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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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Off to the Eternal City

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

In this letter to his sister Ruth, Paul Thompson tells his sister that he will be going to serve in Italy on a new special mission. He says that in preparation for this he has been asked to learn Italian and has been told that the mission has a diplomatic nature. He will first be heading to New Jersey to attend an Italian Conference, and will then head to Rome, which he calls the eternal city.


Greens Farms
Apr. 4 - 18
Dear Ruth,-
Here is surprising news, I expect to go to Italy. When I reported yesterday they looked over my blank and immediately saw the word Italy. Then they were very anxious to have me go to Italy. Either I made a good impression or they were giving me Taffy for they said they wanted to send their best men to Italy. That they had a lot of preachers but they couldn't use them with either the French or Italian armies. There are only EJ men in Italy now - it is a new work especially requested by the Italian government. They further said that it was also in the nature of a diplomatic job to keep the armies of Italy friendly to our gov't and that I [...] be given a commission without rank - Whatever that is [...] So - on to the Eternal City. What do you think of it?

Citation: Paul Thompson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/T475 4/19-8/19

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 4, 2018

We remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated 50 years ago today. This image is people honoring him on April 6, two days after it happened.

This photo was taken by Mike Zerby for the Minneapolis Tribune.

See in Collections Online.

Worlds of Wonder: Minnesota Children's Books

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | April 3, 2018

Visit the new Library Lobby exhibit Worlds of Wonder: Minnesota Children's Books, on view during Library hours now until mid- May. 

From the Gag sisters to boys' adventure stories to Bink & Gollie, Minnesota's tradition of producing quality children's literature is worth celebrating. This is just the tip of the iceberg; play around on the Library catalog or ask a friendly librarian if you'd like to see more from our collection!


"To show repugnance will only make things harder."

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 3, 2018

This is the Gold Star Roll file of Private Kingo Hvolboll, a Danish immigrant to Minnesota who composed and sold music. On this date, Hvolboll wrote a letter to his brother in Winnipeg after he had been drafted. Hvolboll tells his brother that he never really imagined that he would actually have to go to war and states that he ignored the fact that he could be called. But, Hvolboll seems determined to make the best of it, as wallowing would only make things harder. Included at the top of the letter is a few bars of music Hvolboll had composed. Hvolboll died if influenza at Camp Dodge on October 12, 1918.


Winnipeg, Man. Apr 3 - 1918.
Dear Brother:
First I design to thank you for your letter and Book of Army regulations which you sent me some time ago. In regard to the latter, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for your prudent advise [sic]; and discreet idea of exercizing [sic] the same, it does me a lot of good. I really never did think serioudly of the fact that I might be called, in fact, I ignored the idea entirely. Now I must admit that I really halfway believe that I am going, and if so, - I'm going into it for all there is in it, and try to make the best out of it. To show repugnance will only make things harder. [...] I certainly would rejoice if providence would act in obedience of my desire and thus lead me down to your Company. Say, wouldn't we have a great time though? __ Say Len, there is one of the rules that I should like to alter a little, it's about this here going to roll-in at 10 P.M. I don't believe it can be done. I must have a pass 7 times a week. [...]
Venlig Hilsen fra

Citation: "Hvolboll, Marinus K." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.4F

Snowstorm scene at 7-corners in downtown St. Paul in April, 1949.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 3, 2018

Snowstorm scene at 7-corners in downtown St. Paul in April, 1949.

See it in Collections Online.

Don't Talk Too Much

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 2, 2018

This small booklet, titled "Instructions and Information for Red Cross Workers in France", describes the various information and expectations for a Red Cross worker while stationed in France. Procedures are included for registration, travel, vacation time, requests to enter a war zone, personal expenditures and more. The booklet also discusses the uniform for both men and women. Men were allowed much more freedom in their dress and had the opportunity to earn and wear insignias and awards on their uniform. Womens uniforms varied based on their job and they were not allowed to earn or wear any insignia on their uniforms. The section titled "Don't Talk too Much" is particularly interesting as it advises Red Cross workers to not share war secrets with strangers.


[...]This booklet contains general information of assistance to Workers, including a digest of the orders and instructions which have been issued up to date. [...] Always remember we are a country at war, -- a country which is concentrated upon but one idea--TO WIN THE WAR. If perhaps some regulations seem cumbersome or complicated, remember that Military necessity has caused their adoption, and follow them scrupulously and cheerfully. We are Representatives of the United States of America. We must be thoughtfully careful that nothing we say or do, even inadvertently, shall reflect unfavorably upon our country or upon our Red Cross. [...] "Don't Talk too Much: Never forget that we are at war and that the enemy is always listening. Always look with suspicion on strangers, and never tell anything of a confidential nature to a woman, as women are the most successful of enemy spies. Be suspicious of anyone who asks questions of a military nature, who appears unduly interested in Military information, even though he may be or may appear an American officer. [...] Do not express your opinion on military matters nor on the general situation. Be loyal to your Government and to your superiors. Trust them to conduct the war while you attend to your own particular part of it. [...]

Citation: Helen Scriver papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P362

"Germans at Standstill" and "All Troops to be Sent" - The Duluth Herald. April 1, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 2, 2018

A Catholic Conspiracy and a Vote Against Women's Sufferage

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | March 31, 2018

This is a very interesting letter form a concerned citizen in Chicago, (who wished to remain anonymous) urging Minnesota Senator Knute Nelson to vote against womens sufferage because of a conspiracy in the Catholic Church. The author states that the Catholic Church has long been conspiring to take over all public offices at the city, state, and federal level, and they plan to do this by giving women the right to vote. But they are hiding this desire because they do not want their plans revealed. He says that after the bill is passed the church will collect the spoils for themselves and get female members of the Catholic Church to get out and vote in droves. He states that only Catholic women will go out and vote because the church will be urging them to, while other women do not have an organization behind them telling them to do so. Once women have the right to vote, they will vote in Catholic individuals to all offices, and the US will never be able to take the government back from Catholic hands. The author urges Senator Nelson to look into this with other non-Catholic senators and to vote against womens sufferage.

Chicago Mar. 28th 1918
Dear sir
Through this letter I appeal to you to vote against Womems Equal Sufferage, when the bill comes up for final action in the Senate.
My reasons for so asking are as follows.
The Catholic Church, throught their powerful organization has for years been trying to get control of public offices in this country. Their political organization, the Knights of Columbus, are working hard to grab all public offices, City, State or Federal. They are not making public their attempts to have Equal Sufferage bills passed, for fear it would expose their aims, and it would have a tendency to prevent the bills from being passed. They are for equal sufferage good and strong, but are keeping it secret and letting the other side fight the battle, and if the Bill is passed and made a law the Catholic Church will gather the spoils, and in 10 years or less from now this Country will be in control of the Catholic Church. Remember that their organization is one, and when their strength is massed, with the aid of the women votes, they will be able to elect to office, men or women who will make laws to suit their church. The Catholic women will all go to the polls and vote, and many of the women on the other side will not care to vote, the reason being, that they are not under control of any organization to lead them to do so. [...] If the Catholic Church once gets control, how are the American people going to get it back? This question should be studied by yourself and other Senators who are not Catholics. I am not a member of any secret society, to any church or political organization, But I am just a common true American citizen who is looking for the future wellfare of my country. Vote against Womens Equal Suffrage and save the U.S.A. [...]

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 144.I.13.5 Box 28

English to French Dictionary

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | March 30, 2018

A small pocket dictionary with red paper cover and black lettering that reads 'POCKET-DICTIONARY / ENGLISH-FRENCH / FRENCH-ENGLISH'. Published by G.G. Duvivier, Paris, Librarie Fishbacher, 33, Rue de Seine. It was used by Stanley J. Harper of Annandale, Minnesota, when he served in the 349th Infantry during World War I. Dictionaries like this were common among US soldiers serving in France, as one would need to know at least a little French while out and about in town or if he hoped to start up a conversation with any French ladies!

Ukrainian Easter Eggs

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 30, 2018

This photo from the Norton & Peel collection shows a woman painting Ukrainian Easter eggs, 1968.

See it in Collections Online.