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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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Minnesota's Constitution

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 13, 2017

During the constitutional convention to found our state, the Democrats and Republicans refused to meet together. After bitter debate, the whole (yet separate) constitutional conventions agreed to the same proposed language; however, they still refused to sign the same official document. In order to make it happen, two version of the final, formal document were created, as seen above.

On this date in 1857, 160 years ago, the MN state constitution was ratified by popular vote. 

Learn more in this MNopedia article.

"Death Blow for Food Hoarding" and "Mud Hinders British" - The Daily People's Press. October 12, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 12, 2017

"Titanium [Lake Superior]"

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 12, 2017
Titanium  painting

"Titanium [Lake Superior]", an abstract landscape of oil on canvas, was created by Mary Jo Van Dell in 2008.

"German Discontent with Leaders Seems to be Brewing" and "Red Cross Helps Restore Belgium" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 11, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 11, 2017

Central High School Homecoming Button

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 11, 2017
Central homecoming button

It's homecoming season for schools everywhere!

This button was created for St. Paul Central's Homecoming in 1979 and shows an image of the Hulk in a football helmet.

Help Enlist America's Best!

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 10, 2017

This recruitment letter from the War Camp Community Recreation Fund asks William Hascal Brill to help the war effort by writing for or to his local newspapers "to develop the morale and fighting efficiency of our Army and Navy." The letter tells Brill that he will be appointed as a member of the Publicity Committee. Brill is asked to help make "the Spirit of the American Army" and "help to enlist America's Best," by creating a strong message of patriotic support for soldiers abroad and the war effort on the homefront. "The American boys must know that the finest ideals of civilization are in their hands," the letter reads," that the folks at home are fighting in their hearts." War Camp Community Recreation Fund wants to create a patriotic atmosphere at home to support a fighting spirit on the front lines, and also raise money for their recreation and morale efforts in war camps. 

Though Brill is essentially being asked to write and publish propaganda for free, he did contribute his talents to the war effort in this way. Calls action like this letter inspired patriotism from Minnesotans and Americans across the country.

Washington, October 10, 1917.

Mr. William Hascal Brill,
2365 Carter Ave.
St. Paul Minn.

My dear Mr. Brill:

To help Win the War will you give some of your personal service during the next few weeks to this War Camp Community Recreation Fund - to develop the morale and fighting efficiency of our Army and Navy?

Unless I hear from you to the contrary I shall understand that you accept appointment as a member of our Publicity Committee. No meetings will be held. Each member will serve in his own place and way.

YOUR HELP seems indispensable for, within six or eight weeks, we must stir the mind and heart of all America to this vital, new conception that -

"The Spirit of the American Army is to be made in the new few months. Mere numbers do not make an army - millions of soldiers who lack the fighting spirit can retreat without struggle. The American boys must know that the finest ideals of civilization are in their hands; that the folks at home are fighting in their hearts."

[...] Make the uniform a passport to all that is wholesome and strengthening in the community life - a blood-bond of fraternity, democracy and mutual service. [...] Help potential contributors to understand this and to realize that all we can possibly do for our fighting men is far less than they are doing for us. [...]

Sincerely yours,
John N. Willys
National Chairman,

Cloquet, Duluth, and Moose Lake Fires, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 10, 2017
Hotel after fire
Cars destroyed by fire
Fire Relief Headquarters

On this date in 1918 a forest fire begins on the railroad line between Duluth and Hibbing and burns for the next three days, reaching Duluth on the thirteenth. Thirty-eight communities, including the cities of Cloquet, Carlton, and Moose Lake are burned and over 450 people are killed, making it the worst natural disaster in Minnesota history. Above are images of a destroyed hotel; burned cars; and the fire relief headquarters.

Learn more on MNopedia.

See more photos.

The America First Association is Established

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 9, 2017

These minutes are from a meeting held on October 7 at the St. Paul Hotel for what would become the American First Association. This first meeting was composed of a gathering of concerned citizens who felt that anti-war and pro-German sentiments were too common in their communities, especially in rural areas. They also felt actions of the Non Partisan League and its president, Arthur Towney, constituted disloyalty. University of Minnesota President Marion Burton was among the vocal attendees, and stated that the University stood for patriotism. Those in attendance determined that the best course of action would be to promote patriotism and to hold a loyalty meeting in St. Paul, though many would have liked to see more drastic action against Towney and the Non Partisan League. This group would hold the Northwest Loyalty Meeting in St. Paul on November 16th and 17th, where the America First Association was officially established. "

Meeting of Representative Americans, held at the Saint Paul Hotel, Sunday, October 7th, 1917.
Mr. George Gage of Olivia, Minn., was duly elected chairman of hte meeting. Mr. James J. Quigley of St. Cloud, Minn,. was duly elected secretary of the meeting. Mr. Gage then explained conditions as they now exist in Minnesota as a result of the organization and the work of the Non Partisan League, and in particular of the actions of Mr. Townley, its President. Mr. Gage suggested the need of calling a gigantic meeting in St. Paul for but one purpose -- developing Americanism and called special attention to the getting of an attendance from the rural districts. [...] The secretary then read an affidavit signed by four men in Renville county, including statements of disloyalty as made by an agent of M. Townley, and the Non Partisan League. Henry Nolte of Duluth spoke of the public spirit of St. Louis County as being very good, but nevertheless endorsed the idea of a great loyalty meeting in St. Paul. Mr Hunter spoke of the need of more than a great meeting, and suggested following meetings of Townley with a realy loyalty meeting in the same locality. President Burton said that the University would stand for everything patriotic at all times. That he himself was absolutely out of sympathy for anything or organization that was in any way disloyal. That he too thought there was a strang undercurrent of disloyalty. Mr. Wallace said the papers were getting many letters indicating disloyalty and said the recent St. Paul meeting had a tremendous bad effect. Mr. Frisbee said [...] we should make patriotism so popular that anything to the contrary could not live. [...] Mr. Kelly told of the great amount of disloyalty among the people in the vicinity of Menahga particularly the Fins. [...] Mr. Hadley said that while there was practically no disloyalty in the vicinity of Winnebago, he strongly urged the Public Safety Commission to make it illegal to print any newspaper in anything but the English language. Mr. Nolte endorsed this suggestion of Mr. Hadley. Mr Briggs suggested that meetings of the Non Partisan League be attended by our representatives and if anything disloyal is said that arrests be immediately made and a stenographic copy of the utterances made. Said he thought it unwise to martyrize the Non Partisan League. Mr. Lawson said the Constitution of the Non Partisan League was all that could be asked but said the trouble was that the officers deviated and got the League into trouble. He said that to try to put the League out of business would act as a tremendous tonic to its growth.[...] Mr. Wallace moved that a call be made for a loyalty meeting, to be held in St. Paul, in the near future and that the call be signed by the men attending this meeting. [...] Mr. Kelley moved that a committee of three be appointed to arrange for the printing of dodgers and advertising matter and to see that publicity was sent to the papers of the State. Seconded. Carried. [...] Upon motion meeting duly adjourned.

Citation: America First Association records; Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P109

Dakota Floral Cuff

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 9, 2017
Dakota cuff

This brain-tanned leather cuff is decorated with Dakota floral beadwork and metal. It was made by Holly Young, Standing Rock Dakota, during her time as a Minnesota Historical Society Native American Artist-in-Residence in 2015-16.

See it on view now in the "Renewing What They Gave Us" exhibit at the History Center!

Rainy Day in Tours, France - October 8, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 8, 2017

A slow day for David Backus at flight school in Tours, France means time for leisure--and boredom. Rainy and windy weather frequently kept Backus and his classmates out of the air. The consistently poor weather conditions would ultimately delay his graduation from flight school.


Backus diary page
Backus diary page

Well we marched down to Pilotage -- hung around for hour -- no flying too windy -- rained in aft [afternoon]. Had dinner at Canteen -- Played checkers read.

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F