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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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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

"President Wilson Re-States United States' War Aims" and "Ukrainians Sign a Treaty" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. February 11, 1918

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

"I.W.W. Leaders Plot Sabotage" and "Nationwide Fast Day" - The Daily People's Press. February 10, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 10, 2018

"American Soldiers Lost, Probably 147" and "Bad Defeats for Germans" - The Duluth Herald. February 9, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 9, 2018

Vulcan getting ready to light a pile of Christmas trees on fire, 1947

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | February 9, 2018

Remember how Winter Carnival ends? With the Vulcans winning and thereby bringing Spring? Let's hope that happens this year! This photo of a Vulcan about to set a pile of Christmas tree on fire is from 1947; if it was actually lit it must have been quite a sight!

See it in Collections Online.

Blot Out the German Nation

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 8, 2018

This letter was sent to Senator Knute Nelson by a constituent, warning about spies high up in the military. He claims that the Kaiser doesn't go to the slums to insert spies, but to the highest level of the military and government. He advocates for systematic and swift raids through all military and government offices to find the spies the Kaiser has planted. The man also states that US soldiers shoudl fight to the death against Germany. He seems to be against ending the way diplomatically, saying, "to blot out the German nation for an everlasting example for generations to come."

Feb. 8, 1918.
[...] Dear Sir:-
[...] Then kindly pardon me for more suggestions, which I think also immediately important. When the Kaiser places plotters, he does not go to the slums first - he places queens and kings. He bribes generals and lords and men too high for the "dare" of investigation. Seek bomb makers and plotters as high up as you can get and make systematic raids in the head offices of the ammunition firms themselves and with their trusted foremen and with the heads for boats and transportation and their most trusted managers and soon there will be no more blasting of plants and explosions of boats.
Let the detectives come friendly and say, "To get the guilty ones we are ordered to raid systematically all, our own folks too, you are O.K. but we have to go through the systematic cleanup now, and sweep friend and foe alike". Then you will find some wonderful revelations and see how deep the Kaisers insurance system covers losses. And by all means make raids on the detectives themselves. [...] So every officer and soldier's belongings should also be raided at times most suitable, to save the U.S. Army from the experience of the Italian army last fall.

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 144.I.13.2F Box 27