Minnesota History Magazine


Minnesota History offers three prizes annually: two, the Buck and Blegen awards, which recognize originality, excellence, and creativity in research and writing for articles published in the magazine, and a History Day Award for students.

Buck and Blegen Awards

  • The Solon J. Buck Award has been awarded since 1954 to the best article of the year. The prize is named for the magazine’s first editor (1915-31) who was also superintendent of the Minnesota Historical Society, and, later, United States Archivist
  • The Theodore C. Blegen Award, named for MNHS superintendent (1931-39) and second editor of Minnesota History, and later, dean and professor at the University of Minnesota, has been given since 1971 to the best article written by an MNHS staff member.

Two judges and the editor of Minnesota History select the winners. Each bestows a cash prize of $600.

Buck and Blegen Awards are announced at the annual meeting following the year of publication.

History Day Award

Every year, the national History Day program picks a theme for students to investigate in various media. Minnesota History gives its History Day Award in the spring to the best senior-level paper devoted to a topic in the state’s history. This award includes a $50 prize.


  • Buck and Blegen Awards for articles published in 2019 will be given at 2020 annual meeting


2017 winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Kim Heikkila, “’Everybody thinks it’s right to give the child away’: Unwed Mothers at Booth Memorial Hospital, 1961–63,” Summer 2017. The judges lauded the way the article masterfully wove social history and memoirist elements, telling a complex story with broad appeal. Heikkila holds a Ph.D. in American Studies. After teaching for more than 10 years, she left academia to found her oral history consulting business, Spotlight Oral History. She is the author of Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam, published by MNHS Press, and is writing a second book for the Press on the topic of her award-winning article.
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Peter DeCarlo, “Loyalty Within Racism: The Segregated Sixteenth Battalion of the Minnesota Home Guard During World War I,” also published in the Summer 2017 issue. The judges cited the way the article used sources, raised relevant questions, and helps us understand an important episode in our history. DeCarlo holds a master’s degree in history and is a research historian at MNHS. He is the author of Fort Snelling at Bdote (MNHS Press).
  • Judges:
    • Kristin Mapel Bloomberg, professor of women’s studies and endowed chair in the humanities, Hamline University
    • David Mather, National Register archaeologist, State Historic Preservation Office
    • Laura Weber, editor, Minnesota History
  • History Day Award: Isabella Krueger, freshman at Salk Middle School in Elk River, for “Dr. Jane E. Hodgson‘s Stand for Reproductive Rights in Minnesota.” Addressing the History Day theme, “Taking a Stand in History,” Isabella examined Hodgson‘s activist medical career, including the gynecologist‘s legal test of Minnesota abortion law in Minnesota v. Hodgson, the first challenge to a century-old law. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court.

2016 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The award for the best article published in 2016 goes to Joshua Preston for his article, “Senator Allan Spear and the Minnesota Human Rights Amendment,” which appeared in the Fall 2016 issue. Preston tells the story of Senator Spear’s two-decades-long fight to amend the Minnesota Human Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, a goal achieved in 1993. Spear died before he could include this story in his unfinished 2010 biography. The judges cited the achievement of the author marshalling a variety of new sources to bring this important story of marginalized and misrepresented voices to the fore. They noted the contemporary relevance of this social justice struggle from a quarter-century ago and were impressed with how Preston told the story of a “bold man and a bold movement” without over-heroizing his subject. Preston, a graduate of the University of Minnesota at Morris, is currently a JD/MA candidate at the University of Minnesota Law School and a 2017 MNHS Legacy Research Fellow.
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: No award given
  • Judges:
    • Susan Roth, National Register historian (retired), State Historic Preservation Office
    • Matthew Cassady, program specialist, Experience Development, MNHS
    • Laura Weber, editor, Minnesota History
  • History Day Award: Madison Anderson, sophomore at Cretin Derham Hall High School, St. Paul, for “Jenson v. Eveleth: Encountering Sexual Harassment and Exploring Women‘s Rights in the Workplace.”

2015 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The award for the best article published in 2015 goes to Susan Bartlett Foote for her article, “Finding Engla Schey: Catalyst for Mental Hospital Reform in Minnesota,” which appeared in the Summer 2015 issue. Foote is professor emerita of public health at the University of Minnesota.
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: The 2015 prize for the best article by a Minnesota Historical Society staff member goes to David Mather for “Grand Mound and the Muskrat: A Model of Ancient Cosmology on the Rainy River,” published in the Spring 2015 issue. Mather is the National Register archaeologist in the Society’s Heritage Preservation office.
  • Judges:
    • Kirsten Delegard, scholar in residence, Augsburg College and founder, Historyopolis
    • B. Erin Cole, MNHS exhibit developer
    • Laura Weber, editor, Minnesota History
  • History Day Award: Sarah Hirsch’s paper, “The Mayo Brothers: Operating on Ideals,” Addressing this year’s theme, “Leadership and Legacy,” her paper examines the ways in which the Mayo brothers built upon the traditional nineteenth-century medical practice their father, William W. Mayo, had established in Rochester. Hirsch is a tenth-grader at White Bear Lake High School—North Campus.

2011 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The award for the best article published in Minnesota History during 2011 has been won by co-authors Tom Beer and Tom O‘Connell for “Father Francis Gilligan and the Struggle for Civil Rights,” which was published in the Summer issue. Born in Massachusetts and trained to be a priest and professor of moral theology, Gilligan was released from his home diocese to teach at St. Paul Seminary after earning his doctoral degree in 1928. In St. Paul, he combined his teaching career with a personal mission to combat discrimination. His work merged Catholic social-justice teachings and sociological approaches to address the inequities embedded in the state’s social and economic cultural environment. The authors used a wide array of print and manuscript sources to show how Father Gilligan skillfully built a coalition of labor, business, religious, civil rights, and government workers to effect real social change long before the activist 1960s. Co-author O’Connell is a professor of political studies at Metropolitan State University, St. Paul; co-author Beer is a former community organizer and union business agent, lobbyist, and political director.
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: The award for the best Minnesota History article in 2011 by a Minnesota Historical Society staff member goes to Christopher G. Welter, whose “How Jesse James Nearly Robbed Northfield . . . in 1948” appeared in the Winter issue. Welter’s interest was piqued when, in his job as collections assistant (he is now archivist at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm), he was digitizing letters to the warden of Stillwater State Prison. Among them were inquires about incarcerated James Gang member Cole Younger, sent by Frank Dalton, a Civil War comrade of Jesse James. Working outward from these letters, Welter mined local and national records to trace two strands in this tale: Dalton’s attempt to pass himself off as the infamous outlaw (long–and correctly–believed to be dead); and how that masquerade affected Minnesota. Northfield, about to launch its first-ever Jesse James Day celebration, invited the old outlaw (whoever he was) to be the parade’s honorary grand marshal. Welter’s article details the resulting controversy: Hoax or not, should a murderer be featured in a town parade?

2010 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The award for the best article published in Minnesota History during 2010 has been won by Brad Chisholm, professor of film history at St. Cloud State University. His article, “Okabena: A Bank Robbery Revisited” (Winter 2010/11), reopens the question of who really committed this bold, daylight crime. In 1933, a time when robberies were distressingly> frequent, the heist in this small southwestern Minnesota town was quickly blamed on a set of petty criminals believed to be responsible for many robberies in the area. The article meticulously uncovers and then examines evidence–including proof of police corruption and previously missed information–to determine whether the perpetrators were, indeed, the two men and a woman who served time, all the while protesting innocence, or the infamous Barrow Gang led by Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: The 2010 Theodore C. Blegen Award goes to Linda A. Cameron, program manager at the Minnesota State Capitol historic site, whose article, “Common Threads: The Minnesota Immigrant Experience,” appeared in the Fall 2010 issue. Drawing on recent oral history interviews as well as nineteenth-century letters, the article shows that, while time marches on and conditions appear to change, Minnesota’s recent Latino, Asian Indian, Hmong, Khmer, Tibetan, and Somali immigrants face many of the same challenges as their European predecessors.
  • Judges
    • Mary Wingerd, professor of history at St. Cloud State University
    • Christopher Welter, collections assistant at the Minnesota Historical Society
    • Anne Kaplan, editor of Minnesota History
  • History Day: Austin Gromatzky for “Southdale Regional Shopping Center: How One Man’s Vision Fundamentally Changed the Culture of the United States.”

2009 Winner

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The award for the best article published in Minnesota History during 2009 has been won by Edward J. Pluth, professor emeritus of history at St. Cloud State University. His article, “A ‘Negro Colony’ for Todd County,” (Fall 2009) begins with an “intriguing fragment“–a 1917 newspaper article recalling recent settler Timothy Ward’s 1869 plan to colonize 700 black men and their families in the county. The article meticulously uncovers and then examines evidence to determine whether the plan was legitimate or a trumped-up accusation by political rivals. The result teaches much about historical research as well as the turbulent post-Civil War era in local, state, and national politics.
  • Judges
    • Jennifer L. Pierce, professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
    • Matthew Anderson, collections curator at the Minnesota Historical Society
    • Anne Kaplan, editor of Minnesota History
  • History Day: Jack Schnettler for “Man of the Hour: How Hubert H. Humphrey Broke the Longest Filibuster in History and Passed the Landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

2008 Winner

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The winning author is Colette Hyman for her article “Survival at Crow Creek, 1863–1866,” which appeared in the Winter 2008 issue. Based on oral history as well as library and archival material, the article shows how Dakota women drew on all possible resources to sustain their families and community in bitter exile after the 1862 U.S.-Dakota War.
  • Judges
    • Michael J. Lansing, assistant professor of history, director of the environmental studies program, and a participating member of the women’s studies program at Augsburg College in Minneapolis
    • Deborah L. Miller, a reference specialist at the Minnesota Historical Society.
    • Anne Kaplan, editor of Minnesota History
  • History Day: Sam Pritzker for “Road Rage: The Fight to End Interstate 335 in Minneapolis.”

2007 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: The winner of the Solon J. Buck award for the best article of 2007 is Jane Lamm Carroll, an associate professor of history at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Her essay, “This Higgledy-Piggledy Assembly: The McLeods, an Anglo-Dakota Family in Early Minnesota,” appeared in the Summer issue of the magazine. Focusing on a Scots-Canadian fur trader, his young Anglo-Dakota wife, and the family they raised, the article examines the gradual but dramatic social, cultural, and economic shifts that by the 1860s had changed the world the family had known.
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: The 2007 Theodore C. Blegen Award goes to MHS senior exhibit developer Kate Roberts, whose article “Educated Food for Educated People: Richards Treat Cafeteria, 1924–1957” appeared in the Fall issue. Drawing on oral history, artifacts, published sources, and the voluminous manuscript records of this landmark Minneapolis eatery, the article shows how two home economics professors successfully put theory into practice, creating a long-lived institution and serving nutritious, homelike food while always keeping an eye on new trends, competition, and the bottom line.
  • Judges
    • Kurt Kortenhof, history instructor at Saint Paul College and a contributing editor to The History Channel Magazine
    • Danielle Dart, public programs associate for the History Center at the Minnesota Historical Society
    • Anne Kaplan, editor of Minnesota History
    • Pamela McClanahan, MHS Press publisher
  • History Day: Jacob Nelson, for “Stained by the Blood of Our Children: The Ojibwa’s Triumph over Bureaucracy following the Sandy Lake Tragedy.”

2006 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Mark H. Davis, history instructor at Century College, White Bear Lake, for “Market Hunters vs. Sportsmen on the Prairie: The Case of William Kerr and Robert Poole” (Summer 2006).
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Brian Horrigan, MHS exhibit developer, for “Of Generations and Greatness” (Winter 2006—07).
  • History Day: Laura Gardner, for “Taking A Stand in History: Rosalie Wahl.”

2005 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Rae Katherine Eighmey, food historian, “Food Will Win the War: Minnesota Conservation Efforts, 1917–18” (Fall 2005)
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Patrick Coleman, MHS acquisitions librarian, for “A Rare Find: The Treaty of Washington, 1858” (Spring 2005).

2004 Winners

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Laura Weber, director of communications at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities General College, for “The House that Bullard Built,” (Summer 2004).
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Benjamin Filene, senior exhibit developer at the Minnesota Historical Society, for Open House Journal essays “A Vision of History” and “Telling Their Story.” (Summer and Winter, 2004)
  • History Day: John Carroll for “Exploring the Idea of Two Races Worshipping God Together: The Encounter and Exchanges of Kindness, Good Fellowship, and the Ideas between Border and Hennepin Churches.”

2003 Awards

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Annette Atkins, professor of history and Michael Blecker Professor of Humanities at St. John’s University, Collegeville, for “At Home in the Heart of the City” (Spring/Summer 2003).
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Scott F. Anfinson, National Register archaeologist in the State Historic Preservation Office, for “Unearthing the Invisible: Archaeology at the Riverfront” (Spring/Summer 2003).
  • History Day: Rose Kantor for “The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978: Striking the Balance Between Environmental Rights and Responsibilities.”

2002 Awards

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Jim Norris, associate professorof history at North Dakota State University in Fargo, for “Bargaining for Beets: Migrants and Growers in the Red River Valley” (Winter 2002–03).
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Brian Horrigan, exhibit developer, for “‘My Own Mind and Pen’: Charles Lindbergh, Autobiography, and Memory” (Spring 2002)
  • History Day: Anna M. Rice for “General Christopher C. Andrews: Leading the Minnesota Forestry Revolution.” Her paper took first place at National History Day.

2001 Awards

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Steve Leikin, lecturer in U.S. history at San Francisco State University, for “The Cooperative Coopers of Minneapolis” (Winter 2001–02).
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Patty Dean, supervisory curator for museum collections, for “‘It Is Here We Live’: Minneapolis Homes and the Arts and Crafts Movement” (Spring 2001).
  • History Day: Michael Anderson for “Minnesota’s John Day Smith Law and the Death Penalty Debate” (Summer 2002).

2000 Awards

  • Solon J. Buck Award: Geoffrey Blodgett, professor emeritus of history, Oberlin College, for his article “Cass Gilbert and Julia Finch: Falling in Love in the 1880s” (Spring 2000).
  • Theodore C. Blegen Award: Sherri Gebert Fuller, project manager for museum collections, for “Mirrored Identities: The Moys of St. Paul” (Winter 2000-2001)