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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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University of Minnesota Professor Fired After Accusations of Pro-German Sentiment

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

On September 13, William Schaper, a Political Science Professor at the University of Minnesota, was fired by the Board of Regents for expressing "pro-German sentiment" and disloyalty. Schaper, who had worked at the U of M for 16 years, maintained that while he did oppose the war, he had always complied with the law and encouraged his students to do likewise. Speaking out against the war in any way was dangerous, and many people who were considered "sympathizers" risked losing their jobs and the possibility of violence from their neighbors. While Schaper was exonerated in 1938, his firing is an example of widespread Anti-German hysteria that gripped the nation.


The University of Minnesota
Board of Regents
September 13, 1917
The following resolution was unanimously adopted:
Whereas, the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety by letter addressed to the President of this Board, advised that it was claimed by informants of that Commission that W.A. Schaper is a rabid Pro-German, and, on this day, at the request of the Board, Professor Schaper appeared before it and was interrogated concerning his loyalty to this Government, and,
Whereas, the statements made by him before his Board satisfy that his attitude of mind, whether due to conscientious consideration or otherwise and his expressed unwillingness to aid the United States in the present war render him unfit and unable rightly to discharge the duties of his position as Professor in the Department of Political Science of this University, and
Whereas, this Board holds that the best interests of the University, the State, and the Nation require unqualified loyalty on the part of all teachers in the University, coupled with willingness and ability by precept and example to further the national purpose in the present crisis.
Therefore, be it resolved that the relations existing between W.A. Schaper and this University be, and the same are, hereby terminated...

Citation: William A. Schaper papers


“Lake Street”

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 13, 2017
Etching on paper

This is an etching on paper print titled “Lake Street”, made by Minnesota artist Larry Welo in 1982.

For more information about this item, view this print in our collections database.

Machinists' Union Fears Vigilante Action

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

The St. Paul chapter of the International Association of Machinists union wrote to Senator Knute Nelson expressing concern for the fate of their members should they be accused of anti-American activities. They forwarded Nelson a resolution passed by the Enid Lodge of Oklahoma, which they have endorsed, that demands fair trials and, if uprisings do occur, just punishments for members of labor organizations. The resolution cites occurrences in other states (Arizona, Montana, and Oklahoma) that they are afraid will be repeated. Members of the I.A. of M asked Nelson to take action in the Senate to ensure that worker's rights would be protected.

Their concerns were not unfounded, as sedition laws and vigilante justice against those thought to be unpatriotic were not uncommon. The Brisbee Deportation in Arizona saw over 1,000 mine workers who were considered un american forced into boxcars by vigilantes and sent across the Arizona border to New Mexico. In Montana, sedition laws were enforced by local committees, while in Oklahoma, tenant farmers revolted in the Green Corn Rebellion because they opposed the war. In many cases, antiwar behavior was associated with union organizing. (Sources:,,


Sept 12, 1917.
Hon. Knute Nelson M.C.
Washington, D.C.
Dear Sir:-
The following resolutions were endorsed by the members of this lodge of machinists, and a copy directly sent to you:
[...] Whereas, During these most trying times there are being used by the enemies of organized labor various methods to frustrate every effort made by the workers to keep abreast of the progress of the nation, and
Whereas, The right of public assemblage, free press and free speech is being jeopardized, and
Whereas, These are the cardinal virtues of the Constitution of the United States, and
Whereas, We as organized men do not uphold violence in any manner but demand that law violators be given a fair trial before an unprejudiced jury, and
Whereas While this at present is affecting a small per cent of the workers, only, unless it is brought to the attention of the workers, it may soon become nationwide.
Therefore be it resolved, That when uprisings occur, the Federal Authorities investigate and find the guilty parties and prosecute them according to law, and avoid a repetition of the Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma and other similar troubles, [...].
I.L. Chambers
W.H. Vanvalkenburg
C.F. Kautz, Secretary.
Yours truly,
G.J. Sherwood
R.S. Lodge #112
607 Topping St.
St. Paul, Minn.

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 26

Tonka Dune Buggy

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 12, 2017
Toy truck

This is a Tonka Toys Jeep CJ Dune Buggy, model number 2400 made by Tonka Toys, Mound, Minnesota, 1983.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this toy in our collections database.

Red Cross Letter on Yarn Shortages

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

In September 1917, the American Red Cross experienced a small conflict concerning the nationwide scarcity of yarn, a conflict that took place between its Washington Headquarters and its regional Northern Division. Earlier in the year, the Red Cross Headquarters at Washington had requested enormous supplies of knitted goods from its regional divisions. However, Washington was unable to provide yarn, knitting needles, or instructions on how to knit, and the particular difficulty of acquiring yarn made it impossible to meet requirements. Mr. R. C. Noyes, Chairman of St. Paul’s Section for Military Relief, wrote to his local Red Cross about this problem, and the Division Manager issued a prompt reply. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Noyes’ position, noting that Washington was “a bit off” in its expectations, given that the entire nation’s supply of yarn could not provide one-third of the requested knitted goods. He went on to report that the Northern Division was in the process of pressuring the Washington Headquarters to purchase more yarn, and the Division was also working to buy whatever supplies became available. Though he doubted that this strategy would bring a full solution, the Division Manager nonetheless encouraged Mr. Noyes to follow up on the matter. As he put it, “Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington.”


Red Cross Yarn Storage
Red Cross Yarn Storage

September 11, 1917.
Dear Mr. Noyes:
I have your letter of the 8th and take pleasure in acknowledging receipt of it at once. First as to the yarn, Washington was evidently a bit off to ask the Red Cross workers of this country to produce a large quantity of knitted articles, when they were unable to deliver either raw materials, instructions for knitting, or needles. They find now that it is almost impossible to obtain yarn with which to produce articles and I am told there is not sufficient yarn in the United States to supply one-third of the required amount. That is the situation. We are putting every possible pressure to bear on Washington to get the yarn as well as buying every pound that is obtainable. I can only express regret at my inability to help in this unfortunate situation. The best you can do I think is to string things along until we can get it. Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington. Second in regard to the Surgical Dressings Committee of America. Through the instrumentality of the Headquarters at Washington an amalgamation has been made with this committee whereby they became a department of the American Red Cross but with authority to solicit independently. I think it remains with the individual to contribute or not. My own personal thoughts is that I would prefer to see one fund for all purposes. I cannot consistently advise in the matter as it is purely a personal question with each individual. Of course the Red Cross is also producing surgical dressings.
Very truly yours,
A.R. Rogers

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




Minneapolis Bars Then and Now

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 11, 2017
Photo of bar interior

Gratuitously stealing the title from one of our favorite Minnesota history books, Twin Cities Then and Now by Larry Millet, Item of the Day presents an occasional series, Minneapolis Bars Then and (sometimes) Now.

This photograph shows the inside of Caesar’s Bar at 320 Cedar Ave in 1966. This location is still a bar, The Red Sea Bar and Restaurant.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.

David Backus's Photos and Notes from Flight School

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 10, 2017

After serving for eighty-nine days as an ambulance driver on the Western Front, St. Paul native David H. Backus enrolled in flight school at Tours, France. While there, he learned from both theory and practice: from classroom-style lectures on the basics of flight mechanics and from test drives of combat planes. Backus is pictured here after his first solo flight in an 80 horsepower Gnome model, built by a French plane manufacturer. His notebooks from flight school discuss the aerodynamic forces of lift, thrust, weight, and drag, and they weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of wing styles. For example, the reverse Curre style, diagrammed below, stabilizes the wing but slightly reduces its ability to generate lift. After twenty-five hours of in-flight training and fifty successful solo landings, Backus received his pilot’s license on November 3, 1917. Of his class of seventeen pilots, six would be assigned to the French Air Squadron C. 21, and they would be the first American aviators to see combat in World War I.


Backus Flight School Notes
Backus Flight School Notes
Backus Flight School Notes

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

"Order Restored in Russian Army through Retiring" and "U-Boats Aided by Neutral, Notes Held by U.S. Show" - The Daily People's Press. September 9, 1917

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

"United States War Aims Made Public" and "Anti-American Conspiracy Seen in Government Raid Wednesday" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. September 8, 1917

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

Albert Woolson Funeral

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 8, 2017
Funeral photo

This photograph is from the August 7, 1956 funeral of Albert H. Woolson. Woolson was the last surviving Union Army Civil War veteran, having been born in 1850 and joined the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment as a drummer boy. He died in Duluth, Minnesota on August 2, 1956 at the age of 106.

This image forms part of our Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative collection. Additional photographs in this series may be available in the library, please view the finding aid.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.