Collections Up Close

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.

See Collections Up Close Blog Archive

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

Ojibwe Bandolier Bag

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 10, 2017
Bandolier bag

This Ojibwe bandolier bag is made of black cotton velvet decorated in floral motifs employing glass seed beads in the spot stitch appliqué technique on the strap and the area above the pocket. The pocket panel features floral motifs worked in quill on birchbark that is attached to the velvet. Made by Melvin Losh, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in the 1980s.

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

David Backus Evacuates One German and Four Austrian Soldiers - August 9, 1917

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

During the multi-day French attack beginning on August 7th, David Backus and his ambulance partner Maurice spent the vast majority of their days evacuating the wounded. During their many drives to and from the Front, they witnessed a troubling episode in the sky. Two German fighter planes suddenly approached five French planes, four of which were armed. Though the French planes were of a superior number and position, all five of them circled away, leading Backus to lament, “We have the biggest bunch of cowardly aviators in the section I have ever seen.” Later in the day, Backus and his German-speaking ambulance partner picked up one German soldier and four Austrians. They discovered that the Austrians were pleased to have been captured, as they were unwilling draftees into the German Army. Meanwhile, the captured German soldier told them of widespread starvation and death in his regiment, which had lost three-quarters of its men. He predicted that the war would be over within four months, but his prediction turned out to be optimistic.


Backus diary page
Backus diary page
Backus diary page
Backus diary page
Backus diary page

Thursday Aug. 9 - 17.
[...] Boche dropped in quite a little hate here this am from 11 until now one & are still doing so regulary [sic] 2 every 10 minutes. Couple of Boche drove overhead as usual our or French not to be seen. We have the biggest bunch of cowardly aviators in this section I have ever seen. Two Boche came over the other day, there were 3 French no not observation planes but fighting plans to the Right of them one observation & one French fighting plane on the other. WELL our planes all five of them circled away. let Boche come way in over here 4 kilometers from our first lines have a good look and go back unmolested except of course our guns, but then it tok [sic] us ten thousand shots to bring one avion down [...] Got a call at 4 P.M. Drew Ostel. We saw a Boche avion come over at 4:30 so low you could have hit him with a rock. He took a good look at us and battery on the hill back unharmed. Then we got Boche Hate in the shape of 105's for over an hour straight they SHELLED the battery consistently & with [sou...] accuracy, just like making a checkerboard. [...] Only in Astel long enough to load 5 Assis, one of them a German, had him ride in front seat with Maurice & I. Maurice talks German so I questioned him. They have not had any potatoes for 7 weeks, have lost thousands in the British drive up North. Lost 3/4 of their Regiment over gas attack the other day. He said, "that the war will be all over in 4 months - soldiers are all in, food supply terribly short but plenty of ammunition." Germans hate & vice versa, the Austrians. have a few Austrians in each German company to make them fight. he was very happy at being taken a prisoner. He has recieved the Iron Cross. gave us each of picture of himself, also a button off his uniform. [...]

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

Pyrographic Box

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 9, 2017

This is a small pyrographic box with city-scape on the lid and an inscription, handwritten in Norwegian on inside of the lid. Circa 1940s.

Pyrography or pyrogravure is the art of decorating wood or other materials with burn marks. It is also known as pokerwork or wood burning.

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

Struggle for Suffrage - August 8, 1917

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

This letter was sent to Senator Knute Nelson from a member of the Woman Suffrage Demonstration Committee, expressing frustration for Nelson's vote against the women's suffrage bill. She questions his reasoning for voting the bill down because of demonstrations and accuse him of exhibiting a double standard. She also argues for the character of the women of the committee using the example of the chairman of the Minnesota Branch of the National Women's Party, Mrs. A. R. Colvin and her work with the American Red Cross. An enclosed news article further demonstrates the patriotic nature of the movement as it describes Mrs. A. R. Colvin's involvement and assistance in the war effort in more detail.


Suffrage letter page 1
Suffrage letter page 2

St. Paul, Minn., August 6th, 1917
Dear Senator Nelson:-
I understand you are blocking the Suffrage bill in committee. The "St. Paul Pioneer Press" quoted you as saying it was because of the picketing. It is as unjust to deny the women the ballot because some of them are picketing as it would be to deny men the ballot because some of them chew tobacco and others are slackers. The Minnesota chairman of the Minnesota party is Mrs. A.R. Colvin and she has done more effective red cross work than any five hundred women here put together. It takes a great deal of her valuable time to call me up and others and ask us to do what we can for the Federal amendment. It seems to me as a war measure it will be wise to release the women of the country from suffrage work and let them bend their energies to something else. I am enclosing a little account of Mrs. Colvin and her work that appeared in the "Saturday Night" of July 28th published in Minneapolis.
Very sincerely,
Sophie [Kenyore].
P.S. I do not wish you to infer that the women whose names are on this aprove [sic] of picketing, some do but perhaps the majority do not.

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 25

Tennis Trophy

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 8, 2017
Tennis trophy

This trophy is from the 1919 Northwest Lawn Tennis Championship, awarded to Marguerite Davis of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is made from woven cloth with floral and butterfly motifs pressed between two circular glass plates and bound with sterling silver banding.

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

"Ten Members of German Cabinet Quit Their Post" and "Final Increment is Called" - The Daily People's Press. August 7, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 7, 2017

Harold Who? Oh, you mean Bud.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 7, 2017
Photo of Bud Grant

This is a black and white portrait of professional three sport (!) athlete and former Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Harold “Bud” Grant in 1950 when he played for the Minneapolis Lakers. He was a reserve player on their Championship winning 1950 team.

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

"Germans are Unable to Shake Allies from Hold in Flanders" and "Revised Plan to Raise $2,006,970,000 by War Taxes" - The Duluth Herald. August 6, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 6, 2017

United States Navy Recruitment Poster

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 5, 2017

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection. E435.21 b28

Trading With the Enemy - August 4, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 4, 2017
Letter regarding trade
Letter regarding trade

August 4th, 1917.
Midland Linseed Products Company,
Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In reply to your letter of the first I beg leave to say that we are now engaged in a war against Germany and her allies with our allies, England, France, Italy, and Russia, and our aim is to win. As a part of the war program it is deemed essential to deprive Germany of all kinds of feed and food supplies. During the last two or three years much food and feed supplies shipped to neutral countries have iinured [sic] to the special benefit of Germany. The question as to the shipment of your products abroad is not now, under war conditions, a question of what you would like, but what guaranty the foreign governments, or foreign consignees, can give this country that such shipments will not inure to the benefit of Germany. Such being the case, you can readily see that I am not in a position, as a loyal American citizen, who has the interest of the country at heart and wants to see it succeed in this war, to urge the Government to permit your products to be shipped abroad just because you would like a large profit. The door is open to you to ship your products without limit to our allies in Europe, and I have no doubt they would be glad to secure the same at a reasonable price. I trust your zeal to make big profits will not overcome your spirit of patriotism. No provision has been made by the Government to pay compensation for such speculative or other profits as you have in view and, in my judgment, no provision will ever be made for the payments of such speculative profit. If the Government, upon investigation, finds that the shipment of your products would inure to the benefit of the enemy, it would be equivalent to trading with the enemy, and because you can not have this privilege of indirectly trading with the enemy under the embargo act, there can be no ground, legal or moral, to ask for compensation. Your products are not the only ones that come within the embargo. A large number of other products, too numerous to mention in this letter, are also under the embargo. My advice to you is to ship your goods to the countries of the Allies. In doing so you will get a fair price for the same and in that way you will aid our country in carrying on the war.
Yours truly,

Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 25