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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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Jaw Surgery in France

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 7, 2018

Private Harry W. Glenn wrote this letter to his parents while stationed in France. He tells them of the difficulty he has been having with his teeth, including a recent surgery he went through to remove an abscess that formed in his jaw. Glenn writes that he has been diagnosed with Necrosis Mandible, known today as Osteonecrosis, which was possibly caused by exposure to a toxic agent such as mustard gas. Despite the loss of many teeth, Glenn seems to be looking on the bright side, saying he finds ways to help out at the hospital and makes himself useful.


Two women picking mushrooms

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 7, 2018

This photo shows two women picking mushrooms in 1935.

See it in Collections Online.

Occupational Therapy Nurses Wanted

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 6, 2018

This letter was sent to all the Division Directors of Civilian Relief for the American Red Cross, regarding the need for Reconstruction Aides who would provide occupational therapy for disabled soldiers in hospitals. The Red Cross was looking for women from 25 to 40 years old, 60 to 70 inches tall, and 100 to 195 pounds. These women had to be US citizens, and should have knowledge in basketry, weaving, simple wood carving, block printing, knitting, needle work, and drawing skills.


August 6, 1918.
[...] It is impossible to state at this time just how many Reconstruction Aides in Occupational Therapy the Medical Department of the Army may need during the next year ending June 30, 1919. [...] We have indicated to the American Red Cross that there will probably be a need overseas of two hundred Reconstruction Aides during the next year. [...] The pre-requisites as to age fixed for the present is healthy women from twenty-five to forty years of age. If the Reconstruction Aide in Occupational Therapy is utilized in the hospitals of this country she may be a married woman and may be the wife of an overseas officer of the army. If her husband is overseas she could not be sent overseas under the ruling of the War Department. They must of course be citizens of the United States, physically they must be fit, should not be less than sixty inches in height nor more than seventy inches. They should weigh not less than one hundred nor more than one hundred ninety-five pounds.

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


By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 6, 2018

This lithograph of mushrooms was created in 1932 by Wanda Gag; it inspired this week's Item of the Day theme of mushrooms. Although morel season is over, other types are still available! 

See it in Collections Online.

"25,000 Women Nurses Wanted" and "Prohibition Talk Here Tomorrow" - Freeborn County Standard. August 5, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 5, 2018

Introduction to James Thomas Hughes

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 4, 2018

James Thomas Hughes enlisted on August 2nd, 1918 as a Battalion Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion of the 809th Regiment of the Pioneer Infantry. He sailed to France on September 23rd, 1918 and returned on July 16th, 1919. He received the Bronze Victory Medal on September 16th, 1919. This diary entry is from his from his time spent in camps in the U.S before he sailed to France. He also mentions his "pal" Tela, likely Tela Burt, whose draft assignment was posted on August 2nd, and who was also a member of the 809th Regiment.

August 4th, 1918 Arrived at camp 9:30 am Roasted on the march which seemed like a prison sentence. Got Tela as pal. seemed a thousand miles but was only about two. Some [...rab] in all this sand and dust. Nothing to eat until 3:15 P.M.

Citation: James Thomas Hughes Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D640.H84

Mason Dixon Line in Camp

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 3, 2018

ATTENTION: The following letter and transcription contain language that is derogatory. We have chosen to include this letter and it's complete transcription as it provides evidence of the racism many African American soldiers experienced while serving during the War. However, it may be offensive to readers.

In a diary entry from this day, Victor Johnson gives insight into race relations in the army. He writes about how an African American soldier and a white soldier from C Company got into a fist fight. Based on Johnson's writings, it seems that the African American soldier came out on top, which led to all of C Company going in search of the man with loaded rifles. In the camp segregated existed, which Johnson called "The Mason Dixon line". Even though African American soldiers were fighting against the Germans and putting their lives against the line just as much as any white soldier, discrimination still remained.


Aug 3-1918.
Today they changed the shifts so now we go to work at 1.30 am this week and get thru at 12.30 am. Here in this camp they have quite a few niggers (One Regiment) and some time ago one of the boys in C Co. got into a fight with one of them and got cut up pretty bad. Right then and there, there was Hell a poping (sic). The whole company took there rifels (sic) and went on a hunt for the so said nigger and if they had gotten him before the guards did he would have been one numbered among the dead. Now they have taken the rifels (sic) and amunition (sic) away from them. They gave the niggers a good some as none of them have looked for trouble since. Here in camp they have what is known as the Mason Dickson line (one of the company streets) where the niggers are not allowed to go over to the white side not the whites to the niggers side.

Citation: Victor O. Johnson Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1987

State Park Permit, 1961

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 3, 2018

This is the state park annual permit that goes in the front windshield of one's car to allow access to Minnesota's extensive park system for the year 1961. We have a complete run of these in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) files, which are part of our State Archives collection. Please note the year cleverly placed on the bag.

Tela Burt's Draft Assignment

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 2, 2018

This draft assignment was for Tela Burt sent by the President of the United States on August 1st, 1918. Burt completed a tour of duty in France as a supply sergeant with the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry. He loved music, and after his tour of duty he studied the saxophone and clarinet at MacPhail School of Music.


Citation: Tela Burt Materials. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 142.G.7.4F-2

The girl in the glass

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | August 2, 2018

This photo from an art/dance class was taken at the University of Minnesota in 1946. The photographer was Gordon Ray, and it forms part of the Reid H. Ray Film Industries Collection.

See it in Collections Online.