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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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"British Force Huns Back Over Two Miles in Surprise Attack and Capture Four Towns" and "Battle Front is Shortened" - The Duluth Herald. August 21, 1918

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

Livestock Building at the Fair, 1908

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

This 110-year old postcard shows the Livestock Building on the State Fair Grounds in 1908. 

See it in Collections Online.

"French in Lassigny; British Capture Roye Station" and "Replacement of Men by Women Increasing" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. August 20, 1918

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

Minnesota Territorial Pioneers Golden Jubilee Badge

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

This Minnesota Territorial Pioneers Golden Jubilee badge consists of a circular pin-back button with ribbon streamers. The organization's Semi-Centennial Homecoming Celebration event was held during the 1908 Minnesota State Fair. Yes, this week's theme is the Fair!

Souvenir Dresser Scarf

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

This souvenir dresser scarf was brought back from France by Charles Panuska as a gift to his mother, Christina Novak Panushka, who lived in Saint Paul. It was made in France out of cotton machine lace inserts alternating with inserts of silk embroidery on silk chiffon. It is 16 ½ inches long and 38 inches wide. The scarfs itself features a decorative floral pattern and blue silk ribbon bows on each of the four corners. In the center of the scarf an American flag and France flag are embroidered. Above and beneath the two flags reads “SOUVENIR/ DE FRANCE’. Many soldiers brought home gifts for loved ones and the French flag was a common motif.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection, 1996.473.1

"I Have Never Seen Such Wounds"

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

Agnes Martin was a Red Cross nurse stationed in France with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). In a letter dated August 17, 1918, Martin describes to her mother and Aunt Sarah what she has experienced since arriving at the hospital in France, after traveling for nearly three weeks. Martin writes about her work at the hospital and her patients she is in charge of caring for.


Aug 17-1918
Dear Mother + Aunt Sarah
Here I am at my destination after being on the way nearly three weeks. I just wish you could see this line of nurses all sitting watching the sunset and writing first letters home. Got in last night and went on duty this am and you may know I was happy to be sent to the operating room. Did no operating today but lots of dressings and of course I have never seen such wounds but it is simply wonderful the way the [...kin] solution acts. Never saw a drop of pus and all are infected wounds. The boys all were so brave, never a whimper from one of them except an Italian who had every reason to make a fus. […]
Your affectionate,

Citation: Agnes J. Martin Letters. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P121

Gold Star Roll of Alan Nichols

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

Ensign Alan Nichols of Saint Paul died in a plane accident on this date in Turin, Italy, when three motors stalled on the plane he was piloting. Nichols was killed instantly when the plane went beyond control and nose-dived to the ground. The Commanding Officer of the United States Army Air Station in Turin sent a letter to Nichols' father providing more details about his son's death and burial. Nichols was given a complete military funeral in Turin, Italy, and buried there, but his body was removed on May 18th, 1920. Today, Nichols is buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Saint Paul.


Torino, Italy
January 26, 1919.
[...] Dear Sir:-
[...] I do not know whether the details of the death of your boy have ever been communicated to you. I am the Commanding Officer of the Army Air Station in Turin, and am in possession of some of the facts. Your boy, with Ensign Hugh Terres, had flown a Caproni 600-horse-power airplane bearing the Navy number B-13, from the Caproni Field at Taliedo, Milan, to the Aviation Field of Mirafiori, Turin, which was the first stopping place for Caproni airplanes which were being ferried from Milan, Italy, to Dunkirk, France. At about five o'clock in the afternoon of August 17, 1918, the plane was declared ready for flight across the Alps, and was mounted by your boy, Ensign Hugh Terres and Machinist A.F. Hartle. When they had reached the height of about sixty metres the three motors stalled contemporaneously. The pilot had then a choice of crashing it into the hanger ahead of him and causing damage to it and to the machine, or of turning around and making a landing on the field, thus saving the machine. He apparently took the latter course, for the machine was seen to turn to the right in an attempt to make a landing, but owing to the lack of power the machine went beyond control and nose-dived to the ground a complete wreck. Your boy and Ensign Terres was killed instantly while the mechanic died on the way to the hospital.

Citation: "Nichols, Alan L." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.5B

Pure Summer Joy

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 17, 2018

This photo is of a man opening a fire hydrant for a boy on a hot June 1938 day; this forms part of Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection.

See it in Collections Online.

Organization of a Mobile Hospital on the Front Lines

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

In a letter to her family, Red Cross nurse Marion Backus, who was stationed on the front lines in France, describes the logistics of working in a mobile hospital. She mentions that it takes time to get the hospital organized initially and it is possible that they will have to move (to follow the front line) before they actually get any patients. Backus states that it will be faster getting set up once they move locations after the initial organization is complete.


Aug 16, 1918
Dear Folks:
[…] We are still here in our tent hospital but have not as yet had a patient. Of course it takes a little while to organize an institution like this and get things together and now there is talk that by the time it is organized the line will have moved so far away that we will have to move too[.] of course that is the object of having it a mobile unit so we can go where we are most needed, and of course the next move can be made in a very short time after we get everything together. […]

Marion Backus Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1356


License Plate

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 16, 2018

This is the version of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa license plate issued in 1998. The lake is nicely framed by the trees in this simple but elegant plate.

See it in Collections Online.