‘The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz’ opens Saturday at MN History Center

20 July 2023

It was 1950: The Korean War was starting and the Cold War was underway. Jell-O salads were trending at dinner parties and Disney’s “Cinderella” was playing on the big screen. And, on Oct. 2, 1950, the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz debuted in syndication in several newspapers.

Schulz and his comic strip’s connections to St. Paul (and this newspaper!) go back much further than 1950 — connections that are explored in an exhibit that opens at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on Saturday and runs through June 9, 2024.

Cartoonist Charles Schulz draws a picture of his cartoon character Charlie Brown in his Sebastopol, Calif. home in this 1966 file photo. Schulz will retire Jan. 4, 2000, after nearly 50 years of drawing his Peanuts comic strip, his wife confirmed Tuesday, Dec. 14, 1999. (AP Photo/File)

“The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” was originally curated by the Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, Calif., where the cartoonist lived and worked — writing and drawing the stories of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends — until his death at age 77 in 2000.

Minnesota — Schulz’s home state, and the place where “Peanuts” got its start — is the most recent stop for the exhibit, and locally curated items and material also will be on display to complement the comic strips and panels from California.

On Thursday, the Pioneer Press — with a “Peanuts” superfan tagging along — previewed the event. Here are some highlights worth checking out:

A local map

While Charles Monroe Schulz was born in his family’s apartment on Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, his family’s story actually begins in St. Paul: His mom, Dena, was working at a pastry shop on Selby Avenue when she fell for Carl, who owned a barber shop at Selby and Snelling avenues. The couple wed in 1920; their son was born on Nov. 26, 1922.

“The exhibit starts with Charles Schulz’s life — his early life and his creative process,” says Annie Johnson, museum manager at the Minnesota History Center, during a tour on Thursday.

“We added in a lot more about Minnesota connections — he did spend almost half his life living in Minnesota,” Johnson says.

That’s where a helpful visual tool comes in handy for local “Peanuts” fans.

“We have a fantastic map that shows locations associated with Schulz and his family,” Johnson says. “We did our staff and volunteer preview the other day and we had longtime Minneapolis and St. Paul residents spend a half hour there, looking at it and trying to figure out where those places are and what is there now.”

The 18 mapped locations include homes, schools and the family’s barbershop.

The Pioneer Press

Schulz reportedly grew up reading the comics in the St. Paul paper, to which his family subscribed, and it was his hometown paper that got him one of his first regular gigs as a cartoonist:

A “Peanuts” comic strip on display at the new exhibit “The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on Thursday, July 20, 2023. The exhibit opens Saturday, July 22. (Andy Rathbun / Pioneer Press)

Our connection to Schulz is described in one of the exhibit panels, “The Path to Peanuts”:

“Schulz’s first break as a professional cartoonist came in 1947 when his single panel cartoon, Li’l Folks, became a weekly feature in the local newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press,” it states. “It featured prototype versions of Charlie Brown … and a dog with distinctive markings.”

Schulz’s work went national a few years later, when United Feature Syndicate offered him a five-year contract for a new, four-panel strip. Charlie Brown and his pals went by a new name, though, given by executives and disliked permanently by Schulz: “Peanuts.”

The panels

Lynn Jakub, a “Peanuts” superfan currently visiting from Charlotte, N.C., stopped by the Minnesota History Center on Thursday to tour the exhibit — not realizing it was not yet open to the general public.

When we overheard her expressing her disappointment, we invited her and her husband, Gordy Vytlacil, to join us on our media tour — with the museum’s permission — because we thought her impressions would be helpful. They were!

Lynn Jakob, of Charlotte, N.C., a longtime fan of the “Peanuts” comic strip, talks about the history of one of the strips on display at the exhibit “The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Andy Rathbun / Pioneer Press)

She pointed to one of the “Peanuts” panels on the wall: The panel featured something rare — rare for “Peanuts,” that is: It featured grown-ups. Well, their feet and legs.

In television specials later on, the voices of adults in “Peanuts” were muffled and unintelligible. In the panels, the adults were typically out of sight altogether.

“Actually, they have been left out because they would intrude in a world where they could only be uncomfortable,” Schulz explained in 1975.

Note: There are no original comic strips in this exhibition, but the copies are large enough to read easily on the walls of the museum.

(It is an exhibit packed full of info — be sure to give yourself plenty of time to read.)

“I’m so happy to be here,” Jakub said as she walked around the exhibit. “I think people will really enjoy it. The space is nice — I like how spread out it is.”

A local collection

Peggy “Peg” Olson is the events and support services manager at the Minnesota History Center. She’s also a lifelong “Peanuts” collector, a collection that started when she was growing up in Sauk Centre, Minn., searching the bookmobile for Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

Charles M. Schulz and the Peanuts Gang, circa 1985. (Courtesy of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center)

These two parts of her life — working and collecting– came together for this exhibit when Kate Roberts, the exhibit developer and a Facebook friend, noticed that Olson was posting Snoopy-related content.

“She asked me if I knew any local collectors,” says Olson, 53, of St. Paul.

Olson laughs.

“I said, ‘It’s me — I’m the collector!’” she recalls.

She sure is! The museum staff had plenty of “Peanuts” items to borrow from the seven plastic tubs that were stored on Olson’s (dry) basement shelves. You’ll find this lifelong collection organized by color and sprinkled throughout the exhibit (we like that lunchbox!).

Some of the items are more valuable due to the memories, like the Snoopys that came with the boxes of Whitman’s chocolates that her two children used to play with when they were young.

“It’s so funny to see it all out of the tubs and under the glass,” Olson says. “But it’s so nice to have other people be able to enjoy it and not just me … it’s such a fun and happy exhibit — and he’s from St. Paul!”


If you feel inspired by Schulz’s creativity, his ruminations of the human condition through the experiences of children, there’s a spot to sit down and start drawing — or tracing.

“This is a fantastic drawing table that’s based on the one that’s at the museum in Santa Rosa,” Johnson says.

Museum Manager Annie Johnson demonstrates a station where visitors can make their own tracings of various “Peanuts” characters at the new exhibit “The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz” at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul on Thursday, July 20, 2023. (Andy Rathbun / Pioneer Press)

With a push of a button, museum-goers can illuminate the “Peanuts” characters and start tracing them — or they can create their own works of art.

Exhibit opening: “The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz”

Opening: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 22. After you are done exploring the exhibit, enjoy craft activities and “Peanuts” Bingo.

Where: Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul.

Admission: General admission to the museum includes access to this exhibition (members get in free).

Details: Explore how Schulz’s personal history shaped the world of “Peanuts.” The exhibit follows Schulz from his Minnesota roots to his life in California and tracks the development of the characters over time.

Also: This exhibit was created in collaboration with the Charles M. Schulz Museum and runs through June 9, 2024.

Info: Mnhs.org

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