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Victor E. Thorsell






MSS 7 is a small collection of personal papers of Victor E. Thorsell (1879-1969), a building contractor who lived in the same home on the Boise Bench for more than 50 years.  Notable items in the collection include photos (mostly in the form of Real photo postcards) of the building of Arrowrock Dam near Boise, 1912-1915, and Victor Thorsell's yearly reading lists, 1938-1962.


Biographical Sketch: Victor E. Thorsell


Victor E. Thorsell was born in Cannon Falls, Minnesota on May 13, 1879.  His father John (who retained the Swedish spelling of his last name, Thoorsell) moved the family to St. Paul in 1889, where he worked in the furniture and undertaking business until opening his own funeral home in 1893.  Victor, the eldest son,  attended school in St. Paul and helped with the family business.  Between 1908 and 1913, Victor Thorsell seems to have worked on various U.S. Reclamation Bureau projects in the Midwest and West; the collection contains postcards addressed to him in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, Minatare, Nebraska, and Missoula, Montana, during those years.  Exactly what sort of work he did is not clear; however there is a letter in the collection from O.T. Reedy, a Reclamation Bureau engineer, offering him a job in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 1913 as a surveyman, with the potential for promotion to the position of instrument man.  Thorsell, however, came to Boise, Idaho, to work on Arrowrock Dam instead, perhaps induced to do so by the presence in nearby Nampa, Idaho, of Helga Lindquist, a friend of his from Minnesota, who was there living with her sister and brother-in-law.  Victor and Helga were married in Nampa on November 27, 1913.  In 1914 they built a home in a rural neighborhood on the outskirts of Boise, on what was then called Ora Dell Road (now Allumbaugh Street).  The home was their residence for more than fifty years, and they witnessed the transition of the rural neighborhood into a busy suburban one, now part of Boise proper.  A man with a practical bent, Victor Thorsell worked as a carpenter, pipefitter, and as a building contractor  in the Boise area.  According to his obituary, he worked on the construction of Black Canyon Dam, near Emmett, Idaho, in the 1920s.  He was also active in the management of his neighborhood's water users association (managing irrigation).  Beginning in 1938 he kept a year-by-year list of the library books he read.  The Thorsells had no children but were close to Helga's relatives in Idaho.  Helga Thorsell died in a nursing home in 1966; Victor died  in his home on Allumbaugh Street on February 21, 1969.



The Collection

Boise State University (then Boise State College) was a beneficiary of Victor Thorsell's estate, and his papers came to the university not long after his death.  It is a small collection consisting of one box of papers, one box of photos, and one box of building trade catalogs and manuals.  The papers are scattered in nature, touching on various aspects of his life but not documenting any of those activities in much detail.  Perhaps the most revealing file contains the handwritten lists of library books he read (Box 1, Folder 7).  His choices were eclectic.  Among the more than 200 titles on the lists are the practical (The Fluorescent Lighting Manual, in 1942), the scientific (Explaining the Atom, 1948), the historical (Mr. Lincoln's Admirals, 1957), and the biographical (Malone's  Jefferson the Virginian, 1948), but books on contemporary political, social, and economic issues seem to predominate: Seven Kinds of Inflation  (1938),  Why Meddle in Europe? (1940),  The Vital Center (1950), and Two Thirds of a Nation (1953), among them.  He checked out books on Sweden and on psychological and religious issues (Jung's Psychology and Religion in 1939; Fromm's Psychoanalysis and Religion in 1951).  He read two books by John F. Kennedy in 1959, While England Slept and Profiles in Courage.  He did not record which library the books came from, but more than likely they were from the old Carnegie library in downtown Boise.  Among the photos in the collection is one of Thorsell reading (Photo 004).

Other notable items  are approximately 30 photos (Real photo postcards) showing the progress of the building of Arrowrock Dam on the Boise River, which at the time was the tallest dam in the world.  Thorsell worked on that project during his first years in Idaho.  There are scattered papers from his local water users association, revealing occasional glimpses of the internal politics of the Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District as well as the practical concerns of his local lateral's water users association.  A similar small file of papers exist on the Cole School District which served his neighborhood.  There are scattered pieces of correspondence and some family newspaper clippings and photos.  As he aged, Thorsell began collecting clippings about centenarians , including Anton Gordon, a Boise man who lived to be 111 years old (1848-1959).

Rounding out the collection are approximately thirty-five building trade catalogs and manuals from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, plus a 1922 manual for Ford cars and trucks.


                                                                                    Collection number: MSS 7
                                                                                    Inclusive dates:  1908-1969
                                                                                    Size of collection: ca. 1 ft.
                                                                                    Processed by: Mary Carter, 2002, and Alan Virta, 2011



Victor E. Thorsell Papers:  Box and Folder List



Box 1: Personal papers


Folder 1          Hand-written will, 1923, and Obituary, 1969
Folder 2          Fiftieth wedding anniversary announcement, 1963
Folder 3          Helga E. Thorsell funeral card, 1966
Folder 4          Family clippings: Thoorsell and Sons funeral home history, 1923
Folder 5          Family clippings: Turner anniversary, 1946 (Helga Thorsell's sister)
Folder 6          Family clippings: Lindquist anniversary, 1951 (Helga Thorsell's brother)
Folder 7          Victor Thorsell's yearly lists of books read, 1932-1962
Folder 8          Swedish names (lists)

Folder 9          Correspondence: Postcards received, 1908-1910
Folder 10        Correspondence: Postcards received, 1912
Folder 11        Correspondence: Postcards received, 1913
Folder 12        Correspondence: Postcards received, 1914
Folder 13        Correspondence: Postcards received, 1916?-1919
Folder 14        Correspondence: Letter to Winifred Turner (niece)
Folder 15        Correspondence: Letter from O.T. Reedy, 1913
Folder 16        Correspondence: Letters from F.D. Lindquist, 1921-1922
Folder 17        Correspondence: Boise State College (Dwane Kern), 1968
Folder 18        Correspondence: Address book

Folder 19        Financial records: Bank pass books, 1912-1969
Folder 20        Financial records: Miscellaneous, 1962-1969
Folder 21        Financial records: Thorsell estate, Boise State College (Dwane Kern), 1969
Folder 22        Thorsell home: Construction costs and plans; materials lists, 1914
Folder 23        Ora Dell Road (later Allumbaugh Street): historical note
Folder 24        Cole School district: miscellaneous papers

Folder 25        Irrigation: Rust Lateral Water Users Association papers, 1921-1948
Folder 26        Irrigation: Elderado Water Users Assocation papers, 1951-1956
Folder 27        Irrigation: Rust Lateral maps
Folder 28        Irrigation: Rust Lateral water schedules, 1951-1956
Folder 29        Irrigation: Manuals (USDA Farmers Bulletins 813 and 1683), 1917, 1932

Folder 30        Clippings: Boise Bench news and residents
Folder 31        Clippings: Anton Gordon
Folder 32        Clippings: Centenarians
Folder 33        Clippings: Judge Chase A. Clark, 1965
Folder 34        Clippings: Red Wing, Minnesota (Helga Thorsell's home town)

Folder 35        Main Line for Boise (railroad brochure), 1922
Folder 36        Specifications for water heating plant...for A.F. Montandon


Box 2: Photographs


Photos 001-007           Victor E. Thorsell  (see also Photo 201, below)
Photos 008-011           Family photos (?)
Photos 012-016           Color snapshots (Thorsell in 012 and 013)
Photos 017-023           O.T. Reedy family

Most of the photos below are in the form of Real photo postcards and date from the early 20th century.  Photos 201-205 are larger.

Photos 025-025           Idaho State Capitol
Photos 026-027           Barber Dam, Boise
Photos 028-031           Black Canyon Dam, Emmett, Idaho  (see also Photo 205, below)
Photos 032                  Diversion Dam, Boise
Photos 033                  Bethany Presbyterian Church
Photos 034-037           Mining and dredging scenes near Idaho City, Idaho
Photos 038-041           Table Rock, Boise
Photos 042-044           Idaho scenes, including Yeager's Ranch
Photos 045-075           Arrowrock Dam (1912-1915)  (see also Photos 202-204, below)
Photo 076                    Barn Bluff, Red Wing, Minnesota
Photos 077-078           Cannon Falls Dam, Cannon Falls, Minnesota
Photos 079-087           Montana scenes
Photo 088-090             Pathfinder Dam construction, Wyoming
Photo 091                    Head gate, Whalen, Wyoming
Photo 092                    Iron mines, Sunrise, Wyo.
Photos 092-099           Unidentified dam and construction scenes
Photos 100-101           Unidentified photos
Photos 102-105           Miscellaneous commercial postcards
Photos 106-107           Grand Coulee dam

Photo 201                    Victor and Helga Thorsell
Photos 202-204           Arrowrock Dam
Photo 205                    Black Canyon Dam, Emmett, Idaho (clipping)


Box 3: Building trade catalogs and manuals, 1920s-1940s


Better Buildings, 10th ed (American Sheet and Tin Plate Company), no date
Better Buildings, 11th ed (American Sheet and Tin Plate Company), no date
Building Ideas, Boise Payette Lumber Company, 1916
Certigrade Handbook of Red Cedar Shingles, 1940
Choosing the Garage, no date
Concrete Improvements Arund the Home, no date
Concrete on the Farm, 1919
The Disston Saw, Tool & File Book, 1925
The End of Rust Troubles--Brass Pipe, no date
File Facts, Simonds, 1927
Ford Manual, 1922
Gilbert & Barker Gasoline and Oil Storage Systems, Catalog No. 5, no date
Hacksaw-ology, no date
Heatilator Plan Book of Modern Fireplaces, 1929
Heatilator, The Fireplace that Circulates Heat, 1934
Heating and Air Conditioning the Postwar Home, 1946
High-Early-Strength Concrete, no date
High-Early-Strength Concrete for Roads, Streets, and Bridges, 1928
Hollow Tile for the Home, 1920
The Home Garage of Concrete Masonry, no date
House Framing Details, 1929
Instruction Book for Ward's Windsor Pipe Furnace, 1928
A Lifetime of Winter Comfort and Health (Nesbit Moist Heat), 1928
Maximum Spans for Joists and Rafters, 1930
The Modern Garage of Hollow Building Tile, 1920?
Pacific Northwest Millwork Catalogue, No. 4, 1927
Painting: Repairs and Utilities (U.S. War Dept. Technical Manual), 1946
Pipe and Fittings, no date
Public Address System, no date
A Real Home: Suggestions to Home Builders (Copper and Brass Research Association), 1929
Southern Pine: The Supreme Structural Wood of the World, 1927
St. Paul Foundry Company, Bulletin D, no date
Steel Carpenters' Squares (Eagle Square), no date
The Story of Oak Floors, 1928
West Coast Woods, 1928
Western Electric Public Address Systems, 1929
Westinghouse Nofuze Load Centers, no date


Boise State College plaque in memory of Victor E. Thorsell (also in Box 3)



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