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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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Red Cross Letter on Yarn Shortages

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 11, 2017

In September 1917, the American Red Cross experienced a small conflict concerning the nationwide scarcity of yarn, a conflict that took place between its Washington Headquarters and its regional Northern Division. Earlier in the year, the Red Cross Headquarters at Washington had requested enormous supplies of knitted goods from its regional divisions. However, Washington was unable to provide yarn, knitting needles, or instructions on how to knit, and the particular difficulty of acquiring yarn made it impossible to meet requirements. Mr. R. C. Noyes, Chairman of St. Paul’s Section for Military Relief, wrote to his local Red Cross about this problem, and the Division Manager issued a prompt reply. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Noyes’ position, noting that Washington was “a bit off” in its expectations, given that the entire nation’s supply of yarn could not provide one-third of the requested knitted goods. He went on to report that the Northern Division was in the process of pressuring the Washington Headquarters to purchase more yarn, and the Division was also working to buy whatever supplies became available. Though he doubted that this strategy would bring a full solution, the Division Manager nonetheless encouraged Mr. Noyes to follow up on the matter. As he put it, “Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington.”


Red Cross Yarn Storage
Red Cross Yarn Storage

September 11, 1917.
Dear Mr. Noyes:
I have your letter of the 8th and take pleasure in acknowledging receipt of it at once. First as to the yarn, Washington was evidently a bit off to ask the Red Cross workers of this country to produce a large quantity of knitted articles, when they were unable to deliver either raw materials, instructions for knitting, or needles. They find now that it is almost impossible to obtain yarn with which to produce articles and I am told there is not sufficient yarn in the United States to supply one-third of the required amount. That is the situation. We are putting every possible pressure to bear on Washington to get the yarn as well as buying every pound that is obtainable. I can only express regret at my inability to help in this unfortunate situation. The best you can do I think is to string things along until we can get it. Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington. Second in regard to the Surgical Dressings Committee of America. Through the instrumentality of the Headquarters at Washington an amalgamation has been made with this committee whereby they became a department of the American Red Cross but with authority to solicit independently. I think it remains with the individual to contribute or not. My own personal thoughts is that I would prefer to see one fund for all purposes. I cannot consistently advise in the matter as it is purely a personal question with each individual. Of course the Red Cross is also producing surgical dressings.
Very truly yours,
A.R. Rogers

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




Minneapolis Bars Then and Now

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 11, 2017
Photo of bar interior

Gratuitously stealing the title from one of our favorite Minnesota history books, Twin Cities Then and Now by Larry Millet, Item of the Day presents an occasional series, Minneapolis Bars Then and (sometimes) Now.

This photograph shows the inside of Caesar’s Bar at 320 Cedar Ave in 1966. This location is still a bar, The Red Sea Bar and Restaurant.

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

David Backus's Photos and Notes from Flight School

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 10, 2017

After serving for eighty-nine days as an ambulance driver on the Western Front, St. Paul native David H. Backus enrolled in flight school at Tours, France. While there, he learned from both theory and practice: from classroom-style lectures on the basics of flight mechanics and from test drives of combat planes. Backus is pictured here after his first solo flight in an 80 horsepower Gnome model, built by a French plane manufacturer. His notebooks from flight school discuss the aerodynamic forces of lift, thrust, weight, and drag, and they weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of wing styles. For example, the reverse Curre style, diagrammed below, stabilizes the wing but slightly reduces its ability to generate lift. After twenty-five hours of in-flight training and fifty successful solo landings, Backus received his pilot’s license on November 3, 1917. Of his class of seventeen pilots, six would be assigned to the French Air Squadron C. 21, and they would be the first American aviators to see combat in World War I.


Backus Flight School Notes
Backus Flight School Notes
Backus Flight School Notes

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

"Order Restored in Russian Army through Retiring" and "U-Boats Aided by Neutral, Notes Held by U.S. Show" - The Daily People's Press. September 9, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 9, 2017

"United States War Aims Made Public" and "Anti-American Conspiracy Seen in Government Raid Wednesday" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. September 8, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 8, 2017

Albert Woolson Funeral

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 8, 2017
Funeral photo

This photograph is from the August 7, 1956 funeral of Albert H. Woolson. Woolson was the last surviving Union Army Civil War veteran, having been born in 1850 and joined the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment as a drummer boy. He died in Duluth, Minnesota on August 2, 1956 at the age of 106.

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.

Inventory and Financial Statement for University of Minnesota Base Hospital no. 26

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 7, 2017

During World War I, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic were responsible for the operation of Red Cross Base Hospital No. 26. Though the hospital was technically inaugurated in mid-December of 1917, its officials worked to document detailed inventories and financial statements well into September. On the sixth of that month, the hospital’s Purchasing Officer sent a financial statement and a lengthy inventory to a Mr. E. C. Gale at the Security Building of St. Paul, Minnesota. The enclosed inventory was forty-six pages long, and it included laboratory and kitchen equipment, office supplies, and hospital furniture. Also included was a lengthy list of medicine and antiseptics, which lists 60 tubes of cocaine and 3 bottles of heroine. Including donations, the value of all equipment and supplies was calculated to be $49,473.57. Of that sum, $32,345.59 was spent by the Purchasing Officer of the University of Minnesota, while the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester branches of the American Red Cross contributed an additional $9,000.
[Background information on the hospital, such as its inauguration date, may be found here and in the accompanying document.


UMN Hospital
UMN Hospital
UMN Hospital
UMN Hospital

September 6, 1917
Mr. E.C. Gale
800 Security Building,
My dear Mr. Gale:--
I enclose herewith a copy of my report, as purchasing officer of U. of M. Base Hospital #26, to the American National Red Cross dated September 1st, consisting of financial statement and valued inventory of equipment purchased by me and equipment and supplies donated. [...] I shall be glad to give you any further information you may desire upon request. So far as the purchasing and assembling of th equipment is concerned the Unit was ready for service July 15th last. [...]

Citation: University of Minnesota Base Hospital Committee records, 1917-1918. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [P2173]

Near Mendota

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 7, 2017

This drypoint print on paper is titled “Near Mendota”; it was made by Minnesota artist Lowell Bobleter in 1937.

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

"Federal Agents cover Nation in Big I.W.W. Raid" and "Cadorna's Troops Gain as Germans Plan to Retreat" - Freeborn County Standard. September 6, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 6, 2017

Grain Belt Matchbooks

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 6, 2017
Box of matchbooks

This box of Grain Belt Beer promotional paper matchbooks was produced in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the 1970s.

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