Primary Source Sets
The Minnesota Digital Library (MDL) Primary Source Sets are designed to help students develop critical thinking skills by exploring a variety of topics related to Minnesota’s history and culture. Using both primary and secondary sources, these sets bring together resources in new ways to help students better understand historic events in their context.
Drawing materials from libraries, archives, and museums across Minnesota, these sets use letters, photographs, advertisements, oral histories, postcards, newsletters, speeches, and more. Each set includes a topic overview, ten to twenty primary sources from the MDL collection, links to related resources, and a section called “Think Like a Historian” which offers discussion questions and classroom activities. We invite educators and researchers to use these primary source sets in their teaching and learning.
Learn about the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis, the first basilica in America and a prominent cultural and architectural presence.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a work relief program started in 1933; Minnesota's 148 camps had over 70,000 workers.
Discover advertising trade cards from the late 19th and early 20th-century used by businesses throughout America.
Learn about early automobile history by examining the four custom-built automobiles of Lincoln and Frank Fey.
Learn about the history and significance of Carte de Visite images, an early photographic format.
Learn about the history and significance of cyanotypes, an early photographic technique.
Learn about the history and significance of stereograph images, a common photographic format.
Learn how the lumber industry used natural resources, labor, technology, and transportation to harvest Minnesota's pine forests.
This primary source set provides a brief overview of patent medicine with some Minnesota-related resources.
Learn about Minnesota's Iron Range, the immigrants who settled there and how iron mining has helped shape Minnesota.
One of the most violent labor disputes in state history took place at the height of the Depression.
Learn about Morgan Park, a neighborhood in Duluth, constructed by U.S. Steel as a planned community and company town.
Motion picture theaters have played a role in the architectural, cultural, social, and entertainment history of Minnesota.
Learn about the infamous James-Younger Gang's attempt to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota in 1876.
Learn how the Mayo Clinic formed following a devastating tornado in the Rochester area in 1883.
Read letters written by Sinclair Lewis about his house, work, and experiences while living in Duluth in the 1940s.
Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Sinclair Lewis's masterpiece of American literature.
Visit early 20th century Ojibwe communities with musician and educator Stella Stocker through her photography collection.
Learn how the national temperance movement evolved resulting in prohibition of liquor and how it played out in Minnesota.
Learn about the rise and fall of streetcars in the Twin Cities - the first public transit system in the area.
This set outlines the development, construction, and use of whaleback boats on the Great Lakes.