This issue: Contents
Tuesday, March 10th, 2015
  • Editor’s Note
  • WCHS News: Annual Membership Meeting
  • WCHS News: Internship and Scholarship
  • Photo of the Week: What Is This Thing?!
  • Old News: Vintage Advertisements
  • Featured Article: Calvin the Conservationist

Editor’s Note

I hope you’re sitting on your patio taking advantage of this gorgeous weather while you enjoy this latest issue of the Historical Messenger! Be sure to wear sunscreen and re-apply when you get out of the pool!

If you’ve ever been interested in becoming an active member of WCHS – be sure to swing by the Warden’s House this Sunday, March 15th at 1:00 in the afternoon for an informal information meeting about volunteering opportunities here at the Historical Society.

Tickets are going fast for the Annual Membership Meeting! You won’t want to miss your chance for a trip down historic Highway 61 with special guest Cathy Wurzer!

In our second news story, you’ll read about an opportunity the history student in your life won’t want to miss out on!

Our Photo of the Week continues our popular “What Is This Thing?!” series. (How many weeks in a row can I keep calling the section a “Photo of the Week” when they’ve all been a round of “What Is This Thing?!” Should I just change the section title…? These are the type of tough questions e-newsletter editors face everyday.)

In today’s Old News, a few advertisers from 1920 will get their promotions printed again free of charge.

Yes, the weather is wonderful, there’s no doubt about that. But, my cabin-obsessed Minnesotan friends, imagine if there nothing was left outdoors to enjoy. Imagine every stream, every tree, and every field polluted and destroyed. As industry and technology advanced throughout the 20th century, this unsettling future suddenly became less farfetched. Thankfully, history provided us with a number of dedicated and passionate Conservationists who we owe a great deal of gratitude towards – especially on these beautiful spring days.

In today’s Featured Article, we’ll take a few moments to remember and thank a Minnesotan outdoorsman, Calvin Rutstrum.

Want to learn more about the history of Washington County? “Like” WCHS on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Sean Pallas

Historical Messenger editor and Warden’s House Site Manager


Annual Membership Meeting

Online tickets: WCHS Members / Non-Members


Internship and Scholarship


The Washington County Historical Society is offering internships for post-secondary education.

The internship program is designed to introduce students to the workings of a regional history museum and the interpretive educational process. The internship provides a rare opportunity to directly apply academic skills and training in a unique working environment, as well as provide exposure to a career as a history museum professional.

The intern should have good English skills, communication skills, be reliable and able to work both as a team member and independently. S/he should have creativity, pay attention to detail, present him/herself well, and enjoy working with the public. General history knowledge and museum work a plus.

The internship is a mixture of training and hands-on experience. The intern will be invited to learn about day-to-day operations of a small history museum, including lectures, research facilities, exhibit display and design, collections care and preservation of artifacts. The intern will assist staff in researching and developing an interpretive guided tour for visitors. Opportunities will be offered to attend to board meetings, participate in fundraising activities, assist with Society sponsored events and contribute to the quarterly newsletter.

The internships are open to all undergraduate college students majoring in the history field or like major. Please send application letter, resume, and references by April 15, 2015 to: Washington County Historical Society c/o Internship Committee, P.O. Box 167 Stillwater, MN 55082. For more information visit our website.


The goal of the Washington County Historical Society Scholarship program is to encourage historic preservation and interpretation, and to encourage students to study history by providing financial assistance in the form of an educational scholarship.

This scholarship is available to a graduating senior enrolled in a Washington County high school, or a student in a college or university program currently residing in Washington County (as a permanent residence) who is focusing on history, American studies, architecture, or a history-related field of study. Applications must be submitted before April 15th, 2015.

Applicants must also:

– Have a grade point average of 3.0 or higher

– Be a member of the Washington County Historical Society or have an immediate family member(s) who is/are a member of the Society.

The Scholarship Program is facilitated and managed by the Washington County Historical Society Board of Directors and administered by a designated committee.

Please visit our website for application documents.

Photo of the Week

What Is This Thing?! (Round 3)

Let me first say that I have been blown away by how many of you are participating in this little guessing game! I’m glad folks are actually reading and enjoying the e-newsletter!

Last issue, I showed you all a photo of a curiously labeled metal cylinder. Many of you used the “Panel”, “Grand”, and “Petit” labels as clues to this strange device’s use – and the majority of you were completely correct! But retired District Judge Tom Armstrong had the most thorough description:

“What you have is a device for Jury Selection. The names of prospective jurors would be placed in on cards. I’ve never seen one like this. The panel would be all those selected for a jury. Petit is a civil or criminal jury of six or 12 (felonies require 12 jurors). In criminal cases the panel would be 8 more to allow the State 3 peremptory strikes and the defense 5 peremptory strikes – there are unlimited strikes for cause of any person who isn’t proper for a particular jury – like a former employee of the law firm representing the Defendant, etc. Replacements would be selected from this device.

On a Civil Jury – 6 or more persons – each side gets 2 peremptory challenges. In the last ten years a civil jury can be between 6 and 12 – the number is to assure there are six to make a decision – in case someone gets sick, etc.

Grand Jury would be a jury called to investigate and determine if an Indictment for a crime will be issued. First Degree Murder requires a Grand Jury – so does election fraud or crimes. The County Attorney can also call a Grand Jury to make a decision on an offense – usually something with political overtones that an elected County Attorney wants to shift to a Grand Jury for decision.”

So a huge thank you to him for the in-depth answer and for allowing me to share it all with you!

While many people correctly guessed this device’s use – no one was actually able to say what it was called.

Last week’s picture depicted a Jury Wheel. And in fact, the term “Jury Wheel” is still used when referring to modern computer software that serves a similar purpose.

Alrighty folks, I’m having way too much fun with this little game, so onto Round Three! I’ve gone easy on you the last two issues – this one is a bit trickier!

Can you identify the WCHS artifact photographed above? Can you guess what this contraption was used for? If you’d care to venture an answer, you can send an email to me at, tweet @WCHS2, or post your guess on our Facebook page.

Good luck!

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Old News 

Vintage Advertisements

After the First World War, the United States enjoyed a period of growth and economic success. Likewise, new 20th century technological wonders were marching their way into the average household. This combination of disposable income and new consumer goods encouraged an advertising renaissance. And an excellent example of this evolution can be seen in the pages of the Stillwater Messenger.

By 1920, the relatively simple and sudued advertisements of the previous decades began taking more and more of the newspaper’s real estate. Even the words, “ADVERTISE IN MESSENGER”, can be found on the front page of the paper, which is literally an advertisement for advertisements!

When it’s all added up, nearly half of the content was comprised of ads for every type of good and service. And I really mean every type.

See below for a few examples of ads for new state-of-the-art inventions, alternative medicine, and even headstones (with a couple that really look way too happy for a funeral.)

Vintage Advertisements – Stillwater Messenger – March 10, 1920

Roosevelt Longworth

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Featured Article

Calvin the Conservationist

by Brent Peterson

The cabin as a distinct American style, or as a means to a unique and rewarding way of life, is apparently here to stay. Its simple, elemental form in our complex modern civilization has retained its color and its meaning. It persists as one of the best of our living traditions.

While the modern cabin is often so elaborate as to be classified as a house, and the modern house, because of its owner’s wish for simple living, can sometimes be mistaken for a cabin, the overlap has fostered, if anything, the basic architectural idea.

The influence of the pioneer’s cabin is still very evident. We have retained much of the picturesque quality of the early cabins and some of their structural principles. Here the similarity seems to end.

-Calvin Rutstrum, “The Wilderness Cabin” (1961)

Calvin Rutstrum was born on October 26, 1895 in Hobart, Indiana. He came to Minnesota with his parents, settling in St. Paul, in 1898. In his early days he worked as a cowboy in Montana, a medical corpsman in the Marine Corps, sold real estate and automobiles in Minneapolis during the 1920s.

RutstrumLater, he worked as a detective to investigate bank robberies for the American Banking Association from the mid-1920s to 1940. After World War Two, he started writing articles for Twin Cities newspaper and at the same time was director of wilderness camping at Lake Hubert Camp.

His passion for the outdoors and writing started to intertwine in the 1940s when his first book was published in 1946 titled, “The Way of the Wilderness,” and is considered the bible of serious canoeists. Many of his fifteen published books were written at his cabin on Cloud Bay, Ontario, Canada. Here he made frequent journeys into the Canadian wilderness with visitors and friends alike.

Rutstrum was a writer but most of all a reader. In some late life advice printed in the Stillwater High School newspaper, the Pony Express, Rutstrum tells that to be a good writer you must write and read every day. “If you want to make it, you have to be so enthusiastic that they can’t hold you back,” he said. And when talking about world affairs, use your own feelings, “its your coloring that makes your writing you.”

As a freelance writer, Rutstrum would have articles published in magazines and newspapers. He had his own column in the Stillwater Messenger for a short time titled, “The Outpost,” and even had a lengthy article published in that paper about his new home community of Marine on St. Croix. He later had a column in the Osceola Sun from the late 1970s to 1981.

As a nationally recognized conservationist, he, along with Sigurd F. Olson, successfully campaigned to restrict airplane travel across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota in the 1940s.

Other books in which he had published include “Back Country, “The Wilderness Route Finder,” “Paradise Below Zero,” “Challenge of the Wilderness,” “The Wilderness Cabin,” “Chips from a Wilderness Log,” “Hiking Back to Health,” “Once upon a Wilderness,” and his autobiography titled, “A Wilderness Life.”

On February 5, 1982 in Ladd Memorial Hospital at Osceola, Wisconsin, one of the nations leading conservationists died. Only two weeks earlier, Sigard Olson, his contemporary, also died, leaving a lasting legacy but also a huge hole in wilderness conservation.


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Preserve the Past, Share in the Future!

Become a member of the Washington County Historical Society!

Membership is one way that you can help support the Washington County Historical Society. Your membership helps us collect, preserve, and disseminate the history of Washington County for county residents and visitors in the belief that a historical perspective enhances our understanding of community and sense of place.

Benefits of membership:

  • FREE admission to the Warden’s House Museum in Stillwater and Hay Lake Museum Complex in Scandia
  • Discounts on purchases in the museum gift shop (10% Individual & Family members, 15% Patron & Sustaining members)
  • FREE use of WCHS library and research center
  • Subscription to Historical Whisperings, the society’s quarterly newsletter
  • Discounts on tickets to membership meetings
  • Knowing that your membership dollars support the preservation of our treasured past for generations to come

The Washington County Historical Society has depended on membership ever since it was formed in 1934. Please show your support for the organization by becoming a member today.

More: WCHS Membership >>>

Mission Statement

Washington County Historical Society collects, preserves, and disseminates the history of the county and state of Minnesota.