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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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Volunteering to go Abroad

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | March 26, 2018

This is the first entry in Ingvald Smith's diary. He writes it just a few days after he and a several other men volunteered to be sent overseas to fight. They had been training at Camp Cody In New Mexico since October of 1917 and had decided they were ready to go into war. They had to leave the company they were taining with, as not the entire company was being send to the front. Smith seems excited about the prospect of going to fight, and realistic about the horrors he will inevitably face. He is clearly proud to have the opportunity to serve his country during these trying times.


My Experience
in the World War
March, 1918
Tue. 26
A few days previous to this date four men in my company namely Harold Lee, Herbert Haltke, Robert Reisdorf, and myself volunteered for overseas service the request being granted by Major M.L. Higbee commander of our battalion. The organiation which we are about to leave is Co. B. 135th Inf. 34 Div. We departed from this place in route to France in the evening leaving behind Camp Cody N. Mexico at which place we had been in training since Oct. 15th 1917.

Citation: Ingvald Smith Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1754

Student Activism

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 23, 2018

This photo is of students urging voters to vote for the school funding issue in February 25, 1964 election.

Frances Densmore

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | March 22, 2018

Ethnologist, musician, and author Frances Densmore was born in Red Wing, Minnesota in 1867. Her professional interest was in Native American music; she spent her life traveling the country and recording on wax cylinders nearly 2,500 songs of the Dakota, Ojibwe, and other tribes. Her recordings are preserved at the Smithsonian; her papers are at MNHS. These images are of one of the books she authored and a gramophone she used to make recordings dated 1897.

See her papers in the Library.

Seditious Material Warning

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

This memorandum was directed toward the 88th Division, then stationed in Camp Dodge, Iowa. It warned of seditious material, mostly in the form of listed religious books and newspapers, that were being distributed to the men. It was likely feared that certain religious material would encourage conscientious objection among troops. The memorandum orders unit commanders to search for this material and, if found, send it and the names of the men who held it to the Division Intelligence Officer.

March 21, 1918.
To all Organization Commanders.
Considerable printed matter of seditous character is being received by enlisted men. Examples of the class of literature being received are: "The Finished Mystery", by Pastor Russell; "The Bible Students monthy", published in Brooklyn, New York; and "Statement of Special Conference of the Church of the Brethern to the Churches and the Drafted Brethern", and others.
Unit commanders will conduct a through inspection into all personal effects, bedding, ect., of men in their command as early Monday afternoon, March 25th, as practicable, take up all literature of this nature that is found and forward it to the Division Intelligence Officer, together with the names of the men from whom the matter is recovered.
Commanders will consult with the Intelligence Office, telephone 156, in case any doubt exist as to whether any particular publication should be confiscated.
By command of Brigadier General Getty;

Citation: U.S. Army, 350th Infantry Regiment, Co. G, records 1917-1919. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BG6/.U584/350th

Ojibwe Birchbark Flower

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

This flower is made of thread and birchbark. It was made by Dawn Norton-DeVeau of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa, circa 2010. 

See it in Collections Online.

"Americans Become Expert in Throwing Gas Shells at Huns" and "German Occupation of Petrograd is Expected Within a Few Hours" - The Duluth Herald. March 20, 1918

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

Wild Flowers

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

This is a photo of wild flowers, taken by C.J. Hibbard in 1922. It is part of the Norton & Peel archive. 
Happy Spring!

Official Band Member

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

In this letter Eber Berquist writes to his mother to update her about everything going on at camp. The most exciting thing that has happened to him was being accepted into the band. He states he will be playing the baratone saxaphone, which is much larger than the saxaphone he was used to playing. He also tells his mother that of the 10 men who auditioned to be in the band, only 4 made it, so it was a great honor to have been selected. This letter highlights that soldiers did more than just fight and train during the war; they also had the opportunity to participate in more leisurly activities.


Camp Dodge Iowa
Dear Mother,
I guess its about time I am writing another letter. I have just had supper so am writing to you and Amber and few others.
By the way I got into the Band last week and am playing with them now. I am playing the baritone saxaphone, that is quite a bit larger than the one I had. It's sure a peach, I'm glad that I learned to play saxaphone now, or I would never made the band as that's what they needed. But you see one must have so much training first. Possibly you can realize how hard it is to get into a band. There were over ten men tried to get into the band and only four of us made it. They give you a regular try but my playing the piano helped me out considerably and also that I learned how to transpose as we get that also. There are forty (40) pieces in the band now. [...] One of our duties besides playing in the band is to learn to carry the stretchers and first aid to the injured, so we're having little physiology again. Well as I have quite a few more letters to write will close.

Citation: Eber Berquist Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2786

The Problem with the IWW

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

Matt Gulliksen of Saint Paul wrote this letter to Minnesota Senator Knute Nelson expressing his severe dislike of the IWW, (Industrial Workers of the World). He states that he has been traveling for the past four months looking to arrest members of the IWW. His main problem with members of the IWW is that in their protest for workers rights, they have been burning wheat fields during a time when the Unites States desperatly needs its wheat supply. The author continues on to explain that becasue most able bodied men are fighting in the war, there is no one left to farm. He states that the members of the IWW cannot be trusted to take on farming duties because of their history, and because of the fact that they will not work for any price. The author concludes that it is absolutly necessary to keep as many farming men at home as possible, so that they may keep up with the increased demand for food.

St. Paul, N.D., March 18, 1918
My Dear Senator:
I have been traveling for the Government for the last four months and arresting 65 I.W.W.'s. Some of them went to war and some of them went to the penitentiary. Organized 46 Red Cross. And I have been looking after the food question in our wheat states and found less grain that we have had for a long time. The I.W.W. burned up lots of grain in the fields and in the elevators last year. Now, I will give the Government fair understanding to be awake, to take those rogues to the army or put them in the penitentiary, if they will not go to the army. There are over ten million of those tramps in the United States. Now the I.W.W. are coming back from the war zones to Minneapolis and Staint Paul and all over the east. And this band is now gone east to the farms again and strike for the eastern states. If Uncle Sam takes all out boys from the farms, we cannot do much farming, if we shall depend on the city boys and they cannot harness a horse, not speaking about driving from five to eight horses. We can do the best we can in the spring time, but during the harvest and threshing we have to have thousands of men, and we cannot depend on I.W.W.'s. They wont work for any price. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary to save on the farmers' boys as much as possible. if we are to furnish food in the struggle for democratic peace. Our beloved President is to be thanked for his splendid work on the promotion of world peace.
Very respectfully
Matt Gulliksen
St Paul Minn

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 144.I.13.5 Box 28

"Blow at British is German Aim" and "Wilson to Stop All Peace Talk" - The Daily People's Press. March 17, 1918

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