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FDR clock

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016

One of the stranger political items in our collection, this metal electric clock features likenesses of George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln standing around a ship’s wheel. 1940s.

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

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World War I Daybook Update – Knute Nelson Research

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Hello! My name is Martin Branyon and I was one of the World War I Day Book Researchers for summer 2016. My work this summer involved going through the MNHS manuscripts collection to find relevant documents for the Day Book. I specifically worked with the Knute Nelson Papers collection. Nelson was a Norwegian Immigrant who served for the Union during the Civil War and managed to rise through Minnesota politics to be a well-known Republican Senator by World War I. As a History and Political Science undergrad at the University of Minnesota I found sections of this collection to be right up my alley.

The collection sheds light on both the daily life of Minnesotans during the war and the local politics of the time period. I found particularly interesting the numerous letters that dealt with groups that were critical of the war. Many letters described how the government and citizens reacted to anti-war activity in the state.

Some of the most interesting documents concerning politics and groups opposed to war were dated from July 1917. I found a letter written on July 10, 1917, from a Minneapolis lawyer by the name of Jonas Weil to be particularly interesting. According to his letter a doctor by the name of Eugene Friedman had been held in Hennepin County jail for three weeks, without formal charges being known to him, for allegedly being “antagonistic to the United States Government”. The letter captured how suppression of alleged anti-war proponents was enforced through the government; however suppression of anti-war criticism being carried out by citizens is a common theme of the collection.

A letter from July 14, 1917, by Bemidji lawyer Elmer E. McDonald captures this theme. In a letter to Nelson describing the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) organizing among lumber and agricultural workers, McDonald nominates a local Bemidji man to infiltrate the IWW and essentially spy on their activity. McDonald clearly saw the IWW as a distinct threat that had to be aggressively targeted by the government and citizens. This sort of political suppression offers interesting insights to the lengths to which citizens would go to protect the war effort.

In addition to opposition to leftist groups, the war elicited strong nativist responses. A letter dated July 25, 1917, from the owner of a Duluth grocery store warned Nelson about the dangers of foreign born residents and citizens in the country. The Duluth man states that all foreign born non-citizens and citizens should be deported from the United States. A strange statement given that Nelson himself was born in Norway. However, it expresses a common theme in the collection of anti-immigrant sentiment during the war.

The Knute Nelson collection offers an interesting view of Minnesota and the home front during the war. The collection offers a personal account of diverse selection of Minnesotan political issues, from censorship and nativism to women’s suffrage and immigrant rights. Be sure to check out the World War I Daybook in April 2017 to learn more about the history and politics of Minnesota during the war!

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Dem Bumper Sticker

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

A Democratic bumper sticker with American Sign Language spelling the word “VOTE”, circa 2002.

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

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Remembering Governor Wendell Anderson

Monday, August 15th, 2016

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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McKinley-Roosevelt Hat

Monday, July 18th, 2016

A brown felt fedora given to Minneapolis Journal editor Herschel V. Jones by Vice Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt in 1900 during Roosevelt’s campaign tour of the west. The hat’s leather sweatband is stamped with “MCKINLEY” and “ROOSEVELT” encircled by laurel wreaths joined by a central banner reading “THE / NATION’S / CHOICE”. “THE MINNEAPOLIS JOURNAL” and Roosevelt’s signature have been written on the crown of the hat in ink, while “ROOSEVELT TRIP 1900″ and a long list of tour stop locations have been written on the top of the hat’s brim. The underside of the brim was signed by other members of the tour press corps.

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

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Bumper Sticker

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

A bumper sticker reads “HATE IS NOT / A FAMILY VALUE” and notes that it was paid for by the Karen Clark Election Committee. It was produced during one of Karen Clark’s campaigns for the Minnesota House of Representatives. Clark, first elected in 1980, was the first openly lesbian member to serve in the Minnesota Legislature.

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

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Women’s Place Button

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

A feminist button, probably from the 1960s or 70s that reads: “WOMAN’S PLACE IS EVERY PLACE”.

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

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100th Anniversary of the Nonpartisan League!

Friday, December 18th, 2015

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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DFL Button

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

On this day, April 14 in 1944 the Farmer-Labor political party joined with the state Democratic party to form the DFL party. This conglomeration is unique to Minnesota. This button or lapel tag is from 1970 and states “Happiness is a DFL Governor”.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this button 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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Remembering Joan Mondale

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Joan Mondale, wife of former Senator and Vice-President Walter Mondale, passed away this week at the age of 83. She was a passionate arts advocate, partner in politics, potter, and mother.

Seen here are a selection of images from her personal papers and Mr. Mondale’s papers, both at the Minnesota Historical Society. These images show many aspects of her life in the public eye, but can only hint at her spirit.

Please see this document for specific information on the images.
Joan Mondale Slideshow photo info

Learn More:

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