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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

How To Keep A Soldier Fed

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 17, 2017

This booklet, to be read to all officers training at Fort Dodge, Iowa, states, "There is no duty of greater inportance to any commander [...] than that which embraces proper sustinance of his men." The pamphlet goes on to explain how good food boosts morale, what a balanced diet looks like, how not to waste food, how to purchase food, and what sort of standards to which soldiers at meals, eating areas, and the kitchens themselves ought to be held. The pamphlet stresses thrift and reducing food waste, and explains how to maintain nutrition and achieve these goals with advice on things like how to tell if meat is spoiled.


Camp Dodge, Iowa,
November 17, 1917.
The following will be read to all officers and non-commissioned officers of regiments and separate organizations at the first meeting of officers school after receipt of this paper: There is no duty of greater importance to any commander, be he of a company or army corps, than that which embraces the proper subsistence of his men. Beginning with the General he must guard his line of supplies at all hazards, and ending at the Company Commander, he must see that these supplies which have reached his organization are provided in sufficient quantity, good quality and properly prepared.

The value of food when served, depends upon the ability of the system to appropriate to the needs of the body and the five thousand or more heat units stored up in a ration are necessary for the laboring man. If, however, this ration is damaged by transit, wasted by the cooks or so poorly prepared that the men will not eat it, then the value quickly drops to a point at which the soldier cannot subsist or it is largely rejected by the natural processes on account of improper preparation and unfitness for assimilation.

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

Little Knitters and Sewers: The Junior Auxillary Does Their Part

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 16, 2017

This chapter letter from the American Red Cross provides suggestions for activities that can be undertaken by Junior Auxiliary groups, which consists mostly of supplies needed in France that children can easily sew or knit. The list of needed items is divided into three groups by difficultly level. The first group, intended for younger children, includes items like hot water bottle covers, pillows, and knitted wash cloths. The second group, intended for older children, includes bed socks, leggings, sheets, and finished pillow cases. The third group, intended for older children working under supervision, includes more complex items like pajamas, sweaters, and under-shirts.
Finally, there is a suggestion that all of these activities are better suited for girls; boys might collect metal scraps and newspapers for money to financially support these projects, and assist through in their Boyscout activities.


Red Cross letter
Red Cross info

Northern Division Headquarters
202 Essex Building, Minneapolis.
Chapter Letter No 29

The requests for information concerning Junior Auxiliaries grow more numerous every day. Chapter letter No 23 outlines in sufficient detail the method of forming the new auxiliary. The next step is to map out the activities to be undertaken by the Junior Red Cross workers. The following are suggestions which might be adopted. [...] The Women's Bureau have recently sent representatives to France to study the various needs for hospital supplies and refugee clothing. These representatives come back assuring us of the very great need for the simple and useful articles, many of which can be made by the children. They bring with them a full set of models for the refugee clothing. [...] We have received positive instructions as to the need of the following articles, which we have arranged in three groups. Group one names only the things which can be made by the younger children. Group [2] supplies work for the older children, while the work outlined in group three had best be done under supervision.

[List of articles, in groups]

The above mentioned articles apply more particularly to the work of girls. The boys most find some means of assisting financially. [...] They can perform many acts of service for the local chapter, in fact they can help the Red Cross just as they carry on their Boy Scout service.

These few suggestions may be used until the Manual of School Activities now being prepared by National Headquarters, reaches you.

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

"Battle Front of Fifty Miles" and "U.S. Soldiers Catch Enemy" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. November 15, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 15, 2017

"Armies In Italy In Heavy Duel" and "Slowly Force Germans Back" - The Daily People's Press. November 14, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 14, 2017

Letter from Dirigible Training: Louis H. Maxfield

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 13, 2017

This handwritten letter is from Louis H. Maxfield to his mother in Buffalo, New York. He reports that he is "now in the south-west of France, learning to be a dirigible pilot." Most of the letter is very difficut to read, however, he also comments on the very old town he is in, both his current and preivious conditions, his interesctions with the French, and the effect of war on the area. Maxfield was born in Minnesota in 1883 and attended the Naval Academy before beginning Naval service in 1907. During World War I, he served as a dirigible pilot. A dirigible, or airship, is a lighter-than-air aircraft that generates lift using gas-filled bags, similar to a zeppelin. Maxfield eventually acheived the rank of Commander and worked on the development of the ZR-2 dirigible (also know as the R38) in England. He died on August 24, 1921 when an accident occured on the ZR-2 that destroyed the airship.

Dearest Mother:

a letter from you today and I was so glad to hear from you [...]. I am now in the south-west of france, learning to be a dirigible pilot. The town I'm in is on the coast and very very old. [...] I succeeded yesterday in buying a package of toilet paper. [...] The food is not so bad [...].

Your loving son,


Citation: Cathcart, Alexander Henry and Family. Papers. Corresp. and Misc. Papers, 1912-1921. Box 3 P985

"All Must Unite to Win War, Says President" and "U.S. Soldiers Set Example" - The Duluth Herald. November 12, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 12, 2017

David Backus Describes Receiving Pilot's License

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

In September, St. Paul native David Backus left his position as an ambulance driver to attend flight school in Tours, France. In a letter to his mother, he estimated that he would graduate in mid-October of 1917, but many days of rainstorms and high winds had delayed his training by approximately two weeks. Backus finally obtained his pilot’s license on November 3, 1917, along with sixteen other Americans.

In a letter to his mother dated November 10, 1917, Backus recounts his graduation and his celebratory trip to Paris. He certainly enjoyed his brief vacation, especially because he happened to meet one of his heroes, the chief pilot of his French flight school, while he was there. After his time off, Backus entered a more extensive training program about the Nieuport pursuit plane. Upon his graduation, he and six fellow students were attached to the French Air Squadron C. 21, and they became the first American aviators to see combat in World War I.


Nov. 10-17.
Dearest Mother:
Well I am a Pilot-- was received my French Brevet Nov. 2. Went to Paris for three days permission, had some things I had to leave there and also had to get some of my clothes there. I wanted to go down to [Arcachon] -- south of Bordeaux-- Baron de Haven had given me a letter to his wife down there and also to footmen etc-- corking shooting ducks, geese etc. but I could not make it, however I am going to try. He is a mighty fine man-- about forty five year old and has lived in the States-- was one of my Monsiteurs at where I was. Am now down here at a U.S. Aviation school am hope to take my Perfection work on Nieuports, Acrobatics & machine gun practise. [sic] It has rained continuously and this place is a sea of liquid mud. Hope they decided to send us to another school for our Nieuport work. Am enclosing a couple of snapshots. What commission did clinton get in the artillery? This is certainly a black day for the Allies, with the Huns threatening Venice, treacherous Russia, threatening to make a seperate peace, but there is a ray of sunshine on the fact that the Huns are being pressed to their utmost by the British in Flanders and the French have just been victorious on the Chemon [sic] des Dames, would have liked to have been back up there for this last big attack, it must have been great. [...] Best of love to all the family and remember me to all my friends
your son


The Dazzling American Birdman

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 10, 2017

First Lieutenant Walter A. Jones was a pilot in the 17th Aero Squadron. He died in plane a accident at Fort Worth, TX on this day in 1917. Jones' Gold Star Roll file includes extensive documentation of his life, including two photographs, a copy of an article that was found in his pocket titled "American Birdman Dazzles Camp Bowie," and a transcribed copy of a Minnesota Daily article in response to his death.

The Daily article describes him as "one of the best liked fellows of school," and reports that he is the first University of Minnesota student to die in the war. The article expresses sorrow, shock, and patriotism in response to his loss. It also reports that he was a member of the Garrick Club (a drama group), treasurer of Tau Shonka (an interfraternity service society), in a sophomore vaudeville and the Jazz band, and a member of the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. Elsewhere in his file his father also reports that Jones was involved in golf, basketball, and tennis and played the violin, mandolin-guitar, and sang.


Goldstar Roll

Citation: "Jones, Walter A." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.4F

"Americans Tell Verdun Horrors" and "Women Replace Men in Machine Shops" - The Daily People's Press. November 9, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 9, 2017

United States Military "Exempt" Pin

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | November 8, 2017

Pins like this were given to men who were exempt from the military draft. This identifier, which could be worn on the lapel to indicate exempt status, became necessary in the face of the perception that draft evasion was common among able-bodied men. This angered many people, some of whom felt that it was unfair that their own relatives were risking their lives while others stayed home. These men were perceived as "slackers," and "slacker raids" were conducted to rectify their evasion of the draft. However, many men were legally exempt from the draft for a variety of reasons. These men could wear pins like this one to avoid judgement or harassment in public. One common exemption one could claim was non-citizenship or alien status, which, combined with anti-immigrant sentiments, heightened the negative perceptions of immigrants who were not at war. Other exemptions included men with dependant wives and children, and those who worked in jobs that were considered vital or that supported the war effort, like farmers and welders.



Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection. 380.H174


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