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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

Two Bibles

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

Governor Walz was sworn in on one of the historical treasures in the care of the library of the Minnesota Historical Society. Popularly known as the “Senate Bible,” it was published in 1864 by E. H. Butler of Philadelphia.

The bible is the survivor of a disaster. On March 1, 1881, as both houses of the Minnesota legislature worked late into the evening, fire broke out in the dome of the first Minnesota Capitol. Elected officials and passers-by rushed to rescue furniture, important documents, and historical collections. The Honorable David Benson of Renville County heroically rescued this bible from the Senate chamber, the last of the state’s property to be saved. Three days later, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution praising Benson for the service he rendered. That resolution is pasted inside the Senate Bible. Senate Chaplin Robert Smith also wrote in the bible of his gratitude and respect for Benson.

The Senate Bible had sustained some damage, but one hundred years later, it was restored in Minneapolis by Jerry Pfeifer.  

Lieutenant Governor Flanagan is being sworn in on an Ojibwe language
Bible from the vast collection of Native American language publications at the
Minnesota Historical Society.

Ewh Oowahweendahmahgawin Owh Tabanemenung Jesus Christ was
published in 1854 by Henry Rowsell of Toronto. Frederick O’Meara, an Irish
missionary at Manitoulin Island, Ontario, translated this first edition of the New
Testament, along with several other devotional works. In 1856 O’Meara gave this
copy, “with Christian regards of the translator,” to the Right Rev. Chas P.
McIlvaine, an Episcopal bishop. A few years later, McIlvaine, who was chaplain of
the US Military Academy at West Point and twice chaplain of the US Senate, was
sent by President Lincoln to Britain to argue on behalf of the North in the Civil

Bishop McIlvaine later presented the Bible to the library of the Theological
Seminary of the Diocese of Ohio. When it was offered for sale in 1996, the
Minnesota Historical Society purchased it, using money from the Carl A.
Weyerhaeuser Rare Book Fund.

Etching of Stillwater Prison from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota, A. T. Andreas, 1874.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 4, 2019

This etching of Stillwater State Prison is from the Illustrated Historical Atlas of the State of Minnesota by A. T. Andreas, published in 1874.
To complement the States of Incarceration exhibit on level one in the Irvine Room, we thought it timely to highlight our State Archives collection of prison records, along with selections from the 3D Objects and library collections. We hope to give a glimpse of the humanity of those within the institutions by sharing what life is like through records documenting prisoner treatment; how people who are incarcerated occupy their time; and prison industries. 
This exhibit will be on view in the Library Lobby until the end of February.

Woman reading a book in a bookstore, February 1937

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 3, 2019

With the closing of Sixth Chamber Books (boo!) and Common Good Books being up for sale, we’ve been thinking about local bookstores lately.This photo shows a woman reading in a bookstore in February 1937. Note the copies of "It Can't Happen Here" by Sinclair Lewis on the left. This forms part of Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection in the Library.

City of Minneapolis Election Map, 1925

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 2, 2019

This city of Minneapolis election map, showing different wards and districts, was created in 1925 by M.J. Grindhem.

Newspaper Carrier’s New Year’s Greetings, 1866

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 1, 2019

Newspaper subscribers were gifted with the New Year’s greetings by their carriers. The tradition started in late 1860s through the turn of the 20th century. It was an opportunity for the printers to show off their craft and for carriers to remind people to tip them around the holidays. The Greetings themselves consisted mostly of bad poetry. 

Handbill for New Year's Eve concert, 1981

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 31, 2018

Happy New Year’s! We chose to highlight this handbill in our excitement for the upcoming First Avenue exhibit, which opens May of 2019! Here’s to a great year ahead!

Snowmen, 1894

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 28, 2018

This photo shows Chester, Robert and Donald Wilson making snowmen in their Stillwater yard in 1894.

Pond Skating Painting

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 27, 2018

This watercolor by Orabel Thortvedt is part of the series "11 Watercolors of Pioneer Life," done between 1910 - 1953. This painting features children skating on a frozen pond next to railroad tracks while a train goes by.

Wooden Sled, 1925

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 26, 2018

The sled has two sets of steel runners, two handrails, and a "steerable" front end. The manufacturer was Sherwood and they sold this model for $30.00 per dozen in 1916.

Hmong Christmas Story Cloth

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 25, 2018

This Hmong story cloth consists of images from the story of Jesus’ birth. It was made for sale by Hmong refugees in Ban Vinai, Thailand, circa 1991.


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