Red Cross Letter on Yarn Shortages

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Red Cross Letter on Yarn Shortages

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 11, 2017

In September 1917, the American Red Cross experienced a small conflict concerning the nationwide scarcity of yarn, a conflict that took place between its Washington Headquarters and its regional Northern Division. Earlier in the year, the Red Cross Headquarters at Washington had requested enormous supplies of knitted goods from its regional divisions. However, Washington was unable to provide yarn, knitting needles, or instructions on how to knit, and the particular difficulty of acquiring yarn made it impossible to meet requirements. Mr. R. C. Noyes, Chairman of St. Paul’s Section for Military Relief, wrote to his local Red Cross about this problem, and the Division Manager issued a prompt reply. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Noyes’ position, noting that Washington was “a bit off” in its expectations, given that the entire nation’s supply of yarn could not provide one-third of the requested knitted goods. He went on to report that the Northern Division was in the process of pressuring the Washington Headquarters to purchase more yarn, and the Division was also working to buy whatever supplies became available. Though he doubted that this strategy would bring a full solution, the Division Manager nonetheless encouraged Mr. Noyes to follow up on the matter. As he put it, “Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington.”


Red Cross Yarn Storage
Red Cross Yarn Storage

September 11, 1917.
Dear Mr. Noyes:
I have your letter of the 8th and take pleasure in acknowledging receipt of it at once. First as to the yarn, Washington was evidently a bit off to ask the Red Cross workers of this country to produce a large quantity of knitted articles, when they were unable to deliver either raw materials, instructions for knitting, or needles. They find now that it is almost impossible to obtain yarn with which to produce articles and I am told there is not sufficient yarn in the United States to supply one-third of the required amount. That is the situation. We are putting every possible pressure to bear on Washington to get the yarn as well as buying every pound that is obtainable. I can only express regret at my inability to help in this unfortunate situation. The best you can do I think is to string things along until we can get it. Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington. Second in regard to the Surgical Dressings Committee of America. Through the instrumentality of the Headquarters at Washington an amalgamation has been made with this committee whereby they became a department of the American Red Cross but with authority to solicit independently. I think it remains with the individual to contribute or not. My own personal thoughts is that I would prefer to see one fund for all purposes. I cannot consistently advise in the matter as it is purely a personal question with each individual. Of course the Red Cross is also producing surgical dressings.
Very truly yours,
A.R. Rogers

Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781