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.

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American Red Cross knitting pattern book, 1917

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

This American Red Cross booklet contains instructions for knitting sweaters, mufflers, helmets, socks, wristlets, washcloths, and bottle covers. It was used on the home front for making these for soldiers during World War I, 1917.

The Widespread Outbreak of Spanish Influenza

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

Willard W. Bixby was an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in Italy. He wrote this letter to his father on October 19th, 1918, telling him about an epidemic of Spanish fever and influenza and how he is surprised to have heard that the epidemic had also reached the United States.


October 19th, 1918
Dear Dad,
[…] It is pretty cold now and this morning the mountains were covered with snow. There' an awful lot of talk about sunny Italy but the weather in this part isn't much different than it is at home. There is quite an epidemic of Spanish fever and influenza here now and several of our fellows are in the hospital. I see in the papers that it hit the States also, its funny that it should spread all over like that. […] I suppose they are wild over the war news at home and many of those who should know are very optimistic about the end being near. It is funny though the hot arguments the officers have at times over just that thing. […]
With all love,

Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624

Needle Book, 1861 - 1865

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

This green velvet needle book with beadwork decoration was used by Bessie Cambell of St. Cloud, during the Civil War. Sewing kits such as this were often called a “housewife.”

"Rescue Parties Comb Districts" and "Decision is Popular" - The Daily People's Press. October 16, 1918

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

Jackson School teenagers on a hayride, 1945

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

This photograph of students from Jackson School on a hayride was taken in 1945.

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.