The Minnesota Historical Society preserves and makes available a wide range of materials chronicling Minnesota's history and culture. The goals of the Collections Department are to collect and preserve; provide access and interpretation; and engage in education and outreach. This blog is a tool to share these stories and let people know what is happening in the department.
Agnes Martin was a Red Cross nurse stationed in France with the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF). In a letter dated August 17, 1918, Martin describes to her mother and Aunt Sarah what she has experienced since arriving at the hospital in France, after traveling for nearly three weeks. Martin writes about her work at the hospital and her patients she is in charge of caring for.
Dear Mother + Aunt Sarah
Here I am at my destination after being on the way nearly three weeks. I just wish you could see this line of nurses all sitting watching the sunset and writing first letters home. Got in last night and went on duty this am and you may know I was happy to be sent to the operating room. Did no operating today but lots of dressings and of course I have never seen such wounds but it is simply wonderful the way the [...kin] solution acts. Never saw a drop of pus and all are infected wounds. The boys all were so brave, never a whimper from one of them except an Italian who had every reason to make a fus. […]
Citation: Agnes J. Martin Letters. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P121
Ensign Alan Nichols of Saint Paul died in a plane accident on this date in Turin, Italy, when three motors stalled on the plane he was piloting. Nichols was killed instantly when the plane went beyond control and nose-dived to the ground. The Commanding Officer of the United States Army Air Station in Turin sent a letter to Nichols' father providing more details about his son's death and burial. Nichols was given a complete military funeral in Turin, Italy, and buried there, but his body was removed on May 18th, 1920. Today, Nichols is buried at Roselawn Cemetery in Saint Paul.
January 26, 1919.
[...] Dear Sir:-
[...] I do not know whether the details of the death of your boy have ever been communicated to you. I am the Commanding Officer of the Army Air Station in Turin, and am in possession of some of the facts. Your boy, with Ensign Hugh Terres, had flown a Caproni 600-horse-power airplane bearing the Navy number B-13, from the Caproni Field at Taliedo, Milan, to the Aviation Field of Mirafiori, Turin, which was the first stopping place for Caproni airplanes which were being ferried from Milan, Italy, to Dunkirk, France. At about five o'clock in the afternoon of August 17, 1918, the plane was declared ready for flight across the Alps, and was mounted by your boy, Ensign Hugh Terres and Machinist A.F. Hartle. When they had reached the height of about sixty metres the three motors stalled contemporaneously. The pilot had then a choice of crashing it into the hanger ahead of him and causing damage to it and to the machine, or of turning around and making a landing on the field, thus saving the machine. He apparently took the latter course, for the machine was seen to turn to the right in an attempt to make a landing, but owing to the lack of power the machine went beyond control and nose-dived to the ground a complete wreck. Your boy and Ensign Terres was killed instantly while the mechanic died on the way to the hospital.
Citation: "Nichols, Alan L." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.5B
In a letter to her family, Red Cross nurse Marion Backus, who was stationed on the front lines in France, describes the logistics of working in a mobile hospital. She mentions that it takes time to get the hospital organized initially and it is possible that they will have to move (to follow the front line) before they actually get any patients. Backus states that it will be faster getting set up once they move locations after the initial organization is complete.
Aug 16, 1918
[…] We are still here in our tent hospital but have not as yet had a patient. Of course it takes a little while to organize an institution like this and get things together and now there is talk that by the time it is organized the line will have moved so far away that we will have to move too[.] of course that is the object of having it a mobile unit so we can go where we are most needed, and of course the next move can be made in a very short time after we get everything together. […]
Marion Backus Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P1356
This is the version of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa license plate issued in 1998. The lake is nicely framed by the trees in this simple but elegant plate.
See it in Collections Online.
United States Marine Corps Second Lieutenant Scott M. Johnston was highly decorated for his brave actions on multiple occasions. He received the Distinguished Service Cross, Croix de Guerre and a certificate of citation in Army Orders. Johnston was sent to the American Red Cross Military Hospital in Paris, France on July 21st, 1918 due to gunshot wounds to the head and chest that he had received in battle on July 19th, 1918 in Vierzy, France with the 76th Company. He died on August 15th, 1918 from septicemia.
[...] "During the attack of July 19, 1918 at Vierzy, he charged a nest of machine guns at the head of a small detachment and captured a gun which was causing heavy losses in our lines. Altho [sic] seriously wounded, he remained with his men until the Company commander gave orders that he be taken to the rear."
Citation: "Johnston, Scott M." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.4F.
While stationed in Rome with the YMCA, Paul Thompson sent this letter home to his sister Ruth. He writes that he is teaching some of the men at one hospital how to play baseball - and that he has been asked to do the same at the barracks. He is also teaching English to some Italian medical officers. Thompson seems excited to teach these men things and is excited to be traveling, but he is also ready to return to the U.S. as soon as the war is over.
Letter no. 25- 4 postals enclosed
[…] For two days last week there was an extra rush. Wary Americans coming from somewhere and going elsewhere spent two days in Rome. They had travelled 8 days continuously in 3rd class coaches and got their first night in bed in Rome. The Amer. canteen which is now in this office worked overtime. They were a fine bunch of boys and praised the YMCA for helping them out here. […] The papers say something about men being drafted up to the age of 45. They give us details as to proposed law. If it passes I suppose consults will be sent copies. If it passes, see that I am properly registered. I am ready any time I am needed but I think I ought to be allowed to come home and take an examination for a commission or go to an officers training school. I am teaching the men in our hospital to play baseball by easy stages. Have also been asked to teach some of the soldiers in the barracks. And am starting to teach English to a few medical officers who already speak a little. […] You can be sure that I will be mighty glad to get home when the war is over and to get there mighty quick, but still there’s a fasciation about this country.[…]
Your loving brother,
Paul J. Thompson
Citation: Paul Thompson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/T475 4/19-8/19
This photograph is of a group of men seated on a rock overlooking rapids in the United States-Canadian Boundary Waters (which we know better as the BWCA) in 1935. Spectacular, isn't it? This week's theme is water, in all its glory!
See it in Collections Online.