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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 Tragic Flight

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

William McFarland was an airplane engine mechanic in the Army stationed at Barron Field in Everman, Texas. In this letter to his Minnesota penpal McFarland describes the dangers of being an airplane mechanic as he tells the story of a friend of his at Barron Field who died that week. McFarland's friend died about 15 minutes after his mother and sisters arrived to visit him when he took a plane up in the air and something went wrong, causing the plane to go into a spin and fall 2000 feet before crashing. The mechanic's mother and sisters, along with the other mechanics standing on the ground, watched his plane fall and saw him die.


Friday, June 21, 1918
Barron Field
Everman Texas.
Dear Mrs. Wells,
[...] We have had a streak of bad luck the past week several accidents and two deaths. One boy from Michigan fell one thousand feet. Another a good friend of mine by the name of Rose. He was a Lieutenant his mother and two sisters came Tuesday morning to visit him. About fifteen minutes after they arrived he took a machine up before he went he kissed them and when up about two thousand feet we saw something was wrong. Never said anything though to his mother because we thought perhaps he could make a landing but he went into a spin and all we could do was to stand and watch him fall that distance. I tell you that hurt me worse than any accidents I have seen yet his mother and sisters being right there and seeing him killed. It seemed like his mother was sent for so as to see him alive. he was one of the best officers and piolets [sic] we had. [...]
So best regards to you and family I remain as ever a boy in Air Service U.S.A

Citation: William McFarland Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P120

Letter of Recommendation, 1828

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 21, 2018

This 1828 letter of recommendation for Samuel Whitefoot was written by W. E. Cruger at the headquarters of the 5th Infantry at Fort Snelling. Cruger calls Whitefoot "industrious, sober and strictly honest" and "a tolerably good cook." Whitefoot had served under Cruger as a private in the 5th Infantry Regiment as well as Cruger's household servant. 

See it in Collections Online.

Selected to Serve

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 20, 2018

This short letter from the Red Cross informs that Miss Helen Scriver has been selected to serve overseas for the Red Cross. Simple, bureaucratic memos like this are the majority of documents collected from the Red Cross.

June 20, 1918.
Paris, France
This will serve to introduce Miss Helen Scriver, who has been appointed by the American Red Cross for European service and who is sailing as indicated in our cable advices.
Yours very sincerely,

Citation: Helen Scriver Papers Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P362

“Humorous” postcard from Motley, Minnesota, 1915.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 20, 2018

“Humorous” postcard from Motley, Minnesota, 1915. It seems a little more creepy and strangely specific than humorous.

See it in Collections Online.

A Typical Day in Army Band

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 19, 2018

Eber Berquist, a member of the Army band, describes the daily schedule of the Army band at Camp Dodge, Iowa. The schedule includes waking up at 5 am, both individual and group practices, medical corps litter drills (carrying stretchers), giving three or four concerts a day, and going to bed at 9 pm.

Camp Dodge, Iowa.
Dear Folks,
[...] Our drill hours are much longer now. This is the bands program for the day:
First we get about five o'clock and play a concert at five-thirty- then we have breakfast- next we lead the whole regiment out the drill field which is about 2 miles. Then we come back and have individual practice for one hour, and the rest of the forenoon we practice together till 11:30. Then we go out to the drill field and eat our dinner. After dinner we play an hour concert while the boys that are drilling are resting. After the concert we go up to the medical corps and have one hour litter-drill (carrying strectchers, [sic]) then we practice together until a quarter to five, and go out and play for the regiment while they pass in review before the Major and his staff. After that we play the star spangled banner and go to the barracks for mess. Then on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night we play a concert from 7:45 to 8:45 and it soon nine o clock and bed time. [...]
Am feeling O.K.
P.S. By the way I've never had to go on sick report since I came so guess I'll make it alright.

Citation: Eber John Berquist Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2786

Flight Menu Card, 1960 - 1970

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 19, 2018

Remember when airlines served food? Good food? This Pacific Northwest-themed postcard shows the flight menu on Northwest Orient Airlines, ca. 1960 - 1970.

See it in Collections Online.

The Spirit Through the American Army

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 18, 2018

This is the record of Anne Williams, who served with the American Red Cross directing surgical dressings, doing canteen and officers' club work and emergency nursing. After the war, she described one of her most memorable experience that occurred in June, 1918. She was kneeling on the floor trying to help a wounded soldier who had been operated on the night before. He lay on a blanket with his head on a pack, and asked for a pillow. He then said Williams should put the pillow under her knees, as she'd been kneeling next to him for so long. Williams was touched that despite the man's pain, he was most concerned with her comfort. "That was the spirit all the way through of the entire American Army."


[...] There were too many interesting experiences to really choose one. This slight incident that shows the spirit of the American Soldier, with his unselfishness and courage, happened not far from Meaux, during the first Chateau Thierry encounter in June 1918. One, of some one hundred and fifty wounded, who were lying on a hard cement floor of a railroad station, waiting for a hospital train, had an operation the night before. changing of dressing had been impossible, and he was in great pain. He had lain there for some eight hours, on a blanket with his head on his pack. I had spent some time trying to make him comfortable, and there were other things to be done. He asked for a pillow, and when it was brought, said to the orderly: - "Put it under her knees. I should think she'd be tired working over me so long." He never complained- said he had only done his bit.
That was the spirit all the way through of the entire American Army.

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

Map of Rocky Mountain Locust Eggs

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 18, 2018

Continuing on the topic of locust from last week, this is a map of Minnesota showing where eggs were deposited by the Rocky Mountain locust in 1873, 1874, 1875, and 1876. It was published for the State Geological & Natural History Survey in 1876.

See it in Collections Online.

Happy Father's Day!

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 17, 2018

This small lapel pin features a shield over a brass cross, with a screw fastener on the back. Inside the shield it reads, "AMERICAN / WAR / DADS" on red, white and blue enamel.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 70.12.19

"My Dear Son, Please Come Home"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 16, 2018

This is a sign asking for information on David Cochran, a 16 year old who left home on this day. A picture and physical description of him are given, as well as a public letter from his father to him, begging him to come home. It is unknown why the young man ran away, as he was too young to be drafted, though he may have been attempting to enlist.


the whereabouts of
Whose photograph is here shown
[...] MY DEAR SON:
If you should happen to come in contact with this advertisement, please read the following very carefully:
We want you to come home, where no one else can ever take your place. Hold your head up like a man, as there is nothing whatever against you, only that you left your dear father and mother, sisters, brothers and hosts of relatives and friends to mourn because they do not know where you are or what may befall you. Everything that belonged to you is still yours, and even more. It would make you rejoice to know what we have at home for you, so son come on home. If you have no money with which to come home on, write or wire your father at once and he will send it. [...]

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