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Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future


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.

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WW1 Daybook

The Campaign Against Winter

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 9, 2018

This bulletin was sent out by the Headquarters of the Second Army, informing officers on how to protect their troops against the cold. Shelter, fires, winter clothing and best ways of drying clothing are addressed, with the intent of keeping the soldiers healthy. The bulletin makes it clear that people should avoid crowding together for warmth, as this causes influenza and pneumonia to spread faster. Other cold weather hazards include trench foot and freezing to death.


December 9, 1918
The troops of the American Expeditionary Forces are entering upon a winter campaign. Cold takes heat and strength from the body. If the cold is sufficiently intense and there is but little protection against it, the soldier will be frozen to death in a short time. This may happen during severe weather. The slow effects of less severe cold though less obvious are more dangerous. By long exposure the soldier becomes weakened so that he falls victim to any sort of infection which may be present. Disasters from cold are not necessary. They come from neglect of duty on the part of the Supply Officers Unit Commanders or individual soldiers. [...]

U.S. Army, 350th Infantry Regiment, Co. G, records 1917-1919. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BG6/.U584/350th

American Red Cross in Germany

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 8, 2018

Oscar Mather was born in Detroit, Michigan. In 1918, he volunteered for wartime foreign service with the American Red Cross and ended up with the Swiss and Rumanian Red Cross commissions charged with conveying ARC relief supplies from Berne to Berlin and Warsaw. In this account he wrote in 1927, Mather describes the day he arrived in Belin. It seems he had high expectations for the people and sights that he would see, but in the end "the people did not impress as being any different from those of other foreign countries." Mather’s group was responsible for delivering the first truck load of ARC supplies to a Russian prison camp near Berlin, where the wooden barracks reminded him of "the lumber camps of Northern Minnesota."


[...] At four in the afternoon on Friday we arrived at the suburbs of Berlin and great rejoycing took place in our humble coach. Grips were packed, shoes were shined and there was a general picking up and cleaning up. Visions of rolling into our destination, Hamburg Lehrter Bahnhof, in time to call the A.R.C. before the offices closed, being met with an auto and conveyed to a good hotel in time for dinner, floated thru our minds. But alas! Going into Berlin on a freight train and going in on a passenger train our [sic] two very different operations. Our merry progress came to a stop. [...] On the whole the people [Germans] did not impress me as being any different from those of other foreign countries. There were many well dressed, sleek, fat persons and also many who looked far from prosperous.There were four hundred U.S. troops in Berlin and vicinity, most of whom were out at the Russian prison camps. We visited one of these camps at Rhulaben, five miles out of Berlin. There were about 1850 Russian prisoners confined there at that time; they were living inwooden [sic] barracks, the interior of which reminded me of the lumber camps of Northern Minnesota. The men were sitting around, usually visiting or playing cards. They all looked pale and their flesh seemed soft and flabby but they did not look hungry. To these Russian prisoners we had the distinction of taking the first truck load of supplies delivered by the American Red Cross. [...]

Oscar Lord Mathers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2256

Cleaning up after the War

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 7, 2018

Agnes Martin was a Red Cross nurse stationed in France and Germany with the American Expeditionary Forces. In this letter to her family dated February 15, Martin describes traveling through France and into Germany after the armistice was signed, saying that the devastated areas she had seen before had now been cleaned up, and families that had been evacuated were beginning to return to their homes. Martin also writes about her continuing duties as a nurse and provides information about how nurses are to act around enlisted soldiers. For example, nurses are to not allowed to go out or receive any calls from enlisted men.

Feb. 15 1919
Dear Uncle Sam + Aunt Connie and Monica if she is there.
[…] It was an interesting experience tho [sic] to get up here quite soon after the Armistice as we came thru [sic] a lot of the devastated area before it got all clened [sic] away. […] Many of the villages into which we passed would have scarcely a light so you would know they had been evacuated because of shell fire and had not returned. They were beginning to get back as our train was quite crowded and whole families would disembark at the various stations. […] My star patient went home today and I miss you very much. He was an electrician the highest non-commissioned officer in the army. Come from Jeun and was the funniest man we all liked him so much. Last night he was thanking me for what I had done for him and said he had not realized before he came how much he missed talking to girls not that he had talked more to me than he had to all the American women he had come in contact with over here, and that when he saw an officer with a nurse it was the only time he wished he was an officer. You see we are not allowed to go out or receive calls from enlisted men and the really nice ones miss it very much. […]
Affectionately your niece,
Agnes J. Martin

Agnes J. Martin Letters. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P121


Prisoners of War

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 6, 2018

The end of the war meant freedom for many captured prisoners. The letter was written over the course of several days by military doctor Bernard Gallagher of Wilton, Minnesota, who had been a German prisoner of war since March, 1918. The letter is addressed to a Sister Marie Frances, who apparently wrote to Gallagher during his time at the prison camp. He says the letters he received gave him pleasure through his anxious days at the camp and he is sorry that he wasn't able to respond to her sooner. Gallagher writes that he is happy to be free and doesn't want to think about all of the days and nights he spent as a prisoner.


Minnesota Base Hospital Unit 26
Allerey France, Dec. 6- 1918
Dear Sr. [sister] Marie Frances:
Several of your letters, probably not all, reached me in Germany during the long and anxious days there and it is needless for me to say the pleasure they gave me. I was very sorry not to be able to write to all of you often but found it necessary to confine my very limited outgoing correspondence to the folks at home. I'm sure they suffered much more acutely than I did during all this miserable experience and my heart aches to think of their sorrowing days and nights. But war at last is a cruel game and I'm sure it is the people at home in all countries who suffer the most. […]



By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 5, 2018

A wide variety of medals and medallions were created after the conclusion of World War I to honor people for their actions. Perhaps the most widely recognized was the Victory Medal, created in the US in 1919 and awarded to any person who performed military service from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918. This Victory Medal was awarded to Tela Burt, an African American from Minnesota who completed a tour of duty in France as a supply sergeant with the 809th Regiment of Pioneer Infantry, (see post from August 2nd).
The second medal is the Purple Heart, which is awarded to members of the United States armed forces who are wounded or killed during combat with the enemy. While this medal wasn't issued until 1932, it was retroactively awarded to anyone serving on or after April 5, 1917. This Purple Heart was awarded to Private Harold Berlin of Red Wing, Minnesota, for actions during World War I.
The Croix du Guerre was a French military decoration created in 1915 and awarded to individuals or units who distinguished themselves in combat with the enemy. This Croix du Guerre was awarded to Captain Charles P. Clark of Saint Paul, who served with the French Army.
The Serbian Cross of Mercy medal was given to officers of medical units, doctors and nurses who treated sick and wounded soldiers. This medal was awarded to Pearl Canfield Trisko of Saint Paul, Minnesota, a member of the Red Cross who served overseas.

Minnesota Historical Society Collections.
Victory Medal 1999.343.3
Purple Heart 74.80.4.A
Croix du Guerre 6996.2
Cross of Mercy 9908.1


International Brotherhood

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | December 4, 2018

Chapter VI of the American Red Cross' Department of Civilian Relief pamphlet Home Service in Town and Country addresses Home Service responsibility to people of other nations and races. It mentions giving publicity to soldiers of foreign birth who performed acts of heroism during the war, saying Home Service workers ought to be open minded about different customs and remember that African Americans and immigrants are also fighting for the same country and being loyal to it. It goes on to encourage the organizing of cultural events.


Chapter VI. Home Service responsibility to those of other races and nations
Our brotherhood with the Foreign born. Services such as those just described should by no means be rendered only to Americans by right of birth. The war is creating a new feeling of brotherhood for the foreign born. […] Many Americans are still so sure that their way of living and of doing things is the only right one that they fail to value the genuine ideals and beautiful meanings that lie behind their neighbors’ customs. In their visits Home Service workers find families which need help, they should before they try to teach them American ways, learn something about the history and traditions of these races.

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


"2,000 Soldiers Made Civilians at Camp Dodge" and "Kaiser Abdicates; Formal Resignation Note Reaches Berlin" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. November 30, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 30, 2018

"People of Lille Welcome the British" and "Submarines to be Restricted" - The Caledonia Argus. November 29, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 29, 2018

Changes to Censorship Rules

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 28, 2018

This bulletin dated November 25th, 1918 was sent out by the Headquarters of the 88th Division which was stationed in France. This bulletin concerned the changes in censorship rules that needed to be made because of the signing of the Armistice. Those writing home to their families and friends could now freely discuss their activities as well as their locations. They could also write about details from the past that they hadn’t been able to share before and write where they were headed to next. This was because their mail was no longer in danger of being read by the Germans. However, one of the censorship rules that remained was not being able to freely write criticisms about the American government and Allied government.


25th November, 1918.
[...] In view of the armistice the rules of field censorship, as embodied in G.O. No. 146, c.s., these headquarters are suspended for the period of armistice and the following rules substituted. [...]
1. There may be free discussion of the activities and locations, past and present of the organization to which the writer is attached.
2. There will be due regard for accuracy.
3. There will be no criticism of the Government of the United States, its conduct or its policy, nor of the Government of the Allies nor anything which will embarras [sic] the United States or the Allies in their international relations. [...]

U.S. Army, 350th Infantry Regiment, Co. G, records 1917-1919. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BG6/.U584/350th


Gold Star Roll of Edward Lundholm

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 27, 2018

This is the Gold Star Roll file of Private Edward Lundholm of Minneapolis, who was serving with the Medical Department of the 118th Infantry, 30th Division, 2nd Battalion, A.E.F. Today is the date that his mother officially learned of his death, although he died of wounds received in action on October 18th. His division was fighting in the "bloody battle at Somme". Lundholm received his fatal wounds when he was providing aid to a fellow wounded soldier. Lundholm's mother hand copied a number of letters that he had written home, including the last letter he had sent before his death. The letter, written on October 4th, talks about his recent activities and the way that war changes men. He also mentions that if he pulls through this war he will be a different person than when he left home. In a previous letter he writes that he finds himself constantly on duty caring for the wounded on the field of battle. Edward Lundholm paid the ultimate price in war while he was attempting to save the lives of others.


Somewhere in France, Oct. 4-1918
I hope that you have not worried because you have not heard from me for two weeks. It has been impossible to write, because we just returned from the trenches. By right I should not say trenches, because our division drove Jerry (Germans) out of his Hinderburg line and kept him on the run for five days. Prisoners were as thick as flies and you ought to have seen your son Edward putting them to work carrying wounded men in on stretchers. One Jerry who had a femur (leg) gave me his watch as a token of appreciation for dressing his wounds and applying a splint. The average German is not a very good speciment [sic] of a fighting man. As long as he is under cover with a machine gun he will fire away, but as soon as he is in a tight fix he will throw up his hands and hollar "Merci Kamerad". We advanced for five days straight. Our worst trouble was getting rations and water but we are now behind the lines eating like kings. If I pull thru this war, wich (sic) I hope to do (several times I thought I could see my finnish [sic]) I will be a whole lot different then [sic] when I left home. War even tho [sic] it is what Sherman said it was certainly broadens a man mentally and makes him think of what a fool he has been at times. When the boys get together they don't talk war at all, they all talk of what they will do when war i [sic] over. Several of my good friends have already gone home, but to a home in another world. I think we will move again today. Where we are going I do not know, but I hope it is far behind the lines for a much needed rest. […]

"Lundholm, Edward F." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F



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