Collections Up Close

collections up close Blog

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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Ceramic Vessel by Daga

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 8, 2017

This ceramic vessel was made by Minnesota potter Robert Daga Jr. in the 1930s. It has a small round base with a flared lip and is decorated with a mottled pattern of light and dark brown colors. Daga's signature and a partial date are inscribed on the base of the piece.

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

"British Strike Telling Blow at German Line" and "Work of Drafting Men For War Duty Expected to Begin in Ten Days" - The Duluth Herald. June 7, 1917.

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

Painting of West 7th

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

This gouache on paper painting titled “West Seventh Street, St. Paul” was made by Minnesota artist Cameron Booth in 1935.

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

Women Anxious to Serve - June 6, 1917

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

“Mr. Brown has told us that you are very anxious to do active nursing service,” the Red Cross says to Miss Stella Miller. At this time of Miss Stella Miller’s inquiry, there were not many opportunities for women who were not trained nurses to work in the field. Women could serve in the position of nurses’ aids if they meet specific requirements, such as being between the ages of 25-40 and obtaining a certificate proving they completed a two year course. However, many base hospitals were not bringing in nurses’ aids at the moment. Even when someone like Miss Stella Miller has a desire to serve, the opportunity does not always present itself.


Miss Stella Miller,
Buffalo, North Dakota.
My dear Miss Miller:-
Mr. Brown has told us that you are very anxious to do active nursing service under the Red Cross. There is not a great deal of opportunity for women other than trained nurses to get active work in the field at present. The Base Hospital Units have the privilage of taking with them a limited number of Nurses' Aids if they wish. These Nurses' Aids are chosen from women between the ages of 25 and 40 who hold certificates showing that they have completed courses described in the enclosed circular. None of the Hospital Units that have been sent abroad so far have taken Nurses' Aids however, and we could no guarantee that you would have a chance to go even if you took all of these courses.
If you care to spend two years in a nurses' training school you could be reasonably sure of being accepted by the Red Cross Nursing Service.
Very truly yours,
Secretary of Instruction.

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

BWCA Sticker

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 6, 2017

This rectangular orange paper bumper printed "Save the B.W.C.A." (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) was issued by Rudy Perpich, 1980.

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

"Sending Our Boys Across the Water Without Their Consent" - June 5, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 5, 2017

Despite grassroots campaigns to contribute to the war effort, support for the war was not universal, and even those who otherwise supported the war voiced their opposition to the draft. John Hetland of Ada, Minnesota, was one of them. On June 5, 1917, he wrote a letter to Senator Knute Nelson discussing his and his community’s position on the draft. Hetland notes that he has four boys between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five, and he would be proud to see them fight for their country. Still, he worries that U.S. soldiers are being deployed not to fight for their own nation but rather to advance the interests of European monarchies such as France and Britain – a much less noble cause. Moreover, Hetland’s career in politics and public service has taught him that much of his community feels the same way. In light of this, Mr. Hetland asks Senator Nelson to eliminate the draft and restrict military service to volunteers.

Look for Nelson's response on June 9!

June 5th/17.
Hon. Knute Nelson.
Washington D.C.
Dear Sir:-
Would it not be possible to have a resolution passed by congress that only volunteers should be sent to Europe for the war? I have four boys from sixteen to twenty five years of age. I am willing that they all go to defend this country and the home and would like to go myself. But they will never be sent across the Atlantic to fight for the crowned heads of Europe with my consent. I find that most of our people feel as I do. [...] If it was for service in this country, the goverment could have more men than it could use. Sending our boys across the water without their consent is different. Whey should England hold three million soildiers [sic] at home when their fleet protects them and we send a few thousand soildiers to fight their battles. I believe that congress should take action on it.
Yours truly,
John M. Hetland

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers

Dakota Pipe Bag

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | June 5, 2017

This is a Dakota beaded rawhide tobacco pouch, circa 1900. The primary beadwork panel displays a geometric pattern of green, red, blue and yellow on a white bead ground. Rawhide strips sewn to the bottom of the pouch are wrapped with red, white and yellow porcupine quills in a pyramid pattern. Rawhide fringe dangles below. Quill-wrapped rawhide thongs attached to the top of the pouch terminate in metal jingle cones sprouting dyed-red horsehair bundle.

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

Red Cross Course Work Pamphlet - June 4, 1917

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

This eight page University of Minnesota course book describes the short courses that were available by request of the American Red Cross. The courses offered, with descriptions in the pamphlet, include First Aid, Elementary Hygiene and Home Care of the Sick, and Home Dietetics. All three courses were available to women, but First Aid was offered to both men and women. The classes were taught at the University of Minnesota from June 4th to June 20th, and each course cost between $3 and $4.50.


"Draft Opponents are Few in Number Officials Assert" and "Five Guard Divisions to go to France Soon" - The Daily People's Press. June 3, 1917.

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

Shoes Worn by St. Paul Ambulance Driver

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

On June 2, 1917, Ezra Benham Curry of St. Paul boarded a ship destined for Europe. Once there, he would volunteer with the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps in France, much like David Backus, another St. Paul native this blog has been following. While abroad he purches these shoes, constructed of tan-colored “rough-out” leather, which has the rougher side facing outwards and the softer side facing inwards. The area from the toes to the instep is reinforced with a steel shell, and the heel features a leather reinforcement. The leather soles are studded with iron nails to help with traction in the battlefield.