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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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Phyllis Wheatley House

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 17, 2017
Photo of children at Wheatley House, 1924

This photo is of Gertrude Brown playing with children at Phyllis Wheatley House in 1924. The Phyllis Wheatley Settlement House (now the Phyllis Wheatley Community Center), opened in north Minneapolis on this date in 1924. The oldest African American agency in the Twin Cities, the center first served as a place where young African Americans meet for recreation and skill development; today the center calls itself "the cornerstone of the community" and offers integrated programs to address the needs of local families.

University of Minnesota service medal

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 16, 2017

In 1917, the University of Minnesota awarded Dr. R. E. Morris of St. Paul a medal for his service in the First World War. The circular, gold-colored medal, which is pictured below, features an image of a woman holding a torch. Along the border, it reads, “FOR / DEMOCRACY / TO / MAKE / THE / WORLD / SAFE”. Inscribed in the center is, “AWARDED TO / R.E. MORRIS / IN RECOGNITION OF / HIS PATRIOTIC / SERVICE.” The back side of the medal features a date as well as the name of the awarding organization: “THE / UNIVERSITY / OF / MINNESOTA / 1917.”




Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 6591

"Another Advance by British Indicated by Artillery Action" and "Violation of Voluntary Censorship by Papers Strongly Condemned" - The Duluth Herald. October 15, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 15, 2017

Cabin Fever Sets In As Rain Continues in Tours, France

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 14, 2017

With continued poor weather in Tours, France, David Backus and his flight school classmates begin to feel the effects of being kept grounded by the conditions. Though this entry suffers from particularly illegible handwriting, Backus mentions spending most of his day downtown (in the rain) after a lecture on map reading. He meets up with some friends, and later witnesses some fights break out at the canteen back at the base. Backus attributes this behavior to the weather messing with everyone's heads.

Note: Backus has his days of the week mixed up-- he had two Thursdays earlier in the week. He eventually gets back on track near the end of the month, but the hectic and weather-dependant schedule of military flight school seems to have him confused as to the day of the week. He writes that is is Saturday, but it is actually Sunday.


Saturday Oct. 14-17
Still raining lecture on compass + map reading voyages etc. Cleaned up at 11. Went downtown on truck back 2 - Well it started to rain - cleared up three but heavy wind. John Hurlbent (?) took me down to dinner. We walked down - Got our hair cut. [...] for dinner met Stuffy + Foster there [...] truck back 10:30. Lot of fellows stayed downtown. Big crew light up at the Canteen last night, few fights etc. This weather is playing [..] with everybody. Hours of flying changed I now fly from 2 P.M. until dark 5:30. used to fly from 4- +5. Rolled in.


Efforts of the Soldiers Aid Committee are for Naught

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 13, 2017

This letter from George R. Case, the chairman of the Soldiers' Aid Committee, to the Chairman of the American Red Cross in Minneapolis conveys Case's regrets that his committee cannot perform the task it was organized to do: to meet troop trains with refreshments. Case describes how he organized volunteers, conducted research, and arranged for food and equipment. The Committee faced an impasse, however, in trying to obtain train schedules, since the movement of troop trains was generally kept secret. Case also found that soldiers were not permitted to bring food onto the trains. In his letter, Case expresses his regrets to the chairman and assures his that if their task becomes possible, the volunteers will be ready to complete it. Railway canteens eventually became allowed in December 1918.


October 13th 1917.

Mr. Karl DeLaittre,
Chairman American Red Cross Minneapolis.

Dear Mr. DeLaittre;-
I am sorry that as chairman of the Soldiers' Aid Committee I cannot report substantial service rendered. When you asked me to organize a committee to meet troop trains with refreshments the idea appealed so strongly that I asked my company, K company, of the Civilian Auxilliary, [sic] for volunteers for the service. [...] After quite a thorough investigation which included interviews with many of the men and officers of the First Minnesota, the nature of the refreshments most appreciated by men on troop trains was determined and arrangements made with the Minneapolis Club to provide such food of the best quality at cost on short notice. The necessary equipment was also arranged for. There only remained the matter of locating the troop trains in time to provide service. I wrote to the representatives of the railraods entering the Twin Cities requesting their cooperation in the way of advising us of movements of such trains and was informed that the most positive instructions had been issued that no such news should be divulged. On taking the matter up with army authorities I found this to be the case. For evident military reasons troop trains are moved with as little publicity as possible and care is taken to avoid stop in large cities unless necessary. [...] With the case the drafted men leaving for cantonments we found that the insructions to the draft boards prohibited the men from taking food aboard trains which rendered service there impossible. [...]

It is possible that conditions may yet allow the committee to perform in some way its function and if so the list is still on file and there will be a ready response.

Very truly yours,
George R. Case


Minnesota's Constitution

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 13, 2017

During the constitutional convention to found our state, the Democrats and Republicans refused to meet together. After bitter debate, the whole (yet separate) constitutional conventions agreed to the same proposed language; however, they still refused to sign the same official document. In order to make it happen, two version of the final, formal document were created, as seen above.

On this date in 1857, 160 years ago, the MN state constitution was ratified by popular vote. 

Learn more in this MNopedia article.

"Death Blow for Food Hoarding" and "Mud Hinders British" - The Daily People's Press. October 12, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 12, 2017

"Titanium [Lake Superior]"

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 12, 2017
Titanium  painting

"Titanium [Lake Superior]", an abstract landscape of oil on canvas, was created by Mary Jo Van Dell in 2008.

"German Discontent with Leaders Seems to be Brewing" and "Red Cross Helps Restore Belgium" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 11, 1917

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

Central High School Homecoming Button

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 11, 2017
Central homecoming button

It's homecoming season for schools everywhere!

This button was created for St. Paul Central's Homecoming in 1979 and shows an image of the Hulk in a football helmet.