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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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Bundt Cake Pan, after 1950

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

This iconic cake pan was created by H. David Dalquist, founder of the Nordic Ware Company, based on a ring-mold pan brought to Minnesota by Jewish immigrants. As of 2016, more than 70 million Bundt pans have been sold worldwide.

Learn more:

"I Haven't Changed a Bit and I Love You Just Heaps"

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

Lee Beckman was a soldier from Minnesota who served in the Army in France from September 1918 to June 1919. In a letter to his wife, Beckman relays his opinions of the Americans' reputation with the Germans. He writes that the Germans are very afraid of the Yankees and that if a German ever even sees a Yankee they will run or throw up their hands in surrender. Beckman describes Yankees as Devils because when they get to the front lines they never want to stop. In addition to war news, Beckman muses about what to sent his wife for Christmas, and talks at length about missing her.


Camp de La Valboune,
LaValboune (Aiw)
Oct. 23, 1918
My Darling Eunice,
[...] The Yankees sure have some reputation over here. If a German gets in sight of a Yank the Boche either runs or throws up his hands. I guess you can't blame them tho, as the Yankees are regular "Devils" when they get in the front. They never want to stop. [...] I sure have lots to learn about an Army Rifle and bayonet as you know we didn't have any Rifles, but there is several machine Gun men here so I'm not alone. Wish I could have had a little more experience with the Company at the Front before coming here. According to the news in the papers we get, the Germans are trying every way they can think of to get Peace without ruining there [sic] country but if the Yankees keep on going Gen'l Pershing can eat christmas dinner in Berlin and they can make a Peace treaty that will last. I don't know what I can send you for Christmas but I'll try to get a picture, at least. About all one can buy is Cushion covers and Handkerchiefs but I think it would be better for me to bring them along wien I go back than to try to send them thr'w the mail. [...] Well Honey I must go clean my new rifle, So I'll close. Remember, Dear, I haven't changed a bit and I love you just heaps. I am yours always.

Citation: Lee Beckman, Letters Home from France. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2353

Rollerblades, 1984

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

Since the Item of the Day yesterday was an item invented by a Minnesotan, let's keep the theme going. Today's item is a pair of Rollerblades from 1984. Although inline skates were not new, a nineteen-year-old Minnesota goalie named Scott Olsen found a way to improve on existing designs and successfully marketed his Rollerblades to a hockey audience. Because they simulate ice skating on pavement, Rollerblades were used by hockey players and ice skaters to keep in condition during the summer months, as well as for general recreational use. 

Shell-hole, Sweet Shell-hole

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 22, 2018

Private Gustaf F. Erlandson was a resident of North Branch, Minnesota before the war. From October 20-27 Erlandson lived in shell-hole in the middle of No-Man's-Land, as the German machine gun fire was constant and he could not return to the trench. This feat of bravery is recorded in the Victory: Chisago County, Minnesota in the World War. Erlandson died a few days later on November 4th, 1918, when he was instantly killed by shrapnel.

Taken from Chisago Co. War History.
I had the pleasure to be with Gustaf Erlandson while in training and overseas, and knew him as a good cheerful, soldier, enduring the hardships without complaint. Having met the enemy on October 18th he was forced to remain in a shell-hole for seven days from October 20-27 without food under constant shell and machine gun fire. He emerged from there, his spirit unbroken as shown by the fact that he refused to take a well-earned rest behind the lines and set out to find his company which he found, encouraging his comrades by his splendid determination and courage. A few days later on November 1st, when the German lines were finally broken, he was one of those who formed the advance guard of the 78th division in pursuit of the enemy and gave his life while fighting on the battlefields near Seadan [sic]. He proved himself a real soldier, a true American, and true to the cause for which he died.
J.A. Isaacson
North Branch

"Erlandson, Gustaf F." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.3B

Medtronic Pacemaker, 1957

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

In remembrance of Earl Bakken, the co-founder of Medtronic who has died, we share this early Medtronic pacemaker from 1957. This type of pacemaker was first used post-operatively on children; adults began wearing them more permanently circa 1958. These small devices replaced the much larger cart-bound, power outage susceptible machines previously used.

Granny Goes Flying part 5

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

In this diary entry from this date written by Granville "Granny" Gutterson about his experiences during the war. His family had his diary published into a book in 1919. Granny writes in this entry about taking a trip with his friend Jack, who drives a scout ship. The scout ship's job was to attack the camera gunships. Grann writes that Jack doesn't give many people rides because many people tend to get sick. Granny's solution for this was "I told him that if I got really under the weather I would motion him and he should duck his head and keep dry." The purpose of these exercises was that the man who operated the camera gun could practice taking shots at them when they dove at him or looped to the right or left around him. Granny also notes that "The dog wanted to follow me when I got in, but I'll have to take her up some time when there are not going to be any acrobatics." Which is interesting to imagine, Granny flying with a dog in the cockpit.


Mon. Oct. 21.
One o'clock is getting to be my time of retiring. I can stand it O.K. though, as it's the first real work that I've done for some time. Had a real "jazz" trip to-day with Jack. He was driving the scout ship that attacks the camera gun ships and I took a trip with him. He didn't care to take me along, as it makes a lot of fellows sick to ride in a ship and have some one else stunt it continuously the way that the scout does on the work here. I told him where to go to and climbed in, and told him that if I got really under the weather I would motion him and he should duck his head and keep dry. He just had a pilot up with him who forgot all about Hooverizing and wasted a perfectly good meal. The dog wanted to follow me when I got it, but I'll have to take her up sometime when there are not going to be any acrobatics. We put in our time stunting around the ship and letting the man with the camera gun take shots at us. We would dive at him and go in under the ship and come up in front and turn a loop right around him, or else start a roll when on his right and roll over him and come out on his left side. The rest of the stuff was a few stalls and Immelmans, or else a zoom up from in under the other ship so that our wing would come up between the wing and tail of the other ship. That boy sure can fly! He had about 800 hours of that stuff at this field. And to think that a little while ago whole squadrons of ships would cross the lines and none of the pilots had over twenty hours in the air!

Gutterson, Granville. Granville: Tales and Tail Spins from a Flyer's Diary. Minnesota Historical Society. Minnesota History Center, St. Paul. D570.9 .G76


Instruments of Destruction

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

These shell fragments were collected by Ezra Curry when he was stationed abroad during the war. There are thirty-two metal shell fragments total, including a large conical nose piece. Shrapnel Shells were munitions that carried a large number of individual bullets. Once the shell was fired, it would eject the bullets from the larger shell to get the bullets closer to the target. It was an effective weapon against advancing or withdrawing troops out in the open, but it also had many disadvantages. The bullets could not penetrate sandbags or certain steel helmets, so soldiers in bunkers had a degree of safety. It was also critical to get the correct fuse running time in order to burst the shell at the right time to get it to hit the targeted area. Since the targets were mainly moving, it was a difficult process to perfect. The weather also affected the fuse running time. Because of all this, shrapnel shells were not widely used after World War I.


Church Services Cancelled Due to Influenza

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

Mary T. Hill, wife of railroad magnet James J. Hill, wrote in her diary on this day from the home front about something that has never happened in her life before: Church would be cancelled the upcoming days due to the Spanish Influenza epidemic. By this time the illness was spreading at an alarming rate and many actions were taken to stop it.


October Saturday 19th 1918
A dark damp wet day. Not much rain just a drizzle all day long and so dark. […] We got word today in mass at church tomorrow on account of the influenza church closed. The first time in my life such a proceeding.

Citation: 1915-1920. Mary T. Hill Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 64. C.5.6

The Northland bus routes, 1928

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

The subtitle of this map is "The Roads to Pleasure." This tourism promotion piece from 1928 has lovely illustrations of the fun that can be had along the routes; the reverse has blurbs about the many fascinating destinations highlighted.

William Fossum's Christmas List

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

Private William Fossum wrote a letter home to his mother from somewhere in France on this day. He tells his family that was he wants most in the Christmas box they are sending his is "as much Homemade Candy as you can if you can find”. In this letter he tells his mother that he thinks he will be home "B 4 very long as I think it will all B over soon" and not to worry about him as "He [God] will take good care of me and bring me back to you all in safety." Tragically, Fossum was killed in action few weeks later on the very day the armistice was called - November 11th, 1918.


Somewhere in France
Oct. 18, 1918
Dear Mother + All:-
Will now write you a few lines and let you know that I am still well and so on and seeing quite a bit of France as we move around quite a bit[,] have been transferred since I wrote to you last and am with a nice bunch of fellows from Ohio and Penn. so am O.K. again. But want to tell you what I want most of all in the xmas box that is as much Home made candy as you can if you find any more room suit yourself but do not put in more than 3 lbs in all. […] you will have to move back on a farm when I get back and that I hope will be B.4 very long as I think it will all B. over soon. […] above all do not worry about me Mother Dear as He will take good care of me + bring me back to you all in safety.
As ever your loving son

"Fossum, William T."Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.3B