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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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Woman and Blueberries

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 13, 2010
Woman and Blueberries

Woman and Blueberries
arist: Patrick DesJarlait (1912-1972)
medium: Watercolor
date: 1971
Acc # AV1979.211

Cast iron Northland Transportation model bus

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 12, 2010
Cast iron Northland Transportation model bus

Cast iron Northland Transportation model bus

Cast iron model "NORTHLAND TRANSPORTATION CO." passenger bus, circa 1930. Hand painted lettering on the front of the bus above the driver reads, "TWIN CITIES TO DULUTH." In 1929, Northland Transportation Company changed its name to Northland Greyhound Lines, on its way to becoming the Greyhound we know today.

Happiness candy tin

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 11, 2010

Happiness candy tin

"Happiness" chocolate tin by Happiness Candy Stores, Whitney & Company, Edminster, Massachusetts, 1920s. This tin features multicolored floral decoration resembling a Persian carpet and boasts “Happiness in Every Box.”

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

Mean Streets

By: admin | 150 Best Minnesota Books | October 8, 2010
I know you know that I have been avoiding discussing genre fiction but …

…down these mean streets a man must go.

The Chuckling FingersThe Chuckling Fingers, Reprint

First of all I am not the biggest fan of mysteries and secondly we seem to be drowning in a sea of these forgettable novels. Does every Minnesota writer take a class at The Loft on mystery writing? I am not ready or willing to declare any recent book in this category a “best Minnesota book” but I look forward to being educated by readers of this blog on the joy and significance of Minnesota “whodunits.” I can say with some confidence that there are two older outstanding mysteries that are worthy of our list. They are …

Mabel Seeley. The Chuckling Fingers. Garden City N.Y.: Published for the Crime Club by Doubleday, Doran, 1941.

Thomas Gifford. The Wind Chill Factor. New York: Putnam, 1975.

Mabel Seeley, from Herman, Minnesota, was a major figure in the development of the female detective story according to Howard Haycraft, reviewer for The New York Herald. There is a sub-genre of mystery writing called the “had-I-but-known” school and Seeley mastered this. The Chuckling Fingers is introduced by the heroine with this great opening line: “Other people may think they’d like to live their lives over, but not me – not if this last week is going to be in it.” It takes place at a private estate on the North Shore of Lake Superior and Seeley nails the local color of the Arrowhead region in the mid-twentieth century. The book has been reprinted by Afton Historical Society Press with a beautiful dust jacket image by Paul Kramer, but disappointingly without any new introductory or biographical material.

There is a story I love of Mabel’s epiphany. She was almost hit by a car as she crossed the street in front of the Capitol one day. Her one thought in that millisecond was: “My, God, I’m going to die and I have not written any books.”

The Wind Chill FactorGifford’s novel is set in a fictional Taylors Falls, Minnesota and although there are dead librarians and Nazis [is there a “Fourth Reich” sub-genre of mysteries?] the most memorable character may be the cold weather. Cars don’t start, ball point pens don’t write, ears are “whipped cherry red”, wind chews away at bare branches, and snow squeaks underneath your feet. WCF, Gifford’s first book, is a very well told tale and was very well reviewed and received, selling 40,000 hard cover and 750,000 paperback copies. It brought some popular literary recognition to Minnesota. Tell me if I’m wrong but I believe this book jump-started the writing of so many local mysteries like John Camp’s “Prey” series.

Gifford’s book, The Assassini, [a decades pre-Dan Brown look at a secret society of Vatican killers] brought him the most recognition but my personal favorite is Gifford’s second book, The Cavanaugh Quest, which was nominated for the Edgar Award in 1977. WCF is clearly his most locally iconic work and thus makes our list of best books.

Thomas Gifford died too young at the age of 62.

Ticket to Prince's first concert

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 8, 2010

Ticket to Prince's First Concert at the Capri Theatre, Minneapolis, January 5, 1979.

Prince, the hometown and international legend, was born as Prince Rogers Nelson on June 7, 1958, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Stonewall 25th anniversary button

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 7, 2010
Stonewall 25th anniversary button

This button commemorates the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which took place in 1969. The riots erupted following a police raid targeting the gay community on June 28 at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village area of New York City. The riots marked the beginning of the GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) movement for civil rights. The twenty-fifth anniversary of the riots was observed on June 26, 1994. The button features an inverted pink triangle with an image of the earth inside it and a pair of olive branches.

1963 Minnesota Twins baseball card for Harmon Killebrew

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 6, 2010
1963 Minnesota Twins baseball card for Harmon Killebrew

Cheer for the Minnesota Twins Today!

Topps 1963 Minnesota Twins baseball card for outfielder Harmon Killebrew. Killebrew played for the Minnesota Twins from 1961-1974 and hit 573 home runs in his career, setting the record for right-handed batters at the time of his retirement. He was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.

Wood sword cane/walking stick with ivory ball tip

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 5, 2010
wood sword cane

"This sword was owned and carried by Jean Baptiste Faribault. In 1812 he used it to defend himself against the Americans at Prairie du Chien (Ft. Crawford), Wisconsin. The troopers beat a retreat and a squad of English troopers under Lieutenant Duncan Graham came back and shot away with a swivel gun the roof of his house.  To save his family he had to surrender to the English."

This note describing the use of the cane during the War of 1812 was transcribed by Faribault's great-granddaughter Zola Smith.

Tiger Jack Shack Checkerboard

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 4, 2010

Tiger Jack Checkerboard

This handcrafted, ornate checkerboard belonged to Jack Rosenbloom and was just one of the many unusual items found in his “Tiger Jack Shack” shop. The shop was located at the corner of Dale Street and St. Anthony Avenue in St. Paul and was donated, along with all of its contents, to the Minnesota Historical Society in 2003.

From the Bluffs above Reed's Landing Looking across the Mississippi

By: admin | Item of the Day | October 1, 2010

From the Bluffs above Reed's Landing looking across the Mississippi - Edwin Whitefield

From the Bluffs above Reed's Landing Looking across the Mississippi
artist: Edwin Whitefield (1816-1892)
medium: Watercolor
date: circa 1856-1859
Acc# AV1995.141.47