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

Kaposia, 1848

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | October 15, 2018

St. Paul's first black resident, James Thompson, died on this date in 1884. Thompson had the distinction of being the only slave sold in Minnesota. He was brought to Fort Snelling as the servant of an army officer in 1827, where he proved himself gifted in languages, quickly learning Dakota. Bought and freed by Methodist missionary Alfred Brunson, Thompson then served as an interpreter at the Kaposia mission and eventually settled in St. Paul, where he donated the land and much of the material for the city's first Methodist church (now the site of the St. Paul Hotel). 

This painting of Kaposia is by Seth Eastman.

Learn more about James Thompson on MNopedia.

"Wilson Declares That Autocracy Must Bow" and "Find Difficulty in Getting Away" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 15, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 15, 2018

"Flames Death Toll 1,000 in Northern Minnesota; Moose Lake, Cloquet and 8 Other Towns Destroyed" and "Twin Cities Rush Aid to Fire District" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. October 14, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 14, 2018

No Socialization Due to Influenza

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 13, 2018

In this diary entry by Mary Hill describe the news of her hope to a close end to the war. She writes about reading in the paper that Germany is ready to accept President Wilson’s terms and conditions for peace. Hill also mentions that they are all still dealing with the Spanish Influenza epidemic. She went out to see her friends but they were not there and she assumed that that was because they had stayed at home to hide from the “Influenza infection”.


October Sunday 13th 1918
A bright beautiful morning but such cold wind
Went to Man at White Bear, neither Rachel nor Charlotte were there at 9:30. Perhaps they stayed at home on account of influenza infection. I am alone today but Todays paper reports Germany ready to accept Pres, Wilsons peace terms unconditional surrender, no one seems to take it seriously.


Farmers Market, 1905

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 12, 2018

This photo show men seated by baskets of squash and potatoes at the Minneapolis Farmers Market in 1905.

Pocket Watch from Cloquet Fire

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 11, 2018

Men's gold pocket watch owned and used by Charles Brandon of Cloquet, Minnesota. This pocket watch survived the fire in Cloquet (Carlton County) which started on October 12, 1918. It is round with a diameter of 2 1/4" and is an elaborate design of flowers, crosses and classic scrolls. It also has a top winding stem. This type of watch is called the "New Era" and was made in the USA. It has an enamel face has with roman numerals and a sweep second hand. The watch shows signs of being damaged by the fire, but it nevertheless is still in readable condition.


"Each Day Brings Victory A Bit Closer"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 11, 2018

Raymon Bowers, an Army soldier from Minnesota stationed in France in the Ordnance Repair Department, writes about his opinion of the war ending soon and the French morale compared to German morale. He has noticed that the French spirit is bright because each day they become closer to a victory while the Germans spirit is breaking and will soon have to acknowledge defeat. Raymon is writing to a Miss Palmes who he marries after the war is over.


[…] When this war is over America will have a complete knowledge of all the guns, trucks, & everything used in warfare. She will be able to build anything that is needed in modern warfare and have the opportunity of using the best models built. In other words she can get the best that has been developed in four and half years of the most strenuous fighting. […] Never since the beginning of the war have things looked brighter for the French. Each day brings victory a bit closer and I think it is only a matter of time till the Huns will acknowledge defeat + pay the price or be forced to do the same. To me it’s only a question of time. […] I'll be surprised if the Hun last long after winter sets in. There is no end to signs the Boche is breaking. It may come slowly or quickly but it's coming just as surely as winter follows fall. [...]

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

Fort Snelling Map, 1835

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 11, 2018

Lawrence Taliaferro created this incredibly detailed manuscript map of the Fort Snelling area in 1835. He was the St. Peters Indian Agent between 1820 and 1839 at Fort Snelling; in this role he attempted to negotiate between Dakota, Ojibwe, fur traders, settlers, and the government. He also owned the largest number of enslaved people in the area. 

See it in Collections Up Close.

Learn more about Lawrence Taliaferro.

"American Artillery in Action Before Metz" and "The President's Terms of Peace" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. October 10, 1918.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 10, 2018

Men's pocket watch, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 10, 2018

This pocket watch survived the fire that started one hundred years ago today on the railroad line between Duluth and Hibbing. The fire raged for the next three days, reaching Duluth on the thirteenth. Thirty-eight communities including the cities of Cloquet, Carlton, and Moose Lake burned and 435 people died.