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Casting Spoon

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

A fly fishing casting spoon and envelope made by G.M. Skinner in Clayton, New York, circa 1894. Used by James J. Hill. The backing card reads “Skinner’s New Casting Spoon, / Used With or Without Bait.”

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

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Charlotte Hill’s wedding gown

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Charlotte Hill's wedding gown

Two-piece satin wedding gown worn by Charlotte Hill, a daughter of railroad magnate James J. Hill, at her wedding to George T. Slade on October 9, 1901.  The gown’s top has a high lace neckline banded in satin and a pleated tulle bodice insert.  The fitted and boned bodice is lined in silk taffeta and has small lapels and back hooks.  The modified leg of mutton sleeves have wing cuffs with chiffon undersleeves.  A wide tucked band buttons at the elbow to form sleeve accents.   The skirt’s train is three and a half feet long, and a wide silk tulle ruffle trims the hem.  The entire gown is lined in silk taffeta.

For details, view the gown’s skirt and top in our online collections database.

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Jigsaw puzzle

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Jigsaw puzzle

426-piece, non-interlocking wooden jigsaw puzzle manufactured by the Whatami Puzzle Company of Massachusetts in 1914.  The puzzle is titled “The Toilet” and was used by the family of James J. Hill.

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

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Railroad Inventories: On Track and On Line!

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

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: http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00901.xml

Northern Pacific: http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/01010.xml

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Longfellow birthday book

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Longfellow birthday book

Longfellow Birthday Book printed in 1881 and used by the family of James J. Hill.  The book is bound in leather and its pages are edged in gold leaf.   Each page matches a set of verses by the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to a date in the calendar year; a facing page provides space for writing the name of a person with a birthday on the same date.  Entries have been made for James H. Hill and his family as well as the family of their servants, Mr. and Mrs. Axel Johnson.

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The Hill House Servants: Life Downstairs

Friday, January 6th, 2012

Not unlike the divided household of Downton Abbey, we have a dramatic example of upstairs/downstairs life right here in Minnesota. The “Empire Builder” James J. Hill and his family were the primary occupants of 240 Summit Avenue but another, less familiar group of people lived there as well: the 10 to 12 live-in domestic servants who did the cleaning, cooking, laundry, and maintenance work at the house. In piecing together the stories of these servants, information is culled from a variety of sources that can be found in the collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.

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High chair

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

High chair used by the James J. Hill family

Windsor-style child’s high chair used by the grandchildren of James J. and Mary T. Hill at their home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, circa 1900.  The wooden high chair has a dark walnut finish with wear on the footboard.

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Food press

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Food press used by the James J. Hill family

Cast-iron, multi-purpose press used for processing lard, fruit, sausage and vegetables. Used by the family of James J. Hill at their home in Saint Paul, Minnesota, circa 1891-1916.

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Winter on the Hill

Monday, February 28th, 2011

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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Highlights from the Hill Family Collection

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Hill project cataloger Jillian Odland shares some fun and quirky objects, photos and letters she’s found while working on the papers of St. Paul railroad baron James J. Hill, his son Louis W. Hill, and other Hill family members.

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