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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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"Double Air Raid Made Over England by Zeppelins and Airplanes; Fifteen Killed" and "American Soldiers in France Want Tobacco Like They Had at Home" - The Duluth Herald. September 25, 1917

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

Dorm Room 1898

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 25, 2017
Carleton dorm room photo

On this date in 1867, Horace Goodhue, Jr., opens a prep school in Northfield with twenty-three students attending. The institution is first known as Northfield College, but a generous donation from William Carleton of Charlestown, Massachusetts, would inspire its current name, Carleton College.

This image of a Carleton dorm room is from 1898. 

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photo in our collections database.

US Army Trench Whistle

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 24, 2017

Trench whistles were often used for signaling at the Front. This whistle was used by Norman F. Claussen of St. Paul, Minnesota, during his service in the Field Artillery in both the Mexican Border War and World War I. This type of U.S. Army whistle was used widely by commissioned and non-commissioned officers alike. It is somewhat simply designed, made from brass and covered with a layer of brown finish, then attached to the carrying ring by a brass chain and hook. A cork ball inside allows it to produce noise, and an engraving of “Horstman, Phila” specifies the company and location in which it was produced. The Claussen arrived in Liverpool, England, to begin his military service on September 23rd, 1917.


Trench whistle

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 1999.74.12

Letter from Flight School: David Backus's Progress

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 23, 2017

David Backus wrote a letter to his mother from Tours, France, where he was continuing his Aviation training. He comments on his oldest brother's enlistment at Fort Snelling and his other brother's disapproval of the war. He also mentions his training, the weather (a constant topic for the pilot), and his progress in flight school, (explaining why landing is the most difficult skill to master). Finally, Backus talks about his likely plans once his training in Tours is finished.


Tours-France Sept.23
Dearest Mother:
[...] Am awfully glad to hear that Clinton got into the O.F. Camp at Fort Snelling and especially that he has gone into artillery rather than Infantry. The artillery is a good game. Received a letter from Romayne this morning. He does not approve of fighting and hopes he gets into the Quartermaster department as he wishes. You know by now that I am in Avaitation. [sic] [...] We have been having beautiful weather lately and have been flying everyday. Yesterday I got 3 10 minutes Hops - that is flights. Ought to be in the Sols Class before you receive this letter, and will be out of here inside of 4 weeks with good weather. It will be great sport when I get into the Sols Class, take several small voyages thn we take two triangles, make 3 good sized tours, stop at an English Avaitation [sic] Corp & report. it is a trip of about 70 miles.Go over to English School 30 miles away in 23 minutes, not so slow. [...] From here, (that is unless the big U.S. Aviation school is open by the time I leave here, in that case I will go there.) I go to Avord to take Perfection work on Newports & Spades - they make from 140 to 150 metrs [sic] an hour are very small one man machines. of course I go up in a double one with a Monitlier at first. Then after having gotten accustomed to flying one of them and landing (that is the hardest part and the most difficult of all flying and where most of the accidents occur. you have to land going about 40 or fifty meters an hour & make what is known as a 3 point landing. you see two wheels & the tail of the fusilage [sic] or body. Sounds easy, does it not well some men can never learn how to do it as it requires a very delicate touch and exact sense of distance to land at the right moment with correct amount of speed and machine at just a certain angle. From there I go to the Pou - for Acrobatics - yes just what the word implies learn to loop the loop, side, slip, [verroy?], with motor shut off, tail slip, falling, leaf, twist, nose dive, etc. There to Plessy-Bellview about 30 miles out of Paris for machine gun practice then to the Front. [...]

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

Shell Holes and Sea Sickness: William W. Dean Crosses the Atlantic

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 22, 2017

As William W. Dean's journey across the Atlantic on the RMS Carmania continued, he described the other boats in their convoy, including one with many visible repairs from shell holes. Tensions on the ship are began to mount as the convoy neared more dangerous areas on the sea, and the constant worry about the threat of torpedoes inspired extreme caution for the submarine watch.


Dean letter
Dean letter

Our convoy consists of 14 ships filled with troops. Our escort is one armed cruiser way up at the head of the procession, one torpedo destroyer capable of 35 knots an hour, which they say is just out of sight on the starboard side, and the strangely camouflaged boat (previously described as looking 'like a futurist picture with black, yellow, and sky blue stripes all over it'), with 8 6 inch guns. I thought if any boat in the fleet was torpedoed it would be this one. The Germans have been trying to get her for a long time because she sank the Cap Trafalgar and another German raider. This boat had 360 shell holes in her, some of which the patches are clearly visible. [...] I sure will be glad when we hit the other side and this little game of sunning ["running"?] the gauntlet is over. Everybody is so crabby and in such nervous tension that an exchange of blows is not far off. The "submarine watch" goes on, which consists of 6 men stationed at different parts of the boat with high powered field glasses, They are forbidden from taking the glasses from their eyes while they are on watch.

Citation: William Blake Dean and Family. Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1444 Box 3

1949 Homecoming

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 22, 2017
1949 Homecoming

This photograph is of the crowd releasing balloons at the 1949 University of Minnesota Homecoming football game against Purdue.

This image forms part of our Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative collection. Additional photographs in this series may be available in the library, please view the finding aid.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.

"Aid Germany; Then Starve" and "British Smash Flanders Line" - The Daily People's Press. September 21, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 21, 2017

Romper Room Clock

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 21, 2017
Romper Room Clock

This is a puzzle clock promoting the educational children's television show Romper Room, which aired in the United States between 1953 and 1994.  The toy consists of twelve numbered shapes that may be set into and removed from corresponding impressions in a plastic base. When all of the shapes are set into the base, they form a clock. Manufactured by Hasbro Industries, Inc. in Pawtucket, Rhode Island circa 1972.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this toy in our collections database.

"Great Battle is On Again" and "'British Troops Plowing Through German Lines" - The Duluth Herald. September 20, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 20, 2017


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 20, 2017

This Columbia Graphophone (Type AT) was used by Frances Densmore to record Native American music onto cylinder records in the late 19th century.

For more information about this item, view this phonograph in our collections database.