The mission of the Northfield Historical Society is to connect individuals to the history of the Northfield area by collecting, preserving, and sharing its unique stories.
The Northfield Historical Society (the Society) was formed in 1975 for the dual purpose of saving the historically significant First National Bank building and to create a historical society and museum for the city of Northfield. The collection reflects both of these endeavors.
The core of the Society’s collection is comprised of the variety of items relating to the 1876 failed bank robbery of the James-Younger Gang. The collection includes guns used in the robbery, bank ledgers, glass-plate negatives of the dead robbers, Stillwater Prison items, and publications relating to the event.
Beyond the robbery items, the collection has grown to include clothing and household goods, furniture, toys, military items, guns, and paintings. Many items have a tie to local families or the immediate area while other items are representative of the region as a whole.
The photograph collection is one of the most viewed and used collections that the Society possesses. The majority of the collection depicts local scenes of downtown Northfield or area families and homes. The Society contributes to the collection images of their programs and events. The town’s celebration, The Defeat of Jesse James Days, produces a large quantity of images each year and the Society is fast becoming the official repository of the celebrations’ photograph archives.
In addition to the three-dimensional collection, the society also has an archival collection. The collection contains business records as well as personal papers from a variety of Northfield citizens. This, too, is a growing collection with several area organizations beginning to systematically turn over records to the Society for permanent preservation.
The archives also contains records created by the City of Northfield including ordinances, municipal court records, fund ledgers, historic preservation records, and City Council meeting minutes. Audio recordings of council meetings are also part of the collection.
The Malt-O-Meal Collection
In 2015, the family of John Campbell, the founder of Malt-O-Meal, donated a collection of historic artifacts and archives to the Northfield Historical Society. This collection documents the growth and development of the original Malt-O-Meal hot cereal and the various promotions, advertisements, products, and facilities of the company.
Collection items include bound ledgers, binders, scrapbooks, photographs, slides, newspaper clippings, audio recordings, video/film recordings, print advertisements, television commercial storyboards, product packaging, three-dimensional artifacts (including premiums and branded merchandise), equipment, clothing, and more. These materials form the Malt-O-Meal Company’s only corporate archives. Portions of the collection may be viewed by the public, by appointment only.
The Sheldahl, Inc. Collection
Gilmore T. “Shelly” Schjeldahl founded the G. T. Schjeldahl Company on June 29, 1955. The company began operations in Northfield, Minnesota and expanded to locations across the United States. Northfield remained the headquarters of the company until it was sold to the Multek Corporation in 2004.
The collection consists of archival records, photographs, oral histories, and artifacts documenting the history of the G. T. Schjeldahl Company, later Sheldahl, Inc. Some of the strengths of the collection include samples of the Echo I and II satelloons, records from Gilmore T. Schjeldahl’s time as president, and advertising materials for various Sheldahl products. The collection may be viewed by the public, by appointment only.