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

Father of the Green Revolution

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 11, 2017
Photo of Norman Borlaug

On this date in 1970, Norman E. Borlaug receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his research in hybridizing wheat to increase crop yields in order to feed more people.  He was known as the Father of the Green Revolution, an University of Minnesota alumnus, and a crop researcher.

Learn more in our Library.

Holiday Ornaments

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 8, 2017

These felt holiday ornaments were designed by Uno Hispanic Branding, Minneapolis, 2010.

See them in Collections Online.

Pearl Harbor & the U.S.S. Ward

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 7, 2017
painting of a boat

On this day, outside of Pearl Harbor, the destroyer Ward with its crew primarily of reservists from St. Paul attacks and sinks a Japanese midget submarine. These were the first shots fired on the date of infamy, December 7, 1941.

See it in Collections Online.

Jane Grey Swisshelm is born

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 6, 2017
Portrait of Swisshelm

On this date in 1815 Jane Grey Swisshelm was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While she only lived in Minnesota for six years, she left a lasting and complicated mark on the state. She founded a newspaper in St. Cloud which she used to advocate for women's rights and argue for the abolition of slavery, yet she also promoted violence against the Dakota after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. During the Civil War she moved to Washington, D.C. and became a nurse, dying in 1884.

See this portrait in Collections Online.

Coat worn by Joan Mondale

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 5, 2017

This coat was worn by Joan Mondale at the presidential inauguration of Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale, January 20, 1977.

It was designed by Eleanor Brenner.

See it on Collections Online.

Marriage certificate for Dapper Dan Hogan

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 4, 2017
marriage certificate

Daniel ("Dapper Dan") Hogan was the owner of St. Paul's notorious Green Lantern speakeasy and the alleged contact between St. Paul gangsters and gangsters from elsewhere until he was blown up by a car bomb on this date in 1928. This is his marriage certificate from 1919.

See it in our Library Catalog.

First Snow

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 1, 2017
first snow painting

Who's ready for some snow? This painting was made by Arthur Thomas Kerrick for the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project, ca. 1935 - 1942.

See it in Collections Online.

Dakota quillwork leather vest

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 30, 2017

On this last day of Native American Heritage Month, we are highlighting one of the most beautiful pieces in the Collection. It is a quillwork vest, ca. 1890.

This vest, among other items, was donated by a medical doctor who received them after successfully treating a smallpox epidemic at Lower Brule Agency, South Dakota in the early 1890s. The plants represented in quillwork designs often carry specific meanings for the maker and wearer and may also serve to pass on plant knowledge.

See it from other angles on Collections Online and in the current exhibit Renewing What They Gave Us.

Pair of Camels Stopped

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 29, 2017

This photo is of a pair of camels getting stopped by the police during a November 29, 1949 visit to downtown St. Paul.

Unfortunately, there is no explanation for this photo; it is from our Newspaper Negatives Collection. Maybe the circus was in town, but the handlers don't seem very circus-like and there's no signage. 

Tax Legislation is Hard

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 28, 2017

With all the talk about the tax bill working its way through Congress currently, it seems worth remembering that we've done this before. This is Senator William L. Dietz working on a tax bill at the State Capitol in 1937. This photo originally appeared in the newspaper, which explains the writing at the top.

See it in Collections Online.


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