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collections up close Blog

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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Romper Room Clock

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 21, 2017
Romper Room Clock

This is a puzzle clock promoting the educational children's television show Romper Room, which aired in the United States between 1953 and 1994.  The toy consists of twelve numbered shapes that may be set into and removed from corresponding impressions in a plastic base. When all of the shapes are set into the base, they form a clock. Manufactured by Hasbro Industries, Inc. in Pawtucket, Rhode Island circa 1972.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this toy in our collections database.

"Great Battle is On Again" and "'British Troops Plowing Through German Lines" - The Duluth Herald. September 20, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 20, 2017


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 20, 2017

This Columbia Graphophone (Type AT) was used by Frances Densmore to record Native American music onto cylinder records in the late 19th century.

For more information about this item, view this phonograph in our collections database.

Bertha Dahl Laws of Appleton is Impressed with the State Fair First Aid Demonstrations

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 19, 2017

The Red Cross’s recent First Aid demonstrations at the State Fair had been a success, and one prominent woman of Appleton, Minnesota wished to replicate the demonstrations in her hometown. Bertha Dahl Laws acted as the Superintendent of Appleton’s Red Cross Women’s Work, and she had attended the earlier demonstrations at the Minnesota State Fair. Laws was rather impressed with the display, and she expressed her positive impressions to Mrs. Lowry of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross. In her letter, dated September 19, 1917, Laws noted that the Red Cross demonstrations gave an “atmosphere” of “gentleness and courtesy” to the entire Women’s Building, something she had never encountered before. Laws wondered if the Red Cross Women of Appleton might borrow some of their demonstration materials, especially their dressed dolls. Appleton’s upcoming October 1st fair would be more enjoyable and impactful with the help of the Minneapolis branch of the Red Cross.


Red Cross State Fair

September 19th 1917
Mrs. Horace Lowry
Minneapolis Minnesota
Dear Mrs. Lowry : -
Now that the 1917 State Fair is a memory only I find myself reviewing the work done by the different organizations of women, under the direction of the Department of Woman's Work. As I look back to the strenuous week of the State Fair I realize what a great big place the Red Cross filled. Your exhibit was beautiful, ofcourse, [sic] but it was more than that - it gave an "atmosphere" to the entire building - there was an air of gentleness and courtesy noticable, even among all the concessionares, which was new. I want to thank you and your committee, not only as the head of the department but personally - you made my work so much easier, so much pleasanter and so much more effective. I persume [sic] that there is little chance of our borrowing any of the exhibits of the State Fair booth for our local county fair to be held here at Appleton the first of October ? I am the chairman of our local Red Cross organization and have promised our secretary - Mrs. Sloss - that I would mention this matter to you. If it is possible for you to send us any material ( I believe the women are particularly anxious to procure the dressed dolls ) we would all appreciate it and I particular, as I am very much interested in my home fiar, of course.
Again thanking you for your help and appreciation, I am
Gratefully yours
Bertha Dahl Laws

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

“St. Paul Cathedral”

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | September 19, 2017
Etching of St. Paul Cathedral

This etching on paper is titled “St. Paul Cathedral”; it was made by Minnesota artist Lowell Bobleter in the 1930’s or 40’s.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this print in our collections database.

Vikings Pennant

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 18, 2017
Vikings pennant

This purple felt Minnesota Vikings pennant commemorates Super Bowl VIII in Houston, Texas, 1974.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this pennant in our collections database.

William W. Dean Departs Aboard the RMS Carmania

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 18, 2017

The grandson of a railroad magnate, financier, and Minnesota state senator, William W. Dean left the United States to serve in France on September 17, 1917. His ship, the RMS Carmania, was a former British merchant ship turned armed cruiser, which left New York Harbor with a total of 3,000 people on board. In a diary entry dated September 18, 1917, William Dean described the worried and poor conditions onboard the ship. That day, the "scared bunch" of officers had spent two hours planning emergency procedures in case of a torpedo impact. And when Dean travelled below deck to check on his twenty-three enlisted men, he was struck by the unpleasant smell and crowded conditions. Upon his arrival in France, Dean would serve as an officer in the American Field Service and later the American Red Cross. The Minnesota Historical Society has copies of Dean's letters and diaries. The original materials are located at the Yale University Library in Connecticut.


Dean letter

"In the evening we had an officers conference that lasted two hours and they certainly seem to me like a scared bunch. Precaution personified is what the officers are and we spent two hours making out a plan we were to follow if we were hit by a torpedo. I am in charge of the Hdq. Det. of 23 men and am responsible for them. Gee but I feel sorry for the enlisted men. I go below 3 times a day to inspect the mess of my men and they are jammed in like rats in a hole. It smells terribly down there and there is very poor ventilation."

Citation: William Blake Dean and Family. Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1444 Box 3

"County's First Quota Leaves Friday" and "German Guns in Trenches Worn Out" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. September 17, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 17, 2017

American Red Cross Knitting Pattern Book

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 16, 2017

The Red Cross continuously received letters, from people all over the country, asking how individuals at home could contribute to the war effort. In response, the Red Cross created resources like this book of knitting patterns, produced September 10, 1917. People could order one of these pattern books, produce the patterns inside, and contribute their work to the war effort. These pattern books ensured that home-produced items were standardized and allowed those who wished to contribute their time and talent to produce items that were useful and needed on the front lines. Patterns in this book include socks, scarves (or "mufflers"), hoods (or "helmets"), and sweaters.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 67.29.7

Knitting instructions

Remembering Charles Beck

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | September 15, 2017

Charles Beck, a Minnesotan artist, passed away yesterday. He was a talented and amazingly prolific woodcut printer, sculptor, and painter. We are lucky to have several pieces by him in the MNHS collection.

Charles Beck was born in 1923. He attended Concordia College and received his MFA from the University of Iowa. The inspiration for his work comes from his hometown of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and the landscapes of surrounding Ottertail County.  Beck was an art instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College for more than 30 years, and he received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia College in 1980. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Plains Art Museum.

See more of his work in Collections Online.

After Summer, 1985

Untitled (Three Buildings)

Untitled (Three Buildings), 2010

Cathedral Forest

Cathedral Forest