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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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The American Spirit

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

Gold Star Roll file of Private Melvin Lane, who was born in Evansville, Minnesota. He sent his mother this postcard depicting The American Spirit on this day in 1918 just before he arrived overseas. He tells his mother about his trip, saying he was lucky to have not gotten sea sick and that he expects to arrive in Europe either that night or the following morning. Lane was killed in action in France on July 26, 1917.

May 16-1918
Dear Mother:
Will drop you a few lines to let you know we are just about across the pond so I guess we will get there O.K. Had a fine trip I was luckey [sic] enuff [sic] not to get sea sick we shore [sic] had fine weather. It is a little cold and ruff [sic] but not very bad. We expect to land tonight or in the morning. I will write you again as soon as we land.
Your son,
Melvin L.

Citation: "Lane, Melvin L." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F

Charlie Brown und Snoopy

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

This is the German language edition of Minnesotan Charles Schulz's Charlie Brown und Snoopy: ein Peanuts-Buch pulished in 1970. 
The story is that on Snoopy's way to the puppy farm, where he is being sent to improve his manners, he stops at Peppermint Patty’s house and decides to stay. 


"Allies Reach Out For New Vantage Points" and "Believed Austria-Hungary to be Forced to Participate More Heavily in Offensive" - The Duluth Herald. May 15, 1918

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

Pinky's Spacesuit!

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

Today's item is the space suit worn by astronaut George 'Pinky' Nelson between 1983 and 1988. Nelson, of Willmar, Minnesota, was a veteran of three space flights, serving aboard STS-41-C (Challenger), STS-61C (Columbia) and STS-26 (Discovery). He wore this suit aboard STS-26 Discovery in September 1988, which was the first mission flown after the Challenger disaster in January 1986.

See it along with photos from Pinky's journeys into space in Collections Online.

Gardening class at Pipestone, 1910

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

This photo is of a gardening class at Pipestone in 1910.

See it in Collections Online.

Life Insurance and Suicide

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

This letter was from the American Red Cross' National Headquarters and sent to all of its Division Directors of Civilian Relief. It concerns the government insurance policy of enlisted men, which usually gave relatives payments in case of a man's death. The War Risk Insurance Bureau decided that in the case of suicide, if the man was insane when he committed suicide the insurance would still be paid but if he was sane it was not payable; highlighting the stigma against mental illness during this time. But, in October this rule would change so that families receive insurance benefits whatever the mental state of the person who committed suicide.


May 14, 1918.
[...] 1. This office has requested decision from the War Risk Bureau as to whether suicide by an enlisted man will affect the validity of his government insurance policy. [...] 'If the insured was insane when he committed the act, the insurance is payable. If, however, he was sane when he committed suicide, the insurance is not payable. The question whether or not the insured was sane or insane at the time of the act is a question of fact. Before an award of insurance is made, a sufficient showing of insanity to justify this Bureau in making such an award must be presented. A statement of finding of sanity or insanity made by the Army or Navy Department is not binding upon this Bureau, but such statement or finding may be accepted as evidence one way or the other. The sanity of every person is presumed in the absence of evidence to the contrary and insanity can not be presumed from the mere fact of suicide." [...]

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

Ready to Vacate at Any Moment

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

On this date Frances Mary Rogers left the United States for France, where she would drive supplies first for the American Fund for French Wounded and later the YMCA. Upon returning to the United States she would found the St. Paul unit of the the Women's Overseas Service League, an organization made of women who had served overseas during the First World War with the purpose of companionship and helping those who had been impacted by the war, particularly veterans. In this small biography of her from the League's papers she describes being ready to evacuate Paris, should the Germans break through, as well as dancing and visiting with the troops.


Had to work in Paris first in packing room. Then had interesting work carrying supplies to French Hospitals during bombing period and Big Bertha. Was there when we thought we must vacate Paris any moment and during the Chateau Thierry drive I had charge of the Vestiare at the Gare De L'Est when the French refugees came pouring in. Helped at ARC #2 during C.T. Drive. We had our bags packed and our machines in order expecting if the Germans should come into Paris to help the ARC vacate. Drove for ARC and visited the American boys in French hospitals. [...]

Citation: "Frances Mary Rogers." Women's Overseas Service League, St. Paul Unit, Records, 1919-1942. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BH7/.W872

Mother's Day - A Man Never Outgrows His Mother

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

Maurice Masterson of Barnesville, Minnesota, sent this letter to his mother on Mother's Day, 1918, in which he describes how important she is to him. Masterson wrote numerous letters to his mother and father during his time in France. He was killed in action on November 1, ten days before the war ended.

On Active Service
With the
American Expeditionary Force
May 12, 1918
Dear Mother O' Mine,
There are a few times in a fellows life, just a few, when he thinks he's out grown mother. They don't last long and may seem trivial but I'll mention them anyway. The "first long pants" stage, the first sweetheart stage, and the days son graduates from High School. But the aforementioned trousers eventually need mending, the girl changes her mind (they are that way at fifteen), And the High School diploma is viewed in its proper proportions. Then dependable old mother has to be on the job and she always is. It's a way mothers have. And again there are times in a man's life when just about the biggest thing is a mother. In moments of adversity that come now and again in ordinary living it's the thot [sic] of mother that dries the gloom away and sets the world aright. But those are ordinary times. One thinks one knows what a mother means to him. Never until a supreme test comes does she stand out as the wonderful thing she really is. We sons of American mothers are passing thru [sic] such a test now. We're staking the biggest thing we have, our lives, for the finest things in life, honor, justice, brotherhood, the right of the free men to live as God ordained that they should live. [...] And so mother dear I'm thinking of you today, on Mother's Day. You mean more to me than ever before, just because I need you more, and not because you're any different. [...] Remember, whatever may happen, that I'm thinking of you every day, that every day is mothers day to me. Be brave I know you will, andthe thot [sic] that you are is going to carry ,me thru when nothing else could. I'm well, very well. I love you mother o'mine.
Corp. M.E. Masterson
F Battery 151 F.A.

Citation: "Masterson, Maurice E." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F

Willard W. Bixby's Passport

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

Willard W. Bixby was an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in Italy. Bixby's passport was issued to him on May 11, 1918. It contains both French and Italian Visas, and includes a Red Cross Identification card. It is very interesting to see how US passports have changed and stayed the same since WWI. For example, all the different visa pages fold out instead of being bound into a small booklet as they are in modern passports.


Citation: Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624

Mother and Child

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

Happy Mother's Day Weekend!
This sculpture was created between 1935 - 1942 by Ingrid Edwards as part of the Minnesota Art Project of the Works Progress Administration. It came to MNHS from the Ah-Gwah-Ching Archive. 

See it in Collections Online.