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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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St. Paul Winter Carnival

By: admin | Podcasts and Slideshows | January 27, 2011
It's time once again for the St. Paul Winter Carnival, and Reference Librarian Hamp Smith celebrates with a look at Winter Carnival materials in the Society's collections. Highlights include photographs, personal diaries, marching uniforms, and film footage of the 1916 and 1942 parades.

Smith & Wesson revolver in a Vulcan display case

By: admin | Our Favorite Things | January 27, 2011
Smith & Wesson revolver in a Vulcan display case

This Smith & Wesson .38 caliber revolver has a six-shot fluted cylinder, blued frame and checkered walnut grips with S&W medallions. It was manufactured by Smith and Wesson in Springfield, Massachusetts and is mounted in a wood and glass hinged case. An interior plaque reads "Fire & Brimstone 1970-1986" and a Pioneer Press letter to the editor entitled "Put away parade 'fun' guns" is affixed to one corner.

Vulcans riding in fire engine, St. Paul Winter CarnivalBeginning in 1970 this Smith & Wesson revolver was fired by members of the Vulcan Krewe as they rode their Royal Chariot (a 1932 Luverne fire engine) during Saint Paul Winter Carnival parades. In the letter to the editor published in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and affixed to the revolver’s frame, a parade attendee complains that she is “at a loss to explain what is so darn much fun about loud, scary noises and guns.”  The revolver was "retired" in 1986 due to complaints like this claiming that gunfire during the parades was scaring children.

The Saint Paul Winter Carnival is a celebration of winter and its end. The Carnival has been held since 1886 in Saint Paul, Minnesota and a legend has evolved to support the Carnival’s theme. The story reaches its climax during the annual Torchlight Parade. During the parade Vulcanus Rex, the King of Fire, and his Vulcan Krewe overthrow King Boreas, the King of the Winds. The Vulcans are known for their rowdy revelry and the group emphasizes the community involvement of its members.Vulcans, St. Paul Winter Carnival

Krewe members are selected by the Imperial Order of Fire and Brimstone, the oldest formal organization within the Saint Paul Winter Carnival. When appearing at Krewe functions throughout the year, Vulcans wear a red and black costume consisting of a hat, running suit, cape, boots, gloves, and goggles. In 1994 the Order donated a collection of Vulcan-related memorabilia dated back to the original Saint Paul Winter Carnival in 1886 to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Sondra Reierson, Collections Assistant

Snow Carnival Ice Palace

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 27, 2011

Snow Carnival Ice Palace
Department 56

This three piece ceramic Snow Carnival Ice Palace consists of separate lower and upper levels and a detached gate. Two electric light bulbs illuminate the interior of the palace and small removable flags decorate the exterior. This is one of the many models available from The Original Snow Village© by Department 56, Inc., a company based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  Traditionally, several pieces are retired from the collection each year as newer designs are introduced.

Frosty Fascination

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 26, 2011
Frosty Fascination Winter Carnival Beer

St. Paul Winter Carnival Beer, "1979 Frosty Fascination" made by the August Schell Brewing Company, New Ulm, Minnesota, 1979, for the St. Paul Winter Carnival Association.

Blanket toss

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 25, 2011
Winter Carnival blanket toss

St. Paul Ice Palace blanket toss, St. Paul Winter Carnival, 1887.

Location no. MR2.9 SP9.1 1887 p12

Call of the North

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 24, 2011
St. Paul Winter Carnival Button

St. Paul Winter Carnival button featuring King Boreas and Vulcanus. Manufactured by Western Badge and Novelty Company, 1952.

Zip gun made in Hopkins

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 21, 2011
Zip gun made in Hopkins

Single shot pistol or 'zip gun,' an improvised firearm. Made by a student at Hopkins High School in 1945. The iron gun with cross-hatched wood grips looks like a semiautomatic pistol. The barrel tips up for loading. The pistol was purchased at Berntsen's Gun Shop circa 1990.

Some Fun: And Some Sober Earnest

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 20, 2011
 And Some Sober Earnest Cover And Some Sober Earnest

Some Fun: And Some Sober Earnest.

Chicago: Chicago and North Western Railway Company, before 1889.

This booklet is an alphabet rhyme for children on one side, with facing text describing the benefits of moving to Dakota, Minnesota, and other places served by the Chicago and North Western Railroad. It is basically an ad for farm land encouraging settlement.

River Tree by Alexander Oja

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 19, 2011
River Tree by Alexander Oja

River Tree by Alexander Oja.

Lithograph on paper, circa 1941.

Image size:  13 3/4 x 16 5/8 inches.

Made for the WPA Federal Art Project. Gift of the St. Paul Public Library.

More works by Alexander Oja.

Jail made “escape” knife

By: admin | Item of the Day | January 18, 2011

Jail made “escape” knife

A knife allegedly made for escaping from the Minnesota State Prison in Stillwater in 1922.