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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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"Air Feats of Lafayette Men" and "Italy is Making Slackers Fight" - The Appeal. January 19, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 19, 2018


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 19, 2018

Two images of fireplaces, created in 1930 and 1935 respectively, are by artist sisters Wanda and Flavia Gag. Wanda's (above) is a lithograph, while Flavia's (below) is a woodcut.

See both in Collections Online.


American Red Cross Nurse's uniform

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 18, 2018

This American Red Cross nurse's uniform was used by Elizabeth Hensel of Saint Paul. It consists of a heavily starched white cotton wrap dress with blue collar, a red cross sewn at right collar, three red stripes on the left forearm (indicating length of service), a pair of dark blue cotton cuffs, a white lawn "Priscilla" cap, an organdy headband with a red cross at front, and a navy blue lawn headpiece with white organdy front piece featuring a red cross and blue stripe.


Nurse's uniform

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 9657.16.A-E

Vikings Button, 1974

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 18, 2018

This button is from 1974, when fans were encouraged to "Think Super Bowl." And they did, in fact, make it that year!

See more Vikings-related collections.

"Ruin in Wake of Hun in France" and "Ambulance Men Have a Little Concert" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. January 17, 1918.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 17, 2018

Get to know the neighborhood!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 17, 2018

This amazing book is full of trivia about Saint Paul and answers many questions about specific place names in our fair capital.

Written by Donald Empson and published by the University of Minnesota Press, it was updated most recently in 2006.

This is one of the many ready reference books available for perusal in our Reading Room!

An "Immoral" Woman Seeks Aid

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 16, 2018

A woman who was separated from her husband and two children has been seeking out aid from the Red Cross as she was unable to support herself. Her husband was drafted into the war and pays for care for their two sons. She is suspected to be leading an immoral life in addition to being separated from her husband, and as such the question of whether or not she is eligible for aid was asked. The conclusion was that she is eligible for aid as there is no official statement of separation. The Division Director stated that she should continue to receive aid until an official statement of separation is received by the Bureau of War Risk Insurance,


January 16, 1918
1. Aqquesition [sic] has been submitted to a Division director, as follows:
"We would like information with regard to a woman who has for some time been separated from her husband. The man was drafted into federal service and when the time came for making allotment and asking for the federal allowance, he made it only for his two little boys, who since the separation of their parents have been at the Home for Dependent Children where he had been paying for their care. At the time when the boys were placed at the home, the wife signed a paper releasing her husband from all responsibility to her if he would care for the little boys. The woman for a time maintailed herself, but broke down in health and received aid from the authorities for many months before her husband was drafted. She is suspected very strongly of leading an immoral life at the present time, but of this fact we have not absolute proof. [...] the relief agencies of the city which had been interested has strongly criticised out office for this stand and for this reason we should like your decision."
2. The Division Director has replied as follows:
"In regard to the separated couple mentioned in your letter of the 10th. The whole family group, including the wife, is a Red Cross case. [...]"

Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781


Har Mar

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 16, 2018

This image is of Har Mar Mall, 1964.

See it in Collections Online.

War Increased Prevalence of Spinal Meningitis

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 15, 2018

In this entry from January 15, William Fraser mentions that someone died of Spinal Meningitis. This disease was common among soldier during WWI as there was no adequate way to treat it or to prevent it from spreading. Close quarters and temperature created a perfect environment for the disease to spread. There were several outbreaks across Europe during the war, increasing demand for an antiserum.


Backus diary page
Backus diary page

January 15, 18 General Pershing in camp. Walked in mud like snow in Minnesota in winter time. Rained all day. Had sort of crouch on day just like at the trenches. Had a fellow die of spinlmenjitus [sic]. Went to hospital yesterday. Gave him two pils [sic] and markcluty [sic]. Today went over, took him in at 2 P.M. fell sick took him over to post. He died a little after some medi. Cost goverment [sic] 2 million 4 hundred thousand dollars for our two battalion to fire shells. fired little over 14,000 shells. Got over 13,000 more to fire. Bed 9.30 P.M.

Citation: William K. Fraser Diary, 1917-1919, 1944. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul Minnesota. P1943

Dr. Martin Luther King speaking in Minnesota

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 15, 2018
MLK speaking

This photo is of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking against war in Vietnam on the St. Paul Campus of University of Minnesota in 1967.

See it in Collections Online.