Category Archives: Object of the Week

A Large Coffee, Please

This monumental coffee pot shaped coffee grinder is crafted of cast iron and aluminum. It was manufactured by the American Duplex Company of Louisville Kentucky. The grinder offers several features or settings for achieving the desired grind, and ultimately, the perfect cup of coffee.

This grinder was used at Hawkinson’s Red and White grocery store, located at 4306 Upton Avenue in the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The Hawkinson family had owned, and operated, grocery stores at 2716 W. 45th St. and at 4429 York Avenue, in Minneapolis, as early as 1910. In 1925 they moved to the 4306 Upton Avenue location. By 1950, Roy and Stella Hawkinson had become a part of the Red and White food store chain, which was established in Chicago in 1925, and quickly spread across the country. The chain was formed to allow small independent grocery stores to carry the Red and White brand, and compete with the large chains, which were already beginning to overtake the neighborhood corner store. The Red Dot logo was instantly recognizable on signs and awnings of small stores everywhere. By 1957 there were seven Red and Whites in Minneapolis.

The chain is still in business, and although most of the stores have been replaced by large supermarket chains, you can still see the famous red dot logo on small stores across the United States. Hawkinson’s closed their doors in 1980.

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Please Pass the Mustard

This unmarked pressed glass cruet set was used at the Russell Hotel and Coffee Shop, located at 14-18 South Fourth Street in downtown Minneapolis. The set consists of a glass caddy with stainless steel handle and four glass condiment containers.

For its time, this is a comparatively simple cruet set, practical, and appropriate for use in a busy hotel restaurant/coffee shop. By 1913, when this one was used, cruet sets, along with tableware, and table settings in general, had reached extremes in design and embellishment totally eclipsing any suggestion of practicality. “More is More” was the ideal. Many sets consisted of ten, even twenty condiment containers created in elaborately cut crystal and sterling silver, as well as a dizzying array of miniature serving implements for transporting the condiment from the bottle to the plate.

These elaborate affairs were most often relegated to a sideboard or buffet. Every truly well-dressed table or sideboard, though, was incomplete without a generous selection of condiments, preferably served from a fine cruet set.

This caddy was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Harriet Lycken of Minneapolis.

About the author

Jack Kabrud is curator at Hennepin History Museum.

A Warm Stone for a Cold Hennepin County Winter

Though foreign to us today, warming stones like this one have been used for centuries, and they have been made from all kinds of stone. Soapstone, however, was preferred for its ability to heat up quickly, retain the heat, and radiate it for long periods of time. For this same reason, Native Americans used soapstone to carve vessels for cooking and keeping prepared food hot.

Warming stones like this one were truly efficient and multi-functional. This one incorporates a rotating iron rod for ease in handling and use. Warming stones were generally kept near a fire or a stove, ready to be heated up at a moment’s notice for warming the bed, warming one’s feet, or wrapped in furs or woolen blankets and placed in a carriage or sleigh.

Though soapstone is highly resistant to heat damage, this example bears the hallmark of many years of continuous use. It is worn smooth at the edges, and a large piece has broken from one corner.

This warming stone was donated to Hennepin History Museum by Carl A. Herrick, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota from 1925 to 1952.

About the author

Jack Kabrud is Hennepin History Museum’s curator.


Voices of Norway

This banner, made for the Norse Male Chorus in 1886, showcases stunning embroidery in shades of yellow, gold, green, and ivory, on a backing of ivory cotton. The central design is a classical lyre surrounded by a circlet of oak leaves and acorns.

The origins and history of the Norse Male Chorus of Minneapolis has been a challenging and illusive quest. The common consensus is that the Norse Male Chorus of Minneapolis evolved into the Norwegian Glee Club of Minneapolis. The search will continue.

The story of the creator of this outstanding embroidery is, however, well documented. The work comes from the hands of Pauline Fjelde. Pauline Fjelde was born in Norway in 1861. Her artistic gift was evident as early as grammar school where she began to paint and draw. She perfected her embroidery skills, and distinctive style, working at home with her mother. Before coming to America, in the mid-1880s she taught needlework in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Upon her arrival in Minneapolis she began embroidering textiles for Mrs. Snodgrasse’s Art Rooms, located at 16-17 Sidle Block, in downtown Minneapolis. By 1893 Pauline and her sister, Thomane, branched out on their own. They opened a needlework studio where they specialized in design and embroidery of garments, parade banners, flags, and linens. In 1893 Pauline and Thomane were commissioned to embroider the first Minnesota state flag!

Author Bio

Jack Kabrud is the curator at Hennepin History Museum.


The Hostess with the Mostest: Harriet Shepardson’s Pink and Silver Evening Gown

By Jack Kabrud, Hennepin History Museum curator

This dress, a classic 1920s fantasy of white and pink chiffon heavily embellished with sparkling silver metallic embroidery, silver tissue leaves, and silver bead flowers with a pink and silver nosegay at the shoulder, was owned and worn by Harriet Shepardson.

Ms. Shepardson was the wife of Professor George Shepardson who organized and served as head of the electrical engineering department at the University of Minnesota. She attended many university events on her husband’s arm, and her role as hostess was officially recognized and codified when University President Cyrus Northrop asked her to serve as official hostess at university events.

President Northrop specifically mentioned that she would be a wonderful asset because of the beautiful gowns that she frequently appeared in. Harriet Shepardson continued in her role as hostess long after President Northrop’s 1911 retirement. She wore this gown in 1923.

The gown was donated to Hennepin History Museum in 1963 by Mary K. Shepardson.


Sweet Treats and Baklava: A Brief History of the J.G. Villas Confectionary Shop

By Jack Kabrud, Hennepin History Museum curator

Demetrios Giorgos Villas was born in Niata Greece in 1883. He immigrated to the United States, alone, at the age of twelve, arriving at Ellis Island in the winter of 1895. During the cold of his first winter in America he slept in doorways, sometimes waking to find his hair frozen to the pavement. In the spring he began to sell fruit on the streets, saving what he could, until he earned enough for passage to Minneapolis. He spoke no English and travelled on the train with his destination and name pinned to his jacket.

Upon his arrival in Minneapolis he began working for, and learned his trade, at the Boosalis fruit brokerage firm. By 1910 he, along with his wife Caroline, had established their own business, the J.G Villas confectionary store, at 135 South 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis.

The store became a destination point for downtown shoppers, including future Minneapolis Star columnist Cedric Adams. Adams was so impressed by the store that nearly half a century later, in 1958, he wrote in his regular column

“On the site of the present Baker Building there was a Greek candy store and ice cream parlor with its huge electric fans hanging from the ceiling, its windows filled with fresh chocolates and bon bons, and its white-aproned Greek proprietor behind the soda fountain. Grandpa Adams and I made it over there two or three times during my visits for a chocolate soda. I haven’t tasted chocolate like that since.”

The stock market crash in 1929 hit the business hard. By the mid-1930s J.G Villas was forced out of business. Villas then went to work for the Phil Malay company as a produce broker.

These four confectionary jars were used in the J.G Villas confectionary store from 1910 to the mid-1930s. The jars were made purely for function and not decoration. They are made of thick, clear, unfrosted, and un-embellished glass, with the intention of showing off their tasty, and often beautiful, contents.

The jars were given to Villas’ daughter, Jeanne Villas Dorsey, (incidentally, the best Spanakopita maker I ever knew) and from her, to his three granddaughters, Caroline Dorsey Truth, Patricia Dorsey Nanoff, and Mary Jeanne Dorsey, who gave them to Hennepin History Museum in 2008



From Stove to Pieces and Back Again: Reuniting a Dismembered Stove at HHM

Sometimes the most interesting part of an object is the mystery surround it.

We don’t know much about the origins or history of the caboose stove that is today’s Object Lesson, but up until very recently, we didn’t know that it even was a caboose stove!

Chimney with Agitator

Part of the caboose stove as we found it in the garage.

While cataloging the garage at HHM, we encountered several pieces of cast iron, each weighing over a hundred pounds and barely moveable. While we could see that the pieces clearly went together somehow, we couldn’t assemble the pieces in any coherent way because of their size and weight—and because they were impossible to make heads or tails of!

The domed chimney with a door clearly suggested oven, but the bottom of that piece was open which didn’t seem right. The disc piece could have covered the bottom of the domed piece, but it didn’t sit snuggly on the bottom, so that wasn’t right. The other three pieces, though they had the same heft and color as the dome and disc, but didn’t seem to neatly make any logical whole.

In my work at HHM (and in life more generally), I have learned that the smartest move you can make when you aren’t sure about something is to surround yourself with smart and/or creative people then shut up and listen. Our breakthrough on the caboose stove came when our very clever intern, Floris, theorized it was indeed a stove and, since one piece was stamped with Central Railway, tried googling “train” and “stove.”

A few minutes later, she had a picture of a similar-looking artifact on her phone. From there, puzzling out how the stove fit together was a piece of cake and suddenly a mystery of the collection was solved!

This caboose stove was once used in a caboose that traveled the Iowa Central Railway, probably around the turn of the 20th century, judging by images of similar caboose stoves.

Caboose Stove in Use

These stoves were bolted directly to the train floor and featured other design features that make them specially adapted to use on a moving train. A lip on the top to kept pots and pans from sliding off the stove, and a double-latching door prevented an accident involving the coals that would move as the caboose rocked back and forth on the rails.

Author Bio

Heather Hoagland is the Collections Manager at Hennepin History Museum. She has a Masters in Museum Studies from George Washington University. Before joining the staff at HHM, she worked at Ford’s Theatre and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.