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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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"U.S. Assures Victory" and "Women Work in Steel Mill" - The Daily People's Press. October 7, 1917

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

"Italy's Success Alarms Enemy" and "Fierce Battle Against I.W.W." - Aitkin Independent Age. October 6, 1917.

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

Evening dress, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | October 6, 2017
Evening dress

This is an embroidered net evening dress of ecru lace and black tulle. It is a Paris model dress that retailed at the Helen shop, Dayton's Department Store, Minneapolis, circa 1917. Helen's was a women's specialty shop within Dayton's run by dressmaker Helen Gjertsen.

The Minneapolis Comfort Kit Committee

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

The Comfort Kit Committee, a department of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross, was officially organized one hundred years ago today. The committee's purpose was to make and distribute comfort kits to all soldiers leaving for war from Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The kits included items like shoe laces, a sewing kit, soap, toothbrush and paste, tobacco, and gum. Some of the items were supplied by donations from local businesses or organizations, and others were donated by private citizens. The kits were made and assembled by volunteers, and each kit cost about a dollar. They were intended to supply the necessities and comforts that the soldiers might need or miss while at war. Over the course of World War I, the Committee assembled over 20,000 kits to be sent overseas.



The Comfort Kit Committee of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross was definitely organized October 5th, with Mrs. Denman F. Johnson as Chairman. [...]

The purpose of the Committee is, to make, pack and distribute comfort kits to all drafted men and other soldiers who may need them, going from Minneapolis and Hennepin County. [...]

A kit is made in bag form of Khaki cloth, the approximate cost of each being one dollar. A kit contains:-
2 handkerchiefs
Tablet and pencil
10 envelops.
Tooth brush.
Tooth paste.
Wash cloth & soap.
Small comb
Drinking cup.
Shoe strings.
Steel mirror.
Sewing bag contains:-
White & Khaki thread.
White & Khaki buttons.
Safety & common pins.

All the testaments are donated by The Young Peoples' Testament society of Minneapolis, and all tobacco by the retail tobacco dealers of Minneapolis. Smaller numbers of other articles have been donated at different times. The Junior Board of Northwestern Hospital is assisting the Committee very materially by making and filling on an average of fifty of the sewing cases a week. [...]

Respectfully submitted,
Mrs. Denman Johnson

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

Sigurd Olson's Canoe Paddle

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

This canoe paddle belonged to Minnesota Nature writer Sigurd Olson. It is a long hardwood stern paddle and is made of single piece of wood; it dates between 1900 - 1978.

"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