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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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"Woman's Suffrage Knows No Color Line" and "Italians Imbued with New Courage" - The Twin City Star. November 24, 1917

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

New Store Opening? Sale? Day after Thanksgiving?

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 24, 2017
crowd outside of store

A large crowd is gathered outside of the Midway Shopping Center in St. Paul, 1962.

See it in Collections Online.

Intro to Trenches: Military Training in France

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

George Leach and his regiment are continuing their training at the millitary training camp at Coëtquidan. The men have classes and drills in preparation for joining the trench warfare on the front lines. He also observes that the German prisoners of war who are doing labor for the French military "look content, but very dirty and hungry."


Friday, November 23rd
Had my first introduction to a real trench today. Classes and drill as usual, and in the evening we had a lecture. The Sanitary Inspector rated my Regiment as the cleanest in camp today and there are six regiments here. I can look out of my window and see hundreds of German prisoners working on the road. They look content, but very dirty and hungry.

Citation: George Leach Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D570.32 151st .L3 1962

Happy Thanksgiving!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 23, 2017

This is the menu from the ship U.S.S. Minnesota for Thanksgiving Dinner, 1918. The flags on the left represent the Allied Countries, as World War I had just ended earlier in the month.

All best to you and yours on this Thanksgiving!

Satire Helps The Red Cross Dispell Rumors - November 22, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 22, 2017

This Red Cross flier, which reproduces an editorial column from the Minneapolis Tribune originally published on November 22, 1917, was distributed in response to the prolific rumors circulating about Red Cross operations. These rumors included accusations that donated knitted items were sold rather than given to men in the service, or that these knitted items were sold to domestic laborers, which can be seen in H. W. Stine's letter to Governor Burnquist seeking clarification on the rumors. The Red Cross insisted that these rumors were patently false and unfounded, and endeavored to squash them.

Their efforts on this front included circulating this satirical editorial column, which asserts that anyone who would believes such "wild yarns" (outlandish rumors) is "a boob for fair," or someone who is certainly very gullible. Both the column and the Red Cross preface blame the spread of these rumors on German propagandists ("Huns" and "Teuts" or "Teuton[s]" are Germans).

Original printing of column is on Page 8 of newspaper, available here


The following editorial, taken from the Minneapolis Tribune of Nov. 22, [page 8] was so much to the point that the Red Cross is making a "special effort to give it the widest publicity. Scores of times the rumor mentioned, that of the alleged sale of a Red Crose sweater, has been traced by the division office and never has a particle of foundation been found. Sometimes the rumor seems to trace back to the efforts of German propagandists. At other times its source is lost in a wilderness of gossip, Usually emanating from women who are seeking a plausible excuse for their failure to do something for our boys In France.

Making Boobs of Us.

The slang editor is in trouble, and he is given space here to tell about it in his own words:
'I got a hunch,' he said, 'that the Teuton pussyfoots are rushing American suckers for membership in the Great Order of Boobs and that they are getting away with it. It's a wonder to me that so many chaps that think they're wise guys fall for the rough stuff the Huns are handing them. Pipe that one about the Red Cross sweaters being sold to guys on the Bowery or in some tank town out West. The gink that'll fall for that would buy the Third avenue bridge if some Gateway Willie sold it to him. He's a boob for fair. [...] The Tents sure are putting it over on a lot of soft ones. [...] The slang editor knows what he is talking about if others do not. He is right, be it said with regret, that there are "boobs" in this country in every community who permit themselves to be hoodwinked by every wild yarn that comes along. These yarns, given currency undoubtedly by pro-German agents, are designed to discredit some departments or organizations have to do with war preparations or to undermine the loyalty of American citizenship, military or civil. Let us not be a boob people, or a boob nation. We will thereby take away from Germany the only real chance she has to defeat us.

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


Almost time!

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 22, 2017
3 kids eating turkey

This photo is of three youngsters eating turkey legs, November 1944.

See it in Collections Online.

"Son in Service" flag

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 21, 2017

This "Son in Service" flag was used by the family of Lieutenant William Smiley of Saint Paul, Minnesota, who served during World War I, circa 1917. It features a single blue star on a white background, with a wide red outer border.

"Son in Service" flags, also known as service flags, were designed during World War I for families to hang, as a flag or as a banner, in recognition of a family member who was serving in the military, usually a child. Additional stars could be added to indicate multiple children serving, and it became customary for the blue star to be covered by a gold star if the peron died in military service. Flags of this style are still used today.


Service flag

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection. 71.61.3.BB

Ojibwe Beaded Necklace

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 21, 2017
beaded necklace

This Ojibwe beaded necklace is made of multiple strands of glass seed beads with a medallion at center, which is an image of what appears to be two scorpions facing one another. It was made by members of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Minnesota, probably for the tourist trade, circa 1930.

See it in Collections Online.

George Leach Begins Training

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 20, 2017

George Leach and his regiment have finally arrived in France, and have been transferred to the millitary training camp at Coëtquidan. In his diary, Leech writes that they have begun classes at the training camp. He also describes the German prisoners of war who are also in the camp, who pick through their garbage for food scraps. As a result, he writes, the military men must seal their trash in cans.


Leach book

Monday, November 19th
Started the schools and instructions in the new material this A. M. We work right through with one hour noon from seven-thirty to eight P. M. There are 6,000 German prisoners and they pull our garbage to pieces hunting for scraps of food to eat. We have to put it in G. I. cans with covers. These prisoners carry a sack around their waist and pick up bones, meat, etc, as they pass by the garbage cans.


Training Despite the Rain

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 20, 2017

Rainy days had become incredibly commonplace for David Backus and other aviation trainees in France by this time. However, having finally surmounted weather-related delays to graduate from flight school, Backus is now able to continue military training despite poor weather. Backus' short diary entries during this period indicate a return to a busy but uneventful training schedule, as Backus and his classmates prepared to fly on the front lines.


Backus diary page

Tuesday Nov. 20-17
Had machine gun practice gains etc. Rained as usual. Read most of the day.


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