Preview Artifacts at the St. Louis County Historical Society
St. Louis County MN Historical Society

Preview Artifacts


The Priley Collection - Not on Dipslay 

The Priley photos and text were provided by former Collections Manager Milissa Brooks-Ojibway.

One of the largest and most interesting, yet rarely seen parts of the Society’s collections is what we call the Priley Collection.  Joseph Priley (1902-1974) served as a St. Louis County Commissioner from 1958 to 1974 when he retired. 



Mr. Priley’s private passion was collecting, among other things, hand-carved wooden figurines.  In the 1980’s his widow, Margaret, over the course of three years, donated over 600 of these figurines to the Society.



The collection’s crown jewel consists of more than 75 pieces by master wood-carver Oscar Sjogren.



The carving technique that is most often featured in the Priley collection is figures carved in a flat-planed, Scandinavian style.



An Eclectic Assortment of Artifacts


The photo of the More Hospital has been provided courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society and may not be copied or reproduced without their permission.   All other photos are the property of St. Louis County Historical Society and have been provided by Collections Manager Milissa Brooks-Ojibway.




Date: Ca. 1939

Donor: WPA



















This Ojibwe cradleboard is a WPA (Works Progress Administration) item from Grand Portage, MN. It is made up of two parts - the waspisoyan, or mossbag, and the tikanagun, or board, the mossbag is carried on. The mossbag provides warmth and security and the board affords proper back support and ensures good posture in later years.


The Historical Society has many items received as part of the WPA program of northern Minnesota, which was set up to provide work for skilled individuals during the Great Depression.  The WPA hired laborers for numerous building projects such as the Wheeler Field House in West Duluth and the Duluth’s Civic Center landscaping.  It also paid artisans to create original works of art which were given to historical societies, libraries and schools, among others.  This cradleboard is an excellent example of the legacy of that program.



Bandolier bag 


Date: Unknown

Donor: Mrs. Robert G. Bush


Bandolier bags are cloth and/or leather bags decorated with elaborate beaded designs.  They came into existence in the mid-nineteenth century in the Upper Great Lakes region and were called “bandolier bags” because of the wide strap on the bag resembling soldiers ammunition bags.  Most you see today have a pocket but the earliest did not and were purely for decoration. 

They feature one of two types of beadwork.  The first is made on a loom and consists of straight-line geometric patterns.  The second is made by stringing beads onto thread and creating a free-hand design, usually of native flora or fauna.





Duluth Boat Club Banner

Date: 1916

Donor: Walker Jamar


















The Duluth Boat Club began in 1886 and was one of the premier social clubs of Duluth at the turn of the century and beyond.   However, first and foremost it was a rowing club with many champion rowers who competed all over the country.  The most distinguished of these was a four-man team consisting of Dave Horak, Doug Moore, Max Rheinberger, and Phil Moore, who never lost a race and became known as the Invincible Four. 

This banner is one of many in the Historical Society’s collection and was made to commemorate the North American Amateur Oarsmen’s National Championship in Duluth in 1916. 


To learn more about Michael Cochran’s book Invincible, which details the history of the Duluth Boat Club, go to






Date: Prior to 1963 

Donor: Immanuel Deaconess Institute of Omaha, Nebraska

The sterling silver platter is from the Spalding Hotel and Restaurant of Duluth, Minn. The Spalding brothers came to Duluth in 1869 and opened a general store. In June of 1889, they opened a 7-story, 200-room hotel and restaurant. Coupled with the Palm Dining Room, the Spalding Hotel became known as the most elegant establishment in the city. It closed on July 1, 1963 and was demolished in November. The Spalding Hotel was located on the southeast corner of Fifth Ave. West and Superior Street. 





Congressional Medal of Honor

Date: 1908

Donor: Lake Superior Marine Museum (formerly the Canal Park Marine Museum)


This is the 1908 Medal of Honor given to Oscar Frederick Nelson who served in the Navy as Machinist's Mate First Class aboard the USS Bennington. On July 21, 1905 two boilers burst on the ship while it was docked in San Diego Bay. Nelson rescued many of his shipmates before the USS Bennington sank. For his heroic duties he was rewarded with the rare peace time Medal of Honor.  





Vanadium Plate

Date: 1917

Donor: Margaret More



This vanadium plate was used by Dr. C. W. More of Eveleth, Minnesota to mend a fractured arm in 1917.  It was returned to him 27 years later when the patient had further work done on his injured arm.


Dr. C. W. More came to the Iron Range with his wife in 1889.  He was on the first St. Louis County Board of Health established in 1891, along with Alex. McCurdy, and Ed. Cram.  He built the first hospital in Eveleth, Minnesota.




















Vanadium is named after the Scandinavian goddess of beauty and fertility, Vanadis (Freya).


The photo of the More Hospital has been provided courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society and may not be copied or reproduced without their permission. 






Date: 1963

Donor: Francis Lee Jaques

Artist: Francis Lee Jaques

Title: Water Grade



This oil painting created by artist Francis Lee Jaques features a steam locomotive replenishing its water via a “water grade” track pan, hence its title.  These track pans were located between the rails and allowed a train to scoop up water without stopping.  The track pans were always located near a body of water so that they would naturally refill.


Francis Lee Jaques was first known as a landscape and wildlife artist and began his career as a background painter for the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  However, before his work was discovered, he worked part time on the railroad in northern Minnesota.  Most of his works are of great expanses in nature, or close-ups of birds and animals, but working on the railroad also greatly influenced him as you can see in this oil painting.  The locomotives in his art work are a sharp, defined contrast to the beautiful, yet muted backgrounds.


This is one of six paintings by Jaques owned by the St. Louis County Historical Society.


Copyright 2007-2008 St. Louis County Historical Society