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Minnesota Historical Society Press

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Minnesota Historical Society Press

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Italian Voices

Making Minnesota Our Home

Mary Ellen Mancina-Batinich

A boardinghouse keeper finds her kitchen in a mess after Saturday-night revelry and refuses to cook on Sunday. An iron miner pries frozen ore from a car in 40-below temperatures. A grocer makes sausage, brews wine, and forages for mushrooms and dandelion greens. In Italian Voices, Minnesota’s Italian Americans share rich stories of everyday life in communities in the Iron Range, Duluth, and the Twin Cities between 1900 and 1960. Mary Ellen Mancina-Batinich, a native of the Iron Range, had unequaled access to the state’s immigrant generation during the twenty years she spent documenting the lives of these Minnesotans, in their own words.

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Jacob's Well

A Case for Rethinking Family History

Joseph A. Amato

Joseph A. Amato follows his own poor, obscure, and truly "mongrel" family through seven generations, revealing their place in the key events of America's past. Using powerful family traditions to clarify his personal connection to the larger stories of our nation, Amato advocates for the power of the history closest at hand in building personal identity and resisting mass culture.

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Joined at the Hip

A History of Jazz in Twin Cities

Jay Goetting

Jazz first churned its way into the Twin Cities on the Mississippi river excursion boats, which brought the likes of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong to listeners on the levee—and it never left. When Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and other jazz greats toured the clubs and concert halls of the Cities, young musicians listened in the alleys outside, bought records, and learned more of this exciting new music. The local scene began to nurture players like Lester Young and Oscar Pettiford, who went on to bigger things, as well as those who remained close to home to ply their craft, like Rook Ganz, Percy Hughes, Doc Evans, and Dave Karr. Using an invaluable set of interviews taped with jazz personalities that were broadcast by Dave Sletten and Kent Hazen in the 1990s and rare photographs spanning the entire era, author Jay Goetting recounts the lore and explores the social aspects of the story: racism, the gangster era, unionization and strip joints, and the ever-evolving music itself.

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Keepsakes & Other Stories

Jon Hassler

These seven gentle tales set in Minnesota and North Dakota and all written during the 1970s treat fans of novelist Hassler (A Green Journey; Jemmy) to the earliest fruits of his talent. Some are folksy portraits of small-town characters, while others are drier and more plot driven. Both the title story and "Resident Priest" feature crusty, 74-year-old Father Fogarty, a pastor who's leaving his parish after 23 years. In "Chief Larson," a seven-year-old Indian boy, known (rather improbably) only as "chief" on the reservation, rebels in a small but telling way against his white adoptive family. ""Good News in Culver Bend" tracks two city reporters who travel to a small town and discover "the heart of Christmas." "Chase" and "Christopher, Moony, and the Birds" show how frustrated residents of small towns seek solace. The former, so brief it's nearly a prose poem, hints at Hassler's own adolescent discovery of his talent for fiction; the latter follows a lonely 50-year-old college professor as he goes on a consolatory walk with a student's awkward wife and child, watching "birds on family outings, hopping and halting on the grass." The cleverest story, ""Yesterday's Garbage," follows a "garbologist" who finds the truth about a murder in a trash bin, and is then led to commit one himself. The publisher plans to issue Hassler's later short fiction in three more volumes, starting in the year 2000."" --Publishers Weekly

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Life Among the Lake Superior Ojibway

Johann Georg Kohl

Johann Georg Kohl’s classic work about the Ojibway of Lake Superior is a fascinating study in contrasts and similarities. An urbane, well-traveled European, a trained ethnologist, and an accomplished popular writer, Kohl (1808-1878) visited the Ojibway in 1855 and turned his sensitive powers of observation on a nation of people he found not unlike his own. He describes daily life, detailing religious practices, legends, foods, games, medicines, homes, clothing, and methods to travel, hunting, and fishing. Kohl’s respect for the Ojibway makes his writing especially appealing to the modern reader.

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Land Of The Burnt Thigh

A Lively Story of Women Homesteaders On The South Dakota Frontier

Edith Eudora Kohl

Among the hordes of homesteaders who settled the American West were thousands of single women who hoped to gain for themselves a piece of land and the money and satisfaction that came along with it. The memoirs of many of these self-described “girl homesteaders,” long ignored by historians, show the significant impact these women had on their communities. Land of the Burnt Thigh, first published in 1938, is one of the best of these accounts. Edith Eudora Ammons and her sister Ida Mary moved to central South Dakota in 1907 to try homesteading near the “Land of the Burnt Thigh”—the Lower Brule Indian Reservation. These two young women, both in their twenties and “timid as mice,” found a community of homesteaders (including several other single women) who were eager to help them succeed at what looked to be impossible: living in a tiny tarpaper shack on 160 waterless, sunbaked, and snowblasted acres for eight months until they could “prove up” the claim. Within as few weeks Edith was running a newspaper, Ida Mary was teaching school, and the two were helping others who had come to settle. In the months to come, they battled prairie fires, rattlesnakes, and a blizzard; they observed two great land rushes; they stakes a new claim, founded their own newspaper, opened a post office and a general store, and overcame their fear of the Indians who came to trade with them. In her introduction, historian Glenda Riley discusses the Ammons sisters’ adventures and those of many other women homesteaders. Praise for Land of the Burnt Thigh “Their story is genuinely stirring in its events, as it is interesting in its spirit and atmosphere, and it is told simply and well…This is an unusual record, well worth reading.”—New York Times “Mrs. Kohl has told this story of South Dakota with a simplicity, a directness, and an understanding of its quietly heroic element which make her book an appealing as well as a significant contribution to the latter-day history of the pioneers.”—Saturday Review

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Last Full Measure

The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers

Richard Moe

Since its publication, Richard Moe's The Last Full Measure has garnered a reputation as the definitive history of the First Minnesota Regiment and one of a handful of classic regimental histories of the Civil War. The First Minnesota Volunteers, the first regiment offered to President Lincoln after the fall of Fort Sumter, served in virtually every major battle fought in the eastern theater during the first three years of the Civil War. This is the story of the Army of the Potomac during that period: the initial enthusiasm dashed by sudden defeat at Bull Run; the pride at being shaped into an army by George McClellan and the frustration with his--and his successors'--inability to defeat Robert E. Lee; and, finally, the costly battle of Gettysburg, the decisive battle in which the First Minnesota played a crucial, and tragic, role. Drawing on a wide array of letters, diaries, and personal reminiscences, Moe tells the story anew through the experiences of the men who lived it. As James MacGregor Burns notes in his foreword, "Like Tolstoy's War and Peace, this work sticks close to the men in battle, and hence, like Tolstoy, the author keeps close to the human size of war."

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Last Hunter

An American Family Album

Will Weaver

Minnesota’s Will Weaver has been a hunter since he was a young boy, following in the footsteps of his father, a dedicated and seasoned outdoorsman. As he writes, “in the fall, when Canada geese came through and when partridge season opened, [we] heard the far-off thudding report of shotguns—and in November the heavier poom-poom! of deer rifles.” Hunting frames Weaver’s childhood memories, his relationship with his father, and his own definition of self. And although one side of his family lineage includes men who would not hunt, or go to war, or carry a rifle, Weaver is caught off guard when his son and daughter show no interest in upholding the tradition of the hunt. The Last Hunter is a twenty-first-century collection of deeply personal tales—a truly American story. Weaver’s heartfelt rendering sweeps us along on a family journey from an isolated North Dakota farm “built around a fork and shovel” to postmodern America. Grounded in telling and luminous detail, The Last Hunter is an examination of family, life on the land, and those things we hold dear enough to want to carry along, one generation to another. Praise for Will Weaver: “. . . his stories view America’s heartland with a candid but charitable eye.” —New York Times on A Gravestone Made of Wheat “. . . pitch perfect. Superb.” —Kirkus Reviews on Full Service “ Weaver . . . is a writer of uncommon natural talent. He’s that rare Real Thing, a writer writing eloquently, often between the lines but always with an undertow of passion about what he knows, where he lives, what he’s been through.” —Los Angeles Times

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Last Letter Home

Vilhelm Moberg

Considered one of Sweden's greatest 20th-century writers, Vilhelm Moberg created Karl Oskar and Kristina Nilsson to portray the joys and tragedies of daily life for early Swedish pioneers in America. His consistently faithful depiction of these humble people's lives is a major strength of the Emigrant Novels. Moberg's extensive research in the papers of Swedish emigrants in archival collections, including the Minnesota Historical Society, enabled him to incorporate many details of pioneer life. First published between 1949 and 1959 in Swedish, these four books were considered a single work by Moberg, who intended that they be read as documentary novels. These new editions contain introductions written by Roger McKnight, Gustavus Adolphus College, and restore Moberg's bibliography not included in earlier English editions. Book 4 portrays the Nilsson family during the turmoil of living through the era of the Civil War and Dakota Conflict and their prospering in the midst of Minnesota's growing Swedish community of the 1860s-90s. "It's important to have Moberg's Emigrant Novels available for another generation of readers.”—Bruce Karstadt, American Swedish Institute

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Lincoln and the Indians

Civil War Policy and Politics

by David A. Nichols

“Lincoln and the Indians has stood the test of time and offers this generation of readers a valuable interpretation of the U.S. government’s Indian policies—and sometimes the lack thereof—during the Civil War era. Providing a critical perspective on Lincoln’s role, Nichols sets forth an especially incisive analysis of the trial of participants in the Dakota War of 1862 in Minnesota and Lincoln’s role in sparing the lives of most of those who were convicted.” — James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom “For the Dakota people, the Indian System started with the doctrine of discovery and continued through Abraham Lincoln’s presidency and beyond. The United States was bound to protect the rights of Indian parties. But in the end, the guilty were glorified and the laws for humanity disgraced. This book tells that story, and it should be required reading at all educational institutions.” —Sheldon Wolfchild, independent filmmaker, artist, and actor “Undoubtedly the best book published on Indian affairs in the years of Lincoln’s presidency.” —American Historical Review

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