Item of the Day

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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

Harry Shepherd, photographer

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 25, 2019

We are featuring African-American photographers during this last week of Black History Month. These photographers have worked in all areas of the field, including commercial, artistic, and vernacular photography. They created a great record of life in Minnesota through their work, spanning from the late 19th-century to today.

Today's photographer is Harry Shepherd, the first African-American photographer in Minnesota. Known as the "People's Photographer," he operated studios and galleries throughout Saint Paul in the 1880s – early 1900s. He largely took portraits and wedding photos.

This is a formal portrait done by Shepherd of two unidentified women, circa 1890 - 1899.


Movie Time

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 22, 2019

We've got movies on our mind with the Oscars coming up this weekend! This movie still features Mabel Julienne Scott, a silent movie actress, who was born in Minneapolis. She is on the left; the movie is "Seven Days" and was made in 1925.  

Northwest Airlines flight attendant's uniform, 1965 - 66.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 21, 2019

Since the History Theater is doing a production of "Stewardess" currently, we thought it a good time to feature a matching uniform from our collection. This one is a Northwest Airlines flight attendant's uniform, worn in the winter of 1965 - 66.

Learn more about the production.

Ski Lesson, 1945

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 20, 2019

This photo shows a ski lesson in 1945. All this snow should be good for something!

Hot Pad, 1950

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

It is likely a sound advertising strategy to market your product directly to its most frequent user; here we see a flour ad on a hot pad.  This was made in 1950 for King Midas Flour and Shane Brothers and Wilson Company, both of Minneapolis. 

Willie Murphy, c. 1990

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 15, 2019

We were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Willie Murphy, the musical legend of the West Bank.
This 1990 portrait of Murphy by Minnesota artist Greg Kelsey (1951-91) is a recent addition to our art collection. It was donated in his memory by Kelsey's widow Sally Johnson, Director of the Groveland Gallery in Minneapolis.

Valentine, 1868

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

Happy Valentine's Day! This chromolithographed paper valentine was used in 1868, making it one of the oldest in our collection.

Remember Rondo button, 1984

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

This button is one of several in the collection commemorating historic Rondo Avenue in Saint Paul, the largely African-American neighborhood that was destroyed when 94 was built to connect the downtowns of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. It was used at the Remember Rondo Festival in 1984 and shows the extent of the neighborhood.

View of plow train in deep snow, 1917

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

This photo was taken by John Runk in 1917 and shows a plow train stuck in deep snow.

The Snow Flake Cook Book, 1886

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

When I saw this title I thought, wow, what could this contain? But Snow Flake turns out to be the name of a baking powder. It proceeds as a usual 19th-century cookbook, with recipes in paragraphs, but does have some fun testimonials in the back from chemists, grocers, and users, noting its popularity and that it's alum-free.   


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