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.
The Women's Overseas Service League was an organization formed by women who had served overseas during the First World War. Their records include biographical details about their members.
The biography of Leila Halverson, who left the United States for France in December of 1917 as a nurse for the American Red Cross, is a remarkable resume and notable also for the number of places she worked while abroad. Halverson started in a contagious hospital for refugee children from Belgium and occupied areas of France, and went on to serve in a hospital for allied soldiers (January 1918), as a night supervisor in a Red Cross hospital in Jerusalem (January 1919), as first surgical assitant in Haifa, Syria (April 1919), and finally as the nurse in charge at a Typhus hospital in Poland (July 1919). She returned to the U.S. in December 1919, and was Chief nurse at St. Paul Hospital when she joined W.O.S.L. in 1921.
Citation: "Leila Halverson." Women's Overseas Service League, St. Paul Unit, Records, 1919-1942. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BH7/.W872
Did you know someone who had a Mrs. Beasley? She was extremely popular between 1966 – 1972, due to the TV show Family Affair. This very doll will be on view in our 1968 exhibit, which opens this Saturday, December 23!
See it in Collections Online.
David Backus' diary on December 20, 1917 describes an average day that turns tragic as a comrade crashes his plane and dies instantly. Backus describes arriving at the scene of the crash, straight into the ground at full speed just 900 feet away from him and other airmen. He recalls rushing to the site of the crash to find that the pilot, Lt. Paul, had died instantly, and describes as he and the other airmen pulled him from the wreckage. This tragic incident sheds light on the very real dangers soldiers faced, even in a training environment. However, business must continue as usual and later in the day Backus records four "Tours de Piste," or laps, in an 18-Metre plane.
Thursday Dec. 20-17.
Receved letters from Mother. Some cold, formation 6:30. Trucks over to St. Valentine Field. Well all the 72 of our fellows from Tours got their Active Orders + donned their Officers bars + paraphenelia. We are in 15 Metre Class. Well Lt. Paull, from Phil, just over few weeks, head of our section of 10, took his first + last hop on 15 Metre. Climbed too fast used rudder [ver...] from 120 meters, went into ground with motor full on about 900 feet from us. We ran- I was second man to reach the machine. He was killed instantly forehead severed by cord. We tore what was left of the plane apart trying to get him out. They brought an ax + I chopped iron ports away. We finally got him out, used lower wing for a stretcher. No doctor or ambulance anywhere around as usual. They would not let us fly until after lunch but [...] kept on. Sent over 3 18 Metres, Yong, Sherry, Brad + I had a lot of fun I got 4 long Tours de Piste + drove one machine home.
Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F
This photo of a woman happily arranging her tree is from 1954. Does anyone else get the vibe that perhaps this was taken as part of a Halvorson ad campaign? The photographer was Al Heitman, a professional photographer who worked in Minnesota from 1930s – 1970s.
See it in Collections Online.
On December 19, 1917 the Omaha Chapter of the American Red Cross extended an invitation by telegram to the St. Paul Chapter to join them in a friendly challenge. The Omaha Chapter reports that only Denver and Dallas have accepted their challenge to secure the most new members compared to population between December 17th and 25th, and extends this challenge to St. Paul. It is unknown if St. Paul accepted this challenge and the opportunity to generate contributions through competition.
Western Union Telegram
RECEIVED AT 332 ROBERT STREET, ST. PAUL MINN.
OMAHA NEBR 18
AMERICAN RED CROSS CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE
ST PAUL MIN
OMAHA HAS ISUED THE CHALLENGE THAT SHE WILL SECURE MORE RED CROSS MEMBERS PER THOUSAND POPULATION FROM DECEMBER SEVENTEENTH TO TWENTY FIFTH THAN ANY OTHER AMERICAN CITY OF OUR SIZE OR LARGER ONLY DENVER AND DALLAS HAVE' ACCEPTED THIS FRIENDLY CHALLENGE WHATS THE MATTER WITH ST PAUL
CHAIRMAN CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE.
Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781
Christmas window displays were an eagerly anticipated event at the Dayton's flagship downtown Minneapolis store. One photo is of the huge crowds gathered around the windows in 1923; the other is of the Twelve Days of Christmas window display in 1956.
See more Christmas window photos in Collections Online.
The University of Minnesota Base Hospital (Base Hospital No. 26 under the American Expeditionary Forces) was officially established in the summer of 1917, but preparations for its formation by the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic began as early as October 1916. In December 1917, the War Department mobilized Base Hospital No. 26, and this unit was assigned to active duty at Fort McPherson, Georgia.
On this day in 1917, the Chairman of the fundraising committee for the Hospital sent out this update to contributors. The letter describes the total contributions and the use that was made of them in purchasing equipment, medical supplies, shipping, and other preparation expenses. It also describes non-monetary contributions, including ambulances, cars, and some "miscellaneous instruments." This letter reports that the doctors of the Mayo clinic contributed almost half of all monetary contributions, and also describes the involvement of the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester Chapters of the Red Cross.
To the Contributors to the University of
Minnesota Base Hospital No. 26:
In view of the fact that the University of Minnesota Base Hospital No. 26, to which you made generous contribution some months since, has been mobilized and ordered to Ft. McPherson, Georgia, the Committee in charge of the gift desires to make the following report at this time.
The total cost of the Hospital to date is $32,345.59, of which the Doctors Mayo of Rochester contributed $15,000.00 and citizens of Minneapolis $17,345.59. This money was forwarded to the Red Cross at Washington and placed by them to the credit of Dr. L. B. Baldwin of the University Hospital, Minneapolis, as disbursing officer for the purchse of the proper equipment. The Base Hospital has a capacity of 500 beds. [...]
Chairman of Committee.
Citation: University of Minnesota Base Hospital Committee records, 1917-1918. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2173
Minnesota author Sigurd Olson was a passionate leader in conservation and wilderness preservation, with a particularly strong connection to the Boundary Waters. This book of essays was originally published in 1963, the same year he became vice-president of The Wilderness Society.
Runes of the North by Sigurd Olson. New York: Knopf, 1963.