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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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I Feel as Though I am One of the Lucky Ones

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 25, 2018

In this letter to his pen-pal, William McFarland of the 77th Aero Squadron describes the long hours of work the men put in as they are stationed in Texas. McFarland greatly desires to be sent overseas to fight, even though he mentions that the average life span on a pilot on the front is about four weeks, and the squadrons suffer heavy casualties.

Everman Fields
Apr. 25, 1918
Dear Mrs. Wells,
I recd. your most welcome letter and was certainly glad to hear from Minnesota once more and I also want to thank you for the Magazines I have received as I am fond of reading when I get a few minutes to my self then they are passed on to the other boys so you see we are like a family here. [...] we have plenty of work to keep us buisy [sic] we get up at 4:45 a.m. and work till 9 P.m. so you can see how we are working to accomplish what we have started in to do, and I think they are working as hard in other fields as we are here. Fore we realise now that we are up against more than the people though for at the beginning of the war but I hope it is soon over but I am afraid it will be for a few years at the least. [...] I rec'd word from one of our squadrons they have lost sixty five men out of the squadron of one hundred and fifty six you see the average life of a man in the Aero service on the other side is four weeks but I feel as though I am one of the lucky ones and I have no fear but what I will come back. Of course we never can tell but I am aching to take the chance. [...] I am certanly glad to know that the people are as anxious to purchase the Liberty Loan Bonds for the Government must have money and plenty of it to win this war and it goes to show that the people with the money are willing to help us that are willing to fight. [...] I must close for this time and I am always glad to hear from you. I remain as ever a boy with the colors.
Wm McFarland
77 Aero Squadron

Citation: William McFarland Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P120

Beaded Panel

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 25, 2018

This fabric panel is spot-stitch decorated with multicolored glass seed beads; possibly Ojibwe. It was collected by Bishop Whipple between 1860 - 1901. The date range is based on the dates Bishop Whipple spent in Minnesota working for various government commissions for Indian Affairs.

See it in Collections Online.

On His Majesty's Secret Service

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 24, 2018

Rocco DiCenzo was an Italian immigrant from Gilbert, Minnesota, who died from wounds received in action on October 6, 1918, in Meuse-Argonne, France. In April, DiCenzo received this mass-produced letter from King George V of England, sent as an attempt to boost morale among American troops. "King George" sent out hundreds of these letters to various soldiers, a reminder of the strong alliance between the United States and Great Britain during this war. DiCenzo wrote a quick note on the back of this letter to his cousin back in Minnesota.

Soldiers of the United States, the people of the British Isles welcome you on your way to take your stand beside the Armies of many Nations now fighting in the Old World the great battle for human freedom. The Allies will gain new heart & spirit in your company. I wish that I could shake the hand of each one of you & bid you God speed on your mission.
George R.I.

Citation: "Dicenzo, Rocco." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.2F

Fort Snelling, 1848

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 24, 2018

Seth Eastman becomes commander of Fort Snelling for a third time on this date in 1846. Two years later he painted this water color, The Head of Navigation.

See it in Collections Online.

Wing Flower - Wood Anemone

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | April 23, 2018

Water Color painting named Wing Flower - Wood Anemone. It was made by Lloyd Quackenbush for the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project, 1937.

See it in Collections Online.

"Haig Rapidly Strengthening Line While Awaiting Attack by Germans; Americans Regain All Positions" and "Teuton Attempt to Separate Yankees and French Fails" - The Duluth Herald. April 22, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 22, 2018

"Wine is All the Drink They Serve Us"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 21, 2018

In this letter to his mother, Philip Longyear described his journey to the front lines. He tells her that he has received his ambulance that he will be driving, and that he has been paired up with a nice soldier from Kentucky. He states that he is now fully under the jurisdiction of the French Army, and that he sleeps and eats with them everyday. The most shocking news he has to share is that during means he is never served water, only wine. He admits that he doesn't like it very much, and questions this difference in culture.


April 21, 1918.
Dear Mother:
considerable has happened since I last wrote you. [...] I have had my ambulance issued to me and have been living and traveling in it the last two days on the way to the front. There are two men to an ambulance and the fellow I drew is a mighty fine, clean cut chap from Kentucky. We both have about the same experience with automobiles and take turns driving. We had our first trouble last night just before arriving here, when we had a puncture. Between us, we managed to put a patch on the tube, and a shoe in the casing, and it is still standing this morning [...] Paris is a wonderful city [...] Their subway system has New York's beaten every which way. I could tell you something mighty interesting about the long range bombardment and air raids, but that subject is taboo absolutely. Airplanes are thicker than a flock of crows over here, and I never look at them any more. There is a continual buzz in the air from all directions. We have left the jurisdiction of the American army and are entirely under the French. We are now in a French army camp, waiting final orders just where to go. Maybe here a few days yet. We eat mess with the French soldiers, getting exactly the same food. It is very good, but not quite so good as we got under the American system [...] I don't suppose you will like to hear that wine is all the drink they serve us. I must admit I don't like it at all, but they don't seem to know what water is, and we get coffee very rarely, so I have to take it. [...]
Love to all,

Citation: Edmund Joseph Longyearand Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A .L860 Box 2

Sixteenth Battalion Formally Established

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | April 20, 2018

On this day in 1918, the first all African American battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard was officially formed. Members of the Home Guard were charged with keeping those on the homefront safe; completing civilian and military duties. Prior to this day, information about enlisting had been promoted in local African American newspapers, such as The Appeal, which we featured on April 6, and many men enlisted early. Pictured here is the enlistment paper of Grant Bush of Rondo Avenue in Saint Paul, who enlisted on April 11th.

To learn more about the creation of the 16th Battalion, go to Peter DeCarlo's article on the Sixteenth Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard.

​Citation: Sixteenth Battalion. Minnesota. National Guard. Home Guard Records. Minnesota Historical Society. 109.K.11.3B

Town Closing

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

Gold Star Roll for Elwyn Johnson of Strandquist, a town in Marshall County, who died of Influenza-Pneumonia at Camp Dodge. His file includes copies of letters, a photo, telegrams, the medical tag attached to him in the hospital and a proclamation sent from the mayor of his town declaring the town closed from 2-4 pm on April 19, 1918 for Johnson's funeral.


Citation: "Johnson, Elwyn J." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.4F

Women in the Army

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

This letter from a citizen to Senator Knute Nelson included a newspaper clipping advocating for the conscription of Women into the Army. The clipping argues that women will not be able to fully contribute to the war effort until they are allowed to serve. The author of the letter supports this idea, stating that women should do whatever they can to aid the war. The author of the letter is also hoping to be appointed to a position that would have the power to make this a reality, and they are asking Senator Nelson to appoint them to said position.


Apr. 18 1918
Dear Sir-
Enclosed clipping from last night's Minneapolis Journal. I think Dr. Anna Shaw is Chairman of the Woman's Central Com, upon which I am hoping to serve. She expresses my views in that woman in order to do efficient work, but be especially trained to do all things, and that is why I am seeking this appointment. I have made a life long study of Textile and have actually done this work. I know most of the woman are sincere and earnest and trying to do their level best to save their country, and I do not want to cast reflections upon any one, but I know at the present time there is no member of the Central Cou. who has an understanding of the importance of the work that I would do. [...]
Yours Truly, H.C. Olberg

Dr. Anna Howard Shaw Predicts Enfranchisement and Industrial Army
[...ianapolis,] April 17. - "The government has a right to conscript women just as it had conscripted men--after it has made them citizens. There will then be two armies--a men's army and a women's army. Not until women are organized this way, under governmental authority, will women reach their maximum efficiency in war service, and this time will not come until the United States is in the thick of the fight." [...] Women must do not what they want to do but what they are especially fitted to do, and they must be trained in technical schools.

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