Skip to main content

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.

Construction of St. Anthony Falls apron

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.

Large, brick building with banner labeled "Red Wing Milling Co." Underneath states "Red Wing Special Flour"

Flour Milling in Minnesota

Learn about the development and significance of milling in Minnesota

Loggers in winter, Polk County, Minnesota

Lumber Industry in Minnesota

Learn how the lumber industry used natural resources, labor, technology, and transportation to harvest Minnesota's pine forests.

Kugler's Drugstore, Duluth, Minnesota

Made in Minnesota: Patent Medicine on the Prairie

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

Nicollet Avenue, 1920 New

Main Streets

Learn about Minnesota's main streets, their role in a community, and how they have changed over time.

Ole Overvold with oxen and plow, Mayfield Township, Minnesota

Mechanization of Farming in Minnesota

Learn about the mechanization of farming in Minnesota and its impact on the state.

Tramming ore in Pioneer 'A' underground mine, Ely, 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.

William Crooks locomotive

Minnesota's Three Major Railroads

Learn how three of Minnesota's major railroads formed and how they contributed to the development of Minnesota.

Neighborhoods of Duluth: Morgan Park, view of neighborhood, Duluth, 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.

St. Anthony Falls milling district

St. Anthony Falls

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

Three streetcars passing a military parade on Hennepin Avenue at 6th Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota

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 in shipyard, Duluth, Minnesota

Whaleback Boats on the Great Lakes

This set outlines the development, construction, and use of whaleback boats on the Great Lakes.