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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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Letter to Knute Nelson from A.H. Vernon - April 9, 1917

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

Just days after President Wilson asks Congress to declare war with Germany, Little Falls lawyer A.H. Vernon writes Senator Knute Nelson for a recommendation to be appointed as an officer in the army. Also referring Mark Buckman, Vernon describes that his qualifications as a political reporter for the Pioneer Press and a practicing lawyer. He describes Buckman as having more practical skills in mechanics and pharmacology. However, Vernon’s main reason for requesting a position in the army is for integrity’s sake. He explains that he feels he can be an example, “as [he] has done a good deal of patriotic talking, and [doesn’t] believe talk without action amounts to very much if a fellow is at an age where he can do some active work.”



Partial Transcription:

April 9, 1917

Hon. Knute Nelson,
U.S. Senate,
Washington, D.C.
My Dear Senator:-
Since writing you regarding the military training camps for civilians, I see by the papers that on account of the war they will be discontinued, and training camps for reserve officers held instead. I therefore thought I would make application for a comission as reserve officer, and would write to see what is the proper procedure. [...] I don't know what the situation is , and while it will be a great sacrifice for me to close up shop here, as I have just got my practice well established, I feel that I should do so, and that the example would be worth something, as I have done a good deal of patriotic talking, and don't believe talk without action amounts to very much if a fellow is at an age where he can do some active work. [...]
Yours sincerely,
A.H. Vernon


Knute Nelson Papers, 1861-1924

"Latin Americans Expected to Join this Nation in War" and "Measures Move Forward Rapidly with Preperation" - The Daily People's Press. Owatonna, Minnesota, April 8, 1917.

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

Diary entry by Mary T. Hill - April 7, 1917

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

In her diary entry from April 6, 1917, Mary Hill reflects upon the United States’ declaration of war against Germany. That day, the wife of railroad magnate James Hill had attended a three-hour-long church service in New York City, and she later received the news that Congress had passed its war resolution. She notes succinctly, “War declared today. That is the beginning. God above knows the end.” Over the course of the war, Mary Hill would become an active supporter of the American Red Cross. Still, it would be over a year before U.S. troops would be shipped overseas to join in the fighting.



New York. Good Friday. A dark wet morning. Clara feeling more comfortable today. Gertrude and I went to the uptown Jesuite [sic] Church to the 3 hour service. A most impressive Service. Mamie came in this afternoon. War declared today. That is the beginning. God above knows the end.


1915-1920. Mary T. Hill Papers. 64. C.5.6 Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota

Deer Call

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 7, 2017

A deer call made from wood with a piece of tin tied to it, which would imitate a fawn call. Made by Wolf Chief, Hidatsa, in 1918.

"U.S. At War With Germany" and "Proclamation is Duly Signed by President", The Duluth Herald - April 6, 1918

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

Electric Fetus Mug

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 6, 2017

A frosted plastic mug celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Minneapolis record store, The Electric Fetus, in 1988. It features a Soul Asylum illustration on one side. Owned by Karl Mueller, the bassist for Soul Asylum.

German Military Field Telephone - April 5, 1917

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

The First World War saw widespread use of telephones in combat. These telephones, like the German model pictured below, were of tremendous value to armies on the front, since they allowed for covert communication without putting the messenger at risk. In order to operate this particular telephone, a soldier would squeeze the switch on the handle while speaking into a leather-covered “horn” piece. His voice would then travel through the telephone’s transmission aperture, which converts his voice into an electric signal to be received by another telephone. This particular phone has a total of four transmission lines, so it would be up to the user to consult the telephone’s switchboard map and select the correct line for their purposes. If the connection was imperfect and messages difficult to comprehend, soldiers would use a series of standard words associated with each letter of the alphabet. This method of communication is akin to the NATO phonetic alphabet, which would translate the message, “Squadrons A, B, and C have arrived” to “Squadrons Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie have arrived.” This system allows for much clearer enunciation, especially of single letters.


Lock and Key

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 5, 2017

A padlock and key that were used on the first jail in Hastings, Minnesota, circa 1850.

April Birthday

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 4, 2017

A photograph of a man celebrating his 44th birthday on 4/4/1944.

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 here.

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

New Library Lobby Display - Then & Now: Nursing in Minnesota

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | April 3, 2017

Red Cross Public Health Nurse

Minnesota has had a long and rich history of nursing. From the early hospital-based nursing schools to the landmark work of Katharine Densford to the research and innovations of today, Minnesota has proudly been at the forefront.

This display was created in conjunction with the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing. Be sure to celebrate National Nurses Week, May 6 - 12!

The Library is free and open to the public; the display is on view during regular Library hours.

Visit the new World War 1 exhibit (opening April 8) on level 3 here at the History Center to see more medical history! 

Also see the new MNopedia article on Nurse Theresa Ericksen and the MNHS Press book Alice in France.

Stillwater Hospital, 1912