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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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There is no squeal

By: admin | Item of the Day | February 7, 2011
Pig shaped cutting board

Laminated pine cutting board in shape of pig with advertisement for Red River California Pine from the South Side Lumber Co. of Minneapolis. Circa 1940.

Minnesota Breweriana

By: admin | Our Favorite Things | February 4, 2011
Minnesota has a long and proud history in the brewing industry. From the first breweries opened by early German immigrants to Surly Brewing’s latest concoction, the history of brewing in Minnesota is well represented by objects in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections.  Brewing memorabilia, or “breweriana” as it is called by collectors, takes the form of many types of objects including advertising signs, beer bottles and can openers. Beginning in the 1950s, Minnesota brewers such a Hamm’s pioneered the use of breweriana to widely advertise their products.

The Theodore Hamm Brewing Company was founded in 1865 and emerged from prohibition as one of the top ten brewers in the U.S.  Hamm’s Beer items are among the most numerous in the Society’s collection, but this electric advertising sign is a real highlight.

Hamm's promo

The sign, from the early 1960s, makes the most of Hamm’s famous tag line, “From the Land of Sky Blue Waters,” by depicting a “North-Woods” style cabin with a night scene of a tree-lined lake that lights up from behind and shows twinkling stars, the Hamm’s logo and as seen above, four beer glasses flowing across the sky. (See video of the sign in action.)

Yoerg's BeerThe first commercial brewery in Minnesota was the Yoerg Brewing Company of St. Paul.  Anthony Yoerg moved to Minnesota from Germany in 1848 and quickly started a brewery.  The company survived prohibition by producing soft drinks, but it could not survive a devastating fire in 1958.

This early Yoerg Brewing Company can from the collection is called a “cone top.”  This style of can was invented, in three variations, by several companies to compete with the traditional flat top can and to allow brewers to use their normal bottle caps.Fleck's promos

Before reliable refrigeration, beer was made and consumed locally.  This was true in Minnesota where at one time there were over 200 breweries spread throughout nearly every county in the state.  These salt and pepper shakers were marketing items from the Fleckenstein (Fleck’s) Brewery of Faribault.

A recent casualty in the Minnesota brewing scene is the Gluek’s beer brand.  This recipe card box and set of recipe cards are promotional objects from Minneapolis based Gluek’s.  Made in the early 1960s, the cards feature many different ideas and recipes for cooking with beer, including desserts!  The Gluek Brewing Company and Brand, founded in 1857, was sold to Heileman Brewing of Wisconsin in 1964.  In 1997, Cold Spring Brewing, near St. Cloud, bought the brand, but in late 2010, they decided to retire the name, ending the nearly 150 year history of this Minnesota beer brand.

Gluek's promo

Summit EPASummit Brewing Company is one of Minnesota’s most successful breweries and now sells its beer all over the Upper Midwest.  Started in 1986 by Mark Stutrud, Summit is represented by a wide variety of objects in the collection including this early Extra Pale Ale tap handle given to the Society in 1988.

There are so many items in the collection that it was hard to choose only five, but these are representative examples of large/small, outstate/Twin Cities, and old/new Minnesota breweries.

Jason Onerheim, Collections Assistant

Learn More:

For more information on brewing in Minnesota, see Doug Hoverson’s fantastic book Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota available in the Minnesota History Center Museum Store.

A collection of historic photographs of Minnesota breweries can be found online on the Visual Resources Database.

Minnesota brewed

Vulcanus Rex 'Flame' coat

By: admin | Item of the Day | February 4, 2011
Vulcanus Rex 'Flame' coat

St. Paul Winter Carnival 'Flame' Coat with name tag and 1968 Carnival button. Worn by Vulcanus Rex XXI, Howard Christensen. Manufactured by Stanbury & Co. Uniforms, Brookfield, MO., 1968.

The Rollicking Realm of Boreas: A Legend

By: admin | Item of the Day | February 3, 2011
Rollicking Realm of BoreasRollicking Realm of Boreas, back cover

The Rollicking Realm of Boreas: A Legend...As told to Minnesota Children as the North Wind Roars Across Boreas' Realm.

Patrick Coleman, Acquisitions Librarian, says: "You don't know the Winter Carnival until you have read this." It is a charming telling of the mythology behind Carnival, written by Frank Madden (Boreas Rex of the Saint Paul Winter Carnival, 1937) and published in 1941. It ends:

"You have cheered them mightily, Good Boreas," said the Queen, "The ten days of Carnival you have proclaimed have been abundantly fulfilled. Health and vigor you have imparted to them, joy you have brought them, Boreas - is it not best that my good people enjoy these beneficent blessings and return to the pursuit of their labors?"

He agrees, and returns to Olympus.

Here's to the end of winter!

"Hi, neighbor!"

By: admin | Item of the Day | February 2, 2011

St. Paul Winter Carnival button features King Boreas, the St. Paul skyline, and the Minneapolis skyline. The button reads, " 'HI, NEIGHBOR!' ' / 1953 / SAINT PAUL / WINTER CARNIVAL / JAN.30 thru FEB.8".  Manufacturer unknown, 1953.

Winter Carnival uniform

By: admin | Item of the Day | February 1, 2011
Winter Carnival uniform

When Carnival returned in 1917, people from Schuneman's and Evan's Department Store celebrated in style! This was the group's marching uniform. Imagine a whole bunch of people wearing this coming toward you...

Yellow heavy wool coat and knickers style pants with blue and white polka dots and black stripes. The coat front fastens with four buttons and a self-belt with two buttons. The letters "S&E"  (Schuneman's and Evan's Department Store) are on the left sleeve. Coat label reads, "Genuine Summit Mackinaw coat."  The pants fasten with six buttons inside waistband. Circa 1917.

Frank Lloyd Wright Arrested in Minnesota!

By: admin | What's New | January 31, 2011
Jail Register Close Up, Hennepin County,1926

In October 1926, the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was arrested by Hennepin County Sheriff deputies in Minnetonka for allegedly violating the Mann Act.  Mr. Wright’s arrest and detention in the Hennepin County Jail is documented in a jail register of the Hennepin County Sheriff, and is one of several jail registers preserved in the State Archives of the Minnesota Historical Society.

A Jail Register is a chronological record of individuals committed to a county or municipal jail. They include arrest and discharge information, name of prisoner and occasionally biographical data, name of officer making the arrest, and the nature of the crime, charges, and sentence.  Unfortunately, the jail registers are not indexed by name, so it can be a challenge to locate a person who was in jail, unless you have a relatively specific date.

According to Mr. Wright’s jail register entry, he was 58 years old, had green eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion.  Mr. Wright was held for the U.S. Marshal’s Office, committed to the jail on October 21, 1926, and released the next day to the U.S. Marshal’s Office.

The arrest of Frank Lloyd Wright was the lead story in the Minneapolis Tribune on October 21, 1926.

Charles Rodgers, Government Records Specialist

Jail Register Interior, Hennepin County,1926Jail Register, Hennepin County,1926

Blessed by Bly and Bly

By: admin | 150 Best Minnesota Books | January 31, 2011

Carol and Robert Bly

Minnesota was doubly blessed having two smart, simple, honest writers like Robert and Carol Bly who could poetically describe Mother Nature and prosaically [although not in the sense of “ordinary”] describe human nature better than all but a handful of writers. Let’s add two of their books to our growing list of 150 Best Minnesota Books.

Carol Bly. Letters From the Country. NY: Harper and Row, 1981.

Robert Bly. Silence in the Snowy Fields. Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1962.

Robert Bly is not a difficult choice for this list. He is a giant in American letters; destined for great things, if not by his birth in Lac qui Parle County, then by his famous graduating class of writers at Harvard in 1950. For a long while in the middle of the last century Carol and Robert turned their Madison, Minnesota farmstead into an epicenter for American writers. Many famous poets spent nights freezing in the converted chicken coop guesthouse. I chose his first book of poems not for the uncountable mentions of snow or poems titled “Poem Against the Rich” and “Poem Against the British” but because of the beautiful simplicity of their descriptions of Minnesota. Bill Holm [another of our “Best” Minnesota authors] called this book “one of the great formative books of American literature” and goes on to say: “It brings into consciousness parts of our lives and places we had never seen clearly before. My own western Minnesota that I simultaneously hated and loved proved more full of metaphor and mystery than I (or anyone else) imagined.” Bly himself must have recognized the significance of these poems to the state as he presented the former head of the Minnesota Historical Society, Russell Fridley, with a copy for the MHS library.

Driving To Town Late To Mail A Letter

It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
The only things moving are swirls of snow.
As I lift the mailbox door, it feels cold iron.
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.

No less a force in Minnesota culture was Robert’s first wife, Carol.

Born in Duluth, Carol McLean married Robert Bly in 1955. She was an equal partner in the anti-war movement that brought Robert to national attention and she never wavered in her fight for social justice. To quote Bill Holm again: “She never backed down from tackling large issues and large ideas in culture.” Perhaps I should have chosen her collection of fiction, Backbone, for two reasons: backbone is a word that defined her, and her characters covered the entire spectrum of Minnesotans – the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, it was Letters that first brought Carol to my attention and I have used her ever since to describe the peoples and places of Minnesota to my coast locked friends. Another reason Carol belongs on this list is that she had an unusual influence on Minnesota writers, especially on women writers, by teaching, mentoring, and befriending so many.

From “Great Snows” in Letters From The Country

It is sometimes mistakenly thought by city people that grownups don’t love snow…The fact is that most country or small-town Minnesotans love snow…

Before a storm, Madison is full of people excitedly laying in food stocks for the three-day blow. People lay in rather celebratory food, too. Organic-food parents get chocolate for the children; weight watchers lay in macaroni and Sara Lee cakes; recently converted vegetarians backslide to T-bones.

So on our list so far we have had a father and son combination [the Lindbergh’s] and now the Bly’s who, I believe, will be our only authors that were husband and wife. Don’t go looking, however, for other relatives to round out our list of the 150 Best Minnesota books. As always I’m looking forward to your comments.

Snowy FieldsLetters from the Country

Winter Carnival Medallion

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 31, 2011
Winter Carnival Medallion, frontWinter Carnival Medallion, back

St. Paul Winter Carnival souvenir medallion featuring the 1887 Ice Palace and highlighting winter sports. The text on the front reads, "ST. PAUL ICE PALACE & WINTER CARNIVAL / 1887." The back features five winter scenes and four symbols of winter sports. The text on the back reads, "CITY OF ST. PAUL / INCORPORATED MARCH 4 1854." Manufacturer unknown, 1887.

Boreas Rex Costume Crown

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 28, 2011
Boreas Rex Costume Crown

Royal purple velveteen crown with adjustable gilt metal band adorned with a large oval brass filigree medallion with an inset rose colored glass jewel. Worn as part of the St. Paul Winter Carnival, 1955.