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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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Rating for Dating Wheel

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 12, 2018

In the early 1940’s Central High School student Bartlett “Bart” Baker was given this “Rating for Dating” wheel by a female student. The wheel was produced by the Ladies Home Journal in the early 40’s to give young women advice on the best ways to interact with different types of men.

The wheel was created by Elizabeth Woodward, the Sub-Deb Editor for the Ladies Home Journal. “Sub-Debs”, or sub-debutantes, were typically upper class girls in their pre- and early teens who had not yet entered careers or fashionable society. Woodward created numerous items for the Journal aimed at Sub-Debs, including articles such as “Do Boys Like You?” and “How to be Popular”. She was also the Director of the National Sub-Deb Club Federation. Sub-Deb Clubs operated like high school sororities, where members joined (often through initiation), and held monthly meetings. The clubs also organized a number of school events, such as dances and parties.

The wheel gives examples of What to Talk About, How to Act, and What to Do on a Date. For an intelligent boy, or “Brightie”, a girl should act “Wide-eyed and big eared. Be impressed and eager to learn - but stand on your own feet and discuss”. For a “Strong & Silent” boy, she should talk about, “HIM. Serious things like life, happiness, and the right way to raise pigs.” And for dating a “Woman Hater” she should “Go in for the things he likes. Beat him at some sports. Don’t do much sitting around. Get up and do things or go places. Do what he wants to do - even if it’s trout-fishing.”

The “Rating for Dating” wheel offers a glimpse into the world of gender stereotypes prevalent in the 1940s and 1950s. Girls were expected to change their behavior to adapt to boys’ interests, while boys needed to fit a specific image if they wanted to be considered a romantic interest. The “Pals” and “Lilies” would simply be considered good friends, rather than serious dating material.

Decades after receiving the wheel, Baker gave it Marjorie Bingham, a Social Studies teacher at Saint Louis Park High School. According to Bingham, both she and Baker served on the Minnesota Humanities Commission, and when he heard she was teaching an American History module on dating patterns of the 1940s, he offered her the wheel as a primary source example. Bingham donated the wheel to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1995.

Looking at it now, the “Rating for Dating” wheel seems extremely out of date and more than a little offensive. However, is it any different from today’s tween magazines, with their advice on dating and how to be popular?

What I really want to know is what happened if your “Strong & Silent” date didn’t know anything about pigs?

See this in Collections Online, including closeups of all the possible answers!

Stephanie Olson, Collections Assistant

"President Wilson Re-States United States' War Aims" and "Ukrainians Sign a Treaty" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. February 11, 1918

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

"I.W.W. Leaders Plot Sabotage" and "Nationwide Fast Day" - The Daily People's Press. February 10, 1918

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

"American Soldiers Lost, Probably 147" and "Bad Defeats for Germans" - The Duluth Herald. February 9, 1918

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

Vulcan getting ready to light a pile of Christmas trees on fire, 1947

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 9, 2018

Remember how Winter Carnival ends? With the Vulcans winning and thereby bringing Spring? Let's hope that happens this year! This photo of a Vulcan about to set a pile of Christmas tree on fire is from 1947; if it was actually lit it must have been quite a sight!

See it in Collections Online.

Blot Out the German Nation

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

This letter was sent to Senator Knute Nelson by a constituent, warning about spies high up in the military. He claims that the Kaiser doesn't go to the slums to insert spies, but to the highest level of the military and government. He advocates for systematic and swift raids through all military and government offices to find the spies the Kaiser has planted. The man also states that US soldiers shoudl fight to the death against Germany. He seems to be against ending the way diplomatically, saying, "to blot out the German nation for an everlasting example for generations to come."

Feb. 8, 1918.
[...] Dear Sir:-
[...] Then kindly pardon me for more suggestions, which I think also immediately important. When the Kaiser places plotters, he does not go to the slums first - he places queens and kings. He bribes generals and lords and men too high for the "dare" of investigation. Seek bomb makers and plotters as high up as you can get and make systematic raids in the head offices of the ammunition firms themselves and with their trusted foremen and with the heads for boats and transportation and their most trusted managers and soon there will be no more blasting of plants and explosions of boats.
Let the detectives come friendly and say, "To get the guilty ones we are ordered to raid systematically all, our own folks too, you are O.K. but we have to go through the systematic cleanup now, and sweep friend and foe alike". Then you will find some wonderful revelations and see how deep the Kaisers insurance system covers losses. And by all means make raids on the detectives themselves. [...] So every officer and soldier's belongings should also be raided at times most suitable, to save the U.S. Army from the experience of the Italian army last fall.

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 144.I.13.2F Box 27

South of Freedom, 1952

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 8, 2018

Carl Rowan received a M. A. in journalism from the U of M and wrote for the Minneapolis Spokesman, St. Paul Recorder, and the Minneapolis Tribune covering Civil Rights issues. His provocatively titled first book South of Freedom began as a series of articles for the Tribune which were his observations based on his visits to the south and for which he received a “Service to Humanity” award.

The Problem of Illegitimate Children

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 7, 2018

This letter was from the American Red Cross National Headquarters to its Division Directors of Civilian Relief. It concerns trying to prove the paternity of illegitimate children of soldiers for insurance purposes, as the wives and children of soldiers were eligible to receive aid from the Red Cross. It contains a letter from the Judge-Advocate General saying that court martials cannot be used to determine paternity, and marriages also cannot be forced upon soldiers just to make children legitimate. Thus, if a woman comes to the Red Cross claiming that a certain soldier is the father of her child and he denies it, the case cannot be brought to a civil court, as the man is a member of the military, and it cannot be decided in a court martial as there is no mechanism by which a decision could be reached. The letter concludes that Red Cross chapters who encounter this situation may do nothing to help those women.


February 7, 1918
The correspondence quoted below leads to the conclusion that there is no possibility of establishing the paternity of an illegitimate child by court-martial proceedings, and that the military authorities will not surrender an enlisted man to the civil courts for the purpose of having his obligations, if any, in such cases determined. [...] The Home Service Sections are charged with the responsibility of rendering such service to the families of soldiers and sailors as may be desired or expected by them. [...] In relatively few instances -- perhaps two score -- our Home Service workers have been asked for advice and help by unmarried mothers or by unmarried expectant mothers, each of whom has alleged that a certain soldier is the father of her child. [...] Proceedings to establish the paternity of children are of a quasi criminal character, but in effect they are civil suits. [...] There is no provision in courts-martial proceedings for the trial of such actions. There is no machinery known to military which the same or a like result could be reached.

Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781

Laura Ingalls (Wilder) is born

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 7, 2018

On this date in 1867 Laura Ingalls (Wilder) was born near Pepin, Wisconsin. The family moved around quite a bit in her youth, living in Walnut Grove, Minnesota two different times.  She is remembered for writing the Little House on the Prairie book series based on her family's experiences.

Minnesotan Casualty in the Sunken Tuscania

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 6, 2018

On February 6th, 1918, the USS Tuscania was hit by a German torpedo and sank in the Northern Channel between Northern Ireland and Scotland. This Gold Star Roll is for Fred Allen of Ada, Minnesota, who was aboard. Several newspaper articles were written about his death, as he was the only Minnesotan on board. The articles include information such as a snippet from the last letter he wrote his parents, the date of the memorial service, and his engagement to Irene Edwards of Wisconsin.

Citation: “Allen, Fred Kent” Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.2F