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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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Item of the Day


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 19, 2019

This men's kufi cap, manufactured by Batakali Fashion Design of New Hope, was acquired at the 1990 Juneteenth celebration in Minneapolis.  Juneteenth is the holiday commemorating the abolition of slavery in the United States as announced on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas.The cap features geometric line patterns printed in colors symbolic of Pan-Africanism: orange yellow, reddish orange, green, and black. 

Family Picnic, 1915

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 18, 2019

This photo shows a family enjoying a picnic in 1915.

Letter of introduction for Hole-in-the-Day

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 17, 2019

This letter from Indian Agent Lawrence Taliaferro serves as an introduction for the Ojibwe chief Hole-in-the-Day.

Hole-in-the-Day likely carried this with him when he traveled through the Fort Snelling area, 1834 - 1839.

Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 14, 2019

To recognize the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the Minnesota Historical Society is displaying items from its collections that document LGBTQ history. Among these is a case devoted to a remarkable set of manuscripts that documents a nearly thirty-year romantic relationship between two women. They are collected in Precious and Adored: The Love Letters of Rose Cleveland and Evangeline Simpson Whipple, 1890-1918, now available from the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

The letters’ path to public use was a surprising one. When they were accessioned in 1969 as part of a collection called the Whipple–Scandrett papers, MNHS library and archives staff removed ten of them determined to “strongly suggest that a lesbian relationship existed between the two women.” They put them in a separate box, sealed it, and closed it to the public, with plans to reassess their status in 1980. A 1978 inquiry from historian Jonathan Ned Katz, tipped off by the Gay Task Force of the American Library Association, convinced them to open the letters to the public ahead of the 1980 review deadline. (The collection’s finding aid was not updated to mention Rose Cleveland until 1998.)

Cleveland was a New Yorker, one of the sisters of Grover Cleveland, president of the United States from 1884–1889 and again from 1893–1897. He enlisted Rose to serve as First Lady of the White House during his first term, before his marriage to Frances Folsom. Whipple, a Massachusetts native, took, Henry Benjamin Whipple, the first Episcopal bishop of Minnesota between 1859 and his death in 1901, as her second husband.

The president and the bishop have loomed large in biographical studies of Cleveland and Whipple. The famous men in their lives, however, are in many ways the least interesting things about them. They both earned public reputations as entrepreneurs, world travelers, philanthropists, and writers—hard-won accomplishments for two independent, intermittently married women in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. (Though Whipple had two husbands, she spent most of her adult years as a widow; Cleveland never married.) Whipple published a novella and a history of Bagni di Lucca, the Italian town that was her and Cleveland’s home in the 1910s (and Whipple’s until her death in 1918). Cleveland wrote articles for periodicals like Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, translated Augustine’s Confessions from Latin into English, and collected six essays in George Eliot’s Poetry and Other Studies, a best-seller that earned her a fortune in royalties.

The couple’s greatest literary accomplishment, however, might be the letters they wrote to each other. One side of the correspondence (Whipple to Cleveland) does not survive in public archives, but Rose’s writing offers dramatic glimpses of reciprocated passion. In May 1890, Rose quoted from one of Evangeline’s letters: “Oh darling, Come to me this night—my Clevy, my Viking, my—Everything, Come! God bless thee!” In others, she recorded Evangeline writing, “I love you Forever!” and “Yes, darling, I will be with you, surely, in the autumn.”

Though they were physically separated after 1896, when Evangeline married Bishop Whipple and moved to Faribault, Rose and Evangeline continued write to each other until the bishop’s death in 1901. They spent more and more time together in the following decade, and in 1910 they went to Italy to care for Evangeline’s sick brother, Kingsmill Marrs, and ended up staying, living together in the Tuscan town of Bagni di Lucca. They are buried side by side, with identical tombstones, in the town’s English cemetery.

Lizzie Ehrenhalt, co-editor of "Precious & Adored"

Bicycle, 1900

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 13, 2019

This boys' bicycle was made for Andrew Rankin by J.F. Ptacek, a machinist and bicycle repairman from Saint Paul, Minnesota, circa 1900.

Punk Boots

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 12, 2019

Hello! I am Eleni Leventopoulos, one of the spring 2019 MNHS 3D Objects interns. A huge part of my internship was cataloging new acquisitions to the collection. There was such a wide array of objects, every day was a new discovery and challenge. One of my favorite finds was a pair of black leather punk boots worn by a Minnesota woman in the 1980s. The history of punk is fascinating and these boots help document Minneapolis’ place in that story by filling gaps in MNHS’ music collection.  With its roots in the 1960’s garage rock movement, punk was more than just music. It enveloped art, culture, fashion, literature and philosophy. Anarchism, nihilism, and even minimalism influenced and paved the way for punk.

While studying abroad in 1986, the donor purchased these boots from a shop on the famed Kings Road in London. Since the 1950’s, Kings Road had been the place for youth fashion. The 50’s saw miniskirts, the 60’s brought legends like Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles and by the 1970’s, the punk scene had moved in when Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren opened a shop at 430 King’s Road. Westwood is a well known British fashion designer who helped punk and new wave fashion enter the mainstream, while Malcolm McLaren was the promoter and manager for well known punk bands like the Sex Pistols and the New York Dolls.

Punk came to Minnesota with the New York Dolls in 1974 when they performed at the State Fair and spread the flames of punk to Minneapolis. Minnesota had embraced punk by 1979 when the Walker Art Center hosted Marathon '80: A New-No-Now Wave Festival at the U of M FieldHouse. Marketed as a “preview to Rock in the 80’s” M80 brought punk talent to attention.

“It was a rickety venue, but with all the assembled talent and excitement surrounding each band’s performance, [M-80] felt like something historic was happening...In my mind, it was equal to Woodstock or Altamont or the Beatles at Shea Stadium. There was a great scene building in the Twin Cities.” - Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü, from his memoir See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody

When the owner returned to Minneapolis in 1987, influential punk bands like the Suicide Commandos, the Suburbs, The Replacements, Husker Du, Babes in Toyland, and the Flamin’ Oh’s had formed in Minnesota. Punk had already splintered shot off into many directions, evolving to other sounds like harcore, ska punk, psychobilly, and new wave.

Popular punk hang outs in Minneapolis included Jay’s Longhorn, a club in downtown Minneapolis, the record shop Oar Folkjokeopus and CC Tap at Lyndale and 26th, Goofy’s Upper Deck, and of course, First Avenue and 7th Street Entry. It was here that the fashion of punk could be seen. Champions of the ‘do-it-yourself’ mentality, punks made and altered their own clothes. Punk fashion has evolved depending on the time and place, seeing influence of glam rock, skater touches, transformation into new wave and embracing androgney. Staple items of punk fashion included jeans and black leather jackets. These were decorated and personalized with pins, patches, paint, safety pins, spikes and studs. When the donor wore these boots around Minneapolis she would have fit right in.

My time at MNHS has been amazing and informative. I plan on having a career in museum work and this was a great experience. The collection here is so diverse and there are so many stories to discover.


More information on punk history and fashion:

"The Origins and History of Punk Fashion." 11 2018. All Answers Ltd. 05 2019 <>.

Collins, Cyn. Complicated Fun: the Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984: an Oral History. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2017.

Before 1976: How Punk Became Punk, 9 Jan. 2019,

And don’t forget to check out the Minnesota History Center exhibit First Avenue: Stories of Minnesota’s Mainroom to learn more about music history in the Twin Cities.

Stonewall Flag

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 11, 2019

In celebration of Pride Month and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, we have put together a small exhibit in the Library Lobby of items from our collection. These cover issues such as letters of love; changing public attitudes; marriage equality; and faces of the community. 
The Library is free and open to the public; check here  for hours. Come see what's inside!

This flag was carried by members of Lesbian and Gay Youth Together in the 1994 Minneapolis GLBT Pride Parade, marking the 25th anniversary of Stonewall.  



Summer in the West, 1950

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 10, 2019

This Adolf Dehn painting is a gouache on canvas from 1950 and shows what is likely an early hay harvest. 
Hay can be harvested as many as three times a summer if conditions are good.

Last Day of School!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 7, 2019

For many students (and parents!) in Minnesota, today is the last day of school before summer break. 
These kids certainly look like they are ready! This photo is from 1940, but unfortunately the school is not identified.

1960s Sundress

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 6, 2019

This multicolored cotton chintz mini sundress was purchased at Dayton's Oval Room, circa 1960s. 


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