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Carter-Mondale 1976 campaign button

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Carter-Mondale 1976 campaign button

Pinback button supporting the 1976 presidential campaign of Jimmy Carter (Grits) and Walter Mondale (Fritz).

For details, view this button in our collections database.

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Coya Knutson’s Accordion

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

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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Contemporary Political Posters in Minnesota

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

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

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Walter Mondale and the Public Affairs Collection

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

The Minnesota Historical Society holds the Walter F. Mondale Papers and has one of the nation’s premier collections of government, politics, and public affairs materials. Watch to learn more about the collections and how to use these fabulous materials.

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An Evening with Walter Mondale and the Public Affairs Collections of MHS

Monday, November 19th, 2012

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: www.mnhs.org/mondaleevent

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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Remembering the “Happy Warrior” – Hubert H. Humphrey Digitization Project

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

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.

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Anti-John F. Kennedy board game

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Anti-J.F.K board game

“New Frontier” board game, “The game nobody can win,” designed by Colorful Products, Inc.  The game is an anti-John F. Kennedy, anti-socialist “twist” on the Monopoly board game published by Parker Brothers.  The front of the package reads, “The Funniest Political Game of the Century!” over the silhouette of a rocking chair labeled “J.F.K.”  The game board contains references to Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, Edward Murrow, et al.  The game was packaged by the Occupational and Training Center of Help for Retarded Children, Inc.

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

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Political Landscape: Jerome Liebling’s Minnesota Capitol Photographs, 1956 – 1969

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Jerome Liebling began his career as a photographer in New York in the 1940s. In 1949, his move to Minnesota shifted his work to a more rural landscape. His art, however, maintained its focus on people and the spaces that they occupy. During the late 1950s, a time when Minnesota was becoming nationally known for its politics, Liebling began photographing Minnesotan politicians. Recently, Jerome Liebling donated to the Minnesota Historical Society nearly 200 black and white photographs of these images, the majority of which are documenting activities of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. During his years in Minnesota, he trained countless artist photographers in the Fine Arts department at the University of Minnesota. In this way, as did the politicians in his photographs, Jerome Liebling has left his own legacy in our state.  He passed away on July 27, 2011.

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Hubert H. Humphrey Centennial

Friday, May 27th, 2011

One hundred years ago today, Hubert H. Humphrey was born in Wallace, South Dakota. Discontented with working in his family’s pharmacy, Humphrey came to the University of Minnesota to pursue a doctorate in political science. He never finished the degree, and instead launched himself on a career that made him mayor of Minneapolis, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Vice President of the United States, and, in 1968, the Democratic candidate for President.

The Minnesota Historical Society is home to the Hubert H. Humphrey papers, numerous photographs from all phases of his career, multiple books on his life and work,  and several artifacts from his various campaigns and offices. Additional Humphrey resources can be found on the History Topics page. A small sample of the Society’s collections is presented in this slideshow.

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The Campaign Trail: Minnesota’s Historic Role in Modern Politics

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Political campaigns are chaotic, frenzied affairs and the best way to peer into this process is through the lens of a camera. Fortunately, Minnesota is blessed with having some of the best documentary photographers in the field. The exhibition, The Campaign Trail: Minnesota’s Historic Role in Modern Politics examines campaign photography by featuring work by three talented and dedicated political photographers in Minnesota-Tom Arndt, Terry Gydesen and Ann Marsden. Each has been documenting the political scene for many years, providing an important visual document for future generations. In particular, Tom Arndt and Terry Gydesen’s thoughtful and sensitive chronicle of the Mondale and Wellstone campaigns provide an in depth portrait of the candidate and his campaign.

Come see an exhibit of these fascinating images on view at the James J. Hill House Gallery until Feb. 22, 2009.

Above photo by Tom Arndt

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