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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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World War I Ends

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

World War I ended yesterday, November 11, 1918. This is the newspaper which proclaimed it in Minneapolis. 

"World War Ends" and "Germany Surrenders All Her Rights and Signs the Armistice" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. November 11, 1918

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

Unfinished wooden noise maker has a ratchet wheel attached to a handle at one end, and a pawl extending the length of the noise maker. Printed in pencil on one side of pawl is "Lucia May Worrall / November 11 1918 War Ends."


Raymon Bowers was an Army soldier from Minnesota stationed in France in the Ordnance Repair Department. In this letter from December 1st, 1918, Bowers describes the excitement in Paris when the armistice was signed on November 11th, explaining that when the official announcement came in everyone left work immediately to go participate in the celebrations which lasted for days. It seemed that everyone was out celebrating, Bowers writes "For over four years France has refrained from any celebrating and it seemed to me that all the pent up energy accumulated during four long years of suffering was expended in those couple of days." After his writing about all the excitement that the signing of the Armistice brought Bowers grew more serious. He, like all of the other Americans in France and other countries abroad, was unsure when he would be able to return to America.


Dec. 1, 1918
Dear Miss Palmes,
[…] I spent very nearly two months in Paris + best of all I was there when the Armistice was signed. We were to go the front the 1st of Nov: but signs were so plain of an immediate end, that orders were held up + the result was that instead of going there we were returned to our organizations. I wish I was an author I could describe to you how Paris went wild over the Armistice. The day it was signed I was working in a French factory on some large guns. They got the news officially at 11 A.M. Immediately the shops closed + every one left for Paris. As we walked down to the subway things had already started rolling. Flags + bunting galore- singing + dancing + all kinds of noise. By night the main strs (sic) were so packed that passage was almost impossible. Never in my life did I see such actions. Every soldier and civilian seemed to be out + all trying to out do the other in noise + celebrating. […] Well enough of the Armistice- The big question now is “When will we get back”? You know as much about it; so ill not try to prophecy. It may be much sooner then we expect: it may be longer no one knows. […]
Sincerely Yours
Raymon Bowers

Citation: Raymon James Bowers Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P111

Destruction Everywhere

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

Lester Allen McPheron was a soldier with the AEF in France. His journal describes in detail his experiences on the front lines at the end of the war (specifically Oct. 22- Nov. 11). McPheron gives an enlightening view of the destruction when he states “when we started over the top we had 60 men in our platoon, Now we only had 14 the rest being killed or wounded”. In his reflections on Nov. 10-11, McPheron writes about his division hiking back toward the front lines on Sunday Nov. 10, (after a few days recovering several miles back from the front line), to prepare to go back "over the top" on the morning of Monday Nov. 11. Then, “at 6 am Monday morning orders came in that they would cease firing at the 11 hr of the 11 day of the 11 mo". Thus, McPheron's “division which was the 90th was on the front lines when the Armistice was signed.”


[…] Now when we started over the top we had 60 men in our platoon now we only had 14 the rest being killed or wounded[.] […] About noon our kitchens began moving up to the town and about 3 Oclock (sic) the Sgt 4 other men and I started out to find them on our way over we passed a lot of dead Germans who were laying along the side of the road where they had been thrown so as to open up the road for our trucks to pass, we went on for a mile or so where we found our kitchens in a woods where we got a good cup of coffe (sic) the first I had had in 5 days. […] I will never forget that hike as it was very difficult to travel after dark over a battle field full of shell holes without any light [.] We had gone about a mile when it began to rain and all the boys who had there [sic] rain coats left put them on I did not have any so had to take the rain[.] We went on for about 2 hrs and came to a small village which was full of dead Germans these Germans must of been dead for 5 or 6 days as the smell was something awful, we kept going stumbling along threw (sic) the mud and water which was over our shoe taps and at last we came to a wood. […] We stayed there one day and at 1 Oclock (sic) on Sunday morning which was now the 10th we rolled our packs and hiked all the rest of that night and all day Sunday towards the front lines and took up our section in a woods for we were going over the top again Monday morning. At 6am Monday morning orders came in that they would ceace [sic] firing at the 11 hr of the 11 day of the 11 mo and our division which was the 90th was on the front lines when the armistice was signed.

Citation: Lester Allen McPheron Journal. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1789

France: Two Perspectives

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

Percy B. Christianson arrived in Brest, France, after thirteen days on a ship from the U.S. He describes first seeing land and all 3000 Marines on his ship were cheering at the sight. Then, silence fell as everyone contemplated what their futures would be in France; whether they would be going home or dying there in battle. Breaking the silence, everyone broke out into song ("The Yanks are Coming"). Christianson's brigade never ended up seeing battle because the Armistice was signed before they had reached the front.

On the morning of November 9, 1918, we awoke to see the shores of France. This was a sensation and memory that will stay with me for the rest of my life. We all crowded to positions on ship board, to get the best position possible to see this new land. [...] Cheers and cap waving burst out from all the Marines on board. It was not a cheer of happiness to see the shores of France. The love of life and the desire to reach a destination had been accomplished. We had been at sea for thirteen days in waters that were supposedly infested with German Submarines. If there had been any intent to sink our ship Henderson, our own U.S. Submarines and the GOOD LORD must have gotten us safely across the Atlantic ocean. Silence, now fell over all who looked, dreamed and wondered. Was this to be the land of life or death. Was this the beginning or the end. How long now, before we lay wounded or perhaps dead, like our comrades before us. Some one in the silence, broke it and said, "Oh, what the hell. We are here now. Lets break it up and get some singing going!" "The Yanks are Coming", broke out, first by a few, and then every Marine on board ship sang out. I often wonder to this day, how the French populace of Brest thought about the singing. They must have heard it. Here are thousands of American soldiers singing as they prepare to embark and face the quick move to the front lines of battle. [...]

Percy B. Christianson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2371

In comparison to Percy Christianson's joyous arrival in France, Victor Johnson describes the horrors of travelling through Verdun. On his journey to Brieulles sur Meuse, Johnson saw many dead Germans awaiting burial, and a sign that read "KEEP DEAD MEN OFF THE ROAD!". He commented, "Doesn't that sound encouraging". Brieulles sur Meuse was a commune in the Meuse department in Grand Est in Northeastern France. When he arrived there, Johnson writes that the Germans had left only five hours ago. He and the other men were put to work in clearing out the barricades the Germans had built in attempts to keep the Americans out.

Nov. 9th 1918.
Last night a few of us boys slept in a pile of barrack bags under a canvas tarp as we didn’t like the idea of packing up again in the morning. So we slept in heavy marching order (shoes + all) and just about froze stiff. We left Chippy at noon today by truck. On our way we passed through the Bellow Woods where they had some stiff fighting and it sure showed signs of it to. [sic] The roads were all shelled and truck riding was some rough. Along the road we saw a lot of dead Germans who had not been buried yet. Also signs which read as follows. KEEP DEAD MEN OFF THE ROAD! Doesn’t that sound encouraging [?] We arrived at Brieulles sur Meuse at 2.00 pm. A distance of 35 Kilos. This place the Germans left about five hours before we got here and now we are inbetween (sic) the Infantry + the Artillery. When we got there we had to build a kitchen in the old depot- and clear out a baracade (sic) of concret (sic) blocks which the Germans had built across the road to hinder the advance of the Americans who didn’t come that way at all. The rest of the afternoon was put in getting a place ready to sleep in to night (sic). The front line is now one on each side of the Meuse river which acts as no mans land. The machine guns are spitting out there messengers from Hell. We never know when they might turn them a little to the left. That would mean that we’d have to hunt our hole.

Citation: Victor O. Johnson Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1987

Cat and dog at Animal Rescue League Shelter of Hennepin County, 1925

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

This photo of a cat riding a dog is from at Animal Rescue League Shelter of Hennepin County in 1925. If only my pets would do this...someday!

Cats at the Window, 1930

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

This wood engraving of cats was created by New Ulm artist and illustrator Wanda Gag in 1930.

Puppy helping out at the Minneapolis Journal desk, 1937

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

After the long, long campaign season, the rest of the week is all about cuteness. We deserve it.
Here is a puppy helping out at the Minneapolis Journal desk in 1937.

Secretary of State Vote Poster, 1992

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

This poster really sums it up. Do what you need to in order to get through election season, but in the end, vote.

Made by Secretary of State Joan Growe's office, 1992.

People standing in voting booths, Saint Paul,1946

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

Only one more day to go! This photo is of people voting in Saint Paul, 1946.

Granny Goes Flying part 7

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

This is a compilation of letters and diary entries written during the war by Granville "Granny" Gutterson. Granny spent most of the war stationed near Houston, Texas, at the San Leon Aerial Gunnery School. In this diary entry written on this day Granny describes receiving absentee ballots from home to vote in the 1918 senate election, which took place on November 5th, 1918. Granny also wrote mentions a "pink ballot", with a comment that "the sooner the state is voted dry the better.” Pink ballots were issued during the elections of 1918, allowing citizens to vote on prohibition.


Mon. Nov. 4.
Received some ballots from home to-day, but my vote had been mailed before the ballots arrived. Might have made a slight change in my ballot but not much. If I didn't know just whom to vote for, I didn't vote. Regarding the pink ballot, the advice from the family was appreciated but was unnecessary. May be far from being as good as I might be, but that's one thing that I have no use for, and think that the sooner the State is voted dry the better.

Gutterson, Granville. Granville: Tales and Tail Spins from a Flyer's Diary. Minnesota Historical Society. Minnesota History Center, St. Paul. D570.9 .G76