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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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"Germans Accept Russ Proposals" and "Rainbows Are Across The Sea" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. November 30, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 30, 2017

Dakota quillwork leather vest

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 30, 2017

On this last day of Native American Heritage Month, we are highlighting one of the most beautiful pieces in the Collection. It is a quillwork vest, ca. 1890.

This vest, among other items, was donated by a medical doctor who received them after successfully treating a smallpox epidemic at Lower Brule Agency, South Dakota in the early 1890s. The plants represented in quillwork designs often carry specific meanings for the maker and wearer and may also serve to pass on plant knowledge.

See it from other angles on Collections Online and in the current exhibit Renewing What They Gave Us.

Thanksgiving in Paris

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 29, 2017

This entry in David Backus's diary describes his Thanksgiving celebrations over seas in France. According the Backus, his commrades had just gotten paid their commissions and were using the holiday to spend their pay. They were also treated to "some dinner," with all the comforts of a classic American Thanksgiving meal.

Backus diary page

Thursday Nov. 29
Thanksgiving. Inspection. Cleaned up. Read. Several large crap games in progress. Read. Well last night, 72 of the fellows swore in got their commission. [...] Well after several false alarms, we had dinner at 4 o'clock, some dinner. Turkey, stuffing, jelly, white bread, gravy, celery bread + coffee + cake.

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

Pair of Camels Stopped

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 29, 2017

This photo is of a pair of camels getting stopped by the police during a November 29, 1949 visit to downtown St. Paul.

Unfortunately, there is no explanation for this photo; it is from our Newspaper Negatives Collection. Maybe the circus was in town, but the handlers don't seem very circus-like and there's no signage. 

"Ready to Draft Aliens in Army" and "Allies' Break With Russ Near" - The Daily People's Press. November 28, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 28, 2017

Tax Legislation is Hard

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 28, 2017

With all the talk about the tax bill working its way through Congress currently, it seems worth remembering that we've done this before. This is Senator William L. Dietz working on a tax bill at the State Capitol in 1937. This photo originally appeared in the newspaper, which explains the writing at the top.

See it in Collections Online.

"Desperate Efforts of Huns To Drive British From Their New Positions End In Failure" and "U.S. Sailors Save Germans" - The Duluth Herald. November 27, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 27, 2017

Pressure by Margaret Culkin Banning

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | November 27, 2017
book cover

This book was released 90 years ago, written by the well-known (at the time) Duluth author Margaret Culkin Banning. She wrote extensively about women's changing roles in society and was the first woman inducted to the Duluth Hall of Fame.

A Red Cross Benefit

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 26, 2017

This letter was sent by Charles Farnham to the St. Paul Chapter of the American Red Cross with a donation of $200. He had produced a benefit production at the Chicago Little Theatre, with the intention that any profit made would go to the Yarn Fund of the Red Cross. Unfortunately, the performance actually lost him several hundred dollars. However, he says that since he knew many people bought tickets because they thought they would benefit the Yarn Fund, he is donating none-the-less.


November 26th, 1917.

Mr. S. W. Dittenhofer,
President, The Red Cross,
Saint Paul.
My dear Mr. Dittenhofer:

Enclosed you will find my check for Two Hundred Dollars. As you probably know, I was responsible for the appearance here of The Chicago Little Theatre people,the middle of this month. I said that if the engagement made any money, that profit would go to a local war charity. [...] As a matter of fact, I made a loss of several hundred dollars, but I know that there were a good many tickets sold on the representation that the Yarn Fund might get some profit, and that is why I am sending you this amount [...].

Very truly yours,
Charles W. Farnham

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

"British Near Enemy Key City" and "Tanks Do Great Work" - The Daily People's Press. November 25, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 25, 2017