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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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Request to Eliminate Five-Dollar Registration Fee for Red Cross Workers - August 11, 1917

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

Despite the Red Cross’ international reputation and President Wilson’s endorsement, the aid organization was by no means perfect. In a letter dated August 11, 1917, a St. Paul woman describes what she views as a very serious imperfection, namely the organization’s practice of charging a five-dollar fee to all of its workers. Ms. Ludlow points out that numerous women would like to contribute their time and labor, but they cannot afford the five dollars to become a Red Cross worker. The five-dollar fee is a “petty class distinction” that actually deprives the Red Cross of additional workers. Furthermore, Ms. Ludlow notes that “the poor man’s son is required to go to war and fight in the trenches beside the rich man’s offspring.” If no class distinction exists at the front, she reasons that no equivalent distinction should exist on the home front.

Red Cross Membership Fee

A peculiar condition exists at Red Cross Headquarters in St. Paul. If any woman wishes to donate a portion or all of her time to Red Cross Work she is required to pay a membership fee of $5.00 for the PRIVILEGE of working. The woman who has no desire to help in Red Cross Work pays nothing and DOES NOTHING - but the woman who wants to devote some of her time to the work must pay AND work. When asked why a fee is charged for the privilege of working the reply is: "We must have funds!" Why ask the WORKERS to donate. Why not ask those who cannot or do not work to donate? There are women who cannot afford to pay who would like to do their bit, but they are denied the privilege because they cannot do both. It has been said that the fee is demanded because there is a certain "class distinction" in Red Cross work. However - the poor man's son in [sic] required to go to war an fight in the trenches beside the rich man's offspring. Why should this poor boy's mother or sister be denied the privilege of doing their bit because they cannot pay a membership fee in the Red Cross organization. If the desire is to make it a rich woman's organization - make the membership fee five hundred dollars instead of five. This is a time when men and women alike regardless of "class distinction" should put their shoulders to the wheel and DO THINGS. This petty class distinction will not win the war - neither does it do St. Paul any good. This is the only city in the United States that I know of where this condition prevails.
A Traveler
R.J. Ludlow
91 E. 6th St. St. Paul

Bob Hope

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 11, 2017
Bob Hope

This photograph shows Bob Hope getting mobbed during a visit to the 1949 Minneapolis Aquatennial.

This image forms part of our Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative collection. Additional photographs in this series may be available in the library, please view the finding aid.

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

"German Alien Editor Says Arrest Mistake..." and "I.W.W. Return and are Quickly Sent Out..." - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 10, 1917

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

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.