Collections Up Close

collections up close Blog

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.

See Collections Up Close Blog Archive

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

The America First Association is Established

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

These minutes are from a meeting held on October 7 at the St. Paul Hotel for what would become the American First Association. This first meeting was composed of a gathering of concerned citizens who felt that anti-war and pro-German sentiments were too common in their communities, especially in rural areas. They also felt actions of the Non Partisan League and its president, Arthur Towney, constituted disloyalty. University of Minnesota President Marion Burton was among the vocal attendees, and stated that the University stood for patriotism. Those in attendance determined that the best course of action would be to promote patriotism and to hold a loyalty meeting in St. Paul, though many would have liked to see more drastic action against Towney and the Non Partisan League. This group would hold the Northwest Loyalty Meeting in St. Paul on November 16th and 17th, where the America First Association was officially established. "

Meeting of Representative Americans, held at the Saint Paul Hotel, Sunday, October 7th, 1917.
Mr. George Gage of Olivia, Minn., was duly elected chairman of hte meeting. Mr. James J. Quigley of St. Cloud, Minn,. was duly elected secretary of the meeting. Mr. Gage then explained conditions as they now exist in Minnesota as a result of the organization and the work of the Non Partisan League, and in particular of the actions of Mr. Townley, its President. Mr. Gage suggested the need of calling a gigantic meeting in St. Paul for but one purpose -- developing Americanism and called special attention to the getting of an attendance from the rural districts. [...] The secretary then read an affidavit signed by four men in Renville county, including statements of disloyalty as made by an agent of M. Townley, and the Non Partisan League. Henry Nolte of Duluth spoke of the public spirit of St. Louis County as being very good, but nevertheless endorsed the idea of a great loyalty meeting in St. Paul. Mr Hunter spoke of the need of more than a great meeting, and suggested following meetings of Townley with a realy loyalty meeting in the same locality. President Burton said that the University would stand for everything patriotic at all times. That he himself was absolutely out of sympathy for anything or organization that was in any way disloyal. That he too thought there was a strang undercurrent of disloyalty. Mr. Wallace said the papers were getting many letters indicating disloyalty and said the recent St. Paul meeting had a tremendous bad effect. Mr. Frisbee said [...] we should make patriotism so popular that anything to the contrary could not live. [...] Mr. Kelly told of the great amount of disloyalty among the people in the vicinity of Menahga particularly the Fins. [...] Mr. Hadley said that while there was practically no disloyalty in the vicinity of Winnebago, he strongly urged the Public Safety Commission to make it illegal to print any newspaper in anything but the English language. Mr. Nolte endorsed this suggestion of Mr. Hadley. Mr Briggs suggested that meetings of the Non Partisan League be attended by our representatives and if anything disloyal is said that arrests be immediately made and a stenographic copy of the utterances made. Said he thought it unwise to martyrize the Non Partisan League. Mr. Lawson said the Constitution of the Non Partisan League was all that could be asked but said the trouble was that the officers deviated and got the League into trouble. He said that to try to put the League out of business would act as a tremendous tonic to its growth.[...] Mr. Wallace moved that a call be made for a loyalty meeting, to be held in St. Paul, in the near future and that the call be signed by the men attending this meeting. [...] Mr. Kelley moved that a committee of three be appointed to arrange for the printing of dodgers and advertising matter and to see that publicity was sent to the papers of the State. Seconded. Carried. [...] Upon motion meeting duly adjourned.

Citation: America First Association records; Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P109

Dakota Floral Cuff

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 9, 2017
Dakota cuff

This brain-tanned leather cuff is decorated with Dakota floral beadwork and metal. It was made by Holly Young, Standing Rock Dakota, during her time as a Minnesota Historical Society Native American Artist-in-Residence in 2015-16.

See it on view now in the "Renewing What They Gave Us" exhibit at the History Center!

Rainy Day in Tours, France - October 8, 1917

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

A slow day for David Backus at flight school in Tours, France means time for leisure--and boredom. Rainy and windy weather frequently kept Backus and his classmates out of the air. The consistently poor weather conditions would ultimately delay his graduation from flight school.


Backus diary page
Backus diary page

Well we marched down to Pilotage -- hung around for hour -- no flying too windy -- rained in aft [afternoon]. Had dinner at Canteen -- Played checkers read.

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F

"U.S. Assures Victory" and "Women Work in Steel Mill" - The Daily People's Press. October 7, 1917

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

"Italy's Success Alarms Enemy" and "Fierce Battle Against I.W.W." - Aitkin Independent Age. October 6, 1917.

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

Evening dress, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 6, 2017
Evening dress

This is an embroidered net evening dress of ecru lace and black tulle. It is a Paris model dress that retailed at the Helen shop, Dayton's Department Store, Minneapolis, circa 1917. Helen's was a women's specialty shop within Dayton's run by dressmaker Helen Gjertsen.

The Minneapolis Comfort Kit Committee

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

The Comfort Kit Committee, a department of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross, was officially organized one hundred years ago today. The committee's purpose was to make and distribute comfort kits to all soldiers leaving for war from Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The kits included items like shoe laces, a sewing kit, soap, toothbrush and paste, tobacco, and gum. Some of the items were supplied by donations from local businesses or organizations, and others were donated by private citizens. The kits were made and assembled by volunteers, and each kit cost about a dollar. They were intended to supply the necessities and comforts that the soldiers might need or miss while at war. Over the course of World War I, the Committee assembled over 20,000 kits to be sent overseas.



The Comfort Kit Committee of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross was definitely organized October 5th, with Mrs. Denman F. Johnson as Chairman. [...]

The purpose of the Committee is, to make, pack and distribute comfort kits to all drafted men and other soldiers who may need them, going from Minneapolis and Hennepin County. [...]

A kit is made in bag form of Khaki cloth, the approximate cost of each being one dollar. A kit contains:-
2 handkerchiefs
Tablet and pencil
10 envelops.
Tooth brush.
Tooth paste.
Wash cloth & soap.
Small comb
Drinking cup.
Shoe strings.
Steel mirror.
Sewing bag contains:-
White & Khaki thread.
White & Khaki buttons.
Safety & common pins.

All the testaments are donated by The Young Peoples' Testament society of Minneapolis, and all tobacco by the retail tobacco dealers of Minneapolis. Smaller numbers of other articles have been donated at different times. The Junior Board of Northwestern Hospital is assisting the Committee very materially by making and filling on an average of fifty of the sewing cases a week. [...]

Respectfully submitted,
Mrs. Denman Johnson

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

Sigurd Olson's Canoe Paddle

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

This canoe paddle belonged to Minnesota Nature writer Sigurd Olson. It is a long hardwood stern paddle and is made of single piece of wood; it dates between 1900 - 1978.

"British Troops Penetrate Teuton Lines for a Mile" and "Entire Structure of German Plotting in U.S. May Be Revealed" - The Duluth Herald. October 4, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 4, 2017

Hennepin Tunnel Collapse, 1869

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 4, 2017
Hennepin Tunnel Collapse

On this day in 1869, a tunnel being built under Hennepin Island to provide waterpower for additional mills gave way. The 2,000-foot collapse threatened to divert water from the main falls and cut the power source for mills along the river. Local citizens worked to plug the hole until the river freezes, and then a dam was built to allow for more permanent measures. The repair job would require ten years to complete. - From the Minnesota Book of Days

Photograph by William Henry Illingworth. See the photo in Collections Online.