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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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YMCA in Italy

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 14, 2018

While stationed in Rome with the YMCA, Paul Thompson sent this letter home to his sister Ruth. He writes that he is teaching some of the men at one hospital how to play baseball - and that he has been asked to do the same at the barracks. He is also teaching English to some Italian medical officers. Thompson seems excited to teach these men things and is excited to be traveling, but he is also ready to return to the U.S. as soon as the war is over.


Letter no. 25- 4 postals enclosed
Aug, 12-18
Dear Ruth,-
[…] For two days last week there was an extra rush. Wary Americans coming from somewhere and going elsewhere spent two days in Rome. They had travelled 8 days continuously in 3rd class coaches and got their first night in bed in Rome. The Amer. canteen which is now in this office worked overtime. They were a fine bunch of boys and praised the YMCA for helping them out here. […] The papers say something about men being drafted up to the age of 45. They give us details as to proposed law. If it passes I suppose consults will be sent copies. If it passes, see that I am properly registered. I am ready any time I am needed but I think I ought to be allowed to come home and take an examination for a commission or go to an officers training school. I am teaching the men in our hospital to play baseball by easy stages. Have also been asked to teach some of the soldiers in the barracks. And am starting to teach English to a few medical officers who already speak a little. […] You can be sure that I will be mighty glad to get home when the war is over and to get there mighty quick, but still there’s a fasciation about this country.[…]
Your loving brother,
Paul J. Thompson

Citation: Paul Thompson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/T475 4/19-8/19

River Landscape

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 14, 2018

This oil painting by Clem Haupers is an unidentified river scene, completed in 1969. It was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Gareth Hiebert.

See it in Collections Online.

Rocks and Water

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 13, 2018

This photograph is of a group of men seated on a rock overlooking rapids in the United States-Canadian Boundary Waters (which we know better as the BWCA) in 1935. Spectacular, isn't it? This week's theme is water, in all its glory!

See it in Collections Online.

"French are Driving to Flank Roye on Two Sides; Somme Battle on Again" and "American Fists Too Hard Hitting for German Foe" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 13, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 13, 2018

Doctor's Canvas Trunk

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 12, 2018

This canvas trunk belonged to Justus Ohage Jr. of St. Paul, Minnesota, who served as a 1st Lieutenant in the Medical Corps. It is 14 inches tall, 28 inches wide and 18 1/2 inches deep. He carried this trunk with him until he was discharged on this date. This day also marks the end of the Battle of Amiens, known as the Hundred Days Offensive, which is widely considered to be the "beginning of the end" of World War I. This battle marked the end of trench warfare on the Western Front, with the fighting now back to being mobile, allowing progress to be made.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 1998.347.1.

"I Sure Am Homesick For A Letter"

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

Private Carl Williams wrote a letter home to his family on this day. He talks about how he has recently landed in France and hopes to receive a letter from someone soon. Williams was instantly killed in action on September 15th, 1918 a little over a month after this letter was written.


Dun. Aug. 11-18
Dear Cousin-
[…] We are stopping in an old French village now which must have been a beautiful place before the war but the inhabitants have left and some of the buildings are destroyed. France is sure a pretty country in summer, the harvest in on here now but you would laugh to see how it is done, mostly by hand tho [sic] I have seen a few binders and mowers. I suppose you are harvesting also by this time. […] I wrote you just after I landed in France but so far have not had a letter from you or anyone. I sure am homesick for a letter from someone so please write soon as it takes a long time to get here. […]
Greet everyone from me and please write soon your cousin
Pvt. C. O. Williams

Citation: "Williams, Carl O." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.7.1B

"British Break Teuton Forces in Two Drives" and "Gaining Ground on Vesle River" - The Daily People's Press. August 10, 1918

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

Woman learning about edible mushrooms

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

This photo is of a woman learning about edible mushroom in 1938. It comes from the Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative Collection.

See it in Collections Online.

Travelling to Europe with the Red Cross

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

In this letter for her family, Helen Scriver writes about the steamer that she rode overseas. She says that this particular steamer is superior to all of the other steamers she has been on and mentions the immigrants that she has met from riding on the steamer. Scriver also mentions the woman who is in charge of her group, a Mrs. Fisher, who she describes as efficient and non-interfering. Scriver gives details about her uniform and a story of the officer at the entrance of the boat forgetting to check of her name causing confusion on board.


August 9, 1918 [...] Our accomodations are excellent. Being a traveler, and knowing this steamer is superior to either of the two which carried me to and from Europe in 1914. [...] The lady in charge of our group is a Mrs. Fisher from Santa Barba, California. If I had had the appointment to make I too would have chosen Mrs. Fisher. She is splendid efficient, and non interfering. [...] Quite a few of our do not seem to have the slightest comprehension of what not wearing jewelry might be thought to mean. One girl, whose uniform will be ready in Paris came on in a georgette waist and a string of large gold beads around her neck. It looked rather silly when the rest of us were choking in high collars and military uniforms with the thermometer up over 100.[...]
Wishing that you all might be along,

Citation: Helen Scriver Papers Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P362

Mushroom Hat

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

This navy blue straw mushroom hat was made in Italy, sold at Field-Schlick of Saint Paul, and worn by Harriette Weyerhaeuser in the 1940s. It features a wide, wavy brim, flat crown, and two velvet prongs that hold the hat in place. There is also a long velvet bow attached to the top.

See different views of it in Collections Online.