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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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Granny Goes Flying Part 1

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

This book is a compilation of letters and diary entries written during the war by Second Lieutenant Granville "Granny" Gutterson of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Granny spent most of the war stationed near Houston, Texas, at the San Leon Aerial Gunnery School. His family had the book published after his death in 1919. In this letter home he writes about being chosen to become a pilot. He cannot contain his excitement, stopping mid sentence to extol and exclamation about being chosen. He then completely forgets what he was talking about earlier and launches into a description of the men who were chosen along with him. Granny is the ideal soldier, excited, passionate, and committed to the cause. While he does seem a bit naive, it is clear that he will do everything possible to assist in the War.


February 16, 1918.
Dear Folk:
I suppose You got my telegram about graduating. I was so darn glad I didn't know what to do. Because of Washington's Birthday, we took our finals a day ahead of time. They gave us twenty-four hours notice, but caught about forty fellows "Asleep at the Switch." They called us all into a room and gave us a little talk about wishing they could read off more names, but "some have scholastic difficulties detaining them," etc. They strung us along for a while and then--(Hurrah! I interrupted by orders telling me my flying begins to-mor-row, seven to ten. Say! Maybe I'm not happy!) Well--to go back-- I sure am lucky! After all the talk they picked only fifteen men to go to the flying field and they were the highest from both academic and military standpoints. The major said we should feel real honored, and I do. There are two cadet captains, three first lieutenants and four second lieutenants in the crowd, so I'm in fast company. I should worry! I'll stack myself up with any of them...O, darn it! I can't write! I feel to good! By the way, you remember Fred Hartman, the Canadian Dog Race winner? His bunk is third from mine and he has his lead dog with him. I'm crazy about this place! The airplanes or "ships" fill the air all the time, and when you see a formation of twenty or thirty way up in the air they look like a bunch of mosquitoes or bees coming home to hive at sunset. Poetic as the dickens!

Citation: Gutterson, Granville. Granville: Tales and Tail Spins from a Flyer's Diary. Minnesota Historical Society. Minnesota History Center, St. Paul. D570.9 .G76

Fedora, 1980s

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

Iconic black wool fedora worn during performances by Monte Moir, keyboardist for The Time, circa 1980s. All the members of The Time were certainly wearing hats when they played before the Super Bowl a few weeks ago!

See it in Collections Online.

"Son in Service" Flag

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 15, 2018

Flags like this one were hung in the window of a house to indicate that a person from that home was in the service. Flags could have multiple blue stars to indicate that multiple members of the household were serving in the war. When someone died while serving, a gold star would be placed over the blue one, to indicate their passing. This is how the Gold Star Rolls got their name. This flag was used by the family of Harvey Mears, who served in World War I and World War II.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 9404.3

Equal Equals Love (Dorothy and Betty Crocker)

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 15, 2018

Serigraph (screen print) on paper by Spunk Design Machine, 2012. This poster references the 2012 proposed but defeated Minnesota state constitutional amendment which would have defined marriage as being "solely between one man and one woman." Same-sex marriage is now fully legal and recognized in Minnesota.

See it in Collections Online.

Identification Please

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

This letter was sent from the American Red Cross National Headquarters to all of its Division Directors of Civilian Relief. It contains a memorandum from the Adjutant General stating that each enlisted man in the Army will be given a unique number for identification. But, as this system will take awhile to put in place, full names, grades, and organization will still be used on paperwork.


February 14, 1918
[...] 1. Referring to A-149 it should be noted the Government has now decided to assign a serial number to each man in the armies of the United States. [...] 2. The following official memorandum gives the essential details of the system as worked out by the Adjutant General and approved by the Chief of Staff: "In order to insure prompt and accurate identification the department has adopted system of numbering enlisted men of Army only, which system provides for but one series of numbers, without alphabetical prefix, for all enlisted men in, or who may enter Army, regardless of organization, arm corps, or department. Numbering begins with one and continues consecutively without limit. [...]

Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781

Valentine, circa 1920s.

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

Happy Valentine's Day! This stand-up valentine features an image of a cherub delivering letters, circa 1920s.

See it in Collections Online.

"American Soldiers Laid to Rest in Scotland" and "French Advance as Far as Fourth German Line in Trench Raids" - The Duluth Herald. February 13, 1918

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

Display of boxed Valentine candy, Snyder's Drug Store, 1957

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

The photography collection at MNHS contains thousands of photos taken by Norton & Peel, a mid-20th century commercial photography studio operating in Minneapolis. This photo show a display of boxed Valentine candy at a Snyder's Drug Store, 1957.

Backus and His Plane

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

his photograph shows David Backus with a plane he had just taken on a bombing mission. On the back of the photograph he gives several details about the plane, including the make, the type of engine it had and what machine guns were on it. Backus also talks about his friend O'Brion who was in the plane with him, taking pictures and also firing a gun. Backus has dozens of photos of the planes he flew while in the war; he was clearly immensely proud of becoming a pilot and of everything he accomplished.


English-300H.P. Rolls- Royce Motor- Tye- DeHaviland- No. 4. Bi-place- Lewis and rickens Machine guns- Makes 125mi. per hr. @ 2000 meters [...] small tank topplane auxiliary gas tank. This motor casts 80,000 fires alone. See [motor] bottom. inside hold the bombs. Photos taken through bottom of plane by O'Brion in the Cockpit in back- also revolving [...]

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.7B

Rating for Dating Wheel

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 12, 2018

In the early 1940’s Central High School student Bartlett “Bart” Baker was given this “Rating for Dating” wheel by a female student. The wheel was produced by the Ladies Home Journal in the early 40’s to give young women advice on the best ways to interact with different types of men.

The wheel was created by Elizabeth Woodward, the Sub-Deb Editor for the Ladies Home Journal. “Sub-Debs”, or sub-debutantes, were typically upper class girls in their pre- and early teens who had not yet entered careers or fashionable society. Woodward created numerous items for the Journal aimed at Sub-Debs, including articles such as “Do Boys Like You?” and “How to be Popular”. She was also the Director of the National Sub-Deb Club Federation. Sub-Deb Clubs operated like high school sororities, where members joined (often through initiation), and held monthly meetings. The clubs also organized a number of school events, such as dances and parties.

The wheel gives examples of What to Talk About, How to Act, and What to Do on a Date. For an intelligent boy, or “Brightie”, a girl should act “Wide-eyed and big eared. Be impressed and eager to learn - but stand on your own feet and discuss”. For a “Strong & Silent” boy, she should talk about, “HIM. Serious things like life, happiness, and the right way to raise pigs.” And for dating a “Woman Hater” she should “Go in for the things he likes. Beat him at some sports. Don’t do much sitting around. Get up and do things or go places. Do what he wants to do - even if it’s trout-fishing.”

The “Rating for Dating” wheel offers a glimpse into the world of gender stereotypes prevalent in the 1940s and 1950s. Girls were expected to change their behavior to adapt to boys’ interests, while boys needed to fit a specific image if they wanted to be considered a romantic interest. The “Pals” and “Lilies” would simply be considered good friends, rather than serious dating material.

Decades after receiving the wheel, Baker gave it Marjorie Bingham, a Social Studies teacher at Saint Louis Park High School. According to Bingham, both she and Baker served on the Minnesota Humanities Commission, and when he heard she was teaching an American History module on dating patterns of the 1940s, he offered her the wheel as a primary source example. Bingham donated the wheel to the Minnesota Historical Society in 1995.

Looking at it now, the “Rating for Dating” wheel seems extremely out of date and more than a little offensive. However, is it any different from today’s tween magazines, with their advice on dating and how to be popular?

What I really want to know is what happened if your “Strong & Silent” date didn’t know anything about pigs?

See this in Collections Online, including closeups of all the possible answers!

Stephanie Olson, Collections Assistant