Exhibits at the St. Louis County Historical Society
St. Louis County MN Historical Society


David Wheat Statue Now on Second Floor at Duluth International Airport


Salute to Servicewoman

St. Louis County Historical Society is currently displaying our Salute to Servicewomen exhibit at the Duluth International Airport and also at the Virginia Courthouse (Virginia, MN).  



Early in the 20th century, women’s service corps began to be established. Over 35,000 women served in or with the Army, Navy, and Marines, and Coast Guard in World War I (1917-1918). They were nurses, stenographers, telephone operators, and food service/support personnel. Four hundred died, most in the influenza epidemic.


Women served in the largest numbers in United States history in World War II (1941-1945). Over 400,000 were WACS (Women’s Army Corps), WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), WASPS (Women AirForce Service Pilots), the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and SPARS (Coast Guard Women’s Reserve). The Public Health Service Cadet Nurse Corps trained women as nurses. Women served in the European and Pacific Theaters and on the homefront in vital, but noncombat, jobs. They were nurses, supply personnel, drivers, test pilots, artillery trainers, communications specialists, intelligence workers, clerks, cooks, storekeepers, photographers, and office administrators. After the war, they were mustered out. It was not until 1948 that women began to be given permanent status in the Armed Forces.  


The Korean War (1950-1953) and the Vietnam War (1965-1975) brought many women into the service again. Most were nurses serving in in-country hospitals and mobile units. But this was a time of change. In 1967, the ceiling on the highest grade a woman could achieve was lifted and, in the 1970s and 1980s, Officer Training Corps (OTC) programs and service academies opened to women. Women entered the Reserves and the National Guard, were integrated into the regular branches of the service, and became officers in all branches. Over 41,000 women were deployed during Desert Storm and Desert Shield (1990-1991) where they served in noncombat zones. 


Today, women are enlisted personnel and officers. Coming from many backgrounds, they represent the integrated Armed Forces. Women pilot and co-pilot planes, captain ships, command flight squadrons, are astronauts, and serve as tank mechanics, medics, and radio operators. Over 14% of the Armed Forces, 165,000 enlisted personnel and 35,000 officers, are women. Many have served tours of duty in Iran and Afghanistan. And in 2013, the most recent change took place when the ban on women serving in combat zones was lifted.  


Text is from Salute to Servicewomen panel exhibit.

County Courthouse Exhibits

In addition to the Salute to Servicewomen exhibit in Virgina (below), the Society also has exhibit cases in the Virgina Courthouse and the Hibbing Courthouse.

Hibbing High School is featured in the Hibbing Courthouse display.


The Virginia Courthouse case features an exhibit on World War I Veterans.

New Children’s Exhibit Opened at the Depot on Sunday, May 31, 2015


Experience this new children’s Finnish themed interactive exhibit, Explore Eli’s Farm.  The exhibit may be viewed during regular museum hours.  Admission is included in the ticket purchase for the Depot museums (St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center in Duluth, MN).

St. Louis County Historical Society Members may view the exhibit for free.


The St. Louis County Historical Society has recreated a scene from the popular Eli Wirtanen Finnish Farmstead located 40 miles north of Duluth on the Vermilion Trail (Hwy.4).  Eli was 34 when he homesteaded this property in 1904.  The farm stands as a tribute to our area’s early settlers.  Now a child sized dove-tailed corner log cabin nestled in the Depot and surrounded by a garden, chicken coop and sauna offers hands-on learning opportunities.  Here children will learn through play as they perform chores typical of life on Eli’s farmstead.


The new permanent exhibit was funded by a grant from the Depot Foundation and was created with the support of the Friends of the Wirtanen Pioneer Farm in Markham and the Nordic Center in Duluth.



Albert Woolson 

Albert Woolson was born in Antwerp, N.Y., on February 11, 1847 (the same day inventor Thomas Edison was born). His father enlisted in the Army to fight in the Civil War and was wounded. During his hospitalization in Minnesota, the family moved there. The father died, but Albert enlisted at age 17 on October 10, 1864.


He enlisted as a rifleman but served as a drummer and bugler with Company C, First Minnesota Heavy Artillery. In late 1864, the regiment was part of the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee. Woolson was discharged as a Private on September 27, 1865.


After his service, Woolson lived in Mankato and St. Peter, Minnesota, where he worked as a railroad fireman and a wood turner. He later worked as a grain miller and in a logging camp. In 1905 he moved to Duluth at age 58. He worked as an electrician with the Duluth Carbolite Co. and for the Scott Graff Lumber Co. In 1925, at age 78, he went to work for the Hirschy Co., which manufactured washing machines. He retired in 1933 at age 86.


Once he reached 100, Woolson’s birthday drew letters, telegrams and visits from people around the country. The aging veteran often visited with folks from the porch of his Duluth home and loved retelling his war experiences.


When he died on August 2, 1956, at age 109 he was the last surviving member of the Union Army. About 1,500 people attended his funeral service in the Duluth Armory, hundreds lined the route of his funeral procession to Park Hill Cemetery, where about 2,000 people watched as he was buried. Among those sending condolences to Woolson’s family after his death in 1956 was Richard Nixon, then the nation’s vice president.


A bronze statue of Woolson sits in front of the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center (the Depot). Sculpted by artist Avard Fairbanks of Salt Lake City, it is the only duplicate of the one in the Gettysburg Battlefield National Historical Park.


Information courtesy of former staff member, Bryan Lean



Immigrant Waiting Room

The exhibit may be viewed during regular museum hours.  Admission is included in the ticket purchase for the Depot museums (St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center in Duluth, MN).


St. Louis County Historical Society Members may view the exhibit for free.

This exhibit features stories of immigrants who settled in the Duluth area.  A video can be viewed in the Shower Room attached to the main exhibit.  Both the Immigrant Waiting Room and Shower Room are located in the original spaces of the 1892 rooms.




Return to the River: The History of the St. Louis River and the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District


"Return to the River" opened in late August 2012 at the Great Lakes Aquarium.  The exhibit uses graphics, text and sculptural elements to explore the lower St. Louis River and its transformations over time, including the decline and recovery of water quality and the broad impacts on communities in our region. 


“Opportunities for recreation, commerce, and even land values have increased on the St. Louis River in the last 30 plus years since restoration efforts began”, said Marianne Bohren, Executive Director of WLSSD.  “The river’s transformation is a great story that should be remembered, and we’re proud to continue our role in restoring the river.”


“Our region’s history is deeply rooted in the St. Louis River,” said JoAnne Coombe, Executive Director of the St. Louis County Historical Society, “The formation of the WLSSD was a complex community development project involving social, political, economic, and environmental concerns. The exhibit really shows how far we’ve come, and the regional focus makes it a great addition to our Traveling Exhibits catalog.”


Funding for the exhibit was provided in part by the Coastal Zone Management Act, by NOAA’s Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource management, in cooperation with Minnesota’s Lake Superior coastal Program.


Western Lake Superior Sanitary District provides award-winning wastewater and solid waste services to residents, businesses and industries within its 500 square mile legislative boundaries in Southern St. Louis and northern Carlton counties, and is a nationally recognized leader in pollution prevention.


The exhibit is now part of the St. Louis County Historical Society’s Traveling Exhibits Program.  


For details on how to view this exhibit, contact the Great Lakes Aquarium.  Their website is http://www.glaquarium.org/.



Little Women 

Currently on display


“Little Women,” a sampling of wood carved pieces from the Joseph Priley Collection, is currently on display in the St. Louis County Historical Society's Fesler Gallery at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot).



This exhibit is viewable during regular museum hours with a ticket purchase for the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (Depot) museums. 




Entrance is free to current members of St. Louis County Historical Society.



Generations of Service


Veterans’ Memorial Hall, a program of the St. Louis County Historical Society, invites the public to its long-term exhibit, Generations of Service. This exhibit presents the history of our local veterans from the Civil War to the Global War on Terror.









The exhibit officially opened to the public on Friday, August 7, 2009, and will continue to be open during regular museum hours of the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center. The exhibit will be a long-term exhibit on display for up to five years, though artifacts will be rotated.  Admission is free to the public.




This exhibit includes artifacts such as a cannonball from the Civil War, to a leather bomber jacket worn by Harold Rutka in WWII, to a SCUD missile component from Desert Shield/Storm. Also, there is a three-dimensional underground mine scene, which focuses on the home front story.  At another point, visitors can walk through a scene from Iraq, based on photos from a local veteran, Mark Hilleren.

Veterans’ Memorial Hall was established in 1909 and is a program of the St. Louis County Historical Society. It is the mission of Veterans’ Memorial Hall to preserve and collect veterans’ artifacts and to educate the general public about the history of veterans from northeastern Minnesota.

Exhibit information courtesy of former staff member, Daniel Hartman


Duluth Artist Loans Four Paintings for Exhibit at Depot   

The St. Louis County Historical Society is pleased to announce that Duluth artist Dale Lyons has loaned four original paintings for exhibit within the J. C. Ryan Forest History Gallery. The paintings focus on the use of draft horses in northern Minnesota logging in the late 19th – early 20th century. Lyons’ paintings are based on his research of the industry and era so as to be historically accurate. Lyons is an accomplished self-taught artist, with his first showing in 1984 at the Tweed Museum in Duluth. The use of draft horses is a new sub-topic for the gallery, and anyone interested in donating items with a history relating to St. Louis County draft horses may contact the Society’s Collection Manager at (218) 733-7583.  

The J. C. Ryan Gallery hosts an extensive display of artifacts and information about St. Louis County’s logging history. There are three short videos about early lumbering and sawmill operations. Photos, artifacts and information portray the hardships of early logging camp life and the various uses of wood over the decades, as well as the tools used to harvest the timber. On display are many items, from two-man hand saws to vintage gas chainsaws.

The St. Louis County Historical Society museum and office are located in the St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center (“the Depot” building) at 506 West Michigan Street, across from the Duluth Public Library. There is public parking at 6th Avenue West and Michigan Street. One entry fee provides admission to building’s four museums. Annual membership holders of any organization housed in the Depot are admitted free. New memberships are available from the Visitor’s Services Desk. Museum days, hours and general information is available at www.duluthdepot.org and by phone at (218) 727- 8025.

Contact/More information:

Executive Director JoAnne Coombe at 218-733-7580 



Navy Reserve Exhibit at the Depot 

Veterans’ Memorial Hall opened the Navy Reserve exhibit, An Unforgotten Legacy, The History of the Duluth Naval Militia & Reserve on September 7, 2007 at the St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (the Depot). The exhibit focuses on the history of the Duluth Naval Militia and Reserve from its inception in 1903 to its closure in 2007. It includes an array of stories and events that were important to the men and women who trained or served at our local facility.

Navy exhibit unveiling

This exhibit has been organized by Veterans’ Memorial Hall with the help of the Navy Operations Support Center, Duluth, MN, USS Paducah and YP-61 Club, Northeast Minnesota Historical Center, and Minnesota Historical Society.


Veterans’ Memorial Hall is a joint project of the United States Military Service, veterans of northern Minnesota and the St. Louis County Historical Society.        

Exhibit information courtesy of former staff member, Daniel Hartman


Go to http://www.thehistorypeople.org/handouts.asp for information about our Traveling Exhibits Program.

To learn about our long-term exhibits, visit http://www.thehistorypeople.org/permanent.asp.


For information on our Affiliates' exhibits, go to: http://www.thehistorypeople.org/affiliates.asp.


Copyright 2007-2008 St. Louis County Historical Society