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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Minnesota History at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library has just put up a new display from the Saint John's Bible (the Epistles and the book of Revelation). In conjunction with this exhibit, I was given the opportunity to "showcase" some of our newest acquisitions from the Anderson Collection on Minnesota history and culture.  One case is dedicated to "Non-fictional Minnesota" and two to "Fictional Minnesota."  Included in the fiction are several novels that take place in Minnesota.

Click on any image to see it enlarged!

OK, so the author just got his hair cut today (March 14)--he still does not look (quite) this bad.
From Father Louis Hennepin's account of his travels in North America.

The Anderson Collection includes important works on Minnesota and the Upper Midwest from the time of the earliest western explorations by Hennepin and Carver up to the era of European settlers and even into the twentieth century. Other early editions of travels in Minnesota (not on display this time) are J.C. Beltrami’s Pilgrimage in Europe and America (1828), George Catlin’s Letters and Notes (1841), G.W. Featherstonhaugh’s Canoe Voyage up the Minnay Sotor (1847), Daniel Williams Harmon’s Journal of Voyages and Travels (1820), and William Keating’s Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of the St. Peter’s River (1825). Although these are first editions, many of these titles are also in the Collection in later reprints.

"The Sieur de la Salle unhappily assassinated" ... From Fr. Hennepin's New Discovery (1698).

From the era of the early settlers come several titles from the likes of Mary Eastman, Jane Grey Swisshelm, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, John H. Pitezel, as well as the Minnesota Year book and the Immigrants’ Guide to Minnesota in 1856.

The list of resources is quite expansive, including several volumes of individual county and city histories, biographies and works bearing the autographs of people like Henry H. Sibley and James J. Hill.

Title page of A New Discovery.
Father Louis Hennepin. A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America. London: Bentley, Tonson, et al., 1698.

Father Louis Hennepin, OFM (1626-1705), traveled into Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 1670’s as an extension of the peregrinations of RenĂ© Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle. Father Hennepin first gave an account of these explorations in French (1683), and these were later translated into Italian, Dutch, German, and eventually even English. His report of the St. Anthony Falls was the first printed reference to this natural landmark. On display is the earliest map of the Upper Midwest in the Saint John’s collections.
Page 182: “The Navigation of the Meschasipi is interrupted ten Leagues above this river of the Grave [the St. Croix River], by a Fall of fifty or sixty Foot high, which we call’d The Fall of St. Anthony of Padua, whom we had taken for the Protector of our Discovery. There is a Rock of a Pyramidal Figure, just in the middle of the Fall of the River.”

The Eastern part of North America, from Father Hennepin's Discoveries (1698). 
One the two oldest maps of North America in the Saint John's collections.
Close-up of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Manitoba.

Jonathan Carver. Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America. 3rd ed. London: C. Dilly, … etc., 1781.

Jonathan Carver (1710-1780), a colonist from Massachusetts, traveled into Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 1760’s to search for a Northwest Passage to the Pacific. While he provided vastly improved maps of the river systems in Minnesota and Wisconsin, a disgreement led him to London in his final years, seeking payment from the English king. The third edition is the first to appear after Carver’s death, and its editor (John Coakley Lettsom) included the unusual assertion that two chiefs of the Naudoissies signed over much of Minnesota and Wisconsin to Carver. In the exhibit we can see the beginning of the transcript of this “document” that gives the land to Carver:
“from the fall of St. Anthony, running on the east banks of the Mississippi, nearly south-east, as far as the south end of Lake Pepin, where the Chipeway river joins the Mississippi, and from thence eastward five days travel, accounting twenty English miles per day, and from thence north six days travel, at twenty English miles per day, and from thence again to the fall of St. Anthony, on a direct straight line.” (p. 13)
Saint Anthony Falls circa 1770.

The Anderson Collection is particularly rich in early fictional works that take place in Minnesota. Here we find stories of lumberjacks, farmers, entrepreneurs, explorers, ox-drivers, and even a 1920’s flapper. Minnesota literature extends well beyond the famous pair of Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who are themselves well-represented. Other authors and poets in the collection include Margaret Culkin Banning, John Berryman, Kay Boyle, Jon Hassler, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Maud and Delos Lovelace, Frederick Manfred, Walter O’Meara, Sigurd F. Olson, Martha Ostenso, Mabel Seeley, Sigurd Jay Simonsen, and Arthur Upson. There is even an early novel by Harry Reasoner (yes, the CBS news reporter!) set in the Twin Cities.

These authors created a “fictional Minnesota,” often (loosely) based on their own experiences in the 32nd state. Many of the books come with dust jackets that provide a colorful taste of the contents. In this exhibit, the descriptions with each title are excerpted from these blurbs. In several instances the copy of the book is from the first (or an early) printing of the first edition. Some copies have been inscribed or signed by the author.

On display are works (with dustjackets) by Maud and Delos Lovelace, Bernard Francis Ederer, Darragh Aldrich, Martha Ostenso, Sabina Adler, Paul de Kruif, Margaret Culkin Banning, and Sarah Lockwood.

The Hill Library & Manuscript Library is open Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.  Come visit our galleries!

Peace, now and always.

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