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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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Pocket Watch from Cloquet Fire

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 11, 2018

Men's gold pocket watch owned and used by Charles Brandon of Cloquet, Minnesota. This pocket watch survived the fire in Cloquet (Carlton County) which started on October 12, 1918. It is round with a diameter of 2 1/4" and is an elaborate design of flowers, crosses and classic scrolls. It also has a top winding stem. This type of watch is called the "New Era" and was made in the USA. It has an enamel face has with roman numerals and a sweep second hand. The watch shows signs of being damaged by the fire, but it nevertheless is still in readable condition.


"Each Day Brings Victory A Bit Closer"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 11, 2018

Raymon Bowers, an Army soldier from Minnesota stationed in France in the Ordnance Repair Department, writes about his opinion of the war ending soon and the French morale compared to German morale. He has noticed that the French spirit is bright because each day they become closer to a victory while the Germans spirit is breaking and will soon have to acknowledge defeat. Raymon is writing to a Miss Palmes who he marries after the war is over.


[…] When this war is over America will have a complete knowledge of all the guns, trucks, & everything used in warfare. She will be able to build anything that is needed in modern warfare and have the opportunity of using the best models built. In other words she can get the best that has been developed in four and half years of the most strenuous fighting. […] Never since the beginning of the war have things looked brighter for the French. Each day brings victory a bit closer and I think it is only a matter of time till the Huns will acknowledge defeat + pay the price or be forced to do the same. To me it’s only a question of time. […] I'll be surprised if the Hun last long after winter sets in. There is no end to signs the Boche is breaking. It may come slowly or quickly but it's coming just as surely as winter follows fall. [...]

Raymon Bowers Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P111

Fort Snelling Map, 1835

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 11, 2018

Lawrence Taliaferro created this incredibly detailed manuscript map of the Fort Snelling area in 1835. He was the St. Peters Indian Agent between 1820 and 1839 at Fort Snelling; in this role he attempted to negotiate between Dakota, Ojibwe, fur traders, settlers, and the government. He also owned the largest number of enslaved people in the area. 

See it in Collections Up Close.

Learn more about Lawrence Taliaferro.

"American Artillery in Action Before Metz" and "The President's Terms of Peace" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. October 10, 1918.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 10, 2018

Men's pocket watch, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 10, 2018

This pocket watch survived the fire that started one hundred years ago today on the railroad line between Duluth and Hibbing. The fire raged for the next three days, reaching Duluth on the thirteenth. Thirty-eight communities including the cities of Cloquet, Carlton, and Moose Lake burned and 435 people died. 

"Cambri Entered by British--More Gains" and "Woman Soldier Here Tonight" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 9, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 9, 2018

Minnehaha Lithograph, 1858

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 9, 2018

This hand-colored lithograph comes from Whitefield's Series of Minnesota Scenery, No. 3., done between 1856 - 1859. It shows an autumn landscape with a group of people in the foreground viewing Minnehaha Falls and a small homestead in the background.

See it in Collections Online.

Ernest Aselton: Killed During Volunteer Mission

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 8, 2018

Ernest Aselton of Wayzata , Minnesota, was killed in action on this date after volunteering to help repulse an enemy counter attack. He "volunteered and under extremely heavy shell and machine-gun fire, established liaison for his company, bringing reinforcements to the line at a critical time, and thereby assisting materially in repelling a hostile counter-attack. He was killed later during this attack". For his actions, Aselton was awarded the Navy Cross from the President of the United States and the Croix De Guerre by the French government, along with two other medals for bravery. This date also marks the day that the Allies advanced along a 20 mile front from St. Quentin to Cambrai and drove the Germans back 3 miles. This drive resulted in the capture of over 10,000 German soldiers.


Dear Mrs. Aselton:
We were all so grieved to hear of your great loss today; indeed we feel that it is our loss too, for Ernest was dear to us all. […] The flag at school has been at half mast all day, and I am sure that it would have been comforting to you could you have heard all the splendid things that people have said about Ernest. He certainly was a fine example of what a young man could be. […] I wish I could say something that would comfort you and Mr. Aselton, but I know that at such a time words are useless, […]
Your friend,
Amy L. Davis
Nov. 25.


Theodore Roosevelt and the Nonpartisan League

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 8, 2018

Today's post is from a reminiscence and account of Walter Quigley’s career as an organizer for the Nonpartisan League. Throughout the years 1917-1918, the League's activities slowed because of the loyalty issue during the First World War. Quigley describes a speech given by former President Theodore Roosevelt on this date to workers at the Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company.


On October 7 former President Theodore Roosevelt again was brought to Minnesota and made one of his most vigorous loyalty speeches against the Farmer-Labor candidates, saing in part: 'Loyal Americans should Stand behind Governor Burnquist, and they should especially stand behind him because of the opposition to him by the Nonpartisan League and I.W.W. Loyal Americans cannot afford to support or give aid and comfort, or to be politically associated with the Nonpartisan League or the I.W.W. while they are under their present leadership." [...]

Citation: Text : 1931-1932. Walter Eli Quigley Out where the west begins. P2302. Minnesota Historical Society.

"Tell the Men They are the Best Men I Ever Handled."

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 8, 2018

Lieutenant Marshall Peabody was in command of Company “D”, 306th Machine Gun Battalion attached to 308th Infantry of the 77th Division. He died on this date in the Argonne Forest of Charlevoix, France. On the second day of fighting Lieut. Peabody was wounded in the foot. He was quoted saying to Sgt. Hauck "I will never get out of here alive. If I do, I'll lose my leg and be sent back. Tell the men they are the best men I ever handled." The next morning he was killed instantly along with his runner and two other wounded men by a shell from a trench mortar.


Dearest Mother!
We're on the way out after 5 weeks in an active section during which time we advanced five miles. During this time my Co. was in the front lines about 3 weeks, and it seemed 3 years. The Captain & second in command are dead, two Lieutenants wounded. I have been in command for Two weeks during the most severe fighting. […] Ten days was a Terribly long time to be in this sort of a place and we were certainly glad to get the news that we were to be relieved. During the night There was an attack by the Germans and much excitement but they were held and at dawn we were able to get away and I took the Co. back to comparative safety. […]

"Peabody, Marshall G." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.5B