As part of its ongoing 40th anniversary celebration in 2015, the Northfield Historical Society will unveil its second “40 For 40” exhibit — a selection of unique, surprising, ordinary, and iconic objects that all Northfielders should be proud to call their own — Tuesday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at the Northfield Historical Society, located in historic downtown Northfield at 408 Division Street. Visit northfieldhistory.org for more information.
The public has generously donated items to the society since its beginning in 1975. The 40 For 40 exhibit was created to celebrate and share some of the more distinctive items that have been donated over the years. The exhibit also commends all of the donors who have shaped the collection. Highlights of the current installment include:
How many museums can boast of having a full skeleton in their collection? NHS was donated the skeleton by Ozzie and Marie Klavestad, owners of the Stagecoach Museum. It came to NHS under the name Charlie Pitts, but an investigation by the Hennepin County medical examiner in 1982 determined that the skeleton could not have been his.
In 2007 Minnesota State, Mankato faculty member Dr. James Bailey teamed up with Mankato colleague and forensic anthropologist Kathleen Blue. They photographed and measured it and collected DNA samples from the pelvis, legs, and teeth. They found out that the skeleton was, indeed, that of a male between the ages of 40 and 50. He is believed to have been of mixed ancestry and would have stood between 5’7” and 5’9”. The skeleton is believed to have been prepared for display in the late 19th or early 20th centuries but that age did not determine the age of the skeleton. DNA samples from the bones and teeth did not match each other, so it is possible that the skeleton is comprised of more than one individual. To date, NHS does not know the identity of the skeleton. It is very unlikely, though, that he was one of the outlaws who came to Northfield on September 7, 1876.
Veblen Family Quilt
This quilt, one of the few items in the collection from the Veblen family, was made by Kari Bunde Veblen in 1896 to celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary to Thomas Anderson Veblen. The most famous of the Veblen children was Thorstein, the sixth of 12. The family moved to a homestead near Nerstrand when Thorstein was a boy and he graduated from Carleton College in 1880. He eventually went to graduate school before becoming a professor at the University of Chicago for many years.
Thorstein achieved national fame for his 1899 work, The Theory of the Leisure Class. He coined the term “conspicuous consumption” and became a leader in the fields of economics and sociology. His social observations and ideologies continued to influence social reforms in the Progressive Era and during the New Deal — even after his death in 1929. In an effort to keep the Veblen memory alive and as a tribute to Thorstein, a group of local citizens began restoring the Veblen farmhouse, which was named a National Historic Landmark in 1981.
Nellie “MOM” Phillips’ Typewriter
The Northfield News certainly had more than one typewriter in its office, but none became as famous as this L.C. Smith typewriter. Nellie Phillips had spent most of her life in Northfield and was on the staff of the Northfield News when the U.S. entered World War II. She began writing letters to local young men who had joined the service, typing thousands of letters on this very typewriter. She received hundreds of letters in return and developed a column in the newspaper in 1942 to relay to Northfielders stories, news, and even the contents of entire letters she received from the servicemen with whom she corresponded. She affectionately signed her letters ‘Mom.’
In 1947, Nellie was awarded the VFW Citizenship Medal but she was nowhere near finished writing her letters. She continued her correspondence through the Korean conflict of the 1950s and sent her last letter in 1965. Only a few years later, Nellie gave the files she kept on the soldiers to the Eugene H. Traux VFW Post. The VFW, in turn, donated the files to NHS, creating an unparalleled collection of the experiences and thoughts of the local men and women who served in World War II.
Eva Lou Scott Doll Collection
Eva Lou Scott was a doll collector. She loved dolls as a child and began collecting them in the late 1920s. Besides dolls that looked like those from her own childhood, Eva Lou liked ethnic dolls. She used her extensive ethnic doll collection as she taught school. What is remarkable about Eva Lou’s collection is the variety of ethnic dolls she collected when she, herself, did not travel much. If friends were traveling, she would give them money for dolls and those friends rarely returned to Eva Lou empty-handed. The collection grew from tens to hundreds of dolls over the course of her life. Her entire doll collection represents years of collecting and research that Eva Lou readily shared with those around her.
Northfield’s Dairy Industry
One-hundred years ago Northfield was known as the Holstein Capital of America. At the time of the ‘Golden Jubilee’ in 1916 there were 5,532 Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle in the community and 261 breeders. This did not happen by mistake. William Schilling promoted the idea of the entire community raising one breed, and as soon as farmers saw the hearty qualities of the Holstein, farms in Northfield went from grain growing to raising pure-bred Holsteins. Farmers formed the Northfield Holstein Club and eventually created a breeder’s organization that owned outstanding bulls used to sire the superior herds for which Northfield became famous. Farmers came from out-of-state to purchase Holsteins from Northfield and the city became known for “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment.”
There were many prominent dairy farmers who raised Holsteins in the earliest days. U.L. Lashbrook was one of these men. He began his herd in 1903 on a 160 acre farm that is now part of Lashbrook Park in Northfield. His granddaughter donated a pair of Holstein-Friesian canvas prints to NHS. The artist of the prints, Edwin Megargee, became a well-known animal artist credited with painting the finest specimens of animals. Because of Megargee’s depiction of the perfect bull, area Holsteins were judged for quality against this painting.
Come see the second “40 For 40” exhibit — a selection of unique, surprising, ordinary, and iconic objects that all Northfielders should be proud to call their own — Tuesday, June 30, at 7 p.m. at the Northfield Historical Society, located in historic downtown Northfield at 408 Division Street. Visit northfieldhistory.org for more information.