Minnesota Woman Working at the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant

Between 1941 and 1976 (with some pauses between WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam wars), the United States Army operated a munitions factory about half an hour from downtown Minneapolis, in New Brighton, MN. Originally the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant, renamed the Twin Cities Arsenal in 1946 and then finally as the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in 1963, its workers produced small arms ammunition. Unsurprisingly, it was at its most busy during World War II, when it was staffed almost exclusively by women. The women working there were indispensable to the war effort, not just in the munitions they produced, but in their likenesses.

All of the above photos were printed in Minneapolis newspapers in 1942 and 1943 both as simple reporting, but also as propaganda: the United States had resources, was producing munitions like mad, and the work was being done by strong, attractive women.

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This post was researched and written by Special Collections Intern James Morrow. James spent the summer working on various components of the Minneapolis Historic Photo Collection in the Hennepin County Library Special Collections.

chpinthestacks:

In The Stacks with Hans Weyandt: To Be a Regular

I’ve always thought how nice it would be to have a table that was mine, or a bartender or waitress who knew exactly what I wanted. While I am certainly nowhere near one of this library’s more frequent users, I have been here a handful of days and am starting to understand some of its traffic patterns. I recognize some of the true regulars. They might be starting to wonder who I am.

So I was interested in hanging out on a Saturday to see what weekend traffic was like. The Special Collections are open their normal hours (10am - 4:30pm) every first and third Saturday of the month.

My sample size isn’t very good for scientific research, but it’s all I’ve got.

It was both the same and very different.

As I approached the front steps of Central library, a young man (pictured above in a Marx t-shirt) asked, “Are you interested in socialism?”I must not have averted his gaze quickly enough for then he really jumped into his sales pitch. I have to admit to not giving him my full attention as the construction downtown was loud. Instead, I gave him two dollars for a copy of Socialism Appeal*.

I had been sitting down for about ten minutes in the Special Collections, perusing through books on the birds of Wisconsin and Louisiana**, when I heard noise that it first seemed to be a loud car stereo from outside. It then got louder and I was forced—with the two librarians—to walk over to the glass windows and see a group of University of Minnesota clerical walkers approaching from Nicollet Mall. They were chanting ‘the people / united / will never be defeated.’ I’m sure they have valid concerns, but given the recent events in Ferguson, MO, I thought the march lacked much gravity.

*For the record, I am not really interested in Socialism.

**I don’t know very much about birds. There is currently a showing of Volume Two of John James Audubon’s famous Birds of America. A different bird will be on display each week. This week was the snowy owl. As my own little tribute to Audubon, or birds, I decided to learn myself up a little. I picked the Louisiana book because it had pretty gold pelicans embossed on the jacket. I’m a sucker for pretty pictures.

Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Hans has worked at four independent bookstores in St. Paul and Minneapolis over the past 15 years. He is the former co-owner of Micawber’s Books and the editor of “Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores” published by Coffee House Press. He currently works at Sea Salt Eatery, Moon Palace Books and Big Bell Ice Cream.

Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.  

Preservation Tools of the Trade - Part 1

1. Backing Hammer: Used for both backing and rounding.

2. Hand-Cut Brass Ornaments: Finishing tools used for decorating book covers.

3. Leather Pairing Knives: (L to R) Japanese, French, English

4. Brushes

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Tools from the Preservation Unit at Minneapolis Central Library, photographed by Frank Hurley. See more preservation tool photos on the library’s Flickr.

Now on View: Audubon’s Birds of America

Volume two of John James Audubon’s famous Birds of America is now on view in the Special Collections department at the Minneapolis Central Library. This is a rare opportunity to view this work, which is part of a larger exhibition of books and prints from the Spencer Natural History Collection. A different bird will be shown weekly through October.

Renowned naturalist and artist John James Audubon’s Birds of America is considered by many to be the finest work of its kind ever made. The 435 life-size paintings were printed and sold over a 12-year period from 1827 to 1838, in a subscription series that cost buyers $1000 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars). In December 2010, a collector in England bought a complete set of Birds of America for 7.3 million British Pounds, which is about $12 million in today’s dollars. The Minneapolis Athenaeum owns a complete four volume set, housed in a climate controlled space in Special Collections.

The magnificent double elephant folio consists of hand-painted, life-size prints, made from engraved plates, measuring around 39.5 by 26.5 inches. Audubon spent much of his life painting the birds and working to get his opus published. He partnered with the highly skilled engraver, Robert Havell, to publish the works. While a precise figure is unknown, it is believed between 175 and 200 complete sets were made. Approximately 130 remain intact. The Minneapolis Athenaeum purchased their set in April, 1909, from a dealer in London for $2,725, which included Audubon’s 5-volume ornithological text describing the birds and their habitats.

Special Collections is open 10:00-4:30 Monday through Thursday and every first and third Saturday of the month.

Julia Child in Minneapolis

“Some people don’t dare make an omelet or a soufflé,” Julia Child told a Star Tribune writer in 1970. “Instead, they should think that eight eggs are expendable, take a devil may care attitude and they’ll be able to do it.”

Child was in Minneapolis on October 27, 1970 to promote volume two of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After presiding at a breakfast in Dayton’s Sky Room, Child signed copies of her cookbook. 

The first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961. Craig Claiborne, the New York Times food critic, hailed the recipes as “glorious.” By 1970, Child had sold more than 700,000 cookbooks. In Volume II, Child used ingredients readily available in US supermarkets and took advantage of kitchen machines over hand techniques.

Today, August 13, 2014, marks the 10th anniversary of Child’s death.

Browse the Hennepin County Library catalog for books and digital materials by and about Julia Child.

chpinthestacks:

In The Stacks with Hans Weyandt: Scattered Ecstasy

The beginning of any new adventure is the usual mix of excitement and nerves. I have tried, over the past few weeks, to not imagine what this would be like or what I might see. Because I simply couldn’t imagine the possibilities. So when I first walked through the old wooden arch into the room that houses some of the Special Collections I went a bit fuzzy. There is awe, of course. So many other descriptors could fit: I was bewildered, enthralled, transfixed, spellbound, and bewitched. Yes, all of that. And due to our overuse or misuse of so many of these words, they still seem to come a bit short of the things zooming through my head. Like a kid in a candy store is appropriate, and again, so dull in its current meaning.

Entering the Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections (located at the downtown Minneapolis branch) is not unlike stepping into a secret society or land. There is something about it that feels almost forbidden. Yet that is very much not the case. I had no special badge to be there. I own a Hennepin library card. As part of my residency here I will be allowed to access materials available to all of us. 

The Minneapolis History Collection alone is worth a visit. Maps, posters and books both rare and old are neatly shelved everywhere and one can get access to much more by making simple requests. That is what I will be doing and writing about. I am beyond thrilled to have this chance and embarrassed that I have never done it on my own. 

Bailey Diers, one of the librarians on staff, pulled some stuff to show us a bit of the range of the collection. Some of the treasures included: an Icelandic bible from 1612, a copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream autographed by illustrator Arthur Rackham, several fine press books from local artists and other books that had been transitioned from the general collection into this one because of their age. I kept flipping through the Shakespeare—laughing at his unique humor and staring at the art. I kept thinking, “Stop looking at this. There is so much more to see.”

Bailey pulled a record card for my home address that showed when all original permits had been pulled. It showed that our house was built in 1926, one year earlier than we had been told when we bought it. She remarked, “Most people are given incorrect facts about their homes.” 

My friend Berit, who was along for the ride, and I kept grinning at each other maniacally. Can you believe this? As we left she said, “This is beyond whatever you could think about it.” 

Indeed it is. I’m not yet certain how I will limit my time here and try to put something together that is beyond scattered ecstasy because that is a real danger. There is so much to see and I’m ready to dive into all of it.

Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Hans has worked at four independent bookstores in St. Paul and Minneapolis over the past 15 years. He is the former co-owner of Micawber’s Books and the editor of “Read This! Handpicked Favorites from America’s Indie Bookstores” published by Coffee House Press. He currently works at Sea Salt Eatery, Moon Palace Books and Big Bell Ice Cream.

Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans.. Visit our Facebook event page for more info. 

We are happy to have Hans in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library.  He’ll be at Central to discuss his experience as writer in residence on September 18.

I found a post on this blog about the first issue of the Twin Cities Reader. Do Special Collections have TC Readers or old issues of Sweet Potato archived? If so, how do I find them?

Asked by iamberks

Yes, We do have old issues of both Twin Cities Reader (1976-1977) and Sweet Potato (1979-1981). Both can be found in our online catalog and can be viewed in the Special Collections department at the Minneapolis Central Library. Special Collections has hundreds of local magazines and newspapers covering a range of time periods and subjects. Come take a look!

Outdoor Reading Rooms

From August 5th to 15th, the New York Public Library is offering an open air reading room as a partial substitute for their currently closed Rose Reading Room. In the 1930s, the Minneapolis Public Library set up their very own outdoor reading library at Gateway Park, located at the intersection of Hennepin and Nicollet, 8 blocks from the Main Library. The library provided tables, umbrellas, and of course, reading material! Gratia Countryman, head librarian at MPL from 1904 to 1936, had a strong outreach philosophy. During her tenure, reading rooms were established in such places as fire halls, factories, hospitals, and outdoors at the Gateway!

Where do you read? Tell us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram. #ireadeverywhere

Botanical Illustration New and Old

Tour the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Florilegium exhibition and see related historical botanical books and prints (including those above) in the Special Collections exhibition, Medicinal Herbs and Mesmerizing Blossoms: Four Centuries of Botanical Illustration from the Spencer Natural History Collection.

Opening reception Thursday, August 14, 6:30pm in the Doty Board Room.

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Florilegium Exhibition, Cargill Hall (Minneapolis Central Library, 2nd floor gallery), August 15-October 15, 2014

View nearly 50 botanical paintings created by students of the Minnesota School of Botanical Art. These watercolors serve as a tribute to America’s first public wildflower garden. Accompanying the exhibition will be the sounds of the birds that frequent the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary. Presented in collaboration with the Minnesota School of Botanical Art and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.