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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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William W. Dean Departs Aboard the RMS Carmania

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 18, 2017

The grandson of a railroad magnate, financier, and Minnesota state senator, William W. Dean left the United States to serve in France on September 17, 1917. His ship, the RMS Carmania, was a former British merchant ship turned armed cruiser, which left New York Harbor with a total of 3,000 people on board. In a diary entry dated September 18, 1917, William Dean described the worried and poor conditions onboard the ship. That day, the "scared bunch" of officers had spent two hours planning emergency procedures in case of a torpedo impact. And when Dean travelled below deck to check on his twenty-three enlisted men, he was struck by the unpleasant smell and crowded conditions. Upon his arrival in France, Dean would serve as an officer in the American Field Service and later the American Red Cross. The Minnesota Historical Society has copies of Dean's letters and diaries. The original materials are located at the Yale University Library in Connecticut.


Dean letter

"In the evening we had an officers conference that lasted two hours and they certainly seem to me like a scared bunch. Precaution personified is what the officers are and we spent two hours making out a plan we were to follow if we were hit by a torpedo. I am in charge of the Hdq. Det. of 23 men and am responsible for them. Gee but I feel sorry for the enlisted men. I go below 3 times a day to inspect the mess of my men and they are jammed in like rats in a hole. It smells terribly down there and there is very poor ventilation."

Citation: William Blake Dean and Family. Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1444 Box 3

"County's First Quota Leaves Friday" and "German Guns in Trenches Worn Out" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. September 17, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 17, 2017

American Red Cross Knitting Pattern Book

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 16, 2017

The Red Cross continuously received letters, from people all over the country, asking how individuals at home could contribute to the war effort. In response, the Red Cross created resources like this book of knitting patterns, produced September 10, 1917. People could order one of these pattern books, produce the patterns inside, and contribute their work to the war effort. These pattern books ensured that home-produced items were standardized and allowed those who wished to contribute their time and talent to produce items that were useful and needed on the front lines. Patterns in this book include socks, scarves (or "mufflers"), hoods (or "helmets"), and sweaters.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 67.29.7

Knitting instructions

Remembering Charles Beck

By: Lori Williamson | Collections Up Close | September 15, 2017

Charles Beck, a Minnesotan artist, passed away yesterday. He was a talented and amazingly prolific woodcut printer, sculptor, and painter. We are lucky to have several pieces by him in the MNHS collection.

Charles Beck was born in 1923. He attended Concordia College and received his MFA from the University of Iowa. The inspiration for his work comes from his hometown of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and the landscapes of surrounding Ottertail County.  Beck was an art instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College for more than 30 years, and he received an Honorary Doctorate from Concordia College in 1980. His work has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Plains Art Museum.

See more of his work in Collections Online.

After Summer, 1985

Untitled (Three Buildings)

Untitled (Three Buildings), 2010

Cathedral Forest

Cathedral Forest

"The American Red Cross will Provide One Million Christmas Boxes"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 15, 2017

In September 1917, the American Red Cross began an ambitious project to send one million Christmas packages to soldiers at home and abroad. As the Red Cross saw it, the war in Europe made Christmas of 1917 “more worthwhile” than any Christmas of the past thirty years, and they hoped that each soldier and sailor would receive a package for the occasion. In a pamphlet published by the American Red Cross Women’s Bureau, the organization provided instructions for the preparation and shipment of Christmas packages. Suggested gift items included dried fruit, harmonicas (or “mouth organs”), electric torches, compasses, playing cards, licorice, chewing gum, tobacco, and water-tight matchboxes. Donors were advised against including glass items, perishable food products, or chocolate that might melt in transit. Once the donor had collected a number of these suggested items, the Red Cross would provide packaging materials, namely a khaki handkerchief, which would be tied around a pad of writing paper. Beginning November 1st, these Christmas packages were shipped abroad in phases, since shipping space was scarce.


Red Cross Package Letter
Red Cross Package Letter
Red Cross Package Letter
Red Cross Package Letter

Remember Christmas is going to be more worth while this year than any in thirty years past, because we have a real duty to perform to our Soldiers and Sailors. The AMERICAN RED CROSS will provide one million Christmas boxes, as prescribed in A.R.C. 404, a few of which are herewith enclosed. The allotment to this Division is thirty-three thousand of these packets, which amount has been pro-rated throughout the Chapters of the Division. Your quota is 4500 packets. You will kindly subdivide this number throughout your branches and auxiliaries. Please remember we are depending on you for this amount, as only in this way can ALL of our Naval and Army forces here and abroad receive a Christmas greeting from home Khaki Handkerchiefs, Writing Pads and fine Checkerboards can be secured through the Red Cross Bureau of Supplies, 527 Second avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota. A requisition should be made at once for these articles. One-third/or as many as possible of your apportionment must be in the Division Bureau of Supplies depot not later than November 1st so as to give time to make shipment abroad, the balance as soon as possible thereafter. If for any reason you cannot possibly fill the requirements herein requested, please notify Division Headquarters. Packets for foreign shipment should be made as compact and small as possible, as the Government is having difficulty in securing shipping space.

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

Tallest Lawyer in MN

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 15, 2017
Image of George Mikan

This photograph is of professional basketball player George Mikan returning to his law firm after winning the 1953 NBA Championship with the Minneapolis Lakers.

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.

"United States Navy is in Pink Condition" and "Illegitimate Use of Neutral Diplomats by Germany Widespread" - The Duluth Herald. September 14, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 14, 2017

Span-Am War Badge

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 14, 2017
War badge

This pin-back badge is from the United Spanish War Veterans annual encampment in Saratoga Springs, New York, 1936; it was owned by Theresa Ericksen of Minnesota. The top pin bar has a space for a name tag and features Ericksen's name, with a white and blue ribbon attached; at the bottom is a USWV insignia pendant.

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

University of Minnesota Professor Fired After Accusations of Pro-German Sentiment

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 13, 2017

On September 13, William Schaper, a Political Science Professor at the University of Minnesota, was fired by the Board of Regents for expressing "pro-German sentiment" and disloyalty. Schaper, who had worked at the U of M for 16 years, maintained that while he did oppose the war, he had always complied with the law and encouraged his students to do likewise. Speaking out against the war in any way was dangerous, and many people who were considered "sympathizers" risked losing their jobs and the possibility of violence from their neighbors. While Schaper was exonerated in 1938, his firing is an example of widespread Anti-German hysteria that gripped the nation.


The University of Minnesota
Board of Regents
September 13, 1917
The following resolution was unanimously adopted:
Whereas, the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety by letter addressed to the President of this Board, advised that it was claimed by informants of that Commission that W.A. Schaper is a rabid Pro-German, and, on this day, at the request of the Board, Professor Schaper appeared before it and was interrogated concerning his loyalty to this Government, and,
Whereas, the statements made by him before his Board satisfy that his attitude of mind, whether due to conscientious consideration or otherwise and his expressed unwillingness to aid the United States in the present war render him unfit and unable rightly to discharge the duties of his position as Professor in the Department of Political Science of this University, and
Whereas, this Board holds that the best interests of the University, the State, and the Nation require unqualified loyalty on the part of all teachers in the University, coupled with willingness and ability by precept and example to further the national purpose in the present crisis.
Therefore, be it resolved that the relations existing between W.A. Schaper and this University be, and the same are, hereby terminated...

Citation: William A. Schaper papers


“Lake Street”

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | September 13, 2017
Etching on paper

This is an etching on paper print titled “Lake Street”, made by Minnesota artist Larry Welo in 1982.

For more information about this item, view this print in our collections database.