WW1 Daybook

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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

"Ten Members of German Cabinet Quit Their Post" and "Final Increment is Called" - The Daily People's Press. August 7, 1917

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

"Germans are Unable to Shake Allies from Hold in Flanders" and "Revised Plan to Raise $2,006,970,000 by War Taxes" - The Duluth Herald. August 6, 1917

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

United States Navy Recruitment Poster

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

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection. E435.21 b28

Trading With the Enemy - August 4, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 4, 2017
Letter regarding trade
Letter regarding trade

August 4th, 1917.
Midland Linseed Products Company,
Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In reply to your letter of the first I beg leave to say that we are now engaged in a war against Germany and her allies with our allies, England, France, Italy, and Russia, and our aim is to win. As a part of the war program it is deemed essential to deprive Germany of all kinds of feed and food supplies. During the last two or three years much food and feed supplies shipped to neutral countries have iinured [sic] to the special benefit of Germany. The question as to the shipment of your products abroad is not now, under war conditions, a question of what you would like, but what guaranty the foreign governments, or foreign consignees, can give this country that such shipments will not inure to the benefit of Germany. Such being the case, you can readily see that I am not in a position, as a loyal American citizen, who has the interest of the country at heart and wants to see it succeed in this war, to urge the Government to permit your products to be shipped abroad just because you would like a large profit. The door is open to you to ship your products without limit to our allies in Europe, and I have no doubt they would be glad to secure the same at a reasonable price. I trust your zeal to make big profits will not overcome your spirit of patriotism. No provision has been made by the Government to pay compensation for such speculative or other profits as you have in view and, in my judgment, no provision will ever be made for the payments of such speculative profit. If the Government, upon investigation, finds that the shipment of your products would inure to the benefit of the enemy, it would be equivalent to trading with the enemy, and because you can not have this privilege of indirectly trading with the enemy under the embargo act, there can be no ground, legal or moral, to ask for compensation. Your products are not the only ones that come within the embargo. A large number of other products, too numerous to mention in this letter, are also under the embargo. My advice to you is to ship your goods to the countries of the Allies. In doing so you will get a fair price for the same and in that way you will aid our country in carrying on the war.
Yours truly,

Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 25

"Lundeen to Fight for Draft Repeal He Announces in German Paper" and "Victory in the Air" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 3, 1917

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

Backus Prepares for the Next French Attack - August 2, 1917

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

Though the past few days had been quiet in terms of military action, David Backus and his ambulance unit had also been busy preparing for the next French attack. In his diary entry from 3 August 1917, Backus proudly recounted that the newspapers in Paris had published many articles on his division’s earlier attack near Vailly. Still, their effort was far from decisive, and the French Army’s next attack was planned for the 7th of August, a mere four days from Backus’s diary entry. In order to prepare for rapid evacuation of injured soldiers, Backus and his division’s Medical Chief traveled to a new position in Vailly and conducted a visual examination of the area. From his elevated post, Backus could see past the German trenches “way into Bochland,” which was his term for German territory. He also witnessed German planes drop signal rockets over the two French battalions stationed on the plateau, not even 500 feet away.


Backus diary page
Backus diary page
Backus diary page

Friday August, 3 - 1917
At post in Vailly. it is now 1 P.M. am second out. Rolled out 9 nine - still raining - shaved, bed roll, etc. gasoline. Breakfast. Left 10:30 for Vailly. [...] car has been fixed. Quit raing [sic] at 12:50. Very quiet. the last 24 hours. our Division is going to attack again in a couple of days. Big account in Paris papers of our last attack. [...] Got a call at 3 took medican [...] Cheif up a new road, full of shell holes to look at a new port, to be used night of 7th when attack comes off in case Boche shell - arzy [?] too badly & cut us off there. [...] From hill I waited at end of trees as Boche could see me if I had driven out on plateau and it is only 6 thousand feet from Boche trenches & [plar...] visible. I climed a hill & could see way over into Bochland & flash of their [balt...] as it was hazy, other side of Chames des Dames. [...] We saw two Boche avions shooting [metrre...] at trenches and dropping signal rockets over the two batlions [sic] on the plateau. They were not 500 feet away. [...]

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

"Allies Bringing up Big Guns to Renew Drive" and "Prominent I.W.W. Leader is Lynched" - The Duluth Herald. August 1, 1917.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 1, 2017

"Love and Kisses to whole dam Family!" - July 31, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 31, 2017

On July 31st, 1917, Gold Star soldier Lyon Frank Leou penned an endearing letter to his family back home. A native of Austin, Minnesota, Lyon and his family had relocated to Saskatchewan, Canada when he was young. He made his living as a farmer, but in 1916 he made the decision to enlist in the British Expeditionary Forces as a private in the 49th Canadians Division. After surviving the Battle of the Somme, Lyon was killed instantly by a shell explosion on October 30th, 1917. His family described him as a chipper, brave, and generous family man, who seemed more concerned about his nieces and nephews back home than his own safety in war. Indeed, his July 31st letter to his family is speckled with lighthearted jokes and handwritten ‘ha-ha’s, and he closes by sending “Love and kisses to the whole dam family!”


[...] July 31, 1917
Dear Mother,
I re'cd your letter a short time ago and also the cake and thanks many times, mabey [sic] I didn't hop to it ha ha. I got the cake 29th of July. Just one month to get it, and you say dad is sending me some tobacco, gee I sure will be glad to get a good old smoke, ha ha. [...] say have you heard any more about Swede, gee I hope it is not the truth about him being killed. well they never will get me because I can fall into a shell hole too quick for them. ha ha. You aught to see the holes they make, the ground is ust churned over and over lots of times. some sites to see. [...] Well dear mother I will have to quit now and get busy so will say by by. Love and kisses to the whole dam family. ha ha.
I am as ever your son.

Always jolly and the life of whatever or wherever he happened to be. Was a brave soldier laddie who never complained and was only anxious to be first in the fray. Happy and considerate of others. Thoughtful of home people. While he was abroad one of his worries seemed to be of his two nieces and one nephew. They have three and a half miles to go to school. He would write, ‘please don’t let the children walk to school or go on cold days.’ In his own words, ‘I know what it is like to walk and be cold.’ We are proud of him. But at what a price.”

Citation: "Lyon, Leou F." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota [114.D.4.4F]

Bill Proposes to Grant Nurses Rank - July 30, 1917

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

At the end of July, Senator Knute Nelson received a copy of a proposed bill that would benefit nurses serving in the U.S. War Department. The bill proposed to give nurses rank, which here means giving them the designation of no less than Third Lieutenant and making them eligible for distinguished service awards. According to the bill’s author, these changes would grant nurses additional protection, enable the U.S. military to operate more efficiently, and facilitate cooperation between nurses, doctors, and surgeons overseas. Finally, giving nurses rank would allow women to be represented at the front, and not simply at nearby military hospitals. Despite these persuasive arguments, it was not until 1920 that members of the Army Nurse Corps could first be given rank.

2700 Prairie Ave., Chicago, Ill.,
July 30, 1917.
All Graduate-Registered Nurses requisitioned by the War Department shall have the rank of III Lieutenant, except the Chief, or Head, Nurse who shall be II Lieutenant. Distinguished Services may be rewarded by Brevit, adding the proper title.
1. For protection
2. For a higher efficiency.
3. For a more logical cooperation with the doctors and surgeons
4. That women may be represented by a small commission at the front in this great War.

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 25

A Letter to Mother - July 29, 1917

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

In his letter from Allentown, PA, Philip Longyear tells his mother about his orders to go to France: "We may leave even earlier than I expected when I last wrote." He describes the different restrictions for the belongings he can take like cameras. "We don't seem to be able to take much at all." Longyear doesn't seem to know what to expect besides that he would be with the French army, and he seems to be prepared for the government to change its mind about sending them at all.


Allentown, Pa., July 30, 1917.
Dear Mother:-
I have just written a letter to father at home, not knowing whether he was with you or not. If he is with you, tell him I have reserved a room at the Hotel Allen for the 26th. I wrote him about getting a leave of absence and going to Washington with him, but yesterday all leaves were cancelled, so we could get some good drill before going. We got a lot more information this morning which would interest you, but I can't say much. We may leave even earlier than I expected when I last wrote. We can't take cameras. We don't seem to be able to take much at all and we will probably have to do all our work at night, when these clothes we have now wear out. or invest in some barrels. Also, we are to be with the French army, not the American. We have one hundred twenty sections here now and thirty sections from the American Field Service will join us when we get there, making one hundred ninety sections of forty-five men each. You neen't think we will go right to the front when we get there, as we are going into camp over there for more training. The only reason we haven't gone before was lack of transportation. Now they have that and it is being made ready. Of course the Government may change their plans at the last minute and keep us here all summer for all we know.
I don't suppose Frank Hubacheck can get transferred to this service.
Lots of love to all at Bensonia,

Citation: Longyear (Edmund Joseph and Family) Papers. Family correspondence 1908 - 1944, Vols. 1, 2, and 22; A .L860 Box 2


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