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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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WW1 Daybook

The Widespread Outbreak of Spanish Influenza

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 17, 2018

Willard W. Bixby was an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in Italy. He wrote this letter to his father on October 19th, 1918, telling him about an epidemic of Spanish fever and influenza and how he is surprised to have heard that the epidemic had also reached the United States.


October 19th, 1918
Dear Dad,
[…] It is pretty cold now and this morning the mountains were covered with snow. There' an awful lot of talk about sunny Italy but the weather in this part isn't much different than it is at home. There is quite an epidemic of Spanish fever and influenza here now and several of our fellows are in the hospital. I see in the papers that it hit the States also, its funny that it should spread all over like that. […] I suppose they are wild over the war news at home and many of those who should know are very optimistic about the end being near. It is funny though the hot arguments the officers have at times over just that thing. […]
With all love,

Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624

"Rescue Parties Comb Districts" and "Decision is Popular" - The Daily People's Press. October 16, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 16, 2018

"Wilson Declares That Autocracy Must Bow" and "Find Difficulty in Getting Away" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 15, 1918

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

"Flames Death Toll 1,000 in Northern Minnesota; Moose Lake, Cloquet and 8 Other Towns Destroyed" and "Twin Cities Rush Aid to Fire District" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. October 14, 1918

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

No Socialization Due to Influenza

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

In this diary entry by Mary Hill describe the news of her hope to a close end to the war. She writes about reading in the paper that Germany is ready to accept President Wilson’s terms and conditions for peace. Hill also mentions that they are all still dealing with the Spanish Influenza epidemic. She went out to see her friends but they were not there and she assumed that that was because they had stayed at home to hide from the “Influenza infection”.


October Sunday 13th 1918
A bright beautiful morning but such cold wind
Went to Man at White Bear, neither Rachel nor Charlotte were there at 9:30. Perhaps they stayed at home on account of influenza infection. I am alone today but Todays paper reports Germany ready to accept Pres, Wilsons peace terms unconditional surrender, no one seems to take it seriously.


Pocket Watch from Cloquet Fire

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

Men's gold pocket watch owned and used by Charles Brandon of Cloquet, Minnesota. This pocket watch survived the fire in Cloquet (Carlton County) which started on October 12, 1918. It is round with a diameter of 2 1/4" and is an elaborate design of flowers, crosses and classic scrolls. It also has a top winding stem. This type of watch is called the "New Era" and was made in the USA. It has an enamel face has with roman numerals and a sweep second hand. The watch shows signs of being damaged by the fire, but it nevertheless is still in readable condition.


"Each Day Brings Victory A Bit Closer"

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

Raymon Bowers, an Army soldier from Minnesota stationed in France in the Ordnance Repair Department, writes about his opinion of the war ending soon and the French morale compared to German morale. He has noticed that the French spirit is bright because each day they become closer to a victory while the Germans spirit is breaking and will soon have to acknowledge defeat. Raymon is writing to a Miss Palmes who he marries after the war is over.


[…] When this war is over America will have a complete knowledge of all the guns, trucks, & everything used in warfare. She will be able to build anything that is needed in modern warfare and have the opportunity of using the best models built. In other words she can get the best that has been developed in four and half years of the most strenuous fighting. […] Never since the beginning of the war have things looked brighter for the French. Each day brings victory a bit closer and I think it is only a matter of time till the Huns will acknowledge defeat + pay the price or be forced to do the same. To me it’s only a question of time. […] I'll be surprised if the Hun last long after winter sets in. There is no end to signs the Boche is breaking. It may come slowly or quickly but it's coming just as surely as winter follows fall. [...]

Raymon Bowers Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P111

"American Artillery in Action Before Metz" and "The President's Terms of Peace" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. October 10, 1918.

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

"Cambri Entered by British--More Gains" and "Woman Soldier Here Tonight" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 9, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 9, 2018

Ernest Aselton: Killed During Volunteer Mission

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 8, 2018

Ernest Aselton of Wayzata , Minnesota, was killed in action on this date after volunteering to help repulse an enemy counter attack. He "volunteered and under extremely heavy shell and machine-gun fire, established liaison for his company, bringing reinforcements to the line at a critical time, and thereby assisting materially in repelling a hostile counter-attack. He was killed later during this attack". For his actions, Aselton was awarded the Navy Cross from the President of the United States and the Croix De Guerre by the French government, along with two other medals for bravery. This date also marks the day that the Allies advanced along a 20 mile front from St. Quentin to Cambrai and drove the Germans back 3 miles. This drive resulted in the capture of over 10,000 German soldiers.


Dear Mrs. Aselton:
We were all so grieved to hear of your great loss today; indeed we feel that it is our loss too, for Ernest was dear to us all. […] The flag at school has been at half mast all day, and I am sure that it would have been comforting to you could you have heard all the splendid things that people have said about Ernest. He certainly was a fine example of what a young man could be. […] I wish I could say something that would comfort you and Mr. Aselton, but I know that at such a time words are useless, […]
Your friend,
Amy L. Davis
Nov. 25.



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