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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 America First Association is Established

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

These minutes are from a meeting held on October 7 at the St. Paul Hotel for what would become the American First Association. This first meeting was composed of a gathering of concerned citizens who felt that anti-war and pro-German sentiments were too common in their communities, especially in rural areas. They also felt actions of the Non Partisan League and its president, Arthur Towney, constituted disloyalty. University of Minnesota President Marion Burton was among the vocal attendees, and stated that the University stood for patriotism. Those in attendance determined that the best course of action would be to promote patriotism and to hold a loyalty meeting in St. Paul, though many would have liked to see more drastic action against Towney and the Non Partisan League. This group would hold the Northwest Loyalty Meeting in St. Paul on November 16th and 17th, where the America First Association was officially established. "


Meeting of Representative Americans, held at the Saint Paul Hotel, Sunday, October 7th, 1917.
Mr. George Gage of Olivia, Minn., was duly elected chairman of hte meeting. Mr. James J. Quigley of St. Cloud, Minn,. was duly elected secretary of the meeting. Mr. Gage then explained conditions as they now exist in Minnesota as a result of the organization and the work of the Non Partisan League, and in particular of the actions of Mr. Townley, its President. Mr. Gage suggested the need of calling a gigantic meeting in St. Paul for but one purpose -- developing Americanism and called special attention to the getting of an attendance from the rural districts. [...] The secretary then read an affidavit signed by four men in Renville county, including statements of disloyalty as made by an agent of M. Townley, and the Non Partisan League. Henry Nolte of Duluth spoke of the public spirit of St. Louis County as being very good, but nevertheless endorsed the idea of a great loyalty meeting in St. Paul. Mr Hunter spoke of the need of more than a great meeting, and suggested following meetings of Townley with a realy loyalty meeting in the same locality. President Burton said that the University would stand for everything patriotic at all times. That he himself was absolutely out of sympathy for anything or organization that was in any way disloyal. That he too thought there was a strang undercurrent of disloyalty. Mr. Wallace said the papers were getting many letters indicating disloyalty and said the recent St. Paul meeting had a tremendous bad effect. Mr. Frisbee said [...] we should make patriotism so popular that anything to the contrary could not live. [...] Mr. Kelly told of the great amount of disloyalty among the people in the vicinity of Menahga particularly the Fins. [...] Mr. Hadley said that while there was practically no disloyalty in the vicinity of Winnebago, he strongly urged the Public Safety Commission to make it illegal to print any newspaper in anything but the English language. Mr. Nolte endorsed this suggestion of Mr. Hadley. Mr Briggs suggested that meetings of the Non Partisan League be attended by our representatives and if anything disloyal is said that arrests be immediately made and a stenographic copy of the utterances made. Said he thought it unwise to martyrize the Non Partisan League. Mr. Lawson said the Constitution of the Non Partisan League was all that could be asked but said the trouble was that the officers deviated and got the League into trouble. He said that to try to put the League out of business would act as a tremendous tonic to its growth.[...] Mr. Wallace moved that a call be made for a loyalty meeting, to be held in St. Paul, in the near future and that the call be signed by the men attending this meeting. [...] Mr. Kelley moved that a committee of three be appointed to arrange for the printing of dodgers and advertising matter and to see that publicity was sent to the papers of the State. Seconded. Carried. [...] Upon motion meeting duly adjourned.

Citation: America First Association records; Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P109

Rainy Day in Tours, France - October 8, 1917

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


A slow day for David Backus at flight school in Tours, France means time for leisure--and boredom. Rainy and windy weather frequently kept Backus and his classmates out of the air. The consistently poor weather conditions would ultimately delay his graduation from flight school.

 

Backus diary page
Backus diary page


Well we marched down to Pilotage -- hung around for hour -- no flying too windy -- rained in aft [afternoon]. Had dinner at Canteen -- Played checkers read.
 

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F

"U.S. Assures Victory" and "Women Work in Steel Mill" - The Daily People's Press. October 7, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 7, 2017

"Italy's Success Alarms Enemy" and "Fierce Battle Against I.W.W." - Aitkin Independent Age. October 6, 1917.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 6, 2017

The Minneapolis Comfort Kit Committee

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 5, 2017


The Comfort Kit Committee, a department of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross, was officially organized one hundred years ago today. The committee's purpose was to make and distribute comfort kits to all soldiers leaving for war from Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The kits included items like shoe laces, a sewing kit, soap, toothbrush and paste, tobacco, and gum. Some of the items were supplied by donations from local businesses or organizations, and others were donated by private citizens. The kits were made and assembled by volunteers, and each kit cost about a dollar. They were intended to supply the necessities and comforts that the soldiers might need or miss while at war. Over the course of World War I, the Committee assembled over 20,000 kits to be sent overseas.

 


REPORT
COMFORT KIT COMMITTEE

The Comfort Kit Committee of the Minneapolis Chapter of the Red Cross was definitely organized October 5th, with Mrs. Denman F. Johnson as Chairman. [...]

The purpose of the Committee is, to make, pack and distribute comfort kits to all drafted men and other soldiers who may need them, going from Minneapolis and Hennepin County. [...]

A kit is made in bag form of Khaki cloth, the approximate cost of each being one dollar. A kit contains:-
2 handkerchiefs
Tablet and pencil
10 envelops.
Tooth brush.
Tooth paste.
Wash cloth & soap.
Small comb
Testament.
Drinking cup.
Shoe strings.
Steel mirror.
Vaseline.
Gum
Chocolate.
Tobacco
Sewing bag contains:-
White & Khaki thread.
White & Khaki buttons.
Safety & common pins.
Needles.
Thimble.

All the testaments are donated by The Young Peoples' Testament society of Minneapolis, and all tobacco by the retail tobacco dealers of Minneapolis. Smaller numbers of other articles have been donated at different times. The Junior Board of Northwestern Hospital is assisting the Committee very materially by making and filling on an average of fifty of the sewing cases a week. [...]

Respectfully submitted,
Chairman.
Mrs. Denman Johnson

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

"British Troops Penetrate Teuton Lines for a Mile" and "Entire Structure of German Plotting in U.S. May Be Revealed" - The Duluth Herald. October 4, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 4, 2017

I Was A U.S. Marine at 17

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 3, 2017


Percey Christianson here describes, in retrospect, his journey to enlist in the Marines. Christian initially tried to join the Navy after hearing that a family friend had lost his life on the front lines. He felt that he should take his friend's place in the military, and convinced his mother to give him permission to join, but was rejected from the Navy because he had a "rupture that would interfere with active duty in the Navy." Christian returned home and had an operation to repair the rupture, and two weeks later went back to Chicago to attempt enlist in the Marines. Christian's story echoes those of many young people, inspired by patriotism and a sense of duty to take action and do their part in the war effort.

 


One morning in the year 1917, during World War One, the news came thru that that Clinton Glidden had been killed in the battle of Belle Woods in France. [...] This same morning of 1917, I asked my Mother if she thought it was right that this dear friend of our family had lost his life in France and we were doing nothing to help. She was puzzeled [sic] as to what I meant. I explained that I felt it my duty to enlist in the service. She replied that I was too young and they would not take me for military service. I explained to her, that if she would sign the papers to let me join the service, they would except [sic] me. It took time and effort to get my mother to agree to do this. I kept telling her of Clinton Glidden and how I felt that it was my duty to take his place where he had fallen in Belle Wood, France. She finally consented, and I left for Chicago to enlist in the Navy.
The Navy turned me down. The examining board of doctors explained that I had a rupture that would interfere with active duty in the Navy. [...] I told my Mother that I wanted to enter the DeKalb Hospital and be operated on at once and return to Chicago to try and enlist again. [...] Two weeks after the operation, I again left for Chicago to enlist. This time, feeling I should be physically perfect, I decided to enlist in the Marine Corp. I was broken hearted when the examining doctor told me that he did no think that he could pass me for service. His explaination was that the incision made at the time of the operation was not healed enough so that it was safe to go through any excessive strain. I told him about my try for the Navy and what I had done to correct it. After consultation with other doctors they decided that by the time I would get into active hard training the incision would be healed enough to take the strain. They inducted me as U.S. Marine right then and there. I was the proudest guy in the world. [...]

Citation: Percy B. Christianson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P2371 Box 1

Letters From the Front

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 2, 2017


William W. Bartlett of Minneapolis wrote to Senator Knute Nelson about his sons, Walter and Marshall, who were serving with other Minnesota men overseas in France, in a section of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps (the American volunteer ambulance corps). He describes the awards and casualties of some of the sections with mostly Minnesotan members, and says he has only heard of one Minnesota boy who quit the service and returned home.

William Bartlett also included a transcribed letter from one of his sons, Walter Bartlett. Walter describes the scene where his section is currently serving, at an advance post. The scene on the Verdun front is mostly one of devastation with shell holes and destroyed wagons littering the woods, but his description remains upbeat, as their movement into this area means that the front line is advancing. He also describes a meeting with his superiors, where he and his section were informed that their service was complete, and they could return home or extend their volunteer service under American authority. Walter says he has decided to stay.
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William W. Bartlett of Minneapolis wrote to Senator Knute Nelson about his sons, Walter and Marshall, who were serving with other Minnesota men overseas in France, in a section of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps (the American volunteer ambulance corps). He describes the awards and casualties of some of the sections with mostly Minnesotan members, and says he has only heard of one Minnesota boy who quit the service and returned home.

William Bartlett also included a transcribed letter from one of his sons, Walter Bartlett. Walter describes the scene where his section is currently serving, at an advance post. The scene on the Verdun front is mostly one of devastation with shell holes and destroyed wagons littering the woods, but his description remains upbeat, as their movement into this area means that the front line is advancing. He also describes a meeting with his superiors, where he and his section were informed that their service was complete, and they could return home or extend their volunteer service under American authority. Walter says he has decided to stay.


October 1st, 1917.
Honorable Knute Nelson,
Washington, D.C.
Dear Senator:

[...] There are, to the best of my information, some fifty or more Minnesota men in the Norton-Harjes sections alone. These sections are made up of forty-five men each. Section 62, in which my two sons are members, is called the Minnesota Section, because twenty-seven of the members are from the state, and most of them from the University of Minnesota. Sections 61, 62, and 63 are largely composed of Minnesota men [...]. They are a bunch of fine fellows, and have rendered splendid service. Several have already won the Cross du Guerre, and the enthusiastic commendation of the French authorities, while two of our Minnesota boys, one in Section 61, the other in Section 62, have been killed, during the last month, and two others severely wounded. These casualties came after the time when the sections were officially disbanded, and the boys given permission to return home. They elected to continue in the service, still as volunteers, until the United States could send men to take their places. [...]

The letter [from my son Walter] bears date September 1st, and reads as follows:
"We are back on duty at the same old front. Of course, we have moved our advance post a kilometer, so as to follow the French in their advance in this district. The brother [Marshall] and I are the only ones up at this advance post, and when we get a load we send another car up. This advance has been great. Every where in the woods are shell holes, and also the roads are all filled up holes. The Germans sure hit this wood in their attempt to get the French guns. I walked up to the edge of the wood, where all the land is clear and the trees all shot down, further than ever before and it is a terrible sight. The shell holes, six feet deep and teen feet across touch each other; horses with their harness still on hitched to their smashed up wagons on the road side. On either side of this road, are coils of wire, piles of shells, empty and good, hand grenades, picks and shovels, milk cans, gunny sacks and torn down phone wres. We are now about five kilometers from the Boche lines, and through some glasses I could see a wood that they hold, and that we want. An officer who has a battery of 75s here, said that the Hill 304, has been leveled like a table. He never saw anything before like it, absolutely everything is down, and no stone lies whole; they are all broken up in bits and are sand again. [...] Mr. Norton said we could jump the job now, as it would be permissible, as they had broken their part of the contract, or that we could wait until the United States had men to replace us, (which they expect to do, 2-6 weeks;) or that we could sign up in this work for the duration of the war, and they would be glad to have experienced men break the new comers. In the second case, if we stayed our six months, or until we were replaced, we would be doing France a great favor. As we came primarily to help her, I feel like staying as long as I can continue to aid this suffering nation."

I am confident that what my son writes, reflects the concensus [sic] of opinion of all of the young men in the sections, with which he is closely in touch. Thus far, I have heard of but one Minnesota boy, who availed himself of the privilege of quitting.
[...]
With best regards, I am,
Very truly yours,
W.W. Bartlett

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 26

"Meant to Seize U.S. Industries" and "Fail to Reach London" - The Daily People's Press. September 30, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 30, 2017

"To Commandeer American Craft" and "Germans are Hard Pressed by Allies" - The Twin City Star. September 29, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 29, 2017

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