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Three Men

Monday, August 11th, 2014

The Minnesota Historical Society loves photography and thus declares this week to be the “Unofficial History of Photography Week”. Each day we will post an image from a different photographic method.

Today we present this 1/4 plate Daguerreotype of three men drinking, circa 1870. The daguerreotype was one of the first photographic processes in wide-spread use. It uses a polished silver plate that is developed over fuming mercury and then sealed in a case to prevent oxidation of the silver plate.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.

(Note: The comments section has been temporarily disabled while we upgrade the website. You can always leave comments on our Flickr Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotahistoricalsociety/)

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Reception gown worn by Mary LeDuc

Friday, May 30th, 2014


How torn Mary LeDuc must have felt between extravagance and necessity when assessing her social position and need for proper dress. She was anticipating her husband’s appointment as Secretary of Commerce under President Hayes in 1877. The LeDucs had left their home in Hastings, Minnesota. While Gen. William Gates LeDuc served in the Civil War; his wife, Mary, stayed with her parents in Ohio.

Correspondence from the LeDuc family in the Minnesota Historical Society’s manuscript collection is filled with letters between Mrs. LeDuc and her daughters agonizing over frugalities as they alter bonnets and dresses, purchase fabric, ribbons and notions and seek an inexpensive dressmaker or milliner. “I had my silk bonnet all made over on Monday – new shape – Papa thought it was a new bonnet – with satin and dark cardinal plush and two big roses – I think it verypretty, it will do for dress bonnet all winter – only cost $4.25. ”

When General LeDuc was in Washington lobbying for his appointment, Mrs. LeDuc was living with her parents in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Their daughter, Minnie, was living in New York and had found a reasonable dressmaker in Miss Jane E. Turner. Miss Turner’s invoice of September 28, 1877 for one black silk and one brown velvet dress came to $128.33. Minnie’s excitement in receiving delivery of these dresses for her mother is in her letter, “Your dresses came Saturday and are lovely. I did not unfold them much fearing I could not pack them again. I should think both would fit you nicely. The front of the brown skirt is particularly pretty. “ She mailed the package to Mrs. Leduc after she arrived in Washington.

Mary’s letter back to Minnie, described an invitation from the White House. “I wore my brown silk out yesterday for first time, called on Mrs. Hayes after dinner.” The brown velvet and brocade reception gown must have felt very extravagant.

Florence wrote to her sister, Minnie, “[Miss Turner] has made two dresses for Mamma and they are lovely. She is a true artist. I’ve never seen any dresses at any time that could equal those made by her.”

This dress was donated by the LeDuc family in 1920 and remained unidentified until the photograph, dress, invoice and letters were brought together after research by Society collections staff and volunteers.

Special thanks to MNHS textile conservator Ann Frisina for her working in bringing this dress to life on a custom mannequin.

Linda McShannock, Associate Curator

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Decoration Day in St. Paul

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Decoration Day in St. Paul

On this Memorial Day, we remember that the holiday was originally called Decoration Day and was started after the Civil War to commemorate those killed in the war. The name change happened gradually and became official only in 1968 with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.

This Carte de Visite shows the first official Decoration Day parade held in St. Paul on May 30, 1870.

For more information, view this photograph in our collections database.

(Note: The comments section has been temporarily disabled while we upgrade the website. You can always leave comments on our Flickr Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotahistoricalsociety/)

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Harriet Pope

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Harriet Pope

A tintype portrait of Harriet DePuy Pope made around 1870.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photo in our collections database.

(Note: The comments section has been temporarily disabled while we upgrade the website. You can always leave comments on our Flickr Photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/minnesotahistoricalsociety/)

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Lillian Victoria Thayer

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Lillian Victoria Thayer

Tintype photograph of Lillian Victoria Thayer taken circa 1870.

For details, view the tintype in our online collections database.

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Norwegian spinning wheel

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Norwegian spinning wheel

Flyer or Saxony type spinning wheel made of oak with three turned legs supporting the stock. The wooden treadle shaft connects to twelve-spoke wheel. The flyer assembly is intact with spindle, bobbin, and flyer. The wheel was made in 1845 in Norway and brought to the United States in 1870 and then to Dakota Territory.

The spinning wheel is featured in the Collections Up Close podcast “They Chose Minnesota: Immigration to the North Star State.”

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Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Willcox & Gibbs sewing machine

Noiseless automatic sewing machine designed by by the Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Company in London, England in 1871. The chain-stitch machine is mounted on a wooden table with an iron base, a foot treadle, and three drawers. Used by Frederick Spangenberg and family in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For details, view the sewing machine in our online collections database.

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1870 tintype

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

1870 tintype

Two women (tentatively identified as Harriet Varner and Mrs. Lucius N. Parker) pose for a tintype portrait in a photography studio circa 1870. Photographer unknown.

For details, view the tintype in our online collections database.

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Sunday school class photo, 1877

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Sunday school class photo, 1877

Tintype photograph of the Sunday school class held at the Methodist Episcopal Church in Taylors Falls, Minnesota.  A piece of paper accompanying the tintype adds the following information.

This picture of an M[ethodist] E[piscopal] Sunday school class at Taylors Falls was taken about 1877 for presentation to the class teacher, Aunt Matilda (Ward Weeks) Folsom.  The class members were, left to right:

Stradler (went to Stillwater/took up painting); Stowell (his parents lived near old Swedish Luth[eran] church); Alfred “Big” Paine; Edwin Clark; Jacob J. Folsom; Albert “Little” Paine; Edward Clark; Frank Woolley; Walter Folsom

For details, view the tintype in our online collections database.

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Tintype of Ojibwe family

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Tintype of Ojibwe family

Tintype photograph of an Ojibwe (Anishinaabe) family group created circa 1870. Photographer unknown.

For details, view the tintype in our online collections database.

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