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Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future

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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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"British Troops Penetrate Teuton Lines for a Mile" and "Entire Structure of German Plotting in U.S. May Be Revealed" - The Duluth Herald. October 4, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 4, 2017

Hennepin Tunnel Collapse, 1869

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 4, 2017
Hennepin Tunnel Collapse

On this day in 1869, a tunnel being built under Hennepin Island to provide waterpower for additional mills gave way. The 2,000-foot collapse threatened to divert water from the main falls and cut the power source for mills along the river. Local citizens worked to plug the hole until the river freezes, and then a dam was built to allow for more permanent measures. The repair job would require ten years to complete. - From the Minnesota Book of Days

Photograph by William Henry Illingworth. See the photo in Collections Online.

I Was A U.S. Marine at 17

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 3, 2017


Percey Christianson here describes, in retrospect, his journey to enlist in the Marines. Christian initially tried to join the Navy after hearing that a family friend had lost his life on the front lines. He felt that he should take his friend's place in the military, and convinced his mother to give him permission to join, but was rejected from the Navy because he had a "rupture that would interfere with active duty in the Navy." Christian returned home and had an operation to repair the rupture, and two weeks later went back to Chicago to attempt enlist in the Marines. Christian's story echoes those of many young people, inspired by patriotism and a sense of duty to take action and do their part in the war effort.

 


One morning in the year 1917, during World War One, the news came thru that that Clinton Glidden had been killed in the battle of Belle Woods in France. [...] This same morning of 1917, I asked my Mother if she thought it was right that this dear friend of our family had lost his life in France and we were doing nothing to help. She was puzzeled [sic] as to what I meant. I explained that I felt it my duty to enlist in the service. She replied that I was too young and they would not take me for military service. I explained to her, that if she would sign the papers to let me join the service, they would except [sic] me. It took time and effort to get my mother to agree to do this. I kept telling her of Clinton Glidden and how I felt that it was my duty to take his place where he had fallen in Belle Wood, France. She finally consented, and I left for Chicago to enlist in the Navy.
The Navy turned me down. The examining board of doctors explained that I had a rupture that would interfere with active duty in the Navy. [...] I told my Mother that I wanted to enter the DeKalb Hospital and be operated on at once and return to Chicago to try and enlist again. [...] Two weeks after the operation, I again left for Chicago to enlist. This time, feeling I should be physically perfect, I decided to enlist in the Marine Corp. I was broken hearted when the examining doctor told me that he did no think that he could pass me for service. His explaination was that the incision made at the time of the operation was not healed enough so that it was safe to go through any excessive strain. I told him about my try for the Navy and what I had done to correct it. After consultation with other doctors they decided that by the time I would get into active hard training the incision would be healed enough to take the strain. They inducted me as U.S. Marine right then and there. I was the proudest guy in the world. [...]

Citation: Percy B. Christianson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2371 Box 1

Twins button made during the 1987 World Series

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 3, 2017
Twins World Series button 1987

Who remembers this excellent series? This button commemorates the World Series thirty years ago in 1987 when the Twins played the St. Louis Cardinals. The Twins won that World Series; hopefully they will win tonight and on to this year's series! 

This button was manufactured by WinCraft of Winona, Minnesota.

See it in Collections Online.

"Teutons Fight with Great Desperation to Stop Progress of the British Line; Sense Another Big Drive Toward Belgium" and "Another Attack Made on London" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 2, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 2, 2017

Letters From the Front

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 2, 2017


William W. Bartlett of Minneapolis wrote to Senator Knute Nelson about his sons, Walter and Marshall, who were serving with other Minnesota men overseas in France, in a section of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps (the American volunteer ambulance corps). He describes the awards and casualties of some of the sections with mostly Minnesotan members, and says he has only heard of one Minnesota boy who quit the service and returned home.

William Bartlett also included a transcribed letter from one of his sons, Walter Bartlett. Walter describes the scene where his section is currently serving, at an advance post. The scene on the Verdun front is mostly one of devastation with shell holes and destroyed wagons littering the woods, but his description remains upbeat, as their movement into this area means that the front line is advancing. He also describes a meeting with his superiors, where he and his section were informed that their service was complete, and they could return home or extend their volunteer service under American authority. Walter says he has decided to stay.
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William W. Bartlett of Minneapolis wrote to Senator Knute Nelson about his sons, Walter and Marshall, who were serving with other Minnesota men overseas in France, in a section of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps (the American volunteer ambulance corps). He describes the awards and casualties of some of the sections with mostly Minnesotan members, and says he has only heard of one Minnesota boy who quit the service and returned home.

William Bartlett also included a transcribed letter from one of his sons, Walter Bartlett. Walter describes the scene where his section is currently serving, at an advance post. The scene on the Verdun front is mostly one of devastation with shell holes and destroyed wagons littering the woods, but his description remains upbeat, as their movement into this area means that the front line is advancing. He also describes a meeting with his superiors, where he and his section were informed that their service was complete, and they could return home or extend their volunteer service under American authority. Walter says he has decided to stay.


October 1st, 1917.
Honorable Knute Nelson,
Washington, D.C.
Dear Senator:

[...] There are, to the best of my information, some fifty or more Minnesota men in the Norton-Harjes sections alone. These sections are made up of forty-five men each. Section 62, in which my two sons are members, is called the Minnesota Section, because twenty-seven of the members are from the state, and most of them from the University of Minnesota. Sections 61, 62, and 63 are largely composed of Minnesota men [...]. They are a bunch of fine fellows, and have rendered splendid service. Several have already won the Cross du Guerre, and the enthusiastic commendation of the French authorities, while two of our Minnesota boys, one in Section 61, the other in Section 62, have been killed, during the last month, and two others severely wounded. These casualties came after the time when the sections were officially disbanded, and the boys given permission to return home. They elected to continue in the service, still as volunteers, until the United States could send men to take their places. [...]

The letter [from my son Walter] bears date September 1st, and reads as follows:
"We are back on duty at the same old front. Of course, we have moved our advance post a kilometer, so as to follow the French in their advance in this district. The brother [Marshall] and I are the only ones up at this advance post, and when we get a load we send another car up. This advance has been great. Every where in the woods are shell holes, and also the roads are all filled up holes. The Germans sure hit this wood in their attempt to get the French guns. I walked up to the edge of the wood, where all the land is clear and the trees all shot down, further than ever before and it is a terrible sight. The shell holes, six feet deep and teen feet across touch each other; horses with their harness still on hitched to their smashed up wagons on the road side. On either side of this road, are coils of wire, piles of shells, empty and good, hand grenades, picks and shovels, milk cans, gunny sacks and torn down phone wres. We are now about five kilometers from the Boche lines, and through some glasses I could see a wood that they hold, and that we want. An officer who has a battery of 75s here, said that the Hill 304, has been leveled like a table. He never saw anything before like it, absolutely everything is down, and no stone lies whole; they are all broken up in bits and are sand again. [...] Mr. Norton said we could jump the job now, as it would be permissible, as they had broken their part of the contract, or that we could wait until the United States had men to replace us, (which they expect to do, 2-6 weeks;) or that we could sign up in this work for the duration of the war, and they would be glad to have experienced men break the new comers. In the second case, if we stayed our six months, or until we were replaced, we would be doing France a great favor. As we came primarily to help her, I feel like staying as long as I can continue to aid this suffering nation."

I am confident that what my son writes, reflects the concensus [sic] of opinion of all of the young men in the sections, with which he is closely in touch. Thus far, I have heard of but one Minnesota boy, who availed himself of the privilege of quitting.
[...]
With best regards, I am,
Very truly yours,
W.W. Bartlett

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 26

Marine and a black dog taking a break in the grass, Vietnam

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 2, 2017
Soldier and dog in Vietnam

This photograph is of a Marine and a black dog taking a break in the grass in Vietnam, ca. 1969 – 1970. It forms part of Gary Moss Vietnam War photograph collection.

See more of the Moss collection here.

"Meant to Seize U.S. Industries" and "Fail to Reach London" - The Daily People's Press. September 30, 1917

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

Book are Weapons in the War of Ideas, World War II poster, 1942

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 29, 2017
WWII poster

Book are Weapons in the War of Ideas, World War II poster, 1942

This is one of our favorite World War II posters. While the image of book burning is horrifying, the text on the giant book by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the tag line "Books are Weapons in the War of Idea" make for an effective poster.

"To Commandeer American Craft" and "Germans are Hard Pressed by Allies" - The Twin City Star. September 29, 1917

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

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