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.

See Collections Up Close Blog Archive

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

"Germans are Hit Smashing Blow by French" and "New York Newspaper Owned by Germany is Government Charge" - The Duluth Herald. July 9, 1918.

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

Hmong story cloth, 1979

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

This is a piece of Hmong pa ndau (paj ntaub) textile art. It is a story cloth illustrating temples, animals, birds, people and spiritual figures. At the center are two temple representations with meditating monks. Within the border, figures include god of thunder, dragons, people on horseback and standing, bulls, trees, birds, and a boar.

Story cloths were made for sale by Hmong refugees in Thailand and were sold around the world. This one was made in Ban Vinai, Thailand and purchased in Saint Paul circa 1979.

See it in Collections Online.

"Imagination Cannot Picture the Amount of Wire and Stakes"

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

Raymond Arvig was from Fergus Falls and enlisted in April of 1917. In a letter written on this date, Arvig told his mother to have lots of "chuck ready" for Christmas dinner because he planned on being home for the occasion, even if he and his buddy had to "lick the whole German army alone." Raymond was incredibly optimistic about the war, and believed it would be over soon. He was killed in action in Soissons, France, on August 30, 1918.


Writes from the trenches
Somewhere in France, July 8, 1918
Dear Mother.
Just a few lines to let you know that I am still as well as ever. It is Sunday today so have a little time which is a thing that there is not mutch [sic] of Around here[.] by the time we get done putting up barbwire and digging trenches we do not feel much much [sic] like taking hold of a pen and piece of paper even though it is easier work. I was just thinking of the amount of wire that has been put up just around here and imagination cannot picture the amount of wire and stakes it takes to keep this little game going and that is just a small spoke in the wheel of war[.] a person has to be over here and see the real thing before it hits the spot that makes him really know what is being done. we expect to go to the trenches in the near future for our second trick there and probably will have more to tell about after that[.] hope so[.] my Pal and I made up our mind to be home for Christmas dinner if we have to lick the whole German army alone so have lots of chuck ready because I sure will eat. [...]
With lots of love
Your son

Citation: "Arvig, Raymond O" Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.2F

Free Beer for Backus

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 7, 2018

One of the perks of being a soldier is sometimes being given free stuff as a token of gratitude. In this entry, Backus says he was given 3oz of free liquor at a bar because his friend knew the bartender. Bottoms up David!


Sunday July-7-1918
[...orter] called me up. Went over to Hotel Bretagne (sic) - Found Fletcher Graves and a friend of his - We all had breakfast. I went on and meet Jim Graham and got 3oz free he served me.[...]

Citation: David Backus Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F

A Soldier's Thoughts on the End of the War

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 6, 2018

In this letter home Raymon Bowers gives his opinions on the future and length of the war, saying he is convinced that the Allies will soon strike the final blow and that will be the beginning of the end of the war. Despite this conviction, he is prepared to remain in France for some time, as it is best to expect a long stay and be relieved if it is cut short. Bowers also mentioned that several of his fellow soldiers plan on remaining in France after the war, as they expect it will be easier to find work in Europe than in America.


Dear Miss Palmer,
[...] I don't know where we are going or what we will do & even if I did I couldn't say. There's one thing I'm more convinced of then ever before & that's the effective and rapid way Uncle Sam is getting at Germany. While I don't (pen went dry) Believe like some, the war will be over in a few months, I do believe that our country will be strong enough soon to administer a blow at the Hun that will end his aggresiveness [sic] & then it will only be a question of time till Germany Autocracy will crushed for all time. Even tho the war should end very quickly it would be a long time before all the American troops would be returned to the States. As I think it's best to plan on a long stay and then one wont be disappointed if we do have to. France is a beautiful country & I have heard many of the boys say that they that they [sic] would remain in France or Europe after this war on the supposition that there would be greater opportunities here than home. There should be dandy chances in any field of industry there is after the war. [...]
Raymon Bowers
[...] American Expeditionary Forces

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

Encampment on Fairy Lake, July, 1857

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 6, 2018

This color lithograph shows an exploring party in an encampment on Fairy Lake in July, 1857. It was made by Edwin Whitefield. 

A description of the scene: "Men are busy at an encampment on the bank of Fairy Lake. At left, standing in front of two tents situated between a grove of trees, a man is firing a gun. At center a man smoking a pipe watches another prepare food over a fire; a dog sits near them. At right, two men are rowing a boat on the lake. Tree-lined gently rolling hills make up the opposite bank of the lake."

See it in Collections Online.

Thoughts of a Billet Guard and Other Poems

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 5, 2018

This is the Gold Star Roll file of Corporal Harold C. Lee, who was killed in action in the Chateau-Thierry Sector on this date. He wrote a number of poems, one of which was reviewed in the Saturday Evening Post. The Women's Christian Temperance Union of Montevideo published a collection of his poems in a small pamphlet. The poems are about his time in war, the first one entitled, "Thoughts of a Billet Guard."


Citation: "Lee, Harold C." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, MN 114.D.4.4F

A new map of part of the United States: exhibiting the North West, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois Territory ... London: J. Cary, 1819.

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 5, 2018

On this day in 1818, Congress extended the area of Michigan Territory, bringing present-day Minnesota under its domain. Things would remain thus until the creation of Wisconsin Territory in 1836. This map is from 1819.

See it in Collections Online.

4th of July in France

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 4, 2018

Victor Johnson writes about his 4th of July activities on this day abroad in Abbeville, France with the Y.M.C.A. He writes that it was a very sane 4th of July, a day filled with games that ended with stew and fireworks. A few days before this day Johnson had been enduring the Fritz Bombings where he experienced many close calls. He must have enjoyed this nice day of celebrating after what he experienced a few days before.


July 4-1918
Today they had foot races and games at the Y.M.C.A. This morning[.] at 3 P.M There was a big baseball game and at 5 P.M we had four very good looking matches after which we went back to camp for stew a mile away[.] at 8 P.M, we were back again to hear the concert at the Y.M.C.A which was very good. After it got dark we had a little fireworks and then went to bed. Some sane 4th. I'll say so.

Citation: Victor O. Johnson Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1987

Car decorated for 4th of July parade, 1913

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 4, 2018

This is a real photo postcard showing a car decorated for 4th of July parade in Kerkhoven, 1913. 

From left to right: Blanch Westerdahl, Blanch's father, Genevieve Negaard and John Rost; Merchant's Hotel at right

Not sure who the two costumed people are meant to represent: Lady Liberty and a good witch?

See it in Collections Online.