Audubon’s Passenger Pigeons
September 1, 2014 marked the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, pictured here in the Minneapolis Athenaeum’s copy of volume one of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Once the world’s most abundant bird, flocks of 1 million would cluster like dark clouds in the sky.
In 1899, the Minneapolis Tribune wrote:

"[The Smithsonian Institution] caused an item to work its way into circulation and to be spread broadcast throughout the country to the effect that the ordinary passenger pigeon of birdology was, for some inexplicable reason or other, dying out so rapidly that the Smithsonian Institution desired a number of specimens for the same for stuffing and mounting purposes. Now, passenger pigeons are not so numerous as English sparrows, of course, but all the same, there are so many of them extant that they stand an excellent chance of enduring as a species as long as the human race inhabits this globe."
"Humor in Science" May 20, 1899

Due to their abundance, passenger pigeons were easily hunted, a cheap source of protein. The surge in hunting, combined with rapid deforestation of the land lead to the extinction of the species in just a few decades. The last surviving passenger pigeon was Martha, who died a century ago at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Now, a group of scientists is working to revive the species using a process called germline transmission. When the bird died out 100 years ago, scientists kept lots of specimens, tissue samples, and detailed records of the species (as joked about in the Minneapolis Tribune article above). Using these tools, scientists today are extracting DNA to decipher the full genetic code. They will then reprogram sperm and eggs in one species to produce a different species. You can follow along with the group’s progress on their website.
Visit Special Collections to view volume two of Audubon’s Birds of America, on view now through October. A new bird is featured weekly. High-res

Audubon’s Passenger Pigeons

September 1, 2014 marked the 100 year anniversary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, pictured here in the Minneapolis Athenaeum’s copy of volume one of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. Once the world’s most abundant bird, flocks of 1 million would cluster like dark clouds in the sky.

In 1899, the Minneapolis Tribune wrote:

"[The Smithsonian Institution] caused an item to work its way into circulation and to be spread broadcast throughout the country to the effect that the ordinary passenger pigeon of birdology was, for some inexplicable reason or other, dying out so rapidly that the Smithsonian Institution desired a number of specimens for the same for stuffing and mounting purposes. Now, passenger pigeons are not so numerous as English sparrows, of course, but all the same, there are so many of them extant that they stand an excellent chance of enduring as a species as long as the human race inhabits this globe."

"Humor in Science" May 20, 1899

Due to their abundance, passenger pigeons were easily hunted, a cheap source of protein. The surge in hunting, combined with rapid deforestation of the land lead to the extinction of the species in just a few decades. The last surviving passenger pigeon was Martha, who died a century ago at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Now, a group of scientists is working to revive the species using a process called germline transmission. When the bird died out 100 years ago, scientists kept lots of specimens, tissue samples, and detailed records of the species (as joked about in the Minneapolis Tribune article above). Using these tools, scientists today are extracting DNA to decipher the full genetic code. They will then reprogram sperm and eggs in one species to produce a different species. You can follow along with the group’s progress on their website.

Visit Special Collections to view volume two of Audubon’s Birds of America, on view now through October. A new bird is featured weekly.

chpinthestacks:

In The Stacks with Hans Weyandt: A Temple for the Mind

I’ve been in the library’s Special Collections for three of the past four days it has been open, trying to find its pace and rhythm if there is such a thing. And the idea I’ve come to is that this room and its contents are a kind of spiritual home for me. While not a sacred space in the usual sense, it is one for me. I’ve been in truly spiritual places: mosques and cathedrals, Mt. Masada and the Holy Sepulchre—-and found in them beauty and been awed by their history. But none have made me feel an overall sense of peace. So at the risk of seeming outrageously blasphemous I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that this place, and its boundless information and art, are a kind of temple for my mind.

Taking a step back, it was starting to dawn on me that one of the main goals for any artistic residency is a concrete project at work. The main problem with this, from my standpoint, is that I’m not an artist. I can’t draw or paint at all—almost everything I saw in my son Elliott’s kindergarten classroom last year was far beyond what I could ever hope to put on paper. Eireann Lorsung, in the previous CHP In The Stacks residency, put together a Book of Hours that is its own work of art.

So the reality of what I was doing—being in this place and perusing—was seeming a little, um, not artistically productive in a concrete way. I’ve read “Leaves of Grass” in its entirety in one sitting and I’ve stumbled through a decent portion of the 1,067 maps in Special Collections (each of them expertly cataloged with title, creator, contributor(s), and a fairly in-depth description). That’s fine, I suppose, and an awful lot of fun—but what does it achieve?

So I’ve gotten away from the idea of producing something and become okay with the idea of acting as an ambassador for the Special Collections. There are people, and I have been at various points in my life, who want the things they love to remain hidden. A band, a restaurant, a tiny part of the city that you don’t want discovered by the masses. Yet I want nothing of the sort for this place. I want more people to come see it for whatever reasons they choose. Maybe to research their family history or to learn about their neighborhood. Maybe to read some Walt Whitman. Or to dip into the pleasures in Lamb’s Royal Cookery published in 1710. If we think food porn is a relatively new fad, this book disabuses that idea immediately.

Maybe these new visitors will spend some time looking at some of the handmade books by local artists. I cannot stop looking at, and admiring, What It’s Like Here by Jim Moore. The poem itself is a treat and the art of the book makes it all the better. As a bookseller, one of my true hopes was to point more ‘normal’ people to poetry. Most people find it obtuse or too arty or whatever. And those things can be true. There is also, however, a great joy in sitting down with a poem of Whitman’s or of Jim Moore’s that slows us down and makes us appreciate the care and attention that went into creating it.

A former professor of mine, who was also a Benedictine monk, once told me that a prayer can begin with almost anything. “I celebrate myself…” is about as good as anything as far as I’m concerned. And its one part of what has made this place seem holy to me in its own way. Or, if that is taking matters a bit too far, it is certainly part of my own practice of mindfulness. Anyways, it’s better than yoga, for me, because it doesn’t require the tight black pants.

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.

The peacefulness of Special Collections—a feeling shared by many of our patrons.

1870 Report Card
In 1870, students received weekly report cards. Horace Hill, a 9 year old at Jefferson School (a schoolhouse located at the corner of Hennepin Ave & 10th Street) received high scores in both his academic subjects (reading and spelling, arithmetic, geography) and in his personal conduct (deportment, punctuality, attendance). His mother reported that Horace studied about one hour at home each day.
Horace Hill (1861-1948) went on to become the President of a Minneapolis hardware wholesale business, Janney, Semple, Hill & Co. High-res

1870 Report Card

In 1870, students received weekly report cards. Horace Hill, a 9 year old at Jefferson School (a schoolhouse located at the corner of Hennepin Ave & 10th Street) received high scores in both his academic subjects (reading and spelling, arithmetic, geography) and in his personal conduct (deportment, punctuality, attendance). His mother reported that Horace studied about one hour at home each day.

Horace Hill (1861-1948) went on to become the President of a Minneapolis hardware wholesale business, Janney, Semple, Hill & Co.

VP Theodore Roosevelt Visits the State Fair, 1901

“We must raise others while we are being benefited,” declared Vice President Theodore Roosevelt to a full crowd in the band stand during the keynote address at the Minnesota State Fair opening day on September 2, 1901. Roosevelt’s speech, titled “National Duties,” emphasized the United States’ role at home and in world affairs. During the speech, Roosevelt used the phrase “Speak softly and carry a big stick—you will go far.” An old proverb, this phrase came to be associated with Roosevelt.

Following his speech, Roosevelt attended a luncheon at the Fair’s Woman’s Headquarters. Roosevelt sat with prominent Minnesota officials, including Governor and Mrs. Van Sant. Archbishop John Ireland said the blessing before the luncheon. The souvenir luncheon cards (pictured above) were designed by Mary Moulton Cheney, a prominent Minneapolis artist, and featured Roosevelt on a bucking broncho on the Minnesota State Seal.

During the evening of September 2nd, the celebration in honor of Roosevelt continued with a dinner at the Minneapolis Club. Representing Minneapolis at the banquet table were, among others: Thomas Lowry, president of the Minneapolis Street Railway Company; William H. Dunwoody, grain merchant, banker, and creator of the Dunwoody Institute (endowed through his will); Cyrus Northrop, president of the University of Minnesota; Frank H. Peavey, founder of Peavey Company.  

Roosevelt’s visit to Minnesota was one of his final appearances as Vice President. Four days later, on September 6, 1901, an assassin shot President McKinley at the Pan-American exposition in Buffalo, NY. When McKinley died of his wounds on September 14th, Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States.

The second part of writer in residence Hans Weyandt’s interview with Special Collections Librarian Bailey Diers.

chpinthestacks:

CHP In the Stacks: An Interview with Bailey Diers, Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections Librarian (Part 2)
What have you enjoyed most about having a writer/reader in residence?Hans has been exploring bits and pieces of all of our collections. It’s been fun to pull materials from collections that are not often used, like the Fine Press and Book Arts Collection, which has over 2,000 artists’ books and books about books! Hans, a book lover, reacts to each item he sees as if each one is a work of art. Many of our patrons read the content, taking little notice of the book as object.
Has having a writer/reader in residence made you look at your collection differently? If so, how?Most of our patrons come into the department with a pretty specific research topic in mind (or with no interest in research, but just to take in the space). When Hans first came in he was open to and interested in exploring everything. It really made me realize how vast and incredible our collections truly are, but it also made me consider the levels of access we provide to our materials. We’re a non-browsing, non-circulating collection, which can make it difficult for an artist, or anyone, to browse our materials. However, more and more of our material is becoming available online and we are improving ways that patrons can virtually browse our collections, including the new online catalog (currently in beta) which will be fully released this fall. Improving access to our collections will expand the range of uses for the collections.Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans and Bailey. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.  
High-res

The second part of writer in residence Hans Weyandt’s interview with Special Collections Librarian Bailey Diers.

chpinthestacks:

CHP In the Stacks: An Interview with Bailey Diers, Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections Librarian (Part 2)

What have you enjoyed most about having a writer/reader in residence?

Hans has been exploring bits and pieces of all of our collections. It’s been fun to pull materials from collections that are not often used, like the Fine Press and Book Arts Collection, which has over 2,000 artists’ books and books about books! Hans, a book lover, reacts to each item he sees as if each one is a work of art. Many of our patrons read the content, taking little notice of the book as object.

Has having a writer/reader in residence made you look at your collection differently? If so, how?

Most of our patrons come into the department with a pretty specific research topic in mind (or with no interest in research, but just to take in the space). When Hans first came in he was open to and interested in exploring everything. It really made me realize how vast and incredible our collections truly are, but it also made me consider the levels of access we provide to our materials. We’re a non-browsing, non-circulating collection, which can make it difficult for an artist, or anyone, to browse our materials. However, more and more of our material is becoming available online and we are improving ways that patrons can virtually browse our collections, including the new online catalog (currently in beta) which will be fully released this fall. Improving access to our collections will expand the range of uses for the collections.


Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans and Bailey. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.  

Minnesota High School Curriculum in 1887-88

Think you studied hard in high school? Look at the 1887-1888 Minnesota High School Board Syllabus. Students had to select from one of four tracts:  Classical, Scientific, Literary (for college-bound students) and General (for non-college bound students). Instruction in classical subjects, such as the “History of Greece and Rome” was required in all four tracts.

Compare the 1887-88 requirements to Minnesota and Minneapolis high school graduation requirements today. Minneapolis students today need one year of health, art, and physical education in addition to other academic classes.

Discovering the Fascinating Past of 1421 5th St. NE

A few years ago I lived down the block from a house with one odd architectural feature: above the doorway was a large piece of stone with “MRS A H WALSTEN - AD 1900” carved into it. I’d always wondered who exactly Mrs. A. H. Walsten was — the sort of person who carves their name into stone usually seems like the sort of person with a good story behind them. I decided to do a little digging this summer.

My first step was to look at the old building permit card for the house (formerly 1427 5th St. NE, now 1421 5th St. NE). It referenced a “Hannah Walsten” which gave me more of a name to go off of. Next I took a look at the digitized city directories to see if I could find any listings by that name. I found a reference to an “August Walsten” living there in 1900 and a “Mrs. Hannah M Walsten, midwife” living there in 1901 but not much else by that specific name. Next I decided to try a slightly different resource: the digitized issues of the Minneapolis Journal from the early 1900s. Maybe I could find a reference to their marriage? Or a real estate transaction for the house?

I ended up coming across much more than I anticipated! It turns out Mrs. Hannah Walsten had gone by five different names and been married to four different men (including August H. Walsten on two separate occasions). This came to light when she was arrested for performing a “criminal operation” (an abortion). She had been running what was referred to at the time as a “baby farm” (essentially an unlicensed orphanage) out of her home.

The old Minneapolis Journal had multiple stories detailing her trial and the various dramatic scenes which unfolded in court. She was ultimately found guilty — one story said she was the first woman to be successfully convicted of performing an abortion in Hennepin County — and sentenced to 28 months in Stillwater Prison.

_____________

This post was researched and written by Special Collections volunteer Nick Steffel. Photos of the house were taken by Nick.

Check out this interview with Special Collections Librarian (and curator of this Tumblr) Bailey Diers. Part I of II.
chpinthestacks:

CHP In the Stacks: An Interview with Bailey Diers, Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections Librarian (Part 1)
How many years have you worked in this collection?3 years, full-time for the past 15 months.What is the focus of your collection?
Special Collections houses six collections, the largest and most heavily used being the Minneapolis History Collection, one of the area’s best local history resources. The collection contains historic and current materials related to the city including more than 300 archival and manuscript collections, thousands of files of newspaper clippings, maps, photographs, postcards, yearbooks, periodicals, and more.Our other collections are primarily rare book collections, though several also include manuscripts and other primary documents: Kittleson World War II Collection, Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection, Nineteenth Century American Studies Collection, Hoag Mark Twain Collection, and the Fine Press and Book Arts Collection.
Who is the primary patron of your collection? How do they use your collection?We’re a public library so our patron base is broad. Regular repeat patrons include historical researchers, historical preservationists, and city planners, who primarily research buildings, businesses, people, and neighborhoods. High school and college students often use our collection for local history courses and projects. And many of our walk-ins are members of the general public seeking information on their home, family, business, or any number of random topics.What are some of the more unique items in your collection?Our archival collections contain some of the most unique material in our collections—hundreds of menus from Minneapolis restaurants from the 1800s to today, the late 19th century diaries of a young boy named Ezra Fitch Pabody, thousands of early 20th century political cartoons by Charles Bartholomew, original music manuscripts by local conductors and composers, hundreds of thousands of photographs of the city of Minneapolis—the list goes on.If you could lock the doors and spend a whole day just browsing for yourself, what would you look for? What books interest you the most?
I would like to spend time digging through the more personal items in our archival collections—the handwritten diaries and correspondence documenting the often trivial happenings of daily life in an earlier Minneapolis and the scrapbooks bursting at the seams with news clippings, theater programs, photographs, and personal mementos. These days, so much personal information is online, available for the world to see. When the scrapbooks and diaries in our collection were created many decades ago, their creators likely never imagined the content could one day be made public, so who knows what secrets they hold!Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans and Bailey. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.  
High-res

Check out this interview with Special Collections Librarian (and curator of this Tumblr) Bailey Diers. Part I of II.

chpinthestacks:

CHP In the Stacks: An Interview with Bailey Diers, Hennepin County Library’s Special Collections Librarian (Part 1)

How many years have you worked in this collection?

3 years, full-time for the past 15 months.

What is the focus of your collection?

Special Collections houses six collections, the largest and most heavily used being the Minneapolis History Collection, one of the area’s best local history resources. The collection contains historic and current materials related to the city including more than 300 archival and manuscript collections, thousands of files of newspaper clippings, maps, photographs, postcards, yearbooks, periodicals, and more.

Our other collections are primarily rare book collections, though several also include manuscripts and other primary documents: Kittleson World War II Collection, Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection, Nineteenth Century American Studies Collection, Hoag Mark Twain Collection, and the Fine Press and Book Arts Collection.

Who is the primary patron of your collection? How do they use your collection?

We’re a public library so our patron base is broad. Regular repeat patrons include historical researchers, historical preservationists, and city planners, who primarily research buildings, businesses, people, and neighborhoods. High school and college students often use our collection for local history courses and projects. And many of our walk-ins are members of the general public seeking information on their home, family, business, or any number of random topics.

What are some of the more unique items in your collection?

Our archival collections contain some of the most unique material in our collections—hundreds of menus from Minneapolis restaurants from the 1800s to today, the late 19th century diaries of a young boy named Ezra Fitch Pabody, thousands of early 20th century political cartoons by Charles Bartholomew, original music manuscripts by local conductors and composers, hundreds of thousands of photographs of the city of Minneapolis—the list goes on.

If you could lock the doors and spend a whole day just browsing for yourself, what would you look for? What books interest you the most?

I would like to spend time digging through the more personal items in our archival collections—the handwritten diaries and correspondence documenting the often trivial happenings of daily life in an earlier Minneapolis and the scrapbooks bursting at the seams with news clippings, theater programs, photographs, and personal mementos. These days, so much personal information is online, available for the world to see. When the scrapbooks and diaries in our collection were created many decades ago, their creators likely never imagined the content could one day be made public, so who knows what secrets they hold!


Hans Weyandt is currently a writer-in-residence at the Central branch of the Hennepin County Library. Join us Thursday, September 18th at 6:15 pm for a tour of the collection and a conversation with Hans and Bailey. Visit our Facebook event page for more info.  

Crowds outside the State Fair Grandstand, 1900 
The State Fair of 1900 was decidedly different from the State Fair of today. Gambling and alcoholic drinks were prohibited, meals were provided by church and social groups, and it is almost certain that not a single one of those meals was deep-fried or on a stick.
What did 25 cents buy for the average fair-goer back in the day? In the year this photo was taken, visitors could expect to see not only such State Fair standbys as livestock exhibitions, carousel rides, and fireworks, but also some types of attractions which have since fallen out of favor—for example, conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy, and an anonymous “ossified man” (likely an individual with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare connective tissue disease that causes severe bone overgrowth).  
Crafts such as tapestries and china painting and homemade pickles and preserves were on offer in the Woman’s Building, which purported to showcase “everything dear to the feminine heart.” The fireworks display offered a touch of recent history, with a re-enactment of the American conquest of the Philippines. Many of the re-enactors were Twin Cities military men who had actually served in the Philippines—as the Tribune put it, “the display probably comes closer to ‘the real thing’ than any other exhibition of its kind.”
The current State Fair may not offer a fireworks-laden re-enactment of an incredibly brutal recent war, but there are bacon-wrapped turkey legs and fried chicken served in a waffle cone. Public library patrons who show their library card at the fair today (August 27, 2014) receive discounted admission.
Photograph by Edward A. Bromley, scanned from glass plate negative.
____________
This post was written by Special Collections intern Helen Walden-Fodge. Helen has been working with several archival collections this summer, including the Bromley glass plate negative collection. High-res

Crowds outside the State Fair Grandstand, 1900 

The State Fair of 1900 was decidedly different from the State Fair of today. Gambling and alcoholic drinks were prohibited, meals were provided by church and social groups, and it is almost certain that not a single one of those meals was deep-fried or on a stick.

What did 25 cents buy for the average fair-goer back in the day? In the year this photo was taken, visitors could expect to see not only such State Fair standbys as livestock exhibitions, carousel rides, and fireworks, but also some types of attractions which have since fallen out of favor—for example, conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy, and an anonymous “ossified man” (likely an individual with fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, a rare connective tissue disease that causes severe bone overgrowth). 

Crafts such as tapestries and china painting and homemade pickles and preserves were on offer in the Woman’s Building, which purported to showcase “everything dear to the feminine heart.” The fireworks display offered a touch of recent history, with a re-enactment of the American conquest of the Philippines. Many of the re-enactors were Twin Cities military men who had actually served in the Philippines—as the Tribune put it, “the display probably comes closer to ‘the real thing’ than any other exhibition of its kind.”

The current State Fair may not offer a fireworks-laden re-enactment of an incredibly brutal recent war, but there are bacon-wrapped turkey legs and fried chicken served in a waffle cone. Public library patrons who show their library card at the fair today (August 27, 2014) receive discounted admission.

Photograph by Edward A. Bromley, scanned from glass plate negative.

____________

This post was written by Special Collections intern Helen Walden-Fodge. Helen has been working with several archival collections this summer, including the Bromley glass plate negative collection.