Where Did My Office Go!?

I feel it is important to give everyone at look at what it takes to put exhibits together. Seldom does the general public get to see the behind the scenes of putting together an exhibit. It is a thrilling and exhausting process. For months now we have been gathering artifacts and stories, building walls and connections, and putting together stories from across the county. The exhibits you see at the Stans Museum take months to develop and design. Physically putting them together can sometimes be the easiest part, once the research and planning is finish. Now while it is important to discuss all of this, there is one other, more humorous aspect to exhibits that I would like to share. That is of course, my vanishing office.

As you can see, it seems to have disappeared beneath baseballs, jerseys, trophies, and all manner of other sports memorabilia. In plain view is a Prior Lake Basketball Trophy that gets to enjoy my chair more than I do. Pictures and baseballs line the tables and shelves, not to mention the baseball team of my own I could field with all the jerseys. Granted the team would be confused when they all got jerseys from different teams, but that’s part of the fun. While I hope my office will reappear once the exhibit goes up, this seemed a good opportunity to get in a small laugh, and show the fun that we can get up to at the museum. Play Ball opens September 27th and we hope you enjoy it.


A Golden Time

This year marks a fantastic occasion for us at the Scoot County Historical Society; we get to celebrate our 50th year Anniversary. In appreciation of our volunteers and our communities, we will be having an anniversary picnic at the Stans Museum in Shakopee. It will be a day of food, fun, and trip through the past. Our main entry way will be time machine back to 1968 where you can see what made the headlines and what the world was doing 50 years ago. We will have a photo booth where you can take a picture are a hippie, John Lennon, or even Richard Nixon.

Our Stans House Garden will have picnic tables for food and relaxing as we celebrate the historical societies golden anniversary. We will be recognizing a longtime volunteer, looking back at what we have accomplished, and looking forward to the future we hope to build. A day full of old fashion games, sack races, food, community, and history sounds like a great day to me. August 25th at the Stans Museum, come celebrate the Scott County Historical Society’s anniversary, and help us usher in the next 50 years of preserving our history. 50th picnic celebration

50 Years of History – 1968-2018

The Scott County Historical Society has been around for 50 years, only about half of them at Stans Museum.  In 1968 a group of citizens got together to save their local history – much like every other historical society.

TransfigurationMany of our original members and board were from the Belle Plaine area, and one of our first projects was preserving and restoring the beautiful Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Belle Plaine, and the addition of restrooms.  Along with this project, the Society worked on the Minnesota Valley Restoration Project, resulting in the formation of Murphy’s Landing (now known as The Landing).

SCHS members not only worked on these projects, but they also set about collecting the items that would be the beginning of our over 50,000 piece collection.  Most of the early items were kept in members homes or at Murphy’s Landing.  Eventually, moving to our new home in 1995.


The Stans Museum came about through a very generous donation from the Stans  Foundation.  Maurice Stans grew up in Shakopee; he was a geeky little kid that loved math.  Eventually he became an accountant and helped form the Alexander Grant Company (now Grant Thornton).  Answering a call from President Eisenhower, Maurice entered public life and was the director of the budget for the Eisenhower administration.  He completed his public service in the Nixon cabinet as the Secretary of Commerce*.  Along the way, he always kept Shakopee close to his heart, donating funds to support local students, Murphy’s Landing, and eventually the SCHS.

Maurice’s foundation, The Stans Foundation, donated the grounds, his boyhood home, and the museum to the Scott County Historical Society in 1995.  The museum, built by Laurent Builders, had a gift store, Stans and Africa exhibits, offices, and a multi-purpose room. The original floor-plan is basically the same – but the content has significantly shifted to a more Scott County – local focus. Thanks to board planning and a generous donation from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, we made changes to the building to better serve our communities.

Original floor-plan


Gone is the African travels exhibit – in its place is an open gallery on local topics.  The African diorama is now much needed archival storage.  The center hallway is more defined with walls separating the original “Business/Govt. & Family/Shakopee” galleries, creating three defined exhibit gallery spaces – two of which are dedicated to Scott County topics.  The “Multi-purpose Classroom” still does double duty as our research library and public programs space.  The “Conference” room is now a work-room; the “Office” is the curator office, and “Sec.” is the director’s office.  The entry is more welcoming and we added an education/program closet.

Floor-plan todayBuilding-Map-sm

You’ll notice there is no collection storage in either floor-plan.  That’s because the building was designed specifically for exhibits, collection storage was an afterthought.  The collection is stored in the basement, which is only a fraction of this footprint.

Big thanks go out to: Dr. Lee Smith (SCHS 1st Executive Director), dedicated members, and early board members, such as Charlie Pass and Dr. R. Pistulka.  Through the efforts of these people and a huge number of amazing volunteers, we are still going strong 50 years later.

50th picnic celebration

Please join us in celebrating our 50th Anniversary on August 25, 2018 with a picnic in the Museum Garden.  Lots of activities are planned – food, theater skit, 1968 photobooth, hands-on crafts and much more.  Stop by between 10am and 3pm for great fun; help celebrate our past and look to our future.

*Click Here to learn more about Maurice Stans on our website

What’s In Store?

We get donations from all across Scott County, and even beyond, but do you ever wonder what happens to the objects you give us afterward? Well you are in luck because that is what this blog post is about. The process of taking items into the collection in called accessioning, and entering them into our collection database is called cataloguing. One of our golden rules for items we take is “What is the history and how does it connect to Scott County?”, we don’t take copies of photos and we want to be sure that we have a good history for anything we take it. Starting to accession something requires the donor to sign over their ownership of the item to the Historical Society. Once all the paperwork is done, we begin the process of cataloguing the items.

Cataloguing has a few different steps to it, but all of them are pretty easy. Cataloguing an item starts by giving it a particular number. This number serves to tell us who gave it to the Historical Society, as well as which item in the system we should look for when we need it. The number is based on the donor, and then for each item they gave it proceeds in numerical order: 1, 2, 3, etc. We attached the number with a tag, or sometimes we use a special material that lets us write the number directly on the item. In most cases though we use a tag, it’s much easier to remove if we need it later.  After we give the object a number we enter into our database a description, dimensions, what we know about its history, connections to people and places, and finally, its storage location.

Storing historical artifacts is part space management, part chemistry, and part environmental sciences. Objects of all kinds are very particular about the kind of environment that is best for them. We have specially controlled storage rooms that keep the artifacts stable for as long as possible. Once we assign a space to an object, we begin boxing it or lining a shelf with foam to keep the artifact safe. As you can see, we have a lot of full shelves but very little space. Once the item is placed in storage, we check on it periodically to make sure it isn’t decaying or breaking down. Steps are taken to make sure items in our collection have the longest life span possible for the generations to come. When we put together new exhibits, we always search our own collection first for artifacts and stories of the people of Scott County.

The New Guy

IMG_0858As the new Curator of Collections for the Scott County Historical Society, I wanted my first blog to be something of an introduction. I was going to tell you a story of who I am and about my background in history. However, I was given the idea to instead talk about what it is like to be the new guy. What is it like to start at a new place, with new people, and new ways of doing things? How do you start? What do you do? How do you feel? I thought about this and realized that this is a good opportunity to tell you about myself in a different way. On that note, I would start by saying that my first few days could be summed up in two words, “I’m lost!”

It has been my experience that starting a new position can be one of the most exciting and confusing times in someone’s career. I’m still not entirely sure how I got here, I remember asking for a job and suddenly having one. Since I started with SCHS I have had to learn whole new ways of doing things, while at the same time knowing exactly what I am doing. The history field is strange in that way, everyone does things differently but we all end at the same thing. You save the same types of history and information no matter where you go. I only wish best practices told me how to manage my office.

As you can see, my office is full of all kinds of things, each one with a story, and each one a total mystery to me. For example, I found a box on a shelf full of pictures. I looked and looked and couldn’t find a thing on them. A box of 300 some pictures and I had no clue what to do with them or even what they were. Here begins the lesson of a new job, ask questions, every question. After some digging, and reaching out to me predecessors, we found out that all of those photos are copies. Here at SCHS we don’t accept copies of things into our collection, we want the genuine article. Still, the photos have a ton of history locked up in them. Those photos have been meaning to go in our library for years, I just happen to be the one doing it.

I admit I was lost when I started here, I didn’t know where to start or what to do. I look at that mess of an office and froze. It didn’t take long though for me to prioritize and begin tackling all of the projects and loose ends that needed tying up. I hope this quick blog gives you a sense of who I am, and if not feel free to stop in and meet me. I am always happy to talk with people and get to better know my community.

Food Will Win The War

After nearly three years of war, by 1917 Europe was facing starvation.  Farms were transformed into battlefields or left un-planted as workers were forced into service.  Transportation routes were disrupted, making access to food challenging to say the least.

On August 10, 1917, congress passed a controversial piece of legislation:  “An Act to Provide Further for the National Security and Defense by Encouraging the Production, Conserving the Supply, and Controlling the Distribution of Food Products and Fuel.”  It also banned the production of “distilled spirits” from any produce that was used for food. This Act created the Food Administration and the Fuel Administration; President Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover to head the Food Administration.  This gave Mr. Hoover authority to fix food prices, license distributors, coordinate purchases, oversee exports, act against hoarding and profiteering, and encourage farmers to grow more crops.

World War I came to the United States in the midst of the Progressive Era – when efficiency and expertise were highly valued.  This mindset provided a platform for the government to establish agencies to address issues of economy, society, and production for the war effort, and avenues to motivate people.

In January 1918, President Wilson issued a proclamation calling upon Americans to demonstrate their patriotism by following Hoover’s guidelines.  Hoover did not want to impose rationing, so he pushed compassion and patriotism to encourage volunteerism for food programs.

Hoover introduced “Meatless Tuesdays”, “Wheatless Mondays”, and “Sweetless and Porkless Saturdays”.  Local food boards offered guidance to comply with these programs by demonstrating how to prepare meals, alter recipes, and preserve food, such as canning.  They also encouraged development of  “Liberty Gardens” where people could grow their own food.  Homeowners were urged to sign and publicly display pledge cards that testified to their efforts to conserve food.  As a result of these efforts, food shipments doubled within a year, while consumption in the US was reduced by 15% between 1918 and 1919.  This continued after the end of the war as an effort to feed millions of displaced people in Europe.  Hoover earned the nickname “Great Humanitarian” for his efforts. (He insisted on no salary – arguing it would give him the moral authority he needed to ask Americans to sacrifice to support the war effort.)

To provide adequate nourishment to troops and allies, a series of posters were created to encourage reducing consumption on the home-front to secure food needed for troops – such as meat, wheat, fats and sugar.  Slogans like “Food Will Win The War” and “Sow The Seeds of Victory” encouraged people to eat locally, reduce waste, and alter eating habits to allow for increased food shipments to soldiers.


4-P-129_2006_001_AC.jpg    4-P-59_2006_001_AC-2.jpg

All of these posters testify to the intent of the government to mobilize the food effort during World War I. As much as possible, it did so under a banner of volunteerism, rather than coercion. In doing so, the Wilson administration created a program that affected the everyday lives of Americans during World War I.  These programs also paved the way for future home-economics!

Local Scott County Newspapers:
January 1917: “Would you help a starving child?.. Thousands of babies in war-torn Europe are starving this winter.  The Children’s of America’s Fund is rushing aid as fast as possible.  Ten cents will give a starving child a day’s life, three dollars a month’s life.”

“Government Fixes Wheat, Flour Prices.  For the first time in U.S. history, the government has taken a hand in price-fixing of farm products and food products.  The first items being regulated are wheat and flour.  Since August, prices in local markets have been governed buy the National Food Control Board.”

“With cream $.46 pound, live hogs $14.80 per hundred weight, wheat $2.37 and beef on the hoof $.11/pound in local markets, it is apparent that the farmer is getting war-time prices for his products.  One way to fight the high cost of living is to either plant a garden and take care of it or increase the garden you already have.”

April 1917: “There will be little or no waste land in Jordan this season.  The high cost of every kind of food causes people to think.  Every available bit of vegetable garden land will be put to use.”

“Meatless days are being observed by millions of Americans on Tuesdays, and Wednesdays are being observed as wheatless days, thereby helping conserve the food supply.”

May 1918: “Don’t forget to provide against possible sugar shortage by planting some sorghum.  It can be planted until May 10. An experience farmer suggests breaking up a corner of pasture land and fencing it off, then planting the tract to sorghum.”

November 1918:  “The world is hungry.  America now plans on relieving the distress in Austria, Russia…in addition to what it had been doing before the Armistice.  We must all co-operate to eliminate waste, to save our of our abundance in order that the needy of other lands may have food.  Food won the war.  Food will save humanity.”

You are invited to learn about Thanksgiving in WWI at SCHS on Thursday, November 16 with a talk at tasting of WWI recipes. (click on the image below to register)

WWI -Tksgivng-FB-1


Shakopee Stove Companies

In the late 19th century into mid 20th century Shakopee was the home of a booming industry.  In the times before electricity really got a hold in America, the tools for cooking and heating relied on wood or coal with gas becoming popular later.  Stoves and ranges that these fuels were loaded into were heavy metal constructions that looked quite a bit different than the typical box stove/oven combos that we see in our modern kitchens.  Here, in the northern portion of the Midwest, such heating implements were in high demand but there wasn’t really a big Midwestern stove and range producer until 1891.  The year 1891 marked the beginning of the Minnesota Stove Company, and once it started, it took off.

In May of 1891 Henry Hinds, Theodore Weiland, and Julius A. Coller returned to Shakopee after being appointed to inspect a stove and general foundry in Ohio.  They were sent to determine whether or not a proposition to open a similar business in Shakopee seemed a wise thing to do.  Their reports returned satisfactory and the plans to build the Minnesota Stove Company were put into action shortly thereafter.  On September 19th of the same year the foundry was built with the first smelting taking place on November 23rd.  Some of these early stove styles were the “Steel Coral” stoves.  These stoves, unlike later stoves, were highly decorated.

MSC Coral StoveMatchless Steel Coral Range

The cold northern weather and the lack of stove companies pushed the Minnesota Stove Company to early success.  A 1906 copy of the Scott County Argus stated that 100 stoves were sold from one advertisement within two hours of leaving the press.  Due to these successes, the “Imperial Coral” stove was added to the production line and in 1908 the foundry was expanded.  A 12,000 square foot brick building was added to make the total size for the company 60,000 square feet.  They also increased the number of employees.  What had started as a 35 person operation was increased to 85.  By 1908 the company had “more than 150 styles and sizes of stoves” to claim.  Some of these were the Sanico, Steel Coral, and Son Brands stoves.  In 1911, the company was overhauled.  They had a new cupola made and new machinery installed.

The Sanico line.


Things continued to go well until 1914, where the Minnesota Stove Company ran into one of its first hiccups.  The company closed in December of 1914 due to an issue with union workers and they stayed closed for about two months.  They closed again in March of 1915 due to similar issues.  They opened again on April 15th of 1915 with a crew of non-union workers.  By October 1915 they were employing 125 workers and business was booming once more.  An October issue of the Scott County Argus stated, “The company is today one of the chief manufacturing industries of our city and one of the leading institutions of its kind in the Northwest.”

Looking at the successes of the Minnesota Stove Company, a second group of men looked to open a stove and range company of their own.  In 1915 J. Warren Hawthorne, George G. Reis, W. T. Curry, and Rudolph T. Selbig incorporated the Shakopee Stove Company, what was originally going to be called “Equity Stove Company,”  and produced their Gopher line of stoves and ranges.

Work in the foundry of the Shakopee Stove Company began on October 28th of 1915.  Finished products did not begin rolling out until mid November due to the late arrival of cleaners, nickeling equipment, and polishing equipment.  These stoves were designed by the four men that had incorporated the business.  They were with little decoration so that parts could be easily repaired and replaced.  Much like Minnesota Stove Company, business at the Shakopee Stove Company took off.  Fortunately, demand for their products was so high, both companies were capable of existing in Shakopee without interfering with each other.  In fact, before the Shakopee Stove Company was even completed, they had orders for each of the items in their product line.  People were so impressed by the Shakopee Stove Company’s work that the Waterbury Furnace and Heating Company of Minneapolis moved orders for foundry work from an Iowa company to the Shakopee Stove Company.

In 1921, William Spoerner stated that the Shakopee Stove Company could not meet demand despite having recently added two expansions.  A newspaper reporter referred to a statement by William Spoerner saying “…he is not able to supply the demand with the limited capacity of the plant.  He says if he had the room he has orders enough to keep  a force of twenty-five full-fledged molders busy every day.”  Part of the problem the Shakopee Stove Company had was that they had no where else to expand to.  They had other companies working near them and while they were looking to expand to a plot of land past the railroad, they did not end up working out a deal with the owners.

While the Shakopee Stove Company was having its troubles keeping up with demand, the Minnesota Stove Company had problems of its own.  On March 1st of 1923 there was an explosion in the casting room at the Minnesota Stove Company that was likely caused by a spray used for castings coming in contact with an electric stove.  The explosion started a fire that spread to the assembling department and warehouse.  Firemen were able to prevent the enameling department from getting caught up in the blaze.  The total losses amounted to $150,000 that was only partially covered by insurance.  Despite the fire, business wasn’t too harshly affected.  Employees were back to work by March 12th and damaged stoves were sold off at a reduced price.After Fire Sale

On March 16th of 1923 they set plans into motion to expand their enameling department.   Within one year, business was high once more despite certain areas within the factory still being shut down.  In March of 1924 they  organized a 150 person fire company and fully equipped the building with fire chemicals and a new hose to prevent future fire problems.  Unfortunately, later that year, the Minnesota Stove Company ran into a second problem.  It was the same problem that the Shakopee Stove Company was having.  Demand was high.  Too high.  The Minnesota Stove Company was not able to keep up and was declared bankrupt October 27, 1924.  This was not the end of things though.  The people of Shakopee had seen their stove company do a lot of good for their town and they did not want to see it go.  The company was sold to the American Range and Foundry December 4th with the sale being confirmed December 22nd.  The main offices of the American Range and Foundry moved their offices to Shakopee and the business was taken over as the American Range Corporation on January 1st of 1925.

Sadly, fire struck again in early 1925.  This time, at the Shakopee Stove Company.  On February 3rd at around 2:40am the Shakopee Stove Company caught flame destroying the building, machinery, equipment, heaters, and ranges.  Only one new steel warehouse was saved and this was only due to a rapid response keeping the fires contained to the other buildings.  That warehouse along with the 150 stoves and heaters inside of it were the only things to survive.  The losses amounted to $40,000 dollars and was, again, only parially covered by insurance.  Unlike the Minnesota Stove Company, the Shakopee Stove Company did not recover and its story ended there.  This is particularly unfortunate seeing as plans were in place to merge Shakopee Stove Company with the American Range Corporation.  An article from a February 13th edition of the Shakopee Argus stated, “A consolidation of the Shakopee Stove Company with American Range Corporation was to have been effected last Saturday but was held up temporarily and would have gone into effect this week.”  After only 10 years, the Shakopee Stove Company was gone leaving the American Range Corporation to meet demand.

By 1927, the American Range Corporation was facing the same troubles that the Minnesota Stove Company had faced.  A headline from the May 26th edition of the Argus Tribune declared, “Local Industry Captialized at $500,000, Employs 175 Men Has $25,000 Monthly Payroll, Capacity 75 Stoves Daily, Production Fails to Keep Step with Demand.”  Despite its struggles, the American Range Corporation continued to run until May 1931, when it shut down temporarily.  Between 1931 and 1933 the factory made efforts to restart but it was unclear if it ever was able to.  Reports suggest that there were plans to restart in late 1931 but it would seem that did not happen.  On August 10th of 1933, business did start again with owners expressing hope that the restart would not just be temporary.  By 1936 business was certainly rolling smoothly as work was done to keep pace with the demand caused by a cold streak.  Eventually, the problems of the past caught up with them and supply was not able to meet demand.  Instead of continuing the business, it was authorized for sale on April 20th of 1940.  The factory was bought for $45,000 by a group in Chicago.  Beginning in 1941, the factory space was put to a new purpose of building cots for the military engaged in World War II.  The factory never returned to its original purpose.

The Scott County Historical had an exhibit entitled “Stoke the Fire: The Life and Times of the Shakopee Stove” in 1998.  Below are some photos of the stoves produced by the Minnesota Stove Company, Shakopee Stove Company, and American Range Corporation as displayed in the exhibit.  The white stove in the upper right hand corner is currently on display in the museum.

Written by Tony Connors, Curatorial Assistant.

The First World War

Post by SCHS Intern: Aaron Sather

The First World War, also often called the Great War or the War to End All Wars, was a massive conflict that has shaped the world in numerous ways. It marked the end of many Empires such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, German Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire. It was also a beginning for many new Nation-States that were formed out of remains of these Empires. While some Empires and Nations were involved in the conflict directly for all four years, the involvement of the United States is radically different than those on the continent of Europe. Many isolationists were antagonistic towards going to war, but eventually war was declared and the United States directly involved. Everyone in the United States, the State of Minnesota, as well as Scott County was involved in the conflict to a varying degree.

The first and most obvious avenue of involvement for American men in the war was direct military service. When the United States declared war in the Spring of 1917 the US Navy, though expanded due to the relationship between naval power and empire building, had limited utility due to the prevalence of U-Boat tactics. Dreadnoughts could blockade ports but engagements between naval squadrons remained limited. Meanwhile the US Army was grossly undermanned and ill equipped to fight the war expected of them on the Western Front, and later in the east against the rising Bolshevik threat in Russia. The United States needed to recruit, train, equip, and feed its Army before deploying the American Expeditionary Force to Europe. This process took months, and it was not until the summer of 1918 that the AEF began arriving in France en masse, often still lacking adequate arms and training. Many would receive weapons and training from the French. All states and counties in the United States were expected to provide men for the war effort. Scott County has changed drastically since the First World War as it was much more agricultural then. Being a food resource rather than a military manpower resource less enlistment was expected of Scott County to preserve its workforce and keep food flowing out of its fields. Even so 453 people were enlisted for military service from the county, 14 of whom would perish in service to their country. While enlistment rates for the county were at half the national average, the casualty rates remained the same as the rest of the nation. The brutality of the Great War is what drove these casualty statistics.

The type of combat varied incredibly across all fronts. From the brutal maneuver warfare of the massive Eastern front, to the chaotic asymmetrical warfare of the Middle East and Africa fighting was brutal. The Great War often remembered through the lens of the Western Front. Static lines were literally dug in the ground and the fighting descended into trench based warfare. Machines were developed to gain an advantage over the enemy, often with an incredible capacity to end human life. Tanks were developed to smash through heavily fortified lines, airplanes were used to reconnoiter and harass enemy positions (including civilians) and chemical weapons were developed to spread terror and death across vast swaths of territory. All off this technological development came due to the need of ascendancy on the battlefield and contributed to the wars brutality.

The American Expeditionary Force, under General John “Black Jack” Pershing, arrived in France and was engaged in horrendous trench warfare. There are many battles that display the severity and danger of the war, but the Battle at Verdun shows the horror that was the Great War the men from Scott county would find themselves in. General Falkenhayn, the German mastermind behind the battle, planned to “bleed France white” by taking the French village of Verdun and the surrounding forts. This plan was not to gain Verdun for any strategic importance but rather than to kill as many French soldiers as possible. Verdun was a place of great importance to French pride and so they defended it with vigor. The French motto “Ies ne passeront pas” or “They shall not pass” appeared in French propaganda. Thousands of French soldiers came to the defense of Verdun, some claim around 60% of the entire French army was rotated through the Verdun lines over the course of the 9 month 3 week and 6 day battle, and thousands died in the brutal battle of attrition. Artillery was used so extensively during the battle that trees still struggle to grow in some places around the site of the battle. In the end the French held, but their victory was a pyrrhic one. This was the type of war the American men were entering.

American involvement would allow French and British Units to finally receive much needed support, stepping in to bolster the Anglo-French lines after nearly three years of attrition and loses. American units were not broken up and assigned to allied units as Pershing wanted the AEF to stay American, though African American Units (the military was still segregated) were loaned to the French who had no issue using colored troops. A notable example of African American men in the war are the Harlem Hellfighters or the 369th Infantry Regiment, getting their nickname from the enemy and not themselves. After helping their allies hold the line the allies went on the offensive. Once enough Americans had arrived in France for the AEF to mount their own massive Meuse-Argonne Offensive, part of the greater 100 Days Offensive that finally pushed German forces back beyond the Hindenburg Line. Their lines shattered and now facing a combined Anglo-French-American Offensive free to maneuver unrestricted by prepared defenses and their people starving the German Empire signed the Armistice on November 11th, 1918. Though men were the ones who fought the war they were not the only ones involved in the it.

Men were the ones who were almost always on the frontlines of the war doing the fighting, asides from Women’s Battalions of Provincial Russian Government, but women also contributed greatly to the war effort. Women contributed to the war effort in whatever ways that they could. Some would become nurses and actually join the military such as the US Navy, caring for the sick and the wounded and being with the dying. Others would join the Red Cross, working to collect supplies to support the war effort and helping in any ways that they could. Even by writing simple letters to their husbands, sons, or brothers ensuring that all was fine on the homefront was crucial to the war effort. Commanders needed their soldier’s minds focused on what they needed to do, not the what-ifs of home. These women were not only writing letters saying things were OK with the family, they were the ones who actually mad things OK. As the heads of the household women took on a new double burden if a male left their household. Not only would they have to still cook meals for their families to eat, no easy feat due to rationing, but in some cases, they needed to step into the male’s place in the economy by also working. Some British Women would work night shifts at a munitions plant, leave work early in the morning to get in line at the grocer, get home and take care of the house and family, and then go back to work in the late evening, somehow trying, or not, to fit in sleep. Though Scott County women did not experience the direct danger of being near a warzone they still made great sacrifices and contributed to the war effort.

Americans contributed to the war effort in any way that they possibly could. Men, many in Scott County, would stay at home and continue farming to provide food for the war effort. Others would go off to fight and die thousands of miles away from all that they knew. Women would continue running their households to keep moral on the homefront as high as possible while trying to keep their loved ones abroad in high spirits as well. Some would even take on positions in the workforce, albeit temporarily. African-American men, though struggling with the injustices of a legal racial divide still devoted themselves to the cause, with their wives and sisters standing behind them and the nation. The people of Scott County, and the men, women, and children of the United State of America banded together behind the cause for war regardless of race, religion, color or necessity because they were all Americans and thought it was morally what needed to be done. This unity is what helped the United States help win the First World War.

USS Texas
USS Texas, a New York Class Battleship, and the only surviving Capital Ship in the world to have served in both World Wars and is still seaworthy today. According the Mahan’s “Influence of Sea Power Upon History” whomever controls the seas controls the world. Many Empires built intimidating Dreadnought and Battleships, though they rarely met in direct confrontation during the First World War with the Battle of Jutland being the exception. They were often used to impose blockades instead. Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomsaint/8039763196 labeled for non commercial reuse
Verdun shell holes still visible today. The destruction destroyed thousands of human lives but also ravaging the landscape. Even today “red zones” remain in France where plant life is still unable to grow due to heavy metal concentration in the soil and people cannot go due to unexploded munitions. Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Verdun_5.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse
Aerial reconnaissance
An aerial reconnaissance photograph of the opposing trenches and no-man’s land between Loos and Hulluch in Artois, France, taken at 7.15 pm, 22 July 1917. German trenches are at the right and bottom, British trenches are at the top left. The vertical line to the left of centre indicates the course of a pre-war road or track. Image and Caption Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aerial_view_Loos-Hulluch_trench_system_July_1917.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse.
Pershing propaganda poster
Propaganda poster of Pershing’s Crusaders. Image credit: https://c1.staticflickr.com/4/3048/3049886600_3af715fdf0_b.jpg labeled for noncommercial reuse

Connections Across Time

It’s kinda weird, creepy even, when today’s events reflect those from 100 years ago. This year marks the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I.  While researching this topic I was struck by the similarities between what we’re experiencing today and WWI sentiments.


Before the U.S.19980150001 got involved in WWI, the phrase “America First” was used by those wanting to stay out of the war. This same phrase was used in the 2016 presidential campaign.

President Wilson stated: “The World must be made safe for democracy.  Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.”  Barack Obama stated: “…we must recognize that lasting stability and real security require democracy.”

Loyalty – Surveillance

20000490029Being of German descent was not a positive fact during the war.  Since Scott County was settled by a majority of Germans, loyalty to America became a public issue.  This pamphlet of a speech by Julius Coller, clearly illustrates this public demonstration of loyalty.  In Belle Plaine, a movie that had a pro-German bent, was thrown into the street and burned by local citizens!  100percentAmerican

Not only were you expected to demonstrate your loyalty to the U.S., you were also encouraged to turn in those you suspected of German sympathy.  “It is the duty of every good citizen to communicate to proper authorities any evidence of sedition that comes to his notice.” New York Times, July 1917.  “Clip and send to us any editorial utterances they encounter which seem to them seditious or treasonable,” Literary Digest.  All of this brings to mind today’s wire taps, surveillance, Wiki Leaks, and investigations.


The Immigration Act of 1917, among other things, required that immigrants be able to read and write in their native language, which led to standardized literacy tests. Standardized testing continues today in schools across the county.



WWI introduced air raids and poison gas – precursors to today’s chemical weapons, bombings, and nuclear war threats.

It’s funny how researching the past can give you a clearer understanding of the present, and an understanding of how personal beliefs/conduct, and national and global relations evolved.

The SCHS newest exhibit: The Great War: Scott County in World War I, opens June 22, 2017.  Special guest speaker Iric Nathanson, author of World War I in Minnesota.

Recent Program Highlights

It’s been a busy few months at the SCHS! Below are photos and highlights from some of our recent programs.

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David Schleper presenting “We Were Here, Too: African-Americans in Early Shakopee” at the SCHS on Feb. 9, 2017.

– In February, we learned about the lives of several African-American men and women who lived in 1800s Shakopee, thanks to guest presenter David Schleper of the Shakopee Heritage Society.

– In March, Shelley Gorham from the Minnesota DNR taught us all about the Minnesota River valley, from the history of fur trading in the area to present-day habitats and wildlife. (PSSST- if you haven’t yet visited the SCHS’s “Minnesota River” exhibit, there’s still time! It will be up through the end of May!)

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Making lye soap at the SCHS!

-In April, guest instructor David Hudson showed us how to make our own lye soap, just as people did in the old days. (Well, except we had the advantage of microwaves to help speed up the process!)

We’ve also had lots of fun kids’ programs recently!

– If you visited the museum on just the right Saturday in January, February, or April, you may have seen students carving tools out of rocks, throwing darts with an atlatl, or digging for artifacts in the museum garden. This was all part of our Youth Archaeology program. Big thanks to the Minnesota Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund for making these workshops possible!

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Students flintknapping as part of our Youth Archaeology workshop series.

– Meanwhile, younger kids enjoyed singing songs, listening to stories, and making crafts at our monthly Kids Kraft program, a fun opportunity to introduce young children to the museum.

We have many more great programs coming up, including our annual meeting next Thursday, May 18 featuring guest speaker and local racing legend John Boegeman. Register for that program here, and stay up-to-date on all of our events by visiting http://www.scottcountyhistory.org.

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St. Patrick’s Day Kids Kraft at the SCHS