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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

"900,000 Americans Shipped Across Seas" and "Austrians Concentrating North of Venetian Plain" - The Duluth Herald. June 22, 1918.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 22, 2018

A Tragic Flight

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 21, 2018

William McFarland was an airplane engine mechanic in the Army stationed at Barron Field in Everman, Texas. In this letter to his Minnesota penpal McFarland describes the dangers of being an airplane mechanic as he tells the story of a friend of his at Barron Field who died that week. McFarland's friend died about 15 minutes after his mother and sisters arrived to visit him when he took a plane up in the air and something went wrong, causing the plane to go into a spin and fall 2000 feet before crashing. The mechanic's mother and sisters, along with the other mechanics standing on the ground, watched his plane fall and saw him die.


Friday, June 21, 1918
Barron Field
Everman Texas.
Dear Mrs. Wells,
[...] We have had a streak of bad luck the past week several accidents and two deaths. One boy from Michigan fell one thousand feet. Another a good friend of mine by the name of Rose. He was a Lieutenant his mother and two sisters came Tuesday morning to visit him. About fifteen minutes after they arrived he took a machine up before he went he kissed them and when up about two thousand feet we saw something was wrong. Never said anything though to his mother because we thought perhaps he could make a landing but he went into a spin and all we could do was to stand and watch him fall that distance. I tell you that hurt me worse than any accidents I have seen yet his mother and sisters being right there and seeing him killed. It seemed like his mother was sent for so as to see him alive. he was one of the best officers and piolets [sic] we had. [...]
So best regards to you and family I remain as ever a boy in Air Service U.S.A

Citation: William McFarland Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P120

Selected to Serve

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 20, 2018

This short letter from the Red Cross informs that Miss Helen Scriver has been selected to serve overseas for the Red Cross. Simple, bureaucratic memos like this are the majority of documents collected from the Red Cross.

June 20, 1918.
Paris, France
This will serve to introduce Miss Helen Scriver, who has been appointed by the American Red Cross for European service and who is sailing as indicated in our cable advices.
Yours very sincerely,

Citation: Helen Scriver Papers Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P362

A Typical Day in Army Band

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 19, 2018

Eber Berquist, a member of the Army band, describes the daily schedule of the Army band at Camp Dodge, Iowa. The schedule includes waking up at 5 am, both individual and group practices, medical corps litter drills (carrying stretchers), giving three or four concerts a day, and going to bed at 9 pm.

Camp Dodge, Iowa.
Dear Folks,
[...] Our drill hours are much longer now. This is the bands program for the day:
First we get about five o'clock and play a concert at five-thirty- then we have breakfast- next we lead the whole regiment out the drill field which is about 2 miles. Then we come back and have individual practice for one hour, and the rest of the forenoon we practice together till 11:30. Then we go out to the drill field and eat our dinner. After dinner we play an hour concert while the boys that are drilling are resting. After the concert we go up to the medical corps and have one hour litter-drill (carrying strectchers, [sic]) then we practice together until a quarter to five, and go out and play for the regiment while they pass in review before the Major and his staff. After that we play the star spangled banner and go to the barracks for mess. Then on every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night we play a concert from 7:45 to 8:45 and it soon nine o clock and bed time. [...]
Am feeling O.K.
P.S. By the way I've never had to go on sick report since I came so guess I'll make it alright.

Citation: Eber John Berquist Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2786

The Spirit Through the American Army

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 18, 2018

This is the record of Anne Williams, who served with the American Red Cross directing surgical dressings, doing canteen and officers' club work and emergency nursing. After the war, she described one of her most memorable experience that occurred in June, 1918. She was kneeling on the floor trying to help a wounded soldier who had been operated on the night before. He lay on a blanket with his head on a pack, and asked for a pillow. He then said Williams should put the pillow under her knees, as she'd been kneeling next to him for so long. Williams was touched that despite the man's pain, he was most concerned with her comfort. "That was the spirit all the way through of the entire American Army."


[...] There were too many interesting experiences to really choose one. This slight incident that shows the spirit of the American Soldier, with his unselfishness and courage, happened not far from Meaux, during the first Chateau Thierry encounter in June 1918. One, of some one hundred and fifty wounded, who were lying on a hard cement floor of a railroad station, waiting for a hospital train, had an operation the night before. changing of dressing had been impossible, and he was in great pain. He had lain there for some eight hours, on a blanket with his head on his pack. I had spent some time trying to make him comfortable, and there were other things to be done. He asked for a pillow, and when it was brought, said to the orderly: - "Put it under her knees. I should think she'd be tired working over me so long." He never complained- said he had only done his bit.
That was the spirit all the way through of the entire American Army.

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

Happy Father's Day!

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 17, 2018

This small lapel pin features a shield over a brass cross, with a screw fastener on the back. Inside the shield it reads, "AMERICAN / WAR / DADS" on red, white and blue enamel.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 70.12.19

"My Dear Son, Please Come Home"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 16, 2018

This is a sign asking for information on David Cochran, a 16 year old who left home on this day. A picture and physical description of him are given, as well as a public letter from his father to him, begging him to come home. It is unknown why the young man ran away, as he was too young to be drafted, though he may have been attempting to enlist.


the whereabouts of
Whose photograph is here shown
[...] MY DEAR SON:
If you should happen to come in contact with this advertisement, please read the following very carefully:
We want you to come home, where no one else can ever take your place. Hold your head up like a man, as there is nothing whatever against you, only that you left your dear father and mother, sisters, brothers and hosts of relatives and friends to mourn because they do not know where you are or what may befall you. Everything that belonged to you is still yours, and even more. It would make you rejoice to know what we have at home for you, so son come on home. If you have no money with which to come home on, write or wire your father at once and he will send it. [...]

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

Beginning of the Battle of the Piave River

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 15, 2018

Willard W. Bixby was stationed in Italy as an ambulance driver with the Red Cross. In letters to his family (written June 16 and July 21, 1918), Bixby describes a major battle: the Battle of the Piave River, which lasted from June 15 to June 23, and his work driving an ambulance during the battle. In his letter from June 16, written during the fighting, Bixby states that "I have been on the go every minute and have had about 6 hrs. sleep in the last 48." In the letter written July 21, Bixby goes into more detail about the experience and mentions that he was "wending my way warily and scarrily [sic] thru pitch dark roads accompanied by the thot that when I got back to the sucistamento or dressing station, I might be pleasantly surprised by a welcome from our friends the Austrians." Bixby also mentions that he doesn't think they'll ever see a battle like that again, as many of the ambulance drivers who had been in Italy for a year had never had an experience like that one.

Somewhere on
the Piave
Dearest Mother,
The anticipated attack started yesterday morning about 1 A.M. I have been on the go every minute and have had about 6 hrs. sleep in the last 48. I am well and safe but have certainly seen the thick of it. I have just a few minutes to write so I will cut this short. I have a machine now as we all have to be on duty as it is a night and day affair. The things I have seen and the things I have thot [sic] I will not describe now. I have been assigned to section five and will be in Milano in a couple of weeks I expect, if this thing lets up before then. I will cable from there So that after you get this letter the cable will be more appreciable. I can see shrapnel bursting from my window and believe me it is not the most pleasant of sounds. Must be off will write more extensive letter.
Load of Love

Sunday, July 21, 1918.
Dearest Dad and Mother,
[...] Your last letter was of June 13th and of course the attack started two days latter. Little did you reck when you thot [sic] of me speeding thru France in my classy little motor ambulance that I was more likely wending my way warily and scarrilt [sic] thru pitch dark roads accompanied by the thot [sic] that when I got back to the sucistamento [sic] or dressing station, I might be pleasantly surprised by a welcome from our friends the Austrians. But that is over now and I doubt if we will ever see anything like it again. Many of the boys that have been over here a year in France and Italy, never had an experience like those 8 days. We all feel more that fortunate that we were able to get in on it but I haven't heard anyone say they were very anxious to go thru it again. [...]
With love,

Citation: Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624

"President Goes on Record" and "Food Situation is Growing Serious" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. June 14, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 14, 2018

"French Make New Gains in Center, but Retire East of Oise" and "150,000 Czechs to Quit Russia and Join Allies" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. June 13, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | June 13, 2018


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