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.
Civilian Conservation Corps in Minnesota
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a work relief program started in 1933; Minnesota's 148 camps had over 70,000 workers.
Construction of the Apron at St. Anthony Falls, Mississippi River
Learn about the need for and development of the St. Anthony Falls Apron in Minneapolis, MN.
Discrimination in Advertising Trade Cards
Discover advertising trade cards from the late 19th and early 20th-century used by businesses throughout America.
Excelsior Amusement Park
This primary source set explores the history and attractions at the Excelsior Amusement Park, Excelsior, Minnesota.
Fey Brothers, Automobile Inventors
Learn about early automobile history by examining the four custom-built automobiles of Lincoln and Frank Fey.
Format Highlights: Postcards
This primary source set provides a brief overview of the history of postcards.
Laura Ingalls Wilder's On the Banks of Plum Creek
Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Laura Ingalls Wilder's autobiographical novel.
Lumber Industry in Minnesota
Learn how the lumber industry used natural resources, labor, technology, and transportation to harvest Minnesota's pine forests.
Made in Minnesota: Patent Medicine on the Prairie
This primary source set provides a brief overview of patent medicine with some Minnesota-related resources.
Mechanization of Farming in Minnesota
Learn about the history mechanization of farming in Minnesota.
Mining on the Iron Range
Learn about Minnesota's Iron Range, the immigrants who settled there and how iron mining has helped shape Minnesota.
Minneapolis Teamsters Strike of 1934
One of the most violent labor disputes in state history took place at the height of the Depression.
Minnesota's Three Major Railroads
Learn how three of Minnesota's major railroads formed and how they contributed to the development of Minnesota.
Morgan Park: U. S. Steel's Company Town in Duluth, Minnesota
Learn about Morgan Park, a neighborhood in Duluth, constructed by U.S. Steel as a planned community and company town.
Motion picture theaters in Minnesota
Motion picture theaters have played a role in the architectural, cultural, social, and entertainment history of Minnesota.
Natural Disasters in Minnesota
Learn how people survived and coped with some of Minnesota’s historic natural disasters such as storms, floods and wildfires.
Northfield Bank Raid of 1876
Learn about the infamous James-Younger Gang's attempt to rob the First National Bank of Northfield, Minnesota in 1876.
Origins of the Mayo Clinic
Learn how the Mayo Clinic formed following a devastating tornado in the Rochester area in 1883.
Seth Eastman: Depictions of Native American Life
Seth Eastman is known primarily for his depictions of daily life among the Dakota and Ojibwa tribes.
Sinclair Lewis in Duluth
Read letters written by Sinclair Lewis about his house, work, and experiences while living in Duluth in the 1940s.
Sinclair Lewis's Main Street
Explore some of the themes and ideas laid out in Sinclair Lewis's masterpiece of American literature.
St. Anthony Falls
St. Anthony Falls, the only true waterfall on the Mississippi River, is responsible for powering mills and birthing a city.
Stella Stocker and the Ojibwe of Minnesota
Visit early 20th century Ojibwe communities with musician and educator Stella Stocker through her photography collection.
Temperance to Prohibition
Learn how the national temperance movement evolved resulting in prohibition of liquor and how it played out in Minnesota.
Traveling Library Services in Minnesota
Minnesota's earliest mobile library services were traveling libraries and bookmobile services.
Twin Cities Streetcars - The Rise and Fall
Learn about the rise and fall of streetcars in the Twin Cities - the first public transit system in the area.
Whaleback Boats on the Great Lakes
Outlines the development, construction, and use of whaleback boats on the Great Lakes.
World War I on the Minnesota Home Front
World War I had a profound impact of the lives of Minnesotans. Explore these resources to learn about the Minnesota home front.