Greetings: from the Halloween Capital of the World

The Halloween Capital of the World served as the official First Day of Issue site to unveil four Jack-O’-Lantern Forever stamps in 2016 and ACHS played a significant role. Learn about the behind-the-scenes moments of this historic day, as well as some of the collectible items in the archive. We’ll tell you some fun facts about the philatelic world, the heritage of the Postal System in Anoka County, the post office listed on the National Register, as well as the history of Halloween events in this river town.


Decentralization of Mental Health Care

The State Hospital of Anoka has a long and storied past, but what happened after it closed? Where did the patients go and how did this change affect their families? This program will discuss the decline of the institutional system during the 1950s and the rise of decentralized mental health care that followed. Representatives from county agencies and social service nonprofits will join us in this session to provide more information on the modern day needs of our society.

Elections in Anoka County

We’re heading into the most electric and polarizing of Presidential elections in modern memory…or are we? Come investigate the controversial elections of Anoka County’s past including the tumultuous years during WWII, the Progressive Era, and even as far back as the 1800s. Who got caught in the middle and who came out the winner? You’ll find out during this presentation.

Randy Bauer on the kayak that took him down the Mississippi

Randy Bauer on the kayak that took him down the Mississippi

Journeys We Take

Some of the most compelling stories from history involve journeys undertaken by people who struck out to get to a new place, to accomplish a goal, or just to see how far they could go. Anoka County has its fair share of citizens who have undertaken such journeys. In this program, we share the stories of three of them: a French Catholic priest who came to a new land and lived through some harrowing events; a Civil War soldier who roamed far afield but was able to come home; and a young man determined to see how far he could get in a home-made kayak. What journeys have you taken in your life? How have you (or would you) capture that story?

100 Years of World War I

ACHS remembers those who fought overseas, and those who worked hard at home to support their absent family members. Learn about a local Anoka High School nurse, Theresa Ericksen, who went overseas help injured soldiers and was later an important catalyst for the creation of the Fort Snelling National Cemetery. A group of Anoka High School students and teachers, concerned about alumni serving in the military, started the Sammie Backers Club to make sure that those soldiers got regular mail from home. With WWI now a hundred years removed from the present, how do we teach our children about the history of this conflict? ACHS has developed a Museum Box to help bring this history to life for local students, freeing it from the potentially-dry confines of a textbook with hands-on artifacts.

The Greatest Generation at Home

They said it would be a day that would live in infamy and they were right. The 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor just occurred and in commemoration, the Anoka County Historical Society has opened an exhibit exploring life on the and the support provided to those who were serving. This program will share what it was like to read the daily war news in the paper, knit socks for the Red Cross, and trade letters with the “boys over there” during this unifying and propaganda-filled era. Then head over to the museum to see the new exhibit!

Women of the Civil War

The War Between the States may have been fought by great armies of men, but women filled many vital roles in society and even in the military. Women such as Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix immediately come to mind, but what about Minnesota’s women? This program highlights the incredible stories of Minnesota women who protected their homes, supported their soldiers, served the army in many different ways, and kept the home fires burning throughout the four years of the Civil War. Some were dedicated enough to continue working for veterans even after the war. Their stories, long overlooked and forgotten, bring a new perspective to the history of America’s most bloody war.

Medicinal techniques, prescriptions, and gizmos

Bottles, handwritten prescription forms, and books are just a few of the items in the ACHS collections which tell interesting stories of medical history. Dr. Flora Aldrich, one of the early female doctors in the area, wrote several books of medical advice. Local clinics provided medical care in the years before Anoka County had a large hospital. People took interesting medications in the past as well – would you take pills that had arsenic in them? Learn about these things and more in this fun program!

Education in Anoka County

Everyone wants the best for their children, especially regarding the schools where they spend so much of their time. As Anoka County housing quickly developed in the 1950s and 60s, the one room school house became obsolete and gave way to larger, more consolidated school districts. This program will look at that transition and the influential people, like Edith Patch, who created the best system they knew how to support the baby boom generation and in turn, establish the foundation of the educational system we know today.

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Getting Hitched

Take a closer look at the wedding traditions of Anoka County through the collections of the Anoka County Historical Society. Why did wedding dresses become white when they had origins in darker shades? How does the economy influence fashion design? Get those answers, hear some more quirky folklore, and learn stories of families on their special days.

East Bethel Booster Club

East Bethel is the largest city in Anoka County by land area. How did this community come to be its own city, and how did that city grow and develop? Shortly after incorporation in 1957, a group of determined citizens formed the East Bethel Booster Club. Under the leadership of John H. Nordin, they spent the next two decades helping their new city to grow and prosper. Learn the story of the Booster Club, their ups and downs, and the lasting legacy they have left in East Bethel.

Family Archives

Spring is a season for wrapping up those floundering remodeling projects quick before family and friends descend to celebrate graduations and reunions. It’s also a time of going through those photo albums and (let’s be honest) shoeboxes to find the right combination of memories for posters and coffee table books. While you’re digging through your closets, why not take a little extra time to index your collection, sort out documents, or label some archival folders? Not sure how? The Anoka County Historical Society’s Collections Manager will break it down for you into some easy to handle steps so you can get the past organized for the future.


Farms to Flamingos: Suburbanization in Anoka County

Anoka County was largely a rural county with a population of just over 35,000 people in 1950.  By 1960, there were more than 85,000 people calling it home—a population increase of 181% in a single decade!  Almost overnight, the face of Anoka County changed from one of farms to sprawling Suburbia. How did this happen?  Two men, Vern Donnay and Orrin Thompson, were largely responsible for the boom of the 1950s and 60s, but they were not the first ones to see living in the clean air and healthy environment outside of the “big city” as potential for development. Learn about the first local ideas of suburbanization in Anoka County and how those ideas were replayed decades later to build the communities we know and live in today.  This program looks at the challenges (roads, schools, safety) and pleasures (country clubs, big yards) of building and living in Anoka County’s suburbs.

So, What Are You Gonna Do About It?

The Era of the Great Depression (1930-1940) brought many hardships to the people of the United States and across the world.  The decade saw a stock market crash bring people to complete ruin.  Millions of people were unemployed with almost no social safety nets to provide even the basic necessities of life.  The decade saw the coldest winters on record as well as some of the hottest and driest summers ever, leading to crop failures and the Dust Bowl. This program looks at how the Great Depression affected people in everyday middle America.  Stories and reports of what was done to make do and get by and how the Federal government responded to the crisis puts very human faces on the struggle to survive.  With a focus on Anoka County, Minnesota, these stories bring home the people and the programs that got Americans through the tough years of the Great Depression and points out the echoes of those programs that still remain today.

The Anoka State Hospital

The Anoka State Hospital opened its doors to patients over 100 years ago and became an integral part of the community. Learn why this local institution was built in Anoka, get details about the buildings and grounds, and hear behind the scenes stories of what life was like there for patients and staff. This program provides an overview of the sometimes-fraught history of this institution, as well as our shifting views of mental illness and what we can do to help those who suffer from it.


Love and Valentine’s Day in Anoka

Valentine’s Day.  It is the day of love, couples and all things romance. The skeptics may say that it is only a plot from the greeting card and candy companies….but Anoka County residents were celebrating and engaging with Valentine’s Day long before Hallmark Company even began.  Find out how Valentine’s Day has been celebrated here from the county’s founding up until the present. Valentines, newspaper advertisements, parties, and more tell the story.

A Logger’s Life

Anoka was a logging town.  Situated on two rivers, it was a perfect place to power the saw mills needed to processes the logs floated down the waterways from logging camps.  With this program, you will learn about the different aspects of the logging industry in Minnesota and its connection to Anoka.  We will explore how a logging camp worked from first-hand accounts, learn what River Pigs were, and look at the sawmills and manufacturers on the banks of the Rum River. ACHS has developed a Museum Box to help bring this history to life for local students, freeing it from the potentially-dry confines of a textbook with hands-on artifacts.

In Memoriam

Death touches everyone’s life at some point. This program looks at how death has been treated over the last 200 years. From burial practices and mourning rituals, the way we remember those who have passed, how we show respect for the dead, and ways we commemorate their lives are discussed.

Quilt Facts, Folklore and FABRICation

What do we really know about the history and traditions of quilt making? So many stories have been handed down, but they don’t always hold up under a close look at history. Find out the real stories behind what we all thought we knew about the history of quilting. Actual quilt squares, small quilts, books and period patterns are available for visitors to see and compliment the many color photos of antique quilts in the program. The “warmth” and variety of this program is sure to delight even non-quilters.

Quilts and Their Stories

Quilts can do much more than warm your toes on a cold winter night! The can tell stories, paint pictures, and bring back memories. This program presents slides of some very special quilts, along with their stories of life in Anoka County.

Rum Runners and Temperance Tantrums

The 18th Amendment made it illegal to manufacture, sell, or transport intoxicating liquors and it took effect on January 17, 1920. That, however, did not eliminate the problem! The clash between those opposed to intoxicating beverages and those who wanted to imbibe was sometimes violent, sometimes comical or even just amazing. Why was such a law thought necessary, how was it enforced (or not) and the people it affected make for great stories. Bootleggers and rum runners thrived in Anoka County and Minnesota even before prohibition went nationwide in 1920. The Minnesota map was a patchwork of dry and wet counties, dating back to before statehood. This program looks at the battle over booze, illegal and otherwise, that divided communities.

Women of Anoka

Follow the stories of three women from Anoka County who made their marks in different ways on the community. Dr. Flora Aldrich subverted expectations by opening her practice in her home on Third Ave., Anoka; Mary Woodbury Caswell saw a different view of Anoka from her home of 75 years on Ferry St.; while Theresa Ericksen served in multiple wars as a nurse and became the inspiration for organizing Fort Snelling into a national cemetery. While these women have vastly different experiences, they are all a part of the web of Anoka County history.

History of [Your City]!

Want to know more about the cities in Anoka County? We do programs about the communities that make up our fascinating county! See the list below for programs that are currently available. If you don’t see your city, let us know and we can work on creating a new program!

-History of Lexington & Circle Pines
-History of Hilltop & Columbia Heights
-History of Blaine

--Coon Lake Beach

—Remember When Anoka…?

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1939 Tornado

On Father’s day June 18, 1939 a tornado swept through the city of Anoka. Without modern weather tracking, and before any severe weather warning system the tornado seemed to come without much warning. Hear the story of that day, photographs of the aftermath as well as remembrances from those who experienced its destruction. It has been over 80 years since this day and families have grieved, the community rebuilt, but the echo of the tornado lives on as a mascot for the local high school.