Don’t commit crimes in St. Paul! Rule #1 defined the cozy relationship between the St. Paul Police Department and notable gangsters residing there in the early 1930’s.
“St. Paul Police Chief” Tom Brown entertained us with tales of John Dillinger, Ma Barker and sons, Creepy Karpis and other notables during an entertaining bus-tour of St. Paul’s gangster locations.
We drove by a home once inhabited by the “nice neighbor” Ma Barker and the apartment once home to John Dillinger and site of a shoot-out. We visited the site of a payroll robbery and shootout in SOUTH St. Paul and enjoyed entertaining stories of “Madam” Nina Clifford’s” brothel with its tunnel connecting it to a men’s club.
We stopped at the site of the former Hamm mansion (home of the brewing family) in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood to see where William Hamm Jr. was kidnapped and taken away from the Land of Sky Blue Waters to Chicago.
Historic Photo: Reporters and onlookers at the Hamm residence following the kidnapping.
The Gangster tour is a fun and an interesting way to learn about a seamier side of St. Paul’s history. The tour includes a bit of literary history with glimpses of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Summit Avenue home and Garrison Keillor’s current residence. The mansion of railroad builder James J. Hill is nearby.
The tour begins at the man-made Wabasha Street Caves, known as a gangster hideout but originally used to raise mushrooms. The Caves are open for tours and for weekly swing dance parties. A fun spring day in the Saintly City!
Lib Guide Minn. Historical Society
Gangsters in St. Paul
Gangster images and artifacts
What’s in your back yard?
Lincoln’s Pockets, a Library of Congress professional development activity answers the question. These artifacts are available to teachers and students digitally in Lincoln’s Pockets, a LOC Teacher’s Page Professional Development Activity. The complete packet includes facilitator directions, participant questions, and links to the artifacts. Some objects are easily identifiable, most, such as the object on the left, are not. (What do you think it is?)
The engaging (and easy to implement) activity generates interest and questioning as participants try to identify each object and decide what they have in common. The contents of Abraham Lincoln’s pockets on the evening of his assassination are part of the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniania.
Numerous museums and cultural organizations are holding special events and exhibits to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. Remembering a Fiendish Assassination is an especially unique event sponsored by the The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. One commemorative experience will be a reenactment of Lincoln’s funeral train procession from its arrival in Springfield, Illinois, to Springfield’s Oak Ridge Cemetery. Funeral Train Reenactment website.
The 10-year old Springfield museum is incredibly fascinating and educational. Visitors enter the extensive Presidential Journeys Gallery through a replica of the White House entrance. John Wilkes Booth stands off to the side, watching the Lincoln Family, Frederick Douglas, and other White House visitors.
An especially moving exhibit is a recreation of the Ford’s Theater assassination and a recreation of Lincoln’s closed casket.
The museum utilizes extensive technology to heighten the visitation experience. A battlefield scene is loud and intense; in another live presentations it is hard to distinguish a live actor from a hologram. The museum and nearby Lincoln sites such as his home and office are well worth the visit. There is a lot to see in Springfield. Allow at least two days!
Last September I introduced the recently published Student Discovery Sets from the Library of Congress. These ebooks are collections of primary source sets designed to provide interactive, inquiry learning while introducing students to primary sources on common curricular topics. I was curious about how teachers and media specialists are using these hands-on materials in their classrooms. Tom Bober, a school media specialist in Missouri shared his experiences with elementary students in his blog and for “Making Learning Interactive,” the NEW Media Center column in March/April Internet at Schools.
When Tom Bober was looking for resources to help 5th grade students understand a science topic, he used Understanding the Cosmos, an ebook primary source set from the Library of Congress. The Missouri media specialist realized students didn’t understand different models of the solar system; he thought specific examples depicted in primary sources would help them better grasp selected geocentric models. He downloaded the ebooks to iPads and assigned each student a specific primary source to examine. They marked and annotated the image using built-in tools and recorded handwritten notes on paper copies f of the Library’s Primary Source Analysis Tool. Continue reading about Bober’s experiences, downloading the ebooks, and other ideas for using these and other resources for elementary students.
Primary sources like these offer engaging learning opportunities for classrooms. Learn how!
The first warm weather of 2015 means it’s time for a road trip to visit undiscovered sites in the Driftless Region of Western Wisconsin. Last weekend’s drive took us to County T and State Highway 108 between Mindoro and West Salem in LaCrosse County.
The trip highlight was the Mindoro Cut. Built in 1907-1908, the Cut is considered the 2nd largest hand-hewn cut in the United States. It is listed in the National and State Register of Historic Places. County T and Hwy 108 are popular with motorcycle riders and convertible drivers. Both feature scenic views; Hwy 108 has wonderful hairpin turns.
I didn’t know about the Mindoro Cut before our road trip! It’s fun to keep discovering what’s in my backyard.
The Mindoro Cut: National Historic Marker Database
Mindoro Cut Makes History, LaCrosse Tribune, Nov 30, 2006
The high gluten promotion in historic Stockton flour sack displayed at the Winona County History Center caught my eye. A Wingold flour sack also promotes high gluten. High gluten flour hasn’t gone away, but we know the promotion now (and dietary need for others) is Gluten Free.
How – and why – have our eating habits have changed? The Tastemakers, a fascinating look at past, current and emerging food trends gives insight and a cultural history of recent food trends such as Cupcakes, Celebrity chefs, Cronuts, Fondue, Health foods, Ethnic foods & BACON!
Journalist David Sax who analyzed trends and data, explains clever promotion along with the economic need to increase pork sales during the “other white meat” trend” were factors in the recent bacon trend. All the trends I had encountered – chia seeds, Red Prince apples, Indian cooking, food trucks – were ultimately motivated by commerce. What drove people to open one more cupcake bakery. . . wasn’t their desire to unleash the perfect strawberry buttercream on the world – it was to make a buck. Food trends were products of capitalism. . . . (Baconomics: 101, Ch 10)
“Marketing: Someday my Red Prince Will Come” offers a look at the high cost of developing and marketing specialty apples such as the Red Prince grown in Canada or specialty apples like Honeycrisp or Sweet Tango developed by the University of Minnesota.
“Taco Trucks: Food Politics” is an interesting account of the difficulty food truck operators faced trying to get more selling spaces in Washington D.C. Now we see them everywhere.
What about Bacon? Some reports claim say the trend is fading, others disagree.
The Tastemakers is a fun read for foodies or people interested in advertising and change.
I loved this book and an excited about interesting possibilities for curriculum connections in economics, family and consumer science or sociology. It would be fun to enhance the study the history of food and food related trends with primary sources. There are an abundance of resources. Here a couple to get you thinking.
The story of a pantry shelf, an outline history of grocery specialties (Butterick, 1925) discusses the “evolution of five [food} decades.” Advertising and the ingenuity of American enterprise were identified as key influences on what we eat. How does your panty shelf compare to the 1925 example? The book is one of hundreds of items in Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, a Library of Congress collection of documents, books, photos and ephemera.
Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project highlights a part of America’s cultural heritage for teachers, students and researchers. 76 digital cookbooks represent influential and important cookbooks from the late 18th century to the 20th century. They are for lifelong learners of all ages.
What cookbooks would you include in your historic cookbook collection?
What are you nominations for an update to The Tastemakers?
Primary sources offer engaging learning opportunities for classrooms. Learn how!
Sax, David. The Tastemakers: Why we’re crazy for cupcakes but fed up with Fondue. Public Affairs/Perseus Books Group, 2014.
Under the Wide and Starry Sky is compelling historical fiction about the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife Fanny. Based on extensive research of primary sources, the novel takes us around the world, chronicling a life of adventure, love and friendship. We meet an array of intriguing and accomplished people throughout Europe, North America and the South Pacific where Stevenson was buried on the island of Samoa. I was fascinated by much RLS wrote in his short life and the unique life Fanny Van de Grift Stevenson lived in the Victorian age. Also a writer, she published a book based on the diary she wrote during a voyage to the South Pacific. After Stevenson’s death she devoted her time to promoting his legacy.
Author Nancy Horan used eight published volumes of letters, Stevenson’s papers and Fanny’s unpublished letters as her chief source, but read and used countless others. I always go to primary sources to do the real research, because I want to get it right and draw my own conclusions. Excerpts from diaries and real letters are included. Horan followed the couple’s “footsteps by visiting many of the places they lived in the U.S. and Europe. . . different landscapes and cultures exerted powerful influences on both of them, so it was useful to experience those places.”
I reconnected with a favorite childhood book, Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses through the novel. As I read I pictured the brown patterned cover, tattered pages, illustrations, and how I wrote my name in the front cover. I knew its exact location on my bookshelves. Revisiting the book was not disappointing. The second half of my book has fewer worn pages. Most likely I never completed many attempted “re-reads.” A short poem is a favorite.
The rain is raining is all around,
It falls on field and tree,
It rains on the umbrellas here,
And on the ships at sea.
The forward describes Stevenson’s childhood illness and dependence on his nurse Cummy, who also has a role in the novel. Nancy Horan imagines the adult Stevenson defending his interest in writing for children to his friend Henley, a critic and writer.
When I suffer in mind, stories are my refuge; I take them like opium.. . . . Frankly, it isn’t Shakespeare we take to when we re in a hot corner, is it? It’s Dumas or the best of Walter Scott. Don’t children, especially children, deserve that kind of refuge? Even it’ poetry.
In a later chapter the fictional Stevenson recites The Land of Counterpane a poem about the power of imagination.
When I was sick and lay abed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day . . . .
And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
A Child’s Garden of Verses was the first book of poems for children told through a child’s world. Multiple digital editions are available through the Library of Congress. My favorite is Scribner’s 1895 edition From the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. View poems and illustrations online or download a PDF.
~ Horan, Nancy. Under the Wide and Starry Sky Ballantine, 2014
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, World Publishing 1946, illustrated by Alexander Dobkin.
~ Stevenson, Robert Louis, A Child’s Garden of Verses, Scribner, 1895.
~ Songs from A child’s Garden of Verses. Poems paired with music by Natalie Curtis.
Wa Wan Press, 1902
~ How can I Use Primary Sources with Elementary Students?
I can remember the time I spent in this state park. We had to work at Plainview in the cannery. I enjoyed very much the landscape surrounding us. The trees, the rocks. It was similar to Germany.
Ernst Kohleick, former POW, 1974.
A major character in Chris Bohjalian’s Skeletons at the Feast is a Scottish prisoner of war working on a family estate in Eastern Germany as Russian forces are invading at the end of World War II. German internees are employed on a farm during an episode of the British detective series Foyle’s War. Both situations renewed my interest in learning more about the German POW camp at Whitewater State Park in Southeast Minnesota, a short distance from my home. Housed in a former Civilian Conservation Core barracks, POWs worked on area farms and in canning factories. They were paid a minimum wage so they could resettle in Germany after the war. Friendships developed between POWS and county residents, including some of German descent. Some POW returned to the area in the 1970’s to revisit the former campsite; some oral interviews were recorded.
Camp Whitewater POWs were from North African and Normandy campaigns. Whitewater was one of 20 POW camps in Minnesota and a “branch” of the Algona, Iowa base camp. On Veterans Day an area television station broadcast a video featuring the camp setting, an interview with the park naturalist, and historic photos.
A tornado destroyed the Whitewater camp barracks in 1953 leaving few visible remains. There are, however, primary sources about camps in Minnesota and other states available in digital collections. A comprehensive starting place is The Library of Congress State Memory Collections Portal. One Minnesota Reflections artifact is a Letter from Alois Sauer to Henry Peterson in Moorhead, Minnesota. Sauer shared fond memories of his time at in Minnesota:
The time I lived in America, especially on your farm, was the best of my life. I learnt [learned] this, when I came as a prisoner from the U.S. to France. What a contrast! In the U.S. we had plenty to eat and the people were so good to us, and there in France we met only hunger and hate. And when I returned at home the conditions were not much better. Our food-rations were and are still today terrible small, and I often wanted to have only a small amount of the foods I got in the USA.
- Camp Alogna website: Photos, brief history. There is a museum in Algona.
- Iowa’s Digital Library clipping: Algona Boy Guards German Prisoners
- Wikipedia: List of camps and links to individual camps
- LOC historical report with statement about German repatriation at end of WWII. (Prisoners of war repatriation or internment in War Time American and allied experience 1775-Present (Vietnam)
- Smithsonian Magazine. German POWs on the Homefront
German POWs, treatment of POWs and unlikely friendships between POWS and civilians are timely classroom topics!
Historical fiction suggestions
- Bohjalian, Chris. Skeletons at the Feast. Crown, 2008. For older readers.
- Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. Puffin Modern Classics, 2006. Story of a young Jewish girl in Arkansas and a German POW. For middle level readers
- Dallas, Sandra. Tallgrass. St. Martin’s, 2007. Weaves the story of an unlikely friendship between internees at a Colorado Internment Camp and a beet farmer’s family throughout the book. A parallel plot is the anti-Japanese behavior and attitudes of other community citizens. Upper middle level and senior high readers.
Primary sources offer exciting possibilities for all content areas
Learn how to find and use primary sources in your classroom!