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Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future


The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.

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Gold Star Roll of Scott Johnston

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 15, 2018

United States Marine Corps Second Lieutenant Scott M. Johnston was highly decorated for his brave actions on multiple occasions. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, Croix de Guerre and a certificate of citation in Army Orders. Johnston was sent to the American Red Cross Military Hospital in Paris, France on July 21st, 1918 due to gunshot wounds to the head and chest that he had received in battle on July 19th, 1918 in Vierzy, France with the 76th Company. He died on August 15th, 1918 from septicemia.


[...] "During the attack of July 19, 1918 at Vierzy, he charged a nest of machine guns at the head of a small detachment and captured a gun which was causing heavy losses in our lines. Altho [sic] seriously wounded, he remained with his men until the Company commander gave orders that he be taken to the rear."

Citation: "Johnston, Scott M." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.4F.

Pool Time

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 15, 2018

This photo from a Municipal swimming pool in Pipestone was taken around 1940.

See it in Collections Online.

YMCA in Italy

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 14, 2018

While stationed in Rome with the YMCA, Paul Thompson sent this letter home to his sister Ruth. He writes that he is teaching some of the men at one hospital how to play baseball - and that he has been asked to do the same at the barracks. He is also teaching English to some Italian medical officers. Thompson seems excited to teach these men things and is excited to be traveling, but he is also ready to return to the U.S. as soon as the war is over.


Letter no. 25- 4 postals enclosed
Aug, 12-18
Dear Ruth,-
[…] For two days last week there was an extra rush. Wary Americans coming from somewhere and going elsewhere spent two days in Rome. They had travelled 8 days continuously in 3rd class coaches and got their first night in bed in Rome. The Amer. canteen which is now in this office worked overtime. They were a fine bunch of boys and praised the YMCA for helping them out here. […] The papers say something about men being drafted up to the age of 45. They give us details as to proposed law. If it passes I suppose consults will be sent copies. If it passes, see that I am properly registered. I am ready any time I am needed but I think I ought to be allowed to come home and take an examination for a commission or go to an officers training school. I am teaching the men in our hospital to play baseball by easy stages. Have also been asked to teach some of the soldiers in the barracks. And am starting to teach English to a few medical officers who already speak a little. […] You can be sure that I will be mighty glad to get home when the war is over and to get there mighty quick, but still there’s a fasciation about this country.[…]
Your loving brother,
Paul J. Thompson

Citation: Paul Thompson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/T475 4/19-8/19

River Landscape

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 14, 2018

This oil painting by Clem Haupers is an unidentified river scene, completed in 1969. It was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Gareth Hiebert.

See it in Collections Online.

Rocks and Water

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 13, 2018

This photograph is of a group of men seated on a rock overlooking rapids in the United States-Canadian Boundary Waters (which we know better as the BWCA) in 1935. Spectacular, isn't it? This week's theme is water, in all its glory!

See it in Collections Online.

"French are Driving to Flank Roye on Two Sides; Somme Battle on Again" and "American Fists Too Hard Hitting for German Foe" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 13, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 13, 2018

Doctor's Canvas Trunk

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 12, 2018

This canvas trunk belonged to Justus Ohage Jr. of St. Paul, Minnesota, who served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Corps. It is 14 inches tall, 28 inches wide and 18 1/2 inches deep. He carried this trunk with him until he was discharged on this date. This day also marks the end of the Battle of Amiens, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which is widely considered to be the "beginning of the end" of World War I. This battle marked the end of trench warfare on the Western Front, with the fighting now back to being mobile, allowing progress to be made.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 1998.347.1.

"I Sure Am Homesick For A Letter"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 11, 2018

Private Carl Williams wrote a letter home to his family on this day. He talks about how he has recently landed in France and hopes to receive a letter from someone soon. Williams was instantly killed in action on September 15th, 1918 a little over a month after this letter was written.


Dun. Aug. 11-18
Dear Cousin-
[…] We are stopping in an old French village now which must have been a beautiful place before the war but the inhabitants have left and some of the buildings are destroyed. France is sure a pretty country in summer, the harvest in on here now but you would laugh to see how it is done, mostly by hand tho [sic] I have seen a few binders and mowers. I suppose you are harvesting also by this time. […] I wrote you just after I landed in France but so far have not had a letter from you or anyone. I sure am homesick for a letter from someone so please write soon as it takes a long time to get here. […]
Greet everyone from me and please write soon your cousin
Pvt. C. O. Williams

Citation: "Williams, Carl O." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.7.1B

"British Break Teuton Forces in Two Drives" and "Gaining Ground on Vesle River" - The Daily People's Press. August 10, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 10, 2018

Woman learning about edible mushrooms

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 10, 2018

This photo is of a woman learning about edible mushroom in 1938. It comes from the Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection.

See it in Collections Online.