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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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Cleaning up after the War

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

Agnes Martin was a Red Cross nurse stationed in France and Germany with the American Expeditionary Forces. In this letter to her family dated February 15, Martin describes traveling through France and into Germany after the armistice was signed, saying that the devastated areas she had seen before had now been cleaned up, and families that had been evacuated were beginning to return to their homes. Martin also writes about her continuing duties as a nurse and provides information about how nurses are to act around enlisted soldiers. For example, nurses are to not allowed to go out or receive any calls from enlisted men.

Feb. 15 1919
Dear Uncle Sam + Aunt Connie and Monica if she is there.
[…] It was an interesting experience tho [sic] to get up here quite soon after the Armistice as we came thru [sic] a lot of the devastated area before it got all clened [sic] away. […] Many of the villages into which we passed would have scarcely a light so you would know they had been evacuated because of shell fire and had not returned. They were beginning to get back as our train was quite crowded and whole families would disembark at the various stations. […] My star patient went home today and I miss you very much. He was an electrician the highest non-commissioned officer in the army. Come from Jeun and was the funniest man we all liked him so much. Last night he was thanking me for what I had done for him and said he had not realized before he came how much he missed talking to girls not that he had talked more to me than he had to all the American women he had come in contact with over here, and that when he saw an officer with a nurse it was the only time he wished he was an officer. You see we are not allowed to go out or receive calls from enlisted men and the really nice ones miss it very much. […]
Affectionately your niece,
Agnes J. Martin

Agnes J. Martin Letters. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P121


Holiday Lights, 1941

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

This images is part of the Outdoor Christmas lighting contest, Minneapolis photograph collection, from 1941. That is quite a Snow Santa!


Prisoners of War

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

The end of the war meant freedom for many captured prisoners. The letter was written over the course of several days by military doctor Bernard Gallagher of Wilton, Minnesota, who had been a German prisoner of war since March, 1918. The letter is addressed to a Sister Marie Frances, who apparently wrote to Gallagher during his time at the prison camp. He says the letters he received gave him pleasure through his anxious days at the camp and he is sorry that he wasn't able to respond to her sooner. Gallagher writes that he is happy to be free and doesn't want to think about all of the days and nights he spent as a prisoner.


Minnesota Base Hospital Unit 26
Allerey France, Dec. 6- 1918
Dear Sr. [sister] Marie Frances:
Several of your letters, probably not all, reached me in Germany during the long and anxious days there and it is needless for me to say the pleasure they gave me. I was very sorry not to be able to write to all of you often but found it necessary to confine my very limited outgoing correspondence to the folks at home. I'm sure they suffered much more acutely than I did during all this miserable experience and my heart aches to think of their sorrowing days and nights. But war at last is a cruel game and I'm sure it is the people at home in all countries who suffer the most. […]


100 Grand National Recipes

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 6, 2018

This cookbook from 1954 collects all the prize winning recipes from the previous year's Grand National Baking Competition, sponsored by Pillsbury. And it was only .25 cents! This and others are available for consultation in the MNHS Library's extensive cookbook collection.


By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 5, 2018

A wide variety of medals and medallions were created after the conclusion of World War I to honor people for their actions. Perhaps the most widely recognized was the Victory Medal, created in the US in 1919 and awarded to any person who performed military service from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918. This Victory Medal was awarded to Tela Burt, an African American from Minnesota who completed a tour of duty in France as a supply sergeant with the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry, (see post from August 2nd).
The second medal is the Purple Heart, which is awarded to members of the United States armed forces who are wounded or killed during combat with the enemy. While this medal wasn't issued until 1932, it was retroactively awarded to anyone serving on or after April 5, 1917. This Purple Heart was awarded to Private Harold Berlin of Red Wing, Minnesota, for actions during World War I.
The Croix du Guerre was a French military decoration created in 1915 and awarded to individuals or units who distinguished themselves in combat with the enemy. This Croix du Guerre was awarded to Captain Charles P. Clark of Saint Paul, who served with the French Army.
The Serbian Cross of Mercy medal was given to officers of medical units, doctors and nurses who treated sick and wounded soldiers. This medal was awarded to Pearl Canfield Trisko of Saint Paul, Minnesota, a member of the Red Cross who served overseas.

Minnesota Historical Society Collections.
Victory Medal 1999.343.3
Purple Heart 74.80.4.A
Croix du Guerre 6996.2
Cross of Mercy 9908.1


Safety Poster

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 5, 2018

This poster, undated but likely late 1950s, encourages safety for both drivers and pedestrians.

Snowplow, 1940

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 4, 2018

This photograph shows a man operating a motorized snowplow on a sidewalk in 1940, a precursor of today's snow blowers.

International Brotherhood

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 4, 2018

Chapter VI of the American Red Cross' Department of Civilian Relief pamphlet Home Service in Town and Country addresses Home Service responsibility to people of other nations and races. It mentions giving publicity to soldiers of foreign birth who performed acts of heroism during the war, saying Home Service workers ought to be open minded about different customs and remember that African Americans and immigrants are also fighting for the same country and being loyal to it. It goes on to encourage the organizing of cultural events.


Chapter VI. Home Service responsibility to those of other races and nations
Our brotherhood with the Foreign born. Services such as those just described should by no means be rendered only to Americans by right of birth. The war is creating a new feeling of brotherhood for the foreign born. […] Many Americans are still so sure that their way of living and of doing things is the only right one that they fail to value the genuine ideals and beautiful meanings that lie behind their neighbors’ customs. In their visits Home Service workers find families which need help, they should before they try to teach them American ways, learn something about the history and traditions of these races.

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


Second Day of Hannaukuh

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | December 3, 2018

This Hanukkah menorah, or chanukiah, was purchased by Mildred Kaplan for her granddaughter Shoshana Moss. Moss continued to use this menorah during Hanukkah in Minnesota through the 1990s. The metal menorah has nine branches, differentiating it from temple menorahs which have seven. It is decorated with two central tablets flanked by lions. The tablets, with Hebrew numerals 1-10, represent the Ten Commandments. The lions represent the Lion of Judah, the symbol of the Jewish tribe of Judah.

"2,000 Soldiers Made Civilians at Camp Dodge" and "Kaiser Abdicates; Formal Resignation Note Reaches Berlin" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. November 30, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 30, 2018