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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 Patriotic Duty to Report Deserters

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

This letter from the American Red Cross National Headquarters to all of its Division Directors of Civilian Relief states that it is the patriotic duty of everyone to report deserters, especially members of the Red Cross. If a member of the Red Cross finds and reports information on deserters during their Red Cross duties, the government reward must be donated to the Red Cross.

February 20th, 1918
[...] 1. It is the patriotic duty of every person knowing the whereabouts of a deserter to report him to the proper authorities.
2. Therefore a special obligation rests upon every member of the Red Cross, because of its peculiar activities as an aid to the Government at this time, to report deserters at once to the proper authorities.
3. If such information is obtained by a member of the Red Cross in the course of the discharge of official Red Cross duties, the resulting reward from the Government could with Propriety go to the Red Center.
4. It is better that no claim for this reward be made. If claim is made, it should be in the name of the individual member of the Red Cross who furnished the information regarding the deserter. The reward from the Government, when received, may then be turned over to the Chapter to which the member giving the information belongs. [...]

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

"Germans, Invading Russia Unopposed, Pass Dvina" and "Drafted Men Get Lessons in War at Night School" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. February 19, 1918

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

You Have Now Been Selected for Immediate Military Service

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

On this day, Eber Berquist of Otter Tail County received a letter stating that he had been drafted into the US military. The letter states that he must report for duty on the 24th of February, giving him only 6 days to prepare and say goodbye to his friends and family. The letter is written in a way to emphasize the honor attached to being a part of the US military, so as to remind the men receiving the letters that they are heros during this perilous time.


Order of Inductions into Military Service of the United States.
The President of the United States,
To Ebber John Bergquist
Order Number 157 Serial Number 1417
Greeting: Having submitted yourself to a local board composed of your neighbors for the purpose of determining the place and time in which you can best serve the United States in the present emergency, you are hereby notified that you have now been selected for immediate military service.
You will, therefore, report to the local board named below at Div. 2, Henning, Otter Tail Co., Minn., at 4 P.M., on the 24 day of Feb, 1918, for military duty.
From and after the day and hour just names you will be a soldier in the military service of the United States. [...]

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

"Sammies Meet Foe Gas Shells" and "Third of U-Boats Sunk" - The Daily People's Press. February 17, 1918

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

Granny Goes Flying Part 1

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

This book is a compilation of letters and diary entries written during the war by Second Lieutenant Granville "Granny" Gutterson of Saint Paul, Minnesota. Granny spent most of the war stationed near Houston, Texas, at the San Leon Aerial Gunnery School. His family had the book published after his death in 1919. In this letter home he writes about being chosen to become a pilot. He cannot contain his excitement, stopping mid sentence to extol and exclamation about being chosen. He then completely forgets what he was talking about earlier and launches into a description of the men who were chosen along with him. Granny is the ideal soldier, excited, passionate, and committed to the cause. While he does seem a bit naive, it is clear that he will do everything possible to assist in the War.


February 16, 1918.
Dear Folk:
I suppose You got my telegram about graduating. I was so darn glad I didn't know what to do. Because of Washington's Birthday, we took our finals a day ahead of time. They gave us twenty-four hours notice, but caught about forty fellows "Asleep at the Switch." They called us all into a room and gave us a little talk about wishing they could read off more names, but "some have scholastic difficulties detaining them," etc. They strung us along for a while and then--(Hurrah! I interrupted by orders telling me my flying begins to-mor-row, seven to ten. Say! Maybe I'm not happy!) Well--to go back-- I sure am lucky! After all the talk they picked only fifteen men to go to the flying field and they were the highest from both academic and military standpoints. The major said we should feel real honored, and I do. There are two cadet captains, three first lieutenants and four second lieutenants in the crowd, so I'm in fast company. I should worry! I'll stack myself up with any of them...O, darn it! I can't write! I feel to good! By the way, you remember Fred Hartman, the Canadian Dog Race winner? His bunk is third from mine and he has his lead dog with him. I'm crazy about this place! The airplanes or "ships" fill the air all the time, and when you see a formation of twenty or thirty way up in the air they look like a bunch of mosquitoes or bees coming home to hive at sunset. Poetic as the dickens!

Citation: Gutterson, Granville. Granville: Tales and Tail Spins from a Flyer's Diary. Minnesota Historical Society. Minnesota History Center, St. Paul. D570.9 .G76

"Son in Service" Flag

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

Flags like this one were hung in the window of a house to indicate that a person from that home was in the service. Flags could have multiple blue stars to indicate that multiple members of the household were serving in the war. When someone died while serving, a gold star would be placed over the blue one, to indicate their passing. This is how the Gold Star Rolls got their name. This flag was used by the family of Harvey Mears, who served in World War I and World War II.


Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 9404.3

Identification Please

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

This letter was sent from the American Red Cross National Headquarters to all of its Division Directors of Civilian Relief. It contains a memorandum from the Adjutant General stating that each enlisted man in the Army will be given a unique number for identification. But, as this system will take awhile to put in place, full names, grades, and organization will still be used on paperwork.


February 14, 1918
[...] 1. Referring to A-149 it should be noted the Government has now decided to assign a serial number to each man in the armies of the United States. [...] 2. The following official memorandum gives the essential details of the system as worked out by the Adjutant General and approved by the Chief of Staff: "In order to insure prompt and accurate identification the department has adopted system of numbering enlisted men of Army only, which system provides for but one series of numbers, without alphabetical prefix, for all enlisted men in, or who may enter Army, regardless of organization, arm corps, or department. Numbering begins with one and continues consecutively without limit. [...]

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

"American Soldiers Laid to Rest in Scotland" and "French Advance as Far as Fourth German Line in Trench Raids" - The Duluth Herald. February 13, 1918

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

Backus and His Plane

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 12, 2018

his photograph shows David Backus with a plane he had just taken on a bombing mission. On the back of the photograph he gives several details about the plane, including the make, the type of engine it had and what machine guns were on it. Backus also talks about his friend O'Brion who was in the plane with him, taking pictures and also firing a gun. Backus has dozens of photos of the planes he flew while in the war; he was clearly immensely proud of becoming a pilot and of everything he accomplished.


English-300H.P. Rolls- Royce Motor- Tye- DeHaviland- No. 4. Bi-place- Lewis and rickens Machine guns- Makes 125mi. per hr. @ 2000 meters [...] small tank topplane auxiliary gas tank. This motor casts 80,000 fires alone. See [motor] bottom. inside hold the bombs. Photos taken through bottom of plane by O'Brion in the Cockpit in back- also revolving [...]

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.7B

"President Wilson Re-States United States' War Aims" and "Ukrainians Sign a Treaty" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. February 11, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | February 11, 2018


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