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A letter typed onto a yellow sheet of paper sits in a glass case at the Minnesota History Center. It's dated Jan. 15, 1976, and is addressed to Charlie Brown — not the comic strip character, but the man.

"I have often regretted that my using your name may have brought you more trouble than any of us had dreamed," "Peanuts" comic strip creator Charles M. Schulz wrote to the real Charlie Brown after People Magazine published an article about him. Brown was a teacher at Art Instruction Schools Inc., and someone Schulz met in Minneapolis.

This is one of the more than 150 objects on view in the exhibition, "The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz" at the Minnesota History Center, which opened Saturday. All the wall panels came from the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif., and the objects in the show are from MNHS' collection and local "Peanuts" and Snoopy super fan Peg Olson.

Schulz, nicknamed "Sparky," was born in Minneapolis in 1922. The show celebrates 50 years of the comic strip and its creator, from his homegrown days in the Twin Cities, to his life in California, where he moved in 1958.

"There is so much influence of stereotypical Minnesota values and just that Midwestern kind of self-deprecating humor," MNHS Museum Manager Annie Johnson said. "I think Schulz is a proponent of that, but also of things like, Snoopy and Woodstock skating on a frozen birdbath — you don't get a lot of frozen bird baths in California. The seasons change, and snow shows up in the strips."

The show will feel nostalgic for longtime "Peanuts" and Snoopy fans and like an introduction to those less familiar with the antics of Charlie Brown, his friends and beloved dog.

Fans will notice how Schulz's drawing style changed — characters once had very round heads — and how he was influenced by the comic "Krazy Kat." MNHS created a Twin Cities map spotlighting significant locations in Schulz's life — the home where he grew up, the family barber shop and his schools.

While the comic strip's characters are all children and it covers topics like friendship, sports, schoolyard crushes and more, the comedy appeals to kids and adults alike. He referred to "Peanuts" as "a chronicle of defeat," because losers are funnier than winners, and he often heightened daily events to fantastically humorous levels.

"Peanuts" up close

Each "Peanuts" character gets its own close-up, including its birthday, naming and first appearance in the strip. There was Franklin, Charlie Brown's good friend and the first person of color in the strip who joined in 1968, and Peppermint Patty, who showed up in 1966, and was a girl who was good at sports and didn't care about school. Both characters were a pretty big deal for that time in American pop culture.

Others, like the quiet artsy character Rerun Van Pelt — Linus and Lucy's youngest brother — may have been inspired by Schulz's grandchildren, even though the character initially was hard to add to the usual lineup.

"Many of these characters were facets of his personality," Johnson said.

To help visitors connect with the actual drawing of the comic strip, MNHS has stations where people can draw "Peanuts" using tracing paper.

More than 100 objects in the show come from "Peanuts" and Snoopy collector Olson, program and facility services manager at MNHS.

"There was something about the cartoon and how it was drawn and it was just funny," Olson said, who grew up in Sauk Centre, Minn. "I remember as a kid, we were out in the country and the bookmobile came through, and we were always waiting, and hoping that there would be Snoopy and 'Peanuts' books on the truck that week."

Olson has been a collector of "Peanuts" and Snoopy paraphernalia since the 1970s. Companies like Determined Productions Inc., and Aviva Enterprises started selling "Peanuts" merchandise decades earlier. Hallmark introduced "Peanuts"-themed greeting cards in the 1960s that led to books, party favors, Christmas tree ornaments and more.

"I suspect I have thousands of pieces, just from knowing the tubs [of "Peanuts" items] that I gave to the [the History Center] to wander through and check," Olson said. "When I was single and I lived in Northfield, I had a spare room and so that was my Snoopy and 'Peanuts' room."

The Life and Art of Charles M. Schulz
When: Ends June 9, 2024
Where: Minnesota History Center, 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul
Hours: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wed., Fri., Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Thu., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.
Cost: $8-$12, free for kids under 4
Info: 651-259-3000 or

Correction: Previous versions of this story misstated the year Charles Schulz moved to California.