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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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"A Few Points ... of Immediate and Urgent Importance"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 26, 2018

In a letter to Senator Knute Nelson, Abbot Edes Smith "briefly" provided five pages of suggested policy changes he felt would improve the Country. Firstly, he states that the Federal Government should take control of the railroads during the way to speed transportation and decrease the cost, with the railroads being promptly returned to the private companies that owned them after the war. He then goes on to discuss the growing socialist population in the United States and his belief that they should be sought out and eradicated. He fears they will bring the ideas of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to the United States. Smith also states his belief that the Secretary of War is incompetent in his position and should either be replaced or edged out of power. Furthermore, Smith brings up the idea of having a universal military that every able-bodied man would join once they reached the age of twenty-one, which would decrease lawlessness in America. He concluded by saying that Presidential cabinet positions should be filled by the best businessmen, of any party, as opposed to "weak democrats whose only qualification appears to be a blind submission to the will of the administration."


26 January 1918
[...]My Dear Sir:
Will you kindly permit me, as briefly as possible, most earnestly to offer for your consideration a few points which seem to me of immediate and urgent importance to our Country? All good citizens of Minnesota and thoughtful men throughout the Country would look upon your retirement from the senate as an irreparable loss to the Nation, and this necessarily to the world. Mot only during the war, but during the reconstruction period after the war, men of your character and ability cannot be spared. Pardon this unavoidable personality, but no other man from Minnesota could even begin to repair such a loss. Your Country calls you just as truly as it calls its soldiers, and I am confident that you will not refuse to listen to the call. [...]

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers, 1861-1924, Minnesota Historical Society. 144.I.13.2F Box 27

Ice Harvesting, 1947

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 26, 2018

While we don't know if this ice was intended for the ice industry or an ice palace, it certainly looks like hard work.

See more images of ice harvesting in Collections Online.

Enthusiasm at Camp Jackson

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

Raymon Bowers was a soldier from Minnesota who served in France as part of the Army ordnance repair. In a letter to the staff of the Minnesota Historical Society [presumably where he worked before entering the Army], Bowers describes the enthusiasm of all of the soldiers and gives an account of his daily schedule at Camp Jackson in South Carolina.

Camp Jackson S.C.
Jan. 12, 1918
Dear Mr. Talman,
It seems years since I left St. Paul: after figuring, it's a month today since I enlisted. Some months pass like a week & some extend over a period of years. Such was the last. I arrived here this morning after 61 hours of riding on a train. we were given chairs cars & while we had plenty to eat the mere fact we must stay on the train so long, tired every one. It's rather difficult sleeping sitting up & as we spent three nights that way, we landed here in good shape to lie down & snooze. [...]
It is difficult to realize what real conditions exist here compared to St. Louis. A real iron bed with springs, a tick filled with straw, 3 blankets, and a comforter. Ye Gods! I expect to sleep better tonight than ever before in ages. The officers treat you like humans and you feel as tho you're someone. When I look around and see the boys it really seems like home. Every one smiling and happy, everyone in good beds and lots of fresh air. From sleeping on the floor packed just as close as mortals could get, never a window open, the air absolutely vile, cold, and damp and shivering. May be you don't think this doesn't look good! [...] Tell the rest of the Hist. staff that a letter would be a great treat & as time passes I hope to be able to write them all. [...]
As ever,

Citation: Raymon Bowers Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P111

The Rollicking Realm of Boreas

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

Today is the first day of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival! This small 16 page book tells of "a legend, as told to Minnesota children as the North Wind roars across Boreas' realm." Because what's a good civic festival without a complicated mythology behind it? It was written by F.L. Madden in 1941.

Flight Instrument and Log

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

This is an instrument used for calculating an aircraft's course and distance, developed by the Compass Department of the British Admiralty and used by Donald Harries during World War I. It consists of three concentric German silver discs and two arms that pivot on a central bolt. The outer disc is marked "TIME OR / DISTANCE" and is graduated from 10 to 270. The second disc has the same scale around its edge as well as a 360 degree compass scale with the North arrow at "60" on the time/distance scale. The smallest disc is covered with a grid of squares with the four cardinal points scaled from the center of the disc to the edges. The arms each have a sliding indicator and extend to the edge of the smallest disc. Donald Harries went to flight school training in Italy at an air school named Battaglione Scuole Aviatiori. After this he found himself in bombing raid training in England with the Royal Air Force. One of the images below is of a movement order for Harries from the Royal Air Force. Harries participated in bombing raids with the Royal Air Force and France in bombing raids targeted in Germany. Harries kept a flight log while he was abroad that is dated from September 1917 to September 1918. In a log dated January 19th (1918) at 7:30 P.M. Harries writes that he had his first flight at night. The log book is in Italian but Harries wrote his log responses in English.


Citation: Donald Harries Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota. P108, PUID 6159.5

Now Some Music poster

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

This poster is from a campaign during World War I to collect "idle" records to send overseas or to be used in camps here. The drive was called "Slacker Record Week" and was intended to improve morale among the soldiers and sailors.

See more World War I posters in Collections Online.

"War Preparation is Ahead of Plans" and "Ottoman Troops Quit Foe Leader" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. January 23, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 23, 2018

Herman the Duck

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

This is a faux-feathered adult-size Herman the Duck costume. Herman was the mascot of Republic Airlines until the company's merger with Northwest Orient Airlines on this date in 1986. The purchase price for Republic was $884 million, making the new Twin Cities-based carrier the third-largest airline in the United States.

See more relating to Republic Airline in Collections Online.

High Bridge Excitement!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | January 22, 2018

On this day in 1962 an out-of-control car careens over the side of St. Paul's High Bridge, lands upside-down on a row of telephone wires, rebounds into the air, and lands on its four wheels. Amazingly, no injuries are reported in the seventy-five-foot fall. Sadly, there are no known photos of this event; this photo shows barges below the High Bridge in 1964.

See more High Bridge images in Collections Online.

"German Editor Arrested" and "Ostend is Bombarded" - The Daily People's Press. January 22, 1918

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