Primary Source Sets

Minnesota Reflections Primary Source Sets are modeled from the Digital Public Library for America Primary Source Sets and designed to help students develop critical thinking skills by exploring a variety of topics related to Minnesota history and culture. Using both primary and secondary sources, these sets bring together different resources in new ways to help students better understand historic events and people in their context.

Drawing online materials from libraries, archives, and museums across Minnesota, these sets use letters, photographs, advertisements, oral histories, postcards, newsletters, papers, speeches and more. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to twenty primary sources, links to related resources, and a teaching guide which includes classroom discussion questions and activities. We invite educators and researchers to use these primary source sets in their teaching and learning.

Civilian Conservation Corps crew working on East Bearskin Road, north of Grand Marais, Minnesota

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a work relief program started in 1933; Minnesota's 148 camps had over 70,000 workers.

Palace Clothing Company, High Art Clothiers, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Discover advertising trade cards from the late 19th and early 20th-century used by businesses throughout America.

Roller coaster and popcorn stand, Excelsior Amusement Park, Excelsior, Minnesota

This primary source set explores the history and attractions at the Excelsior Amusement Park, Excelsior, Minnesota.

Carrie Ferrin with her bicycle, Worthington, Minnesota

Learn about the history of cabinet photographs.

Aerial Bridge: U.S. Ship Canal Duluth, Minnesota

This primary source set provides a brief overview of the history of postcards.

Basal metabolic rate machine in use, Northwestern Health Sciences University, Bloomington, Minnesota

Learn about the history chiropractic in Minnesota.

District 43 Country School, 1901 class photograph, Ann Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota

Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiographical novel.

Pharmaceutical mortar and pestle used by Evan H. Cormontan at Cormontan's Drug Store, Fosston, Minnesota

This primary source set provides a brief overview of patent medicine with some Minnesota-related resources.

Steam engine used in threshing, Lincoln County, Minnesota

Learn about the history mechanization of farming in Minnesota.

Oliver Iron Mining Company, Pioneer Mine, Shaft A, Ely, Minnesota

Learn about Minnesota's Iron Range, the immigrants who settled there and how iron mining has helped shape Minnesota.

The Organizer (Minneapolis, Minnesota), Volume 1, Number 5

One of the most violent labor disputes in state history took place at the height of the Depression.

Morgan Park neighborhood, Duluth, Minnesota

Learn about Morgan Park, a neighborhood in Duluth, constructed by U.S. Steel as a planned community and company town.

Uptown Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Motion picture theaters have played a role in the architectural, cultural, social, and entertainment history of Minnesota.

Flood Damage in 1951 in North Mankato, Minnesota

Learn how people survived and coped with some of Minnesota’s historic natural disasters such as storms, floods and wildfires.

Seth Eastman

Seth Eastman is known primarily for his depictions of daily life among the Dakota and Ojibwa tribes.

The Sauk Centre House, Sauk Centre, Minnesota

Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Sinclair Lewis's masterpiece of American literature.

View of the St. Anthony Falls apron. Nicollet Island is in the background.

St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River, is responsible for powering mills and birthing a city.

Police officers and illegal liquor, Northfield, Minnesota

Learn how the national temperance movement evolved resulting in prohibition of liquor and how it played out in Minnesota.

Line outside of bookmobile visiting Stanchfield, East Central Regional Library System, Stanchfield, Minnesota

Minnesota's earliest mobile library services were traveling libraries and bookmobile services.

Whaleback vessel "Christopher Columbus," Duluth, Minnesota

Outlines the development, construction, and use of whaleback boats on the Great Lakes.

World War I Red Cross workers in Duluth, Minnesota

World War I had a profound impact of the lives of Minnesotans. Explore these resources to learn about the Minnesota home front.