was placed on public display the day his death was announced. Fans covered the wall with their memories of the artist. The suit will be on display in the History Center’s Gale Family Library until June 19, 2016, when it will be returned to storage for its continued preservation.

There is no shortage of local connections to the Purple One, and thanks to a recent acquisition, the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) now has another to celebrate. In 1984, Neil Baker of Button Works, based in West Saint Paul, Minnesota, produced 400,000 buttons to promote Prince’s Purple Rain album and tour. The buttons came in ten unique designs copyrighted by Purple Films Co. and Warner Bros., Inc. Mr. Baker kept examples of a number of the designs and graciously donated one of each design he had left to MNHS. These seven buttons and an additional sheet of uncut button images are our first Prince-related addition to the Society’s collection since the artist’s death on April 21, 2016.

Sondra Reierson, Associate Curator for 3D Objects

Learn more:

  • See Prince’s Purple Rain suit and other items from our collections in the Gale Family Library through June 19 during regular Library hours. The costume will return to storage then; other Prince-related items will remain on display through July.
  • Why is the Purple Rain suit going back to storage? Textiles are particularly sensitive to light and the Purple Rain suit has been in high demand since its 1987 donation. MNHS must strike a balance between making it available to the public and preserving it for future generations. See more about how MNHS cares for its collection and how you can preserve your own items.
  • Related items in collection: Purple Rain button 1997.219.1 Circular pin-back button featuring the cover image from Prince’s Purple Rain album and film, copyrighted 1984 by Purple Films Co. & Warner Bros., Inc. This is another of the ten button designs produced by Button Works
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New Website on Ojibwe Material Culture Wed, 17 Feb 2016 16:45:56 +0000 Lori Williamson
A new addition to the Explore section of the website is a single theme page dedicated to the material culture of the Ojibwe people that are currently in the Minnesota Historical Society’s holdings. The number of objects is over 2,000 and includes clothing, birchbark, tools, and government items.

The website is organized into different categories, making it easier for the user to find specific objects. Once in a category, it will lead to either a sub-category page or link to MNHS’ online search tool with the corresponding objects. These items were digitized as a result of a project to make the Ojibwe material more accessible.

Some of the highlights from the collection include a beaded jacket dated circa  1920s:

A wooden mold used for making maple sugar candy dated circa the early 20th century:

A pair of beaded moccasins dated circa 1999:

A wooden and leather lacrosse stick dated circa the early 20th century:

Visit the Ojibwe Material Culture site and explore for yourself!

Rita Walaszek
Collections Assistant

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“You’re a Saint or you ain’t!” Fri, 15 Jan 2016 19:27:58 +0000 Lori Williamson

Although ice hockey has been played in Minnesota at the amateur and scholastic level since the 1890s, Minnesotans had to wait until 1967 for its first professional team, the North Stars, to emerge from a National Hockey League expansion.  In 1971 the World Hockey Association was formed to compete with the NHL and Minnesota garnered a second professional team, the Minnesota Fighting Saints.

Based in Saint Paul, the Fighting Saints were actually two distinct teams.  The first squad, which rallied fans with the catchphrase “You’re a Saint or you ain’t!” played four seasons beginning in 1972 and boasted a winning record of 30-25-4 before folding in 1976.  The Saints’ second incarnation came in 1976 when the WHA’s Cleveland Crusaders moved to Saint Paul.   The “New Fighting Saints”, as they were sometimes known, also fared well on the ice and had a winning record (19-18-5) through their first 42 contests.  Yet despite their success and a devoted following the Saints could not compete financially with the North Stars, which benefited from a favorable television contract.  Unable to secure a buyer, owner Nick Mileti was forced to fold the franchise on January 20, 1977.

Among the Saints’ star players was Canadian-born Dave Keon, who used this stick during the 1976-77 season.  Keon spent 15 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs before joining the WHA, where he also played with the Indianapolis Racers and the New England Whalers. One of the greatest two-way centers in professional hockey, Keon scored 498 career goals and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1986.

Adam Scher, Senior Curator

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World War I Artifacts Digitized Wed, 06 Jan 2016 18:54:29 +0000 Lori Williamson For the past several years the Minnesota Historical Society’s staff have been digitizing our World War I related artifacts. This collection comprises approximately 1,800 objects including United States military uniforms, equipment and supplies, as well as foreign military items (most of which were brought home as souvenirs), trench art, Red Cross materials, and more. The project was undertaken in anticipation of the centennial of the Great War and two major World War I programs planned for spring of 2017: an exhibit focusing on the home front currently in development; and the World War I daybook blog launching in April, 2017.

With the digitization project now complete, all World War I artifacts in the MNHS Collection are available to view on the Collections Online database. Here are some highlights from this incredible collection:

Victory medal awarded to Tela B. Burt, an African-American from Minneapolis who served as a supply sergeant with the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry in France, circa 1919. After the war ended, Burt returned to the Minneapolis and had a career with the post office, played music for several dance bands, and eventually became one of the first African Americans in the Twin Cities area to enter the real estate field.

A length of barbed wire from Verdun, France, found by Miss Frances Rogers of Minnesota, who was part of the American Fund for French Wounded.

German military field telephone inside oak case, circa 1915.

A United States Army Model 1917 steel helmet. This classic World War I “doughboy” helmet was worn by Private Clarence Ervin Ohmann of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

A ditty box owned by United States Navy Seaman Edward R. Stensrud of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It contained souvenirs relating to Stensrud’s WWI service, including postcards, German and Swedish matchboxes and an address book. Railway tags have been pasted on each end of the box.

Coat for an American Red Cross overseas uniform, worn by Margaret MacLaren of Saint Paul, Minnesota, while serving in France circa 1918.

British military issue gas mask and cloth case, circa. There were many types of gas masks used during the war, and this is known as a Small Box Respirator.

French Croix de Guerre medal awarded to Minnesotan John Bowe. When the war began Bowe was the mayor of Canby, Minnesota. He abandoned his position and went to Canada to join the military, where he was rejected due to age. He then went to England and tried to enlist, but was informed he would have to renounce his United States’ citizenship. He then went to France where he joined the French Foreign Legion in 1915.

Minnesota service flag created for the Victory Liberty Loan Campaign in April, 1919. The approximately 1,200 gold stars represent the servicemen from Minnesota who died during the war. It is 18 feet high, and 28 feet long.

Stephanie Olson, Collections Assistant

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100th Anniversary of the Nonpartisan League! Fri, 18 Dec 2015 19:46:02 +0000 Lori Williamson This year, 2015, is the centenary of the foundation of the Nonpartisan League (NPL). The NPL was founded in the American Midwest and arose out of the cooperative movement popular here. It was a farmer-based movement offering an alternate vision of capitalism, one in which the state would compete with the monopolies that were exploiting the small producers.

The NPL practically invented grass roots organizing, and would support candidates from either party who supported its platform (hence “nonpartisan”). The League advocated for economic reforms to help farmers who were being exploited by business interests, such as grain elevators, stockyards, and other middlemen. “We’ll stick” was the group’s rallying cry, as seen on the pennant below.

The NPL was in operation in 13 states as well as Canada, but it met with its greatest success in North Dakota and Minnesota. This is an image of Minnesota members in 1917.

Pamphlets and newspapers played a hugely important role in the development of the movement, leading to corresponding anti-NPL pamphlets. While not as immediate as our instant commentaries of today, these pamphlets were a quick way to make arguments heard. The rise of the NPL was also one of the earliest political movements to be heavily photographed; seen here are members with The Nonpartisan Leader.

World War I brought about suspicions of the potentially socialist nature of the NPL, which was followed by prosperity in the 1920s for farmers. These two occurrences took away much of the need for the NPL. It eventually developed into the Farmer-Labor party in Minnesota, which later merged with the Democrats. The Democratic Party in Minnesota is still known as the DFL.

Learn more at the Minnesota Historical Society Research Guides and MNopedia!

Come see NPL materials on display in the Library Lobby, on view until mid-January!

Lori Williamson, Acquisitions & Outreach Coordinator

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St. Louis Collection of American Indian Cultural Material Tue, 20 Oct 2015 20:52:36 +0000 Lori Williamson
Recently published online is a large donation from an anonymous donor from St. Louis, Missouri. The collection consists of American Indian cultural material from Minnesota and local regions. Encompassing 258 objects, the collection contains bandolier bags, moccasins, pipe bags and various ceremonial objects.

The majority of the collection was amassed by Alfred “Gafe” Peterson of Cass Lake, MN starting circa 1920 until the donor bought the collection from Gafe in 1974. Some objects are dated to the early 19th century. Unfortunately, the collection did not come with much information regarding its items.

However, one of the bandolier bags and a beaded shirt does have documented history. John Smith, Ka-Be-Nah-Gwey-Wence, also known as the Oldest Living Ojibwe, is seen in multiple photographs wearing the beaded shirt and bandolier bag: in the portrait seen here he is wearing the shirt pictured below. Smith was thought to have lived into his 130s, with many people in the Cass Lake area familiar with him. We have many photographs of Smith wearing traditional Ojibwe beadwork and having the actual objects are a great addition to the collection.

See more pieces from this wonderful collection in Collections Online.

Rita Walaszek, Collections Assistant

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Breakfast in Minnesota! Wed, 30 Sep 2015 18:07:09 +0000 Lori Williamson The Huffington Post has once again posted our submission on one of the Collections Department’s favorite topics – breakfast!

Take a look and enjoy!

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Native American Artist-in-Residence Program highlights Thu, 20 Aug 2015 21:09:32 +0000 Lori Williamson This fall marks the end of the first full year of the Native American Artist-in-Residence program here at the Minnesota Historical Society. The three 2014/15 artists, Pat Kruse, Jessica Gokey and Gwen Westerman have seen great successes with their collections research and community outreach activities. Here are some of this year’s highlights:

Recently, Ojibwe beadwork artist Jessica Gokey concluded the public workshop portion of her residency at the Lower Sioux Agency. Jessica shared her experiences studying the MNHS historic Ojibwe beadwork collections, while providing instruction to participants, assisting them in designing and creating their own floral beadwork.

Birchbark artist Pat Kruse participated in a reception and gallery talk at the Mille Lacs Indian Museum where he showcased large wall pieces alongside many of the intricate baskets that he and his son Gage made during the residency. Pat also demonstrated how he works with birchbark and how the Ojibwe people use the bark in many different ways.

Textile artist Gwen Westerman has been visiting various musuems, studying early Dakota ribbonwork in order to understand historic patterns and techniques. She has intensely studied the collections here, at the Science Museum of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  Working with three apprentices, Gwen is developing ribbonwork teaching guides that will incorporate Dakota language.


One of the goals of the Artist-in-Residence program is to acquire work created by each artist for the permanent collection. From Jessica Gokey we recently accessioned a beaded table cover which depicts nearly 20 traditional indigenous plants used for food in the Great Lakes region. We also acquired work by Jessica’s apprentice, Terri Hom. Terri made a beaded placemat and birchbark napkin ring that were inspired by historic items in MNHS’ collections.  Jessica and Terri talk about their work and the residency program in our new video, here:


Also recently added to our permanent collections were many birchbark applique items created by Pat Kruse and his son and apprentice Gage. Pat and Gage created wonderful baskets based on their study of the forms of historic baskets. To these forms, they add their own personal, artistic, and family style and arrive at the wonderful contemporary baskets seen here. (To listen to Pat and Gage speak about their experiences, please visit
With the first residencies wrapping up, we have just published a Call for Submissions for the upcoming round. The deadline is September 30th with two artists announced shortly thereafter. Please visit and check out our facebook page at for more information.

Thanks, Rita Walaszek and Ben Gessner
Native American Artist-in-Residence Program

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Dog Days of Summer Tue, 18 Aug 2015 20:07:03 +0000 Lori Williamson Check out our new post on the Huffington Post, using the idea of the dog days of summer as an excuse to show cute dog photographs from the Collection!



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“Sir Rodney” Wed, 15 Jul 2015 17:15:40 +0000 Lori Williamson

“Hitting .300 is almost like a cause, a campaign.”
–Rod Carew’s Art and Science of Hitting, 1986

“Keep your eye on the ball and hit’em where they ain’t.”  So went the mantra of 1890s right fielder William “Wee Willie” Keeler, perhaps baseball’s greatest place hitter.  In 1964, more than half a century after Keeler retired, the Minnesota Twins signed a 19-year-old Panamanian who would rival Wee Willie’s wizardry with the bat. Rod Carew made his big league debut as a second baseman with the Twins in 1967, hitting .292 and winning the American League Rookie of the Year Award.  Carew had 12 stellar seasons with Minnesota, culminating with a career-high .388 batting average in 1977.  In 1979 he was traded to the California Angels and led the team to two division titles before retiring in 1985.  With a lifetime .328 average and 3,053 hits, Carew was a sure bet for baseball’s Hall of Fame, which enshrined the slugger in 1991.  But what made Sir Rodney a truly exceptional player was more than his seven batting titles (a feat surpassed only by Ty Cobb) and 18 consecutive All-Star Game selections.

He approached hitting as a vocation, studying pitchers and adjusting his stance to spray balls to all parts of the field.  “He has an uncanny ability to move the ball around as if the bat were some kind of magic wand,” recalled Oakland A’s hurler Ken Holtzman.

A member of the Twins’ vaunted “Lumber Company” offense, Carew used this 32-ounce Hillerich & Bradsby bat to secure batting crowns in 1973, 1974 and 1975.  Bearing pine tar residue on the handle and ball marks on the barrel, the bat also features Carew’s autograph and “HOF 7/21/91,” the date of his Hall of Fame induction.

Adam Scher, Senior Object Curator

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Cultural Traditions in Minnesota Fri, 10 Jul 2015 21:46:41 +0000 Lori Williamson

Minnesota’s culture reflects its diverse population, with influences beginning with Minnesota’s Dakota and Ojibwe population, moving through waves of European immigration, and more recently by communities of Latin American, African, and East Asian immigrants.

Currently on display in the Library Lobby is a small selection of some of these cultural traditions. Beautiful and telling, these items give an idea of all the talent in our fair state through time.

The display also in includes the recently acquired work of Ricardo Gómez (see above), who became the first Minnesotan of Puerto Rican heritage to be represented in the MNHS’s Collection. We are thrilled to have these examples of traditional yet contemporary work, documenting an incredible artist and his vibrant community.

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Summertime is Laketime! Fri, 05 Jun 2015 20:58:34 +0000 Lori Williamson
Check out our new post on the Huffington Post about summer…it will make you want to hit the lakes! Enjoy the season!

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Abolitionist Hutchinson Family Sheet Music Mon, 11 May 2015 18:51:39 +0000 Lori Williamson

The Minnesota Historical Society has a very extensive sheet music collection, focusing on Minnesota subjects, publishers, and composers. They are an emotional, celebratory, sometimes funny, and usually graphic representation of the State’s history.

Our new favorite piece of sheet music is an 1844 abolitionist song we recently acquired at an auction in New York. It was written by Jesse Hutchinson, of the famous Hutchinson Family singers. The Hutchinsons were super stars, an internationally famous family of itinerant singers, known for their four-part harmonies and abolitionist views. This song, “Get Off the Track,” may have been their most well known anti-slavery tune.

Minnesota has an important and unique connection to the Hutchinson Family Singers. Eleven years after this music was published three of the brothers, John, Asa, and Judson, homesteaded in Minnesota establishing the town of Hutchinson, on the banks of the Crow River.

This one piece of sheet music gives us a glimpse into both the cultural significance of popular music and political debate in the era just preceding Minnesota’s establishment as a Territory and the outbreak of the American Civil War.

See the article in Minnesota History for more details on the Hutchinsons’ story.

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More Music! Mon, 04 May 2015 15:26:42 +0000 Lori Williamson Our most recent Huffington Post post on the new music display in the Library Lobby is now available! Take a look at Minnesota Music and come see it in person. Find out what these keys are all about!

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Temporary Like Dylan: Some Highlights from the Minnesota Music Collection Tue, 21 Apr 2015 20:12:34 +0000 Lori Williamson

Minnesota has a long and storied history of music making. From the Hutchinson Family Singers during the Civil War to Dylan, Prince, punk, and beyond, the creation of music is central to our cultural life here.

See a small sample of some of the fun musical items in the Collection, including Prince’s gloves from Purple Rain; Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics to “Temporary Like Achilles”; Karl Mueller’s Chuck Taylors; and Vixen leader Jan Kuehnemund’s guitar and jacket.

Know that there is more to discover – this is just a starting point! The Library Lobby is open the same hours as the Library. Come visit and enjoy!

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Remembering Lincoln Wed, 08 Apr 2015 18:33:31 +0000 Lori Williamson
The Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. asked us to participate in an innovative and exciting project to commemorate the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago. Institutions from around the country contributed digital versions of collection items, showing personal responses to the news of the President’s death.  As we at the Minnesota Historical Society have been scouring the Civil War manuscript collections for our Civil War Daybook, this project was a perfect fit.

These unique items, from the MNHS Collection and many others, will be available to a worldwide audience. Be sure to see our contributions of the Wheelock letter; the St. Paul newspaper announcing Lincoln’s death; a diary entry by Senator Ramsey; and a letter by Moses Lightning Face, one of the Dakota captives at Davenport, concerning the President.

Check out all this and more at Remembering Lincoln: Responses to the Lincoln Assassination.

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Spring Means Prom! Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:27:41 +0000 Lori Williamson
Another new entry over on the Huffington Post – enjoy!

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Basektball Before March Madness Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:25:28 +0000 Lori Williamson As we enter into March Madness, take a moment to check out our post Basketball Before March Madness over at the Huffington Post!


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Paul Krause Minnesota Vikings helmet, 1975 Mon, 23 Feb 2015 20:45:26 +0000 Lori Williamson

He dreamed of being a big league baseball player, but destiny had other plans for Minnesota Vikings legend Paul Krause.  In the early 1960s the Flint, Michigan native was a two-sport star at the University of Iowa, excelling at both baseball and football.  A dozen major league teams had their eye on the gifted outfielder, but a shoulder injury sustained in a gridiron match against Michigan permanently damaged his throwing arm. The 6’3” Krause refocused on football, playing defensive back for the Hawkeyes starting in 1962.  Blessed with remarkable athleticism and an uncanny ability to read the opposing offense, Krause made 12 pass interceptions in his final two seasons.

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted by the Washington Redskins in 1964, Krause finished his inaugural season in the NFL with a league-leading 12 interceptions and was a close second in the voting for Rookie of the Year. Krause played four seasons with Washington, racking up 28 interceptions before being traded to the Minnesota Vikings in 1968.  “In 1968, we decided to go almost exclusively to the zone, which was a radical change in the league,” recalled Vikings head coach Bud Grant.  “What we really needed was an intelligent, far-ranging free safety with great hands; in other words, a super athlete.  After surveying the league, we decided that Paul Krause had all those qualities.”

Toiling alongside a celebrated defensive line dubbed the Purple People Eaters, Krause wielded his masterful talent for anticipating plays and became one of the league’s most intimidating safeties. “I try to keep everything in front of me,” he explained, “watching the quarterback, the movement of the backs and the flow of the linemen.”  Krause spent 12 seasons with the Vikings, appearing in three Super Bowls and six Pro Bowls, and retired in 1979 as the NFL’s all-time interception leader with 81 steals. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.

Adam Scher, Senior Objects Curator

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Ice Fishing at its Finest Mon, 09 Feb 2015 15:20:47 +0000 Lori Williamson More MNHS Collections on the Huffington Post! This time, ice fishing.

To see more images like the one below check out our newest post, Ice Fishing Fun!

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Images of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival Wed, 28 Jan 2015 16:20:03 +0000 Lori Williamson
Once again, our Collections are featured in the Huffington Post, and just in time for the end of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival!

To see more images like the one below check out our newest post, Saint Paul Winter Carnival!

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Common Loon Gunning Decoy by Laurie McNeil Mon, 12 Jan 2015 16:40:27 +0000 Lori Williamson

Photo: Jeff Smith, Allen & Marshall Auctioneers

“Phenom” is a well-worn idiom in the creative arts, but it’s an apropos expression of Laurie McNeil’s extraordinary talent.  Starting with a sheet-rock knife and no formal training, the Minneapolis native burst onto the scene in 1985 and within a year went from virtual obscurity to international best-in-show winner.  Most of McNeil’s decoys, which take about 500 hours for a life-sized work, are crafted from a block of tupelo, a wood favored by decoy carvers for its softness and buoyancy.  A cardboard template is used to trace an outline onto the wood, which is then cut out with a band saw.   Rotary tools and wood-burning pens are then used to further define the decoy and create fine details like feathers.

Video: Common Loon Decoy from Start to Finish – Less Than Two Minutes (courtesy: Laurie McNeil)

A critical step in the creative process is weighting the figure so it floats – a judging requirement in gunning decoy competition and a necessity for hunting use (a rarity since McNeil’s decoys often sell for thousands of dollars).  This exquisite specimen, McNeil’s first life-size rendition of Minnesota’s state bird, was executed in 1987 and proved an especially challenging figure to self-right.  Opting to forgo a keel, McNeil hollowed the body and head and used lead weights for ballast.  Uncertain of the efficacy of her engineering, McNeil concealed a rueful message inside the bird’s head which reads, “If you are reading this note, something serious has happened to my Loon!” Miraculously, the decoy took to water like the proverbial duck and won best-in-show that year at the prestigious Pacific Southwest Wildlife Arts California Open. McNeil became the first woman to win the open-class competition at that event, a singular honor which garnered the admiration of wildfowl carvers and collectors nationwide.

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Winter One Hundred Years Ago Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:46:43 +0000 Lori Williamson
We’ve been asked by The Huffington Post to start blogging on their site. This provides an exciting national platform for Minnesota history!

To see more images like the one below check out our newest post, Winter One Hundred Years Ago 2014-15!

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Jan Kuehnemund’s Vixen guitar Mon, 10 Nov 2014 22:29:17 +0000 Lori Williamson

A Girl, a Guitar, and a Dream.  It’s a fitting epitaph to Jan Kuehnemund’s remarkable life, which was tragically cut short by cancer in 2013.  The 59-year-old St. Paul native was the founder and lead guitarist for Vixen, the first all-female rock band from the Twin Cities, which rose to international stardom during the glam metal heyday of the 1980’s.  Jan began playing guitar as a teenager and formed her first band, Lemon Pepper, while still in high school. With her dad Carl serving as roadie, Jan and her band mates Laurie Hedlund (drums), Cindy Boettcher (keyboards) and Gayle (Erickson) DeMatoff (bass) played throughout the Twin Cities, including gigs at the Cabooze, Duffy’s and the Union.   As the band honed their chops, they secured a manager and began performing around the country under their new moniker, Vixen.  During the 1970’s Vixen opened for acts such as Styx, Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, and Bob Seeger, and in 1979 the girls moved to Los Angeles to strike it big.

By the mid-1980’s Cindy, Laurie, and Gayle had left the band, but Jan continued to pursue her dream with new members Janet Gardner (vocals), Roxy Petrucci (drums) and Glencoe, MN native Share Pedersen (bass). Their 1988 self-titled debut album, Vixen, went gold and was followed in 1990 by the release of Rev it Up and tours with Deep Purple and Kiss.  Vixen disbanded in 1991, but re-formed in 1997 without Kuehnemund.  Jan won a legal battle for the band’s name and revived Vixen in 2001 with new members. With more than 1 million records sold, four songs in Billboard’s Top 100, and six top-ranked videos on MTV during the 1980’s,  Vixen established its legacy as a groundbreaking success in the male-dominated world of heavy metal rock, a feat accomplished in large part due to the vision, talent and perseverance of its guiding spirit, Jan Kuehnemund.

Jan Kuehnemund (left) with Janet Gardner and Share Pedersen at The Town and Country Club in London, 1990. Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns, gettyimages.

Stop by the History Center this week only (through November 23) to see this rock star’s guitars, stage costume, and more. Enjoy!

]]> 0 Lutefisk or Ludefisk? Fri, 24 Oct 2014 20:48:44 +0000 Lori Williamson

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! Thu, 25 Sep 2014 16:46:13 +0000 Lori Williamson

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 Mon, 08 Sep 2014 14:00:13 +0000 Lori Williamson 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 Mon, 18 Aug 2014 15:30:11 +0000 Lori Williamson
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 Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:48:27 +0000 Lori Williamson

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 Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:29:19 +0000 Lori Williamson

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 Wed, 14 May 2014 18:46:13 +0000 Lori Williamson 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 Fri, 25 Apr 2014 15:57:32 +0000 Lori Williamson 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 Thu, 13 Mar 2014 20:10:10 +0000 Lori Williamson 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:

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? Tue, 04 Feb 2014 23:07:11 +0000 Lori Williamson 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.

Scan from film: Feb 11 1930 St. Paul Pioneer Press front page “Nipola Co. …"

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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Hear Acquisitions Librarian Patrick Coleman on MPR! Fri, 10 Jan 2014 19:03:03 +0000 Lori Williamson If you missed Patrick Coleman’s appearance on All Things Considered with Dan Olson, here’s the link to the story featuring many treasures of the Collection. Enjoy!

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Dan Murphy’s Les Paul Goldtop Guitar Wed, 20 Nov 2013 21:33:33 +0000 Lori Williamson

“It was really a home spun band with very humble beginnings”.  That’s how former Soul Asylum lead guitarist Dan Murphy described his Minneapolis-based band, which rose to superstardom in 1992 with their hit single “Runaway Train”.  A native of Duluth, Murphy co-founded the group in 1981 with Karl Mueller and Dave Pirner as a trio under the name Loud Fast Rules, playing in garages, at parties, and in local clubs including First Avenue.  With the addition of Pat Morley on drums, the band changed its name to Soul Asylum in 1984 and began recording albums for the independent record label Twin/Tone Records. Grant Young replaced Morley on drums shortly after their debut album, Say What you Will, and for the next nine years the band played hundreds of concerts across the United States and Europe, building a following of fans and climbing the college radio charts.  After releasing a string of tepidly-received albums under the A&M label, the band signed with Columbia Records in 1992 and released Grave Dancers Union to critical and popular acclaim. The album’s success catapulted Soul Asylum to international celebrity and assured their reputation for the next twenty years as one of the world’s most renowned independent rock bands.

Purchased in the mid 1980’s at Benedict’s Music Store in Minneapolis, Murphy used this Gibson Les Paul guitar on every Soul Asylum album, starting with 1988’s Hang Time, until his departure from the band in 2012.  Murphy also logged hundreds of performances on the guitar as a member of Soul Asylum and the supergroup Golden Smog, including appearances at President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural ball, the MTV Music Awards, “Saturday Night Live”, the “David Letterman Show”, and the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno”.  The guitar joins the Society’s extensive holdings of artifacts and manuscript materials which document both the storied legacy of Soul Asylum and Dan Murphy’s celebrated achievements as a Minnesota musician.

Adam Scher, Senior Curator

Photo by Daniel Schwen.

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New Library Exhibit – Dry Times: Temperance, Prohibition, and Gangsters in Minnesota, 1900 – 1933 Tue, 15 Oct 2013 14:53:25 +0000 Lori Williamson

In anticipation of the opening November 9 of American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, we put together some material in the Library Lobby to showcase the Minnesota angle and whet visitors’ appetite for more!

Minnesota played a major role in Prohibition, the banning of alcohol in the United States from 1920 – 1933 made possible by the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.  The Temperance Movement (supporters of making liquor illegal) had been active here since the 1880s, but it was the National Prohibition Act (also known as the Volstead Act) championed by Minnesota Congressman Andrew Volstead that made the Amendment reality.

Liquor, of course, did not go away, just underground. A brisk illegal trade in alcohol could be found nationwide, but it was to Saint Paul the gangsters would come to either vacation or “let things cool off.” An arrangement with the Saint Paul Police made the city a haven for criminals. As long as bribes were paid and crime was not committed in the city, Saint Paul Police agreed to look the other way. While this made for some interesting visitors, this arrangement did not last long.

Come take a look at these amazing pieces from that time, showing all sides in the great national debate that came to a largely joyous end in 1933.

This exhibit is open the same hours as the Library.

Learn More:

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Matthew Marvin’s Civil War diary, visualized Wed, 02 Oct 2013 21:24:32 +0000 Lizzie Ehrenhalt

The diaries kept by Civil War soldiers make for gripping reading.  They’re full of the sights and sounds of military life in the 1860s, from routine dress parades and picket duty to dramatic battles like Gettysburg and Antietam.  But while the content of these accounts is priceless, it’s sometimes hard for the average person to access.  Soldiers’ handwriting is messy; their grammar and spelling are inconsistent; and the words they use are unfamiliar.  Sifting through all of a diary’s entries in search of recurring themes can exhaust even the most dedicated reader.

With this in mind, a team of staff in the Collections Department is exploring creative ways to distill and display the content contained within historic manuscripts.  They hope to determine whether data visualization–the practice of transforming data sets into interactive graphs and pictures–can be used to make primary sources more accessible.  Funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, their project will produce three visualizations of a diary written by Matthew Marvin, a farmer from Winona, Minnesota who served in the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry between 1861 and 1864.

The first of the visualizations, created with the web-based presentation tool Prezi, is now available to the public.  For the best viewing experience, be sure to open the Prezi in full-screen mode. To do this, click on the screen enlarger icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the presentation tool bar.  You can move backwards and forwards through the Prezi by clicking on the arrows that appear at bottom-center of this tool bar.

Enjoy the visualization, and be sure to record your observations on the Prezi itself.  The project team welcomes your feedback.

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Coya Knutson’s Accordion Wed, 18 Sep 2013 20:14:20 +0000 Lori Williamson

Cornelia “Coya” Knutson (1912-1996) dreamed of being an opera singer.  After graduating from Concordia College in 1934, the North Dakota native set out for New York City to study piano and voice at the prestigious Julliard School.  Regrettably, an operatic career was not in the cards but Coya would later apply her musical talents to succeed in an unrelated yet equally competitive vocation – politics.    She was helping her husband Andy manage a hotel and cafe in Oklee, Minnesota during the early 1940’s when the political bug bit her.  With accordion in hand she hit the campaign trail, singing her way across the state in a vivacious soprano. Inspired by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Coya became a staunch supporter of agricultural reform and won the hearts and votes of Minnesota’s rural communities.

After serving on the Red Lake County Board and in the Minnesota House of Representatives, the former music teacher and Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate stunned the state’s political establishment in 1954 by beating twelve-year incumbent Harold Hagen for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Coya Knutson was now the first woman from Minnesota elected to Congress, and Washington was soon to become equally astounded by her drive and commitment.   Despite her lack of seniority, Coya won a seat on the coveted House Agriculture Committee, initiated the first federal appropriations for cystic fibrosis research, introduced the first bill for the income tax check-off to fund Presidential election campaigns, and wrote the first federal student loan program.

But Knutson’s prospects for a long career in Congress were derailed in 1958 when husband Andy made a public plea for Coya to quit politics and return to Minnesota.  In a time when a woman’s place was in the home, not in the House of Representatives, Andy’s appeal struck a resonant chord with voters and toppled Coya’s bid for re-election. Coya Knutson never held elected office again, despite comeback attempts in 1960 and 1977, but her determination, dedication to service, and personal charm firmly established her as an iconic figure in Minnesota political history.

Adam Scher, Senior Curator

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New Oral History Page Available – Voices of Minnesota Tue, 20 Aug 2013 16:58:16 +0000 Lori Williamson

The Minnesota Historical Society is pleased to announce that it now has the largest digitally available Oral History collection in the country – and possibly the world!

The collection had previously only been available on tape cassette or as paper transcriptions. Through years of digitization and cataloging Voices of Minnesota is the new online portal to the more than 1,300 Oral History interviews in our collection. You can search for specific oral history interviews through Collections Online or by subject matter on Voices of Minnesota.

Projects available online range from World War II to recent immigrants, politics, art, and much more.

Keep checking back – more Oral History projects and interviews are being added all the time!

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History is Now! Celebrating Marriage Equality Thu, 01 Aug 2013 15:04:26 +0000 Lori Williamson

The Minnesota Historical Society is looking to document select current events through collecting digital images, and we need your help.

The Society wants to document the historic recognition of equality for all by collecting digital photos of same-sex weddings held during the month of August, 2013. Our goal is to collect 100 great photos during this time of couples state-wide who are now able to get married.

Please see this page to learn more about this project and specifics to submit.

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New Library Exhibit – The Golden Age of Rail Travel Wed, 10 Jul 2013 20:54:11 +0000 Lori Williamson

Dining aboard the North Coast Limited, Northern Pacific Railway, 1934.

Come see the new exhibit in the Library Lobby on the Golden Age of Rail Travel, 1880 – 1950. The exhibit highlights a fabulous new donation to the collection from Steve Pattison and family of Great Northern Railway china and silver. It also includes menus and tourism promotion materials from our wonderful railroad archival collections. Visit a time when transportation was so much more civilized!

Glory of the West Pattern, 1940-1957. Donation by Steve Pattison and Family.

Learn More:

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Quillwork Cuffs by Dallas Goldtooth Mon, 03 Jun 2013 20:21:33 +0000 Lori Williamson 2013_41_2.jpgUnique to North America, porcupine quillwork is an art form used by Indigenous peoples that have traditionally resided in the porcupine’s natural habitat – from coast to coast in the northern United States and Canada.

With tendrils stretching back over centuries, quillwork was the primary decorative art form used for embellishing rawhide and tanned hide items prior to the introduction of glass beads of European manufacture. Many Dakota and Lakota people have oral traditions which explain how quilling was brought to them by Double Woman (or Double Face Woman). The earliest extant examples of quillwork are found in Canada and are said to date to the 6th century.

In their natural state, workable porcupine quills are usually pale with black tips. Historically, color was added through the use of dyes made from plant and animal materials. By the 19th century, commercial dyes became readily available and greatly expanded the possibilities for new designs and color combinations. Historic quillwork from the plains, much like painting and beadwork, is often characterized by geometric patterns – concentric circles and rosettes, as well as other geometric shapes, were commonly found on panels adorning men’s shirts.

2013_41_1.jpgTraditionally practiced by women, today many men are also contributing to the revival of the quillwork art form.   Through working with knowledgeable practitioners and relatives (and sometimes by studying museum collections), today quillwork artists are revitalizing the practice; it is again becoming a vibrant and living art form.

Quillwork in the Minnesota Historical Society Native American Collections is robust, with examples of historic moccasins, pipe bags, men’s shirts, pipe stems, armbands, dresses, ornaments, dolls, gloves, jackets, tobacco pouches and more attributed to Dakota makers, as well as birchbark tourist trade items made by Ojibwe makers.

In addition to our historic collections, there are also quillwork pieces created by contemporary artists. Among them is a cradleboard done by Hope Two Hearts and Galen Drapeau (Isanti and Ihanktowan Dakota, respectively), circa 1980. An image of this cradleboard, which won best traditional art at the Sante Fe Indian Market, was featured in promotional materials for Hope and Galen’s business, the Elk’s Camp Society.
Surrounded by the art form for most of his life, Dallas Goldtooth, Hope’s son, has himself been creating contemporary work for over a decade. Recently, the MHS Collections Department had the opportunity to purchase a pair of cuffs from the artist, seen here.

These will be on view in the Recent Acquisitions show at the  James J. Hill House until the end of June.

Ben Gessner
Collections Associate, American Indian and Fine Art Collections

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Recent Acquisitions Show at the James J. Hill House Fri, 26 Apr 2013 16:30:59 +0000 Lori Williamson

Our mission at the Minnesota Historical Society is straightforward—to preserve, share, and connect our history with Minnesotans and others both today and into the future. The organization does that in many ways: through our exhibitions, Library, historic sites, publications, and educational activities. Our permanent collection is at the core of everything we do at MHS.

With the goal of documenting the history of Minnesota and to tell the story of the people who call it home, each year the Collections department acquires thousands of items for its permanent collection.

We put together this current exhibit at the James J. Hill House to demonstrate the range of our collections.  Selected by Collection curators and staff, nearly all of the items in this exhibition were acquired in the last two years. Together, they demonstrate the depth and breadth of our collecting activities. From a 4,000 year-old prehistoric tool found in a northern suburban city park to campaign buttons for the latest Minnesotans to run for president, we aim to provide insight into the cultural, political, and social history of the state.

To see the exhibit, please visit the James J. Hill House. The show will be up until June 17, 2013.

To learn more about our collections, visit us at

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Acquired! 1850 Edward D. Neill letter describing the Minnesota Territory Fri, 15 Mar 2013 15:05:46 +0000 Lori Williamson

In February of 2013, the Minnesota Historical Society’s Manuscripts Collections acquired this letter written on February 23, 1850 in St. Paul by Presbyterian Minister, Edward Duffield Neill. Addressed to a Home Missionary Society colleague out East, the letter provides a detailed account of Neill’s missionary work in St. Paul, as well as his impressions regarding the changing landscape in the surrounding Territory.

Neill recounts his early work as a Presbyterian Minister in the Minnesota Territory but first and foremost, the eight-page manuscript gives a brief statistical analysis of Neill’s work over the past 10 months. He reports his involvement in building the First Presbyterian Church in St. Paul (Dec. 1849), his financial contributions to the Home Missionary Society’s coffers ($45.00 to date), and the increase in those who “…worship in accordance with the Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian denominations” (approximately 900). He goes on to describe the pre-existing Catholic and Protestant denominations, the former currently being housed in a “rude log chapel”.

The letter also describes Neill’s impression of St. Paul upon his arrival in 1849. He states, “I landed at St. Paul in April, 1849. It was then a village of 300 inhabitants, mostly illiterate French Canadians attached to the Church of Rome.” Being a man of the church, he did however attempt to lighten the blow, stating that the current state of the Territory proves there have since been “…great changes and those in the right direction.”

Neill’s interests crossed well beyond his early work as a Minister, showing an inclination towards matters of business, politics, and governance. He is delighted by the establishment of several new schools and quite impressed by the Territorial Government’s incorporation of a Library Association.  Neill believes in five years time, “…there will be direct or speedy communications between St. Anthony Falls and New York City via Lake Superior, and there will be a call for at least five times as many laborers.”

Neill’s predictions for the future were not always so bright, however. In a passage foretelling of impending events, Neill states, “Four-Fifths of the Territory is in Indian Country, the abode of the warlike Ojibwa, the wild Dakota and the discontented Winnebago. Negotiations however are going on, which will shortly induce the Dakota to dispose of the lands of his ancient ancestors and to commence his painful Exodus towards the setting sun.”

Edward D. Neill, a native Philadelphian, came to the Minnesota Territory in 1849 as a Presbyterian Minister under the auspices of the Home Missionary Society. At the time this letter was written, Neill was a frontier minister but he is also known as a prolific author, Civil War Chaplain to the 1st Minnesota infantry, Secretary to Presidents Lincoln and Johnson, as well as a past President of Macalester College.

This spectacular piece of Minnesota history complements the Society’s collection of the Edward D. Neill and family papers, as well as the Minnesota portion of the American Home Missionary Society records, available on microfilm.

See whole letter: Neill letter 1850

Shelby Edwards, Manuscripts Collections Assistant

Learn More:

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MHS Civil War Collections Online Fri, 01 Mar 2013 22:30:56 +0000 Lori Williamson

The Minnesota Historical Society maintains a rich collection of primary source materials (government records, manuscripts, photographs, art, artifacts) and secondary resources (books, published diaries, official sources) relating to the Civil War.

Our new Civil War Collections website features a timeline of major events and allows users to browse the Society’s holdings by collection type, topic, or event.  Check it out!

Also come see the new exhibit featuring many of these artifacts, Minnesota and the Civil War, opening March 2!

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Minnesota Inventions on tpt! Tue, 19 Feb 2013 21:46:28 +0000 Lori Williamson
In case you missed it last Friday, our very own Adam Scher was on Almanac talking about Minnesota Inventions. Watch it here:

For more on Minnesota’s food innovations, see our Inventions of Champions: How Minnesotans Changed Breakfast podcast.

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President’s Day is History Matters Day at the Capitol! Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:51:22 +0000 Lori Williamson

President’s Day is History Matters Day at the Capitol!

  • Come hang out in the State’s seat of power and government!
  • Look at cool items from the Collections!
  • Go on a free tour of the Captiol!
  • Enjoy a free craft activity for the kids!
  • Talk to your legislator about why history matters to you!

This Monday, February 18, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Learn more here:

Free shuttles are available from the History Center. Hope to see you then!

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Contemporary Political Posters in Minnesota Tue, 15 Jan 2013 22:37:14 +0000 Lori Williamson

Historically, posters have been a relatively cheap and quick way to disseminate information and ideas. Often, in opposition to commercial posters which promote the consumption of products, political posters, as a genre, have been used much in the same way as political graffiti – to promote grassroots political and philosophical ideas and movements.

Today, political poster-makers expand upon the historic role of their predecessors, often straddling the line of fine art printmaking. Almost exclusively, they produce hand-printed, limited-edition serigraphs (screenprints) or prints produced using letterset presses – rather than using machines to print offset lithographs, which is the printing process most commonly associated with ‘large-run’ commercial posters.

Minnesota has a unique and vibrant graphic arts community; the community of printmakers and poster artists is no exception.

Poster Offensive is a biennial political poster exhibit created in 2004 by Jeff Johnson, owner and creative director of Spunk Design Machine (these exhibits currently coincide with election cycles).  According to the exhibit organizers, Poster Offensive is “an independent, non-partisan poster show, which utilizes the politically potent medium of the poster to showcase contemporary interpretations and critiques of political and social issues.”

Although many of the artworks in the Poster Offensive exhibits deal specifically with the elections with which they coincide, some reflect larger issues, including local food movements, conservation of natural resources, freedom of speech, unemployment, immigration, women’s rights, and, like these presented here from the 2012 Poster Offensive 6, the recent proposed ‘marriage’ amendment to the Minnesota State Constitution. Designed, illustrated, and printed by Jeff Johnson, Bill Ferenc, and Andy Weaver of Spunk Design Machine, a Minneapolis-based design boutique, these two versions of Equal Equals Love were recently added to the Fine Art collection at the Minnesota Historical Society.

Ben Gessner, Collections Associate

Click images above to see them larger. To learn more, please go to Collections Online:

Paul Bunyan and Jolly Green Giant

Dorothy and Betty Crocker

To learn even more:

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Moon Rocks! – Apollo 11 Lunar Soil Sample Tue, 04 Dec 2012 17:20:35 +0000 Lori Williamson

In November 1969, four months after the first manned lunar landing by Apollo 11, President Richard Nixon asked the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to prepare lunar soil samples collected from the mission for presentation to the 50 United States and 135 countries.  Each sample was to be accompanied by the recipient’s state or national flag, which had traveled to the Moon and back aboard Apollo 11.

President Nixon presented this lunar soil display, containing approximately 50 milligrams of material, to the people of Minnesota in 1970 with the message:

Presented to the people of Minnesota by Richard Nixon, President of the United States of America.

This flag of your state was carried to the Moon and back by Apollo 11 and this fragment of the Moon’s surface was brought to Earth by the crew of that first manned lunar landing.

The display is presumed to have been received by the Office of the Governor, but for reasons which remain uncertain it was transferred to the Minnesota Department of Military Affairs where it remained for 40 years.  In 2010 the display was discovered in a storage area by staff of the Minnesota National Guard, who transferred it to the Minnesota Historical Society in November, 2012.

Adam Scher, Senior Curator

For more details, view the Moon Rocks in our Collections Online database.

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An Evening with Walter Mondale and the Public Affairs Collections of MHS Mon, 19 Nov 2012 22:55:59 +0000 Lori Williamson

Join us for an evening to celebrate the completion of the Mondale Papers project and learn more about the Public Affairs Collections of the MHS. Speakers will talk about the importance of the Collection, and Mr. Mondale and Gary Eichten (of Minnesota Public Radio) will have a conversation about his life in public service.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Location: Minnesota History Center, St. Paul, MN.

Time: 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Cost: FREE. Registration Required. Reserve tickets here:

Call 651-259-3015 for more information

Please note:  All tickets will be held at will call 30 minutes prior to the event.  No tickets will be mailed.

Even if you can’t make the event, be sure to check out our new and improved Government, Politics, and Public Affairs page as well as the new Walter F. Mondale Collection page.

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Ded Uŋk’uŋpi—We Are Here Art Exhibit at the James J. Hill House Tue, 23 Oct 2012 14:29:42 +0000 Lori Williamson Ded Uŋk’uŋpi—We Are Here art exhibit opened at the James J. Hill House last weekend. 2012 marks the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in the history of the United States. On December 26th, 1862, 38 Dakota warriors were sentenced and hung as a result of the U.S./Dakota war.  This timely and important group exhibit features works by 20 Native American artists whose work responds to the legacy of these events.

Work by eight of the artists has been selected for purchase as part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s permanent collection. The painting above is titled “The Crow is to Die For!” by Dwayne Wilcox.

Featured Artists:
Joe Allen, Angela Babby, Karen Beaver, Todd Bordeaux, Julie Buffalohead, Avis Charley, Gordon Coons, Jim Denomie, Michael Elizondo Jr., Evans Flammond, Charles Her Many Horses, Dakota Hoska, Henry Payer, Charles Rencountre, James Star Comes Out, Maggie Thompson, Jodi Webster, Gwen Westerman, Dwayne Wilcox, Bobby Wilson

Dakota Artist and Scholar Gwen Westerman Wasicuna said the following about the exhibit:

“With a stunning mix of humor and anger, hope and despair, this collection expresses the array of complicated responses to a brutal history.  While the thirty-eight executed Dakota are prominent, other essential aspects of culture and tradition are also present, including the strength of Dakota women, the role of horses and honor, and the ever-present landscape of the homeland. Whether incorporating new interpretations of traditional forms of beadwork, winter counts, and horse masks, or employing diverse contemporary techniques in glass, found objects, and photography, the messages here are as diverse as the artists themselves.  The stories depicted contribute to a broader understanding of the impact of these historical events and the power of art to tell a difficult story.  Abstract, realistic, and representational, these pieces help us see the transformative capacity of trauma and healing, destruction and regeneration, and above all, representation and memory.”

This exhibit will be on view during Hill House hours until January 13, 2013.

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Remembering the “Happy Warrior” – Hubert H. Humphrey Digitization Project Wed, 22 Aug 2012 15:49:36 +0000 Lori Williamson

In this election year, we have an opportunity to look back at one of the greatest statesman produced by Minnesota: Hubert H. Humphrey.

Thanks to a grant from the NHPRC (National Historical Publications and Records Commission) we are working on digitizing all of Humphrey’s speeches. He was well-known as a fantastic orator. When complete, this project will provide a tremendous resource for students of all ages as well as people interested in the politics and history of our state and nation.

The intent with this project is to update the finding aid with those speech texts that have been digitized each month.  People can look forward to the 1941-1947 speeches being available this September.

Learn more:

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Railroad Inventories: On Track and On Line! Mon, 23 Jul 2012 14:15:05 +0000 Lori Williamson

Together, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern manuscript collections make the Minnesota Historical Society one of the great centers for railroad research in the entire nation. Acquisitioned in December 1968 and October 1972, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads, respectively, became two of the largest collections that the Society houses. An astounding number of records have been processed and conserved in the intervening time, leading to thousands of boxes, volumes, and drawings being made accessible for research purposes.

The availability of inventories for these collections has, until recently, only been available in the Society’s reading room, but now you can explore the multitude of records on line! Documenting all facets of the railroads’ development and the communities they served, these finding aids allow for more convenient browsing, faster searching, and the discovery of related materials that may have been overlooked before.

That’s right! Minneapolis to Minot, Grand Forks to Great Falls, and Sand Point to Seattle, all stops along the railroad to research are now available on line. Travel the rails to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, finagle your way through financial records, peruse photographs, consider correspondence, muse over maps, delve into drawings, bring blueprints to bear, and inspect indexes. We’re not just blowing steam here, take a look for yourself, and come explore the history of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads:

Great Northern:

Northern Pacific:

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Colt Army Model 1860 Revolver Owned By Mathew Marvin Mon, 16 Jul 2012 19:14:45 +0000 Matt Anderson

In October 2011, the Minnesota Historical Society acquired this Colt Army Model 1860 revolved used by Mathew Marvin of Company K in the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry. A native of upstate New York, Marvin made his way to Winona, Minnesota, in 1859, where he clerked in a store. At the outset of the Civil War, he was among the first to enlist at Fort Snelling in April 1861.

Marvin’s military career was mixed. While he rose through the ranks from Private to First Sergeant, he also suffered three wounds. The first was in battle at First Bull Run, the second was in camp due to an accidental discharge from another soldier’s gun, and the third occured during the 1st Minnesota’s celebrated charge at Gettysburg. That wound, caused when a bullet passed through the length of his foot, effectively ended his service and troubled him for the remainder of his life. After recuperating with his parents in Illinois, Marvin eventually returned to Winona, where he was active in veterans’ affairs. He died, at age 64, in 1903, and was buried in Winona’s Woodlawn Cemetery.

Marvin’s revolver passed on to his daughter, Mabel, who in turn gave it to a collector shortly before her own death in 1955. The collector took it with him to Nebraska, where it was auctioned this past fall. Now the gun not only returns to Minnesota, but also joins Mathew Marvin’s frock coat, canteen, personal papers and diaries, already in the Society’s collections. It’s a magnificent addition, and all the more fitting as we commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Matt Anderson
Former Objects Curator

Learn More

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Midwest Antiquarian Book Fair is Coming! Wed, 20 Jun 2012 20:19:38 +0000 Lori Williamson The Midwest Antiquarian Booksellers Association’s 22nd Annual Twin Cities Book Fair will be held on Friday, June 29, 2012 and on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in the Progress Center Building located at the Minnesota State Fair grounds in St. Paul, Minnesota. More than 60 Booksellers from 15 states will be offering for sale antiquarian, rare, and fine books, maps, ephemera and other paper collectibles.

Minnesota Historical Society members are invited to enjoy refreshments and hear the Library of Congress Lessing J. Rosenwald curator, Dan De Simone, speak.  De Simone has been at the Library of Congress since January 2000; previously, he ran his own rare book company in NYC. Over the past 35 years he has developed expertise in antiquarian bibliography, illustrated books, 18th-century French and Italian books, and 18th-century Irish books.

It is also an opportunity to help build the fantastic Minnesota Historical Society’s Library Collection! This world-renowned collection is continually evolving and now is your chance to be part of it. Gifts up to $ 5,000 will be matched dollar for dollar!

To learn more about this exciting event, visit 2012bookfairwishlist.

If you are not a member yet, there is still time to join and attend!

Hope to see you there!

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History Happy Hour at the Ramsey House next Thursday! Thu, 07 Jun 2012 20:01:26 +0000 Lori Williamson

Who was Ignatius Donnelly? He was a U.S. Congressman, populist writer and amateur scientist, but today he’s just as well known for his theories on Atlantis, Catastrophism and Shakespearean authorship. Get to know him at next Thursday’s History Happy Hour at the Alexander Ramsey House. Reserve your tickets today!

Who is Patrick Coleman? Acquisitions Librarian at MHS, avid canoer, and Donnelly enthusiast. He’ll be the one regaling you with stories of Donnelly and old Saint Paul.

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Očhéthi Šakówiŋ – The Seven Council Fires web site is now live! Tue, 08 May 2012 16:52:42 +0000 Lori Williamson

For over a decade the Minnesota Historical Society (MHS) has been digitizing collections materials for the purposes of increasing accessibility, supporting research, and preserving original materials. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ – The Seven Council Fires digitization project expanded to include additional goals. Sought by Dakota individuals who wanted increased access and understanding of the Dakota material culture in the MHS collections, a new level of transparency was achieved. By using the WOTR (Write On The Record) tool to record feedback and comments MHS steps back and shares authority in interpreting this material. Both MHS and Dakota communities will benefit from this partnership as information about these items is dramatically enhanced.

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New Library Home Page! Mon, 05 Mar 2012 21:44:27 +0000 Lori Williamson

We have a new Library homepage!

We got rid of some out-of-date things, added some new how-tos to empower users, and cleaned up the layout. Access to our tools and information is still there, hopefully in a more user friendly format. The ability to easily change the Featured Item and Library News will make our communications to patrons as timely as possible.

Take a look!

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Beyond the Doughboy: Minnesota Mascots in the Library Lobby! Thu, 09 Feb 2012 22:47:14 +0000 Lori Williamson

If you’ve seen and loved the Beyond the Doughboy: Minnesota Mascots podcast, then be sure not to miss the corresponding exhibit in the Library Lobby!
Pieces from the podcast and more will be on view now through the end of March.
Keep it real, Gophers!

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Contact at a distance: 3D models of collections Thu, 05 Jan 2012 18:10:17 +0000 Lizzie Ehrenhalt There’s nothing quite like handling a historic artifact.  Turning over an object in your hands, tracing its shape and testing its weight, you’re free to focus on any detail that grabs your interest, from the lace on a debutante’s glove to the rust on a blacksmith’s tongs.  You can hold it out at arm’s length to see how it reflects light at different angles, then pull it in close to examine surface details.  Handling an object offers an immediate sense of how it was used by its owners, and of its function (or lack of function) in everyday life.  Above all, it creates intimacy–a kind of communion between person and thing that can inspire curiosity, empathy, and awe.

Connecting people and things in an intimate way is one of the core duties of history museums.  But for most institutions, letting visitors handle more than a carefully-chosen sliver of their artifact collections isn’t practical.  Frequent handling can damage an object in a matter of days.  And even the sturdiest relics are out of reach for would-be handlers who live too far away to visit them.

What, then, can museums do to recreate the miracle of contact at a distance?  To encourage handling without the wear-and-tear?  Digital photographs in online catalogs do a great deal, but they have limits.  Take this picture of a Dakota tobacco pouch, for example.

Beaded leather tobacco pouch

It’s a fine image; you can see the intricate seed bead and porcupine quill panels, the water damage to the buckskin shell and even, if you zoom in, the beads trimming the lip of the opening.  But what does the pouch look like when you flip it over?   How deep is the pocket?  What would you see if you could stand it on its end and look inside–that is, if you could treat it like the three-dimensional object it is rather than as a two-dimensional picture?

Thanks to a collaboration between the Minnesota Historical Society and the University of Minnesota, now you can.

Not too far from MHS, on its Minneapolis campus, the U of M houses a remarkable facility called the Evolutionary Anthropology Laboratory (EAL).  For years, the EAL has been using white light scanning technology to create three-dimensional models of primate bones, allowing anthropology students to conduct up-close research without harming the original specimens.  In 2009, EAL staff used this technology to scan a rare eighteenth century globe acquired by MHS, and in 2011 they returned to capture ten additional artifacts, including a telephone, a toy elephant, a pair of moccasins, a rifle, a knife sheath, a radio, two Civil War-era gowns and the tobacco pouch pictured above.  After several weeks of scanning sessions in the MHS photo lab and post-processing at the EAL, the models were complete.

3D models of each of these objects are now available via Collections Online, a searchable database of MHS artifacts.  Opening a model on your computer is easy and requires no special software–just a standard PDF viewer like Adobe Reader.  Here’s what to do.

1.  Click on any of the images above.  The Collections Online record of the object will display in a new tab or window.

2.  Click on the icon that looks like a page from a notebook.  The model should open inside your browser.

3.  Select an option from the 3D Tools menu to move the object in any way you’d like.  Choose from pan, zoom, spin, rotate, fly and walk functions.

From here, you’re free to explore the object at your own pace, and with your own motives.  Pan across the knife sheath from end to end.   Zoom into the radio’s dial to read its preset stations.  Rotate the gowns for a full appreciation of the silhouette created by Victorian corsets and crinolines.  And take another look at that tobacco pouch.

The seed bead panel on this side, as it turns out, is arranged in a completely different pattern.  Where the first side featured regular diagonal stripes, this pattern is more complex, with triangles and rectangles artfully arranged into a symmetrical grid.  It’s an important feature of the object that the original photograph hides, and that 3D artifact handling brings back to life.

-Lizzie Ehrenhalt, Collections Assistant

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Governor Swift’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation Mon, 14 Nov 2011 19:36:00 +0000 Matt Anderson Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. Quick, what first jumps to mind? Airport congestion? Turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie? Football? Doorbuster sales at department stores? These are Thanksgiving hallmarks to many of us. But when did Thanksgiving become a national holiday? The Pilgrims’ celebration at Plymouth Plantation in 1621 may well come to mind, but that predates nationhood.

The first official national Thanksgiving occurred during one of the United States’ darkest chapters: the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln—persuaded by a renowned female editor—did “invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States . . . to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next [i.e., 1863] as a day of thanksgiving and prayer to our beneficent Father . . . .” In a noteworthy coincidence of timing, America’s first official observance occurred exactly seven days after Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address.

Prior to 1863, it was at a state’s discretion when (or whether) there was a day of Thanksgiving. The Minnesota Historical Society has several such proclamations as part of its gubernatorial collections. Now, the MHS has acquired Governor Henry A. Swift’s 1863 proclamation, which follows suit with Lincoln’s. In it, Swift highlights contemporary events—the Civil War, the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War, immigration, drought — in language that, to the modern reader, may seem occasionally brusque or even insensitive. Informed by a prevalent perspective in 1863, Swift’s proclamation now serves as documentary evidence to that perspective yet remains available for ongoing interpretation and analysis.

Christopher Welter, Collections Assistant

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When the Welfare of the Traveler Came First Wed, 02 Nov 2011 20:14:34 +0000 Pat Coleman Conoco Touraide, 1936Conoco Map of Glacier National Park

Remember when auto travel was romantic? Neither do we; so it was nice last month when a donor walked into the library with a reminder. Glenn Jaglowski brought us a pamphlet prepared by the Conoco Company in 1936 especially for his father, Alexander. The Jaglowski family lived in Hibbing, Minnesota and wanted to take a car camping trip to Glacier and Yellowstone Parks. Having a membership in the Conoco Travel Club allowed the Jaglowskis to request Conoco’s Travel Bureau to create a “Touraide,” an itinerary that included every piece of information they would need along the way. This included maps with highlighted routes, mileage charts, accommodations, narrative and photographic descriptions of the states the Jaglowskis would be traveling through, and perhaps most importantly, the locations of the Conoco gas stations along the way. Rubber stamped updates were added to the maps to warn the family that, for example, certain mountain passes are usually open by May 15th but it would be wise to call ahead and check. Fabulously, the donated Touraide included the triangular car window sticker identifying the Jaglowskis as Conoco Travel Club members. I have no doubt that they received an extra big smile from the gas station attendant while their gas was being pumped for them.

Patrick Coleman, Acquisitions Librarian

Northeastern Minnesota InformationConoco Travel Club Sticker

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Beyond Fitz, Red, and Ole: Minnesota Literature in the 1920’s Fri, 16 Sep 2011 21:33:06 +0000 Lori Williamson The Twenties were a very rich decade for local writers. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sinclair (Red) Lewis, and O. E. Rolvaag all published a novel in 1920 and continued to do so throughout the decade. While the three of them remain in the cannon to this day, the Minnesota Historical Society has identified more than one hundred other novels by other Minnesota writers that received just as much attention at the time. These other writers and novels were widely reviewed and widely read when they were published. Predicting which books would still be in print and read 80 years after they were published would have been impossible.

Come see a selection of these beautiful, interesting books on display in the Library Lobby of the Minnesota Historical Society. The Library is free and open to the public. These will be on display until mid-November.

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1876 Northfield Bank Robbery Goes Digital Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:20:21 +0000 Lori Williamson YoungerSiblings

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

Learn More:

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“Spirit of St. Louis” liqueur decanter Mon, 01 Aug 2011 18:45:48 +0000 Matt Anderson History’s milestones are commemorated in the most unusual ways. Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean is a prime example. Seemingly, no sooner had Lindy touched down at Le Bourget Airport than vendors were selling coins, pins, photos, models, and jewelry – along with anything else you can possibly imagine – to mark the historic flight. There are more than 250 of these souvenirs in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection.

The most recent addition came to us earlier this summer. This ceramic crème de menthe decanter is in the form of a surprisingly detailed model of the Spirit of St. Louis. It was the third in a series commemorating “Famous Firsts” in aviation. (Other decanters included Wiley Post’s Winnie Mae, and the Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport plane.) Produced 45 years after the flight, the bottle speaks to the lasting significance of – and popular interest in – Lindbergh’s feat.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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Come See It – Civil War Display in Library Lobby Mon, 02 May 2011 22:03:16 +0000 Lori Williamson The 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment was the first unit from any state pledged to fight for the Uni1st Minnesota Civil War drumon. As part of the Army of the Potomac, the 1st took part in many significant battles and campaigns including Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, and Gettysburg.The Battle of Gettysburg was the 1st Minnesota’s finest hour, where it made a heroic charge that helped secure the Union victory. The regiment suffered heavy losses as a result.

Currently on display in the Library Lobby is a small sample of the Minnesota Historical Society’s objects, letters, and diaries carried through the war by members of this storied regiment. Also on display are some regimental histories from the Collection.

This small exhibit is just the tip of the iceberg; stop by to learn more about the resources available relating to the Civil War.

The exhibit is open during Library Hours until Labor Day.

Sword and Scabbard

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Charles W. Holman Collection Returns to Minnesota Fri, 15 Apr 2011 19:35:38 +0000 Lori Williamson Holman Flight Certificate

The MHS is pleased to announce the acquisition of a collection of papers and memorabilia of Charles W. “Speed” Holman, famed aviator, first chief pilot of Northwest Airlines, and namesake of St. Paul’s downtown airport. Highlights of the collection include three licenses (1927-1928) signed by Orville Wright, a 1926 license to carry air mail for the United States Post Office, and Holman’s personal flight logbook covering his flights from December 5, 1929, to May 17, 1931. On that date Holman flew to Omaha, Nebraska, where he died in a horrific crash while performing at an air show before 20,000 spectators. Dozens of letters and telegrams document Holman’s international flights, the New York to Spokane air race that ensured his place in aviation history, and expressions of sympathy to his widow and Northwest Airways after his death. Famed World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker telegraphed “We grieve with you and Charles family in this hour of loss.” Other “personal” items document the purchase and sale of his Minneapolis home and include a life insurance policy, his 1927 income tax return, and his Northwest Airways business card.

The collection also includes artifacts from Holman’s life – a leather box for important documents inscribed with his name, his baby rattle and leather baby shoe spats, a leather wallet, license holders, and empty shell casings from the salute at his funeral, one of the largest held in St. Paul to that time.

The Society was able to acquire this collection with monies from Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The collection will be available for research and viewing after it has been arranged and cataloged. Some of the documents will be digitized and available through the Society’s website.

Holman Collection

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Minnesota Originals Mon, 04 Apr 2011 15:14:02 +0000 Lori Williamson

Curator of Art Brian Szott was on a recent episode of the tpt series Minnesota Originals discussing the fabulous art collection. Click on the logo below to watch.

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Winter on the Hill Mon, 28 Feb 2011 16:32:27 +0000 Adam Harris Winter on the Hill

Each year, the staff of the James J. Hill House, 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul, presents a display of historic Winter Carnival memorabilia in the Music Room of the house.  The display coincides with the Winter Carnival in St. Paul, and provides a view into the past, highlighting the involvement of the Hill Family in the Carnival and winter sports activities.  The display showcases examples of the breadth and depth of the Society’s collections which includes items representing 125 years of Carnival history.

000_0002Winter on the Hill

The objects in the display date from 1887, the second year of the Winter Carnival, to 1917 when Louis Hill was involved with its revival.  The lap robe and snow shoes belonged to James J. and Mary Hill, respectively.   The objects inside the case are ephemera from Carnivals in 1887, 1888, and 1916, and are a good representation of graphic and advertising styles from those years.  They also document early St. Paul businesses marketing Carnival souvenirs.

Paul Storch, Collections Liaison, Historic Sites and Museums Division

Winter on the HillWinter on the HillWinter on the Hill

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Frank Lloyd Wright Arrested in Minnesota! Mon, 31 Jan 2011 22:43:43 +0000 Lori Williamson Jail Register Close Up, Hennepin County,1926

In October 1926, the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was arrested by Hennepin County Sheriff deputies in Minnetonka for allegedly violating the Mann Act.  Mr. Wright’s arrest and detention in the Hennepin County Jail is documented in a jail register of the Hennepin County Sheriff, and is one of several jail registers preserved in the State Archives of the Minnesota Historical Society.

A Jail Register is a chronological record of individuals committed to a county or municipal jail. They include arrest and discharge information, name of prisoner and occasionally biographical data, name of officer making the arrest, and the nature of the crime, charges, and sentence.  Unfortunately, the jail registers are not indexed by name, so it can be a challenge to locate a person who was in jail, unless you have a relatively specific date.

According to Mr. Wright’s jail register entry, he was 58 years old, had green eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion.  Mr. Wright was held for the U.S. Marshal’s Office, committed to the jail on October 21, 1926, and released the next day to the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

The arrest of Frank Lloyd Wright was the lead story in the Minneapolis Tribune on October 21, 1926.

Charles Rodgers, Government Records Specialist

Jail Register Interior, Hennepin County,1926Jail Register, Hennepin County,1926

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Lifetouch Micro-Z Camera Fri, 14 Jan 2011 17:01:51 +0000 Matt Anderson Lifetouch Micro-Z CameraEach day, schools across the country use Minnesota products, be they Big G cereals or Scotch tape. One company, however, comes to class just once a year. Since 1936, Eden Prairie-based Lifetouch Inc. has been photographing students on school picture day. From its start in the Depression-era schoolhouses of rural Minnesota, the company now takes more than 30 million portraits each year, from pre-schoolers to high-schoolers.

The company’s growth fostered a number of noteworthy advancements in photography, and few were as important as the Micro-Z camera. Introduced in 1980, the Micro-Z increased efficiency and streamlined photo processing. The innovative camera featured a double-reflex zoom lens, automatic light calibration, a motorized pedestal, and a failure alarm system to alert the photographer if something was wrong. Most significantly, the Micro-Z’s computerized data recorder registered date, package type, and subject information directly onto the film negative via a barcode, making it much easier to match the photo with the student’s paperwork.

The durable Micro-Z remained in service for some 25 years and photographed untold millions of students. (This curator has fond memories of posing for Micro-Zs throughout the 1980s.) We are grateful to Lifetouch Inc. for donating this example, together with a TruView camera (used in department store portrait studios), technical manuals, and reminiscences from the people who developed and used this remarkable camera.

Matt Anderson, Objects Curator

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Colt Baby Dragoon Revolver Owned By Alexander Ramsey Fri, 10 Dec 2010 19:50:50 +0000 Matt Anderson 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

Learn More

Model 1848 Colt Baby Dragoon and accessories

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Minnesota Sheet Music Collection Thu, 02 Dec 2010 20:16:25 +0000 Lori Williamson Minnesota shake down

Over the years the Minnesota Historical Society has collected the sheet music that documents Minnesota’s musical heritage. This month sees the publication of a new sheet music finding aid; two others were published over the summer. Many of the pieces of music in these collections have been digitized and can be viewed from their finding aids.

Do you feel like singing a rousing chorus of Rah! Rah! Ski-u-mah! for the University of Minnesota football team, cutting a rug with the Minnesota Cadet Lancers , or calling the steps for the Minnesota Shake-Down?


Or browse through all three finding aids for a tuneful reminder of Minnesota’s past at:

Collection of Songs and Music about Minnesota Places, Institutions, Businesses, and Themes

Collection of Songs and Music by Minnesota Composers

Collection of Songs and Music by Minnesota Women Composers

The digitization of this portion of the Minnesota Sheet Music Collection was funded in part by a grant from the Bean Family Fund for Business History.

Sarah Quimby, Library Processing Manager

Minnesota cadet lancers

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“3 Merry Widows” Tin Tue, 16 Nov 2010 15:53:58 +0000 Matt Anderson Sometimes the smallest objects are the most interesting. This little tin canister, measuring 1 5/8 inches in diameter and 5/8 inch deep, was discovered buried in a yard off of St. Paul’s West Seventh Street. In fact, it was found along with nearly 70 other identical tins. Now, finding 70 of anything in a yard is unusual, but these are no mere containers. No, these tins once held condoms.

“3 Merry Widows” was a popular brand of prophylactic in the early 20th Century, and this aluminum container probably dates to the 1920s or 1930s. Latex condoms didn’t take over the market until the 1930s, so the three “widows” once contained inside may have been of the older cement rubber variety. While the thicker rubber condoms had their disadvantages, they were more durable, and could even be reused.

The donor, having found so many of these items near her house, naturally wondered if her neighborhood once hosted a bordello. The location – half-way between downtown St. Paul and Fort Snelling – certainly would have been convenient. Unfortunately, a search through the Society’s library was inconclusive. (But really, those businesses weren’t the type to be listed in city directories!) We might speculate that the tin came from a brothel, but we won’t state it as fact, just to be safe – like the tin’s original owner.

Matt Anderson
Objects Curator

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Contemporary Quilts at the James J. Hill House Gallery Thu, 21 Oct 2010 20:04:08 +0000 Adam Harris

Minnesota enjoys a long and continuous history of quiltmaking. The quilts in this exhibition can be viewed as contemporary expressions with historical roots. The talented artists whose work is seen here were inspired by landscape, historic figures, current events, or other traditional textiles. We see the versatility of textiles that we call quilts, as the artform continues to be both an outlet for artistic expression and recognition of women’s needlework traditions.

The Society’s quilt collection numbers over 350 quilts dating from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. The quilts on view here are not representative of the types of quilts found in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collection, but reflect twenty-five years of collecting contemporary Minnesota quilts. The quilt collection is available on the Society’s website at

This exhibition is one of several organized to coincide with The American Quilt Study Group’s annual seminar held in the Twin Cities between October 14-17, 2010. This event brings quilt enthusiasts and scholars together to view quilts from new perspectives, discuss aspects of women’s and cultural history, and learn the latest in documentation and research.

Thanks to MHS volunteers who helped prepare the quilts for exhibition:  Jeannette Root and Dorothy Stish. Judy Calcote, Stephanie Drinkard and Laura Oyen deserve thanks for their research and cataloging assistance. A special thanks to Nancy Eha for lending us her most recent quilt.

For local guild information, contact Minnesota Quilters, Inc. at or Minnesota Contemporary Quilters at

The exhibit is on display at the James J. Hill House from October 2, 2010- March 1, 2011. Click here for more information.

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Echoes of Fitzgerald Wed, 20 Oct 2010 14:38:26 +0000 Lori Williamson Scribner's 1931

One of our favorite donors just dropped off the November 1931 issue of “Scribner’s Magazine.” Not something we would normally be interested in, this issue has a lead article by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Titled “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” the text may ring familiar to baby boomers too. Fitz admits that in ’31 it is too early to write about the Jazz Age “with perspective” but goes on to do so. He writes, “Now once more the belt is tight and we summon the proper expression of horror as we look back at our wasted youth.”

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F. Scott Fitzgerald Exhibit Open Wed, 22 Sep 2010 15:00:52 +0000 Lori Williamson

While the literary scene in Minnesota during the 1920s reached a fevered pitch, no author has withstood the passage of time like Saint Paul’s very own F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The MHS Library holds important research collection of his early work, popular editions, foreign language editions, magazine work, criticism, and some unique manuscripts.

Come see some of these items on display in the Library Lobby, which is free and open to the public. We encourage you to browse this exhibit and to come back soon to read the work of our most – hands down – important writer.

This will be on view September 21 to January 16, 2011.

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Enhancing Access to MHS Archival Collections Tue, 21 Sep 2010 10:42:37 +0000 Lori Williamson Manuscript Backlog 2010


The Minnesota Historical Society is pleased to announce its receipt of a Basic Project grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) which will significantly support a $500,000, 18-month project to process the Society’s unprocessed archival collections. The project targets a 4,600 cubic foot aggregation of government records and manuscript acquisitions which are largely hidden from our audiences. By arranging and describing these collections and series to generally accepted minimal standards, using economical practices that are now well tested, we expect to make our archival holdings web-discoverable, and to drive reading room use at MHS significantly.  Beginning October 18th, the project will become the focus of the archival processing staff’s work through 2011. Project staff expect to produce or revise at least 500 MARC21 catalog records and 300 EAD finding aids over the course of the project. A retrieval analysis of archival materials has been underway for the past year and will be used to help evaluate the audience impact of rapidly exposing more archival materials to web-scale discovery and access. We are grateful to the NHPRC for giving us this opportunity to get our backlog off the pallets, onto the stack shelves, and into the audience discovery space.

Watch our progress by visiting the What’s New finding aids page! Discover what old treasures are newly available each month.

Web Accessible Finding Aids

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Redwork Fri, 20 Aug 2010 12:04:56 +0000 Lori Williamson Shevlin Redwork - DeerShevlin Redwork - Bird Bath

Linda McShannock, objects curator, recently brought to the Acquisitions Committee a Redwork embroidered bed cover which was subsequently added to the Society’s Collection. Redwork is an embroidery style prominent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries  and is currently experiencing a resurgence of interest.

This is a signature spread made by the “Busy Bees” of Shevlin, Minnesota in 1908.  Each block was individually made and contains a different motif surrounded by family names. The designs are a sampling of embroidery motifs readily available and often used for tea towels, aprons or dresser scarves. Before acquiring this spread, the Collection contained only a small sample of Redwork, mostly towels; this is unusual and exciting because of its size and provenance.  The quilt came from the Olaf Olson family of Shevlin.  Often signature quilts were made for a fundraising purpose within the community, we may not know why the “Busy Bees” made this spread, but their embroidery preserves a moment in Shevlin’s history.

Shevlin Redwork - Whole

View of Shevlin, 1915.Shevlin, 1915

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Brenda Ueland and Sinclair Lewis Fri, 30 Jul 2010 09:46:26 +0000 Lori Williamson 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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Oh, Canada! Fri, 25 Jun 2010 11:44:45 +0000 Lori Williamson Canadian and American border patrols

The Minnesota Historical Society Library has opened a new exhibit of Canadiana from our Library Collection in celebration of 40 years of the Canadian Consulate in Minneapolis! Our state and Canada share many cultural similarities, some common history, and, of course, a border. It will be on view until September. Come take a look, eh?

Canadian Consulate in Minnesota

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Amelia Earhart Found in St. Paul! Thu, 24 Jun 2010 15:55:29 +0000 Lori Williamson Earhart newspaper clippings

Actually what happened to Amelia Earhart when she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean has never been solved, but some documents about Amelia Earhart were found in the records of the St. Paul school district.  Amelia Earhart attended Central High School as a junior during the 1913-1914 school year, and her family attended St. Clements Episcopal Church where she sang in the choir.  The documents include correspondence and memoranda (dated 1955-1956) about Amelia Earhart regarding a book the author, Jack Pitman, was writing about the world famous aviator.  Also donated were newspaper clippings (dated in the 1930s) primarily about Earhart’s aviation career.

Featured here is a memo written by Central High School librarian, Laurie C. Johnson, describing Amelia as “an attractive, friendly, red-haired teenager-not at all unlike her friends”.  Also, a newspaper clipping with a story about Amelia’s brief residence in St. Paul, along with a photograph of Amelia in the St. Clement’s church choir.

Description of Amelia EarhartAmelia Earhart at Central High School

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Five year fireman’s certificate Wed, 14 Apr 2010 14:08:47 +0000 Lori Williamson Minneapolis Firemen's Certificate

According to legislation passed in 1873, Minneapolis firemen who had served five years as active firefighters were entitled to be exempt from jury duty and from paying the poll tax (a requirement for voting).  This fancy certificate testified that Patrick Daly had served his five years and therefore was exempt from these obligations.  Patrick Daly had been born in Ireland in April 1836, had lived in Australia and New Zealand, and emigrated to Minneapolis in 1870.  In addition to his stint as a firefighter, he served as a liquor dealer and a policeman, attaining the rank of Captain.  He died in April 1887 and is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Minneapolis.

The Society has an existing collection of Patrick Daly papers to which this new item will be added.

Duane Swanson, Curator of Manuscripts

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Images from the Walter F. Mondale Papers Thu, 01 Apr 2010 15:14:31 +0000 Lori Williamson Walter Mondale in Office

KSTP-TV photo editor Skip Nelson shoots from an unusual angle in the office of Senator Walter Mondale in Washington, D.C. while filming the Channel 5 documentary “Mondale of Minnesota.”

What’s New?  We’re thrilled to feature hundreds of never-before-seen photographs from the Walter F. Mondale Papers now available online.  Walter Frederick (“Fritz”) Mondale, a native Minnesotan, spent most of his life in public service, at the state, national, and international levels. This selection of images from his papers offers exciting new looks at his life and political career.  Included are the work, travels, people, places, and events that shaped his experience and that of the country during the latter twentieth century.

These newly cataloged photographs are part of a larger project to process the Walter F. Mondale Papers.  The project was funded in part with a two-year grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

A valuable component of the Society’s extensive public affairs collections, the Walter F. Mondale papers document Mondale’s service as United States Senator from Minnesota (1964-1976), Vice President of the United States (1977-1981), presidential candidate (1984), Ambassador to Japan (1993-1996), and Special Envoy to Indonesia (1998). Along with his official records as state Attorney General (1960-1964, also held here in the Minnesota State Archives), the papers cover Mondale’s six-decade career, including all of his public offices, campaigns, and Democratic Party and other non-official activities. In addition to the breadth they add to the Society’s public affairs collections, the Walter F. Mondale Papers now enrich the Society’s photograph collection. By highlighting almost 500 images from the more than 7,000 contained in his papers, we deepened the political and governmental content of our Photo & Art Database and provided you greater access to the story of this important Minnesotan.

Walter Mondale’s wife Joan is also an integral part of the story.  An artist and craftswoman with many ties to the arts community, Joan Mondale was appointed ambassador for the arts during the Carter administration. She carried out numerous functions aimed at raising the public profile of art and artists and served as honorary chair of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities–the first time a vice presidential spouse was given a specific role and duties. We feature several photographs of her activities as well.

What else can be seen in these newly visible images?  Not surprisingly, there are insights to Walter Mondale’s work with a variety of constituents across the country, key political leaders through the decades, international initiatives, local communities, and national events.  We also catch a glimpse of celebrities, holidays, family and leisure activities. We encourage you to explore the selection, reminisce, gain new insights and enjoy!

Diane Adams-Graf, Curator

Mondale Family, 1965

Mondales, Walter, William, Joan, Eleanor and Ted

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Camp Fire Centennial Display Wed, 31 Mar 2010 21:29:59 +0000 Lori Williamson Keep faith with youth - Camp Fire Girls

Camp Fire celebrates 100 years of building caring, confident youth and future leaders this year.  Started in 1910 by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte Vetter Gulick, Camp Fire has grown from a small camp for girls to a national organization welcoming and empowering all children and youth. Today, Camp Fire USA Minnesota Council connects children and youth with nature and helps them learn and grow in their own communities. To learn more about Camp Fire in Minnesota, visit their website at:

Materials from the Minnesota Historical Society’s Collections, in addition to pieces from Camp Fire’s own historic collection, allow visitors to see many aspects of Camp Fire life. It is a great opportunity to revisit some of these wonderful pieces; it is fun to see what has changed over time and what has stayed the same.

This display in the Library Lobby will be up through June 16, 2010.

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Secretary of State Record Book, Volume I Tue, 23 Mar 2010 16:08:25 +0000 Lori Williamson MN Secretary of State Record Book, Volume 1Interior Minnesota Secretary of State Record Book

Recently received from the Secretary of State’s office is a particularly valuable record book dating back to the early days of Minnesota statehood.  In many ways the Secretary of State is the “official record keeper” for the State of Minnesota, and this record book reflects that important function.  The record book, entitled “Official Letters, Communications and Railroad Liens”, is dated from May 1858 to June 1879, and contains copies of important documents received for filing, or sent by the Secretary of State’s office.

Noteworthy documents and topics include articles of incorporations of Minnesota companies;  commitments of individuals to the Iowa Insane Asylum in Mt. Pleasant;  memorials such as the establishment of mail service;  donation of lands and money to aid in railroad construction; removal of Winnebago Indians; compensation for losses by Indian depredations; a commission to investigate the management of Indian affairs; the extension of the pension Law of 1861-1862 to the “sufferers of the Sioux Raid” ;  adoption of the State Seal;  joint resolutions endorsing Andrew Johnson’s impeachment; appointments and resignations of officials; and notices of elections.  The record book is indexed, and is Volume 1 of a set of volumes that date through 1942.

Charles Rodgers, Government Records Specialist

Minnesota Secretary of State Record Book

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People, Places, Things: Selections from the Permanent Collection Fri, 12 Mar 2010 20:57:49 +0000 Lori Williamson red wing

On view at the Hill House Gallery through September, 2010

This exhibition is an opportunity to showcase fine work from the Society’s vast collection of art by and about Minnesota. Focusing on our strengths in portraiture and landscapes the show features portraits of such notable Minnesotans as Alexander Ramsey and artist Stanford Fenelle as well as such iconic locations Minnehaha Falls, Swede Hollow and Red Wing, Minnesota. The exhibition also highlights our small, yet exquisite, collection of still life paintings. Well known Minnesota artists such as Cameron Booth, Mike Lynch, Paul Kramer and Clara Mairs are included in People, Places, Things.

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Cases of Fun – Norton & Peel Photograph Collection Wed, 24 Feb 2010 22:13:52 +0000 Lori Williamson Toyland Department, Dayton’s, Minneapolis, 1940

Toyland Department, Dayton’s, Minneapolis, 1940

Take a look at the new finding aid for the Norton & Peel Photograph Collection! Would you like to see an image of a chimpanzee in Longfellow Gardens, taken in 1915?  Perhaps you’re renovating an historic building on University Avenue and looking for construction elements?  Maybe you’re a collector of fire trucks and want to study vehicle details?  Do you have an interest in 1950s department store window displays? The Norton & Peel Photograph Collection has it all: find it using the new finding aid.  Descriptions of nearly 20,000 images, photo albums and card files are available in this searchable list.

Norton & Peel was a commercial photography studio operating in Minneapolis from 1886-1969. Photographers Walter Norton and Clifford Peel both worked for the studio’s predecessor, C. J. Hibbard, for a number of years before forming their own business and buying Hibbard’s studio in 1928. Their purchase included Hibbard’s 75,000 negatives and equipment. For a time, they referred to themselves as the Norton, Peel & Hibbard Studio, but eventually dropped the Hibbard name. Both firms were among the best in Minnesota and had a reputation for high quality images. During their time, Norton & Peel took over 300,000 photographs, mostly in the Twin Cities metro area.

C. J. Hibbard arrived in Minneapolis in 1885 and soon after pursued his interest in photography, first as a hobby and then as a profession. From 1899-1903 he was the botany photographer at the University of Minnesota; later he traveled to Cuba for business and to Harvard for assignment. His specialty, though, was commercial photography. Clifford Peel studied photography at school, took aerial photographs with the Army Signal Corps in WWI, and worked for a portrait photographer in Bemidji. He moved to Minneapolis in 1920 and was hired by Hibbard. Walter Norton had briefly worked for Hibbard before joining the service during WWI. After the war he continued his job at Hibbard’s Studio.

The Minnesota Historical Society acquired a portion of Norton & Peel, Inc. holdings in 1979. It includes negatives, photo albums, and client cards. A substantial portion of the negatives were printed by the Minnesota Historical Society.

The bulk of the Norton & Peel Photograph Collection is associated with Norton & Peel, but there are many taken by C. J. Hibbard, as well. Hibbard’s mark on the collection is his group of street scenes and building photos from Minneapolis. Norton and Peel’s studio continued Hibbard’s commercial focus and their views represent Twin Cities business exteriors, interiors, or products. To a lesser degree, views of landscapes, home exteriors, accident scenes (for insurance), and family events are included. A client card file created by Norton & Peel is included with the collection. The card file is keyed to the firm’s negative numbering system. The cards identify the negative, date, and for whom the image was made. A card file that serves as an index to addresses is also part of this collection, but it was created by the Minnesota Historical Society, not by Norton & Peel.

The new, online, searchable inventory, or finding aid, provides easy access to the collection’s deep, rich and expansive content. Take a look at whatever interests you!  Perhaps a Dunwoody Institute shop in 1940?  Sailing on Lake Calhoun?  Toyland in Dayton’s Department Store? The possibilities are endless!

Diane Adams-Graf, Sound and Visual Collections Curator

Learn More:

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Railway Post Office exam practice kit Wed, 13 Jan 2010 22:50:50 +0000 Matt Anderson CaseInto the 1960s, much of the nation’s mail moved on railroads. Passenger trains carried Railway Post Office (RPO) cars equipped with sacks and slots that allowed clerks to sort mail en route. Sorted mail was delivered, and new letters were picked up, as the train passed through each town. It was complex work, and required a high degree of speed and accuracy. Clerks took regular examinations to keep their skills well-honed.

Sharp clerks practiced for their exams with kits like this one. It belonged to Richard Loida, a St. Paul-based postal clerk who made frequent RPO runs to Duluth and the Dakotas in the years after World War II. The kit consists of a wooden box, about the size of a briefcase, which opens to reveal slots labeled with primary railroad junctions; and a box of cards for each post office in Minnesota. Mr. Loida would practice placing the cards into the appropriate slots as quickly and correctly as he could. RPO clerks were required to sort as many as 600 pieces of mail per hour, and needed to score 97% to pass their exams. Needless to say, a little practice wasn’t a bad idea.

Matt Anderson, Objects CuratorCard

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Ice-skating! Wed, 13 Jan 2010 21:40:46 +0000 Lori Williamson Skating party, 1896

Minnesotans have long enjoyed the opportunity winter affords for outdoor recreation, especially of the ice variety. We have put together items relating to these icy entertainments, from Ice Follies to hockey to community skating. The display is on view in the Minnesota Historical Society Library when the Library is open, until mid-March. Come take a look, and perhaps get inspired to head out to the pond!

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