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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.

Lincoln and Frank Fey in Car No. 3, Northfield, Minnesota, c. 1900

Fey Brothers, Automobile Inventors

Learn about early automobile history by examining the four custom-built automobiles of Lincoln and Frank Fey.

Nicollet Avenue, 1920 New

Main Streets

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

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.

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.