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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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Preparing For the Worst at Sea

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 27, 2017

In his diary George Leach describes his regiment's transatlantic journey to the war front in France. In this entry, the S. S. Transport President Lincoln has reached the most dangerous area of their journey, where torpedo and submarine attacks are most likely. In the days preceding this entry, Leach reported multiple incidents of ships in nearby regions of the ocean that met watery fates. The men aboard the Lincoln had to be vigilant of security and safety procedures. They also practiced abandon ship drills in preparation for a worst case scenario at sea.


Saturday, October 27th
Cold and cloudy. Passed a sailing vessel at daylight, and the destroyers searched her. Worked all day making fixed arrangements for abandoning the ship in case of disaster. We are only four days off our final destination tonight, and from now on all officers remain at their posts. The air is Iike winter and the water very cold, so a plunge does not look as attractive as it did, back in the gulf stream. From now on, we will be in the acute submarine and mine danger zone.

Citation: George Leach Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D570.32 151st .L3 1963


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 27, 2017

A hand-colored lithograph from John James Audubon's Imperial Folio Edition of "The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America" (1843-1848), Folio 2, Plate VIII. The illustrations for this series were made by J.J. Audubon and his son John Woodhouse Audubon. Most of the backgrounds were done by another of J.J. Audubon's sons, Victor Gifford Audubon. The printing and hand coloring was done by J.T. Bowen of Philadelphia.

In the book they are referred to as "chipping squirrels" because of noise they make.

The Red Cross and War Orphans

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 26, 2017

These instructions were sent by the American Red Cross to all divisional directors of Civilian Relief. The letter refers to suggestions that the Red Cross should establish institutions for children that are taken from soldiers' families. The Director-General conveys the direction of Dr. Hastings H. Hart of the Department of Child-Helping of the Russell Sage Foundation that this should not happen whenever possible, and that children should be kept with their families except where both parents were dead, the mother was "insane or feeble-minded" or incapable of caring for her children or very cruel to them. He also indicates that these cases should be referred to and handled by the established state agencies who normally handle orphan cases.


Red Cross Information
Red Cross Info
Red Cross Info

Inter-Office Letter
Date: October 26, 1917.
To: All Division Director. of Civilian Relief
From: Director-General of Civilian Relief
Subject: Child Welfare

From individual members of Chapters the suggestion has come that institutions for the care of children to be taken from soldiers' families, should be established by the Red Cross. [...] Dr. [Hastings H.] Hart [of the Department of Child-Helping of the Russell Sage Foundation] says:

"I believe that the children of soldiers should in almost all cases be regarded as members of a family and not as separate individuals. If there is a mother who is fit to bring up her own children she should have the opportunity to do so. It is a great cruelty to express our sympathy for a soldier's widow and then double her bereavement by taking away her children also.

"I believe also that where there are competent and fit relatives they should be encouraged and stimulated to care for the children of their kinsman. [...]

"It appears to me that it might be wise for your office to select one or two responsible agencies in each state and then recommend to the local chapters that whatever placing-out work needs to be done in their several states shall be done through those selected agencies."


Furness sisters rake leaves

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 26, 2017
Raking photo

Sisters Anita and Laura Furness, granddaughters of Governor Ramsey, are seen here raking leaves in this photo from 1949. They lived together in the Ramsey House; after their deaths they left the house and all its contents to the Minnesota Historical Society, which was founded in part by their grandfather in 1849.

"Surgeons at Clinics" and "Enemy Retires on Slav Front" - The Daily People's Press. October 25, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 25, 2017

Remembering Senator Paul Wellstone

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 25, 2017
Wellstone sign

Fifteen years ago today, Senator Paul Wellstone and seven others are killed in plane crash near Eveleth, MN. After his death, his surviving sons and former campaign manager would go on to create The Wellstone Action progressive advocacy organization in their family's honor.

"German Army Staggered by Petain's Master Drive" and "Not a Community in United States Fails to Buy Liberty Bonds" - The Duluth Herald. October 24, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 24, 2017

Vixen guitar pick

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 24, 2017
Vixen guitar pick

This triangular pink plastic guitar pick was distributed by the 1980s and 90s all-female rock band Vixen. The pick is printed with the band name and stylized fox logo on one side and with the signature of Jan Kuehnemund, the band's founder and lead guitarist. Kuehnemund was a native of Saint Paul, Minnesota.

"Detectives Unearth Plot to Kill President Wilson" and "French Achieve a Great Success" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 23, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 23, 2017

Sinclair Lewis's Main Street

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 23, 2017
Main Street cover

On this date in 1920 Sinclair Lewis's novel Main Street was published. Ten years later the Sauk Centre native would be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.