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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

"Go to Hell and Take Wilson, is Minister Reply to Liberty Loan" and "Military Officers Visit Bemidji to Look Over Sites for Big Training Camp" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, May 31, 1917

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

Underage L.C. Jones seeks do his "bit" - May 30, 1917

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

This letter from May 28, 1917, was sent from yet another young person expressing their desire to support the war effort. L. C. Jones of Wishek, North Dakota, wrote to the American Red Cross explaing that he was exempt from the draft, being under eighteen years of age. Nevertheless, he felt compelled to serve abroad as an ambulance driver. Despite his mother’s objections to his military service as well as his own aversion to blood, Jones believed he has the necessary automobile experience to be an effective member of the Red Cross Ambulance Corps. The following day the Red Cross sent a reply informing him that they had no immediate need for ambulance drivers, but Jones might do well to contact William Hereford of New York City about serving in another ambulance division. The author of the letter ignores Jones’ admission of queasiness and simply states that he “might be especially fitted for this work if as you say you have had some experience with automobiles.”


Wishek, N.Dak., May 28th 1917.
Red Cross Headquarters
Minneapolis, Minn
Dear Sirs:-
[...] I would greatly appreciate any information in regard to the requirements and needs for enlistment in Red Cross service during the present war, at home and abroad. Not having attained my majority I am not subjected to the coming registration but I feel that if my services are needed I cannot conscientiously with hold it. Heretofore my mother has objected to my joining the military departments but there should be nothing against my doing my ‘bit’ in this service. Personally I am averse to bloodshed but I want to help alleviate the present suffering of those who are called to endure. [...] If possible, I should prefer information regarding the driving of motor ambulances as I have some experience with automobiles. [...]
Awaiting your earliest reply I am
Yours for service,
L.C. Jones

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

E. J. Blintiff Writes to Senator Nelson on the Availability of Firearms - May 29, 1917

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

In a letter dated May 29, 1917, E. J. Blintiff of Minneapolis, Minnesota, writes to Senator Knute Nelson expressing his concerns about the availability of firearms in the United States. Mr. Blintiff runs his own manufacturing company, and he knows firsthand that many such companies keep firearms of all kinds. Blintiff then reveals his anti-German, anti-Socialist sentiments, suggesting that these groups might arm themselves with weapons from manufacturing plants and attack U.S. citizens. In order to avoid this course of events, Blintiff suggests conducting an immediate inventory of all firearms in the nation, requiring State Department permission for gun purchases, and registering all new gun owners with information on their name, age, address, and ethnicity. He believes these actions will “save the Government a lot of trouble in the future.”


May 29, 1917.
Honorable Knute Nelson,
Washington, D.C.
Dear Sir;
Calling your attention to the fact that there are many fire arms, all kinds and descriptions, handled by large jobbing houses and retailers, through out the United States. It appears to us that there should be an inventory made at once of all fire arms and amunition. Have this matter either handled by the Government or by the States. You know there are many radical Germans and Socialists all over the United States. It would be an easy matter for them to equip quite an army, from the different retail or jobbing houses in the country. Don't you think that some law should be passed at this time, calling for a complete inventory of firearms and amunition. Also that all sales should be reported to the Governor or some Committee appointed by him. That no sales should be allowed without permit from the State Department. Further, the purchaser should be compelled to give his name, address, age and nationality. A law of this kind might save the Government a lot of trouble in the future. This is only a suggestion on our part but we think that it is worth investigating.
Yours very truly,
Bintilff Mnfg. Company
C.J. Bintliff

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers, 1861-1924, Minnesota Historical Society. 144.I.13.2F Box 25, May 28-31

Seventeen-Year-Old Edna Robertson of Lyle, MN, Wishes to Become a Red Cross Nurse - May 28, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 28, 2017

On May 28, 1917, seventeen-year-old Edna Robertson from Lyle, Minnesota, wrote to the St. Paul Chapter of the American Red Cross expressing her strong desire to become a Red Cross Nurse. Citing her patriotism and her natural ability to care for the sick, Robertson notes that she “loves the dear old Flag and our dear Brothers who are wishing to give their lives for this country,” and she is “never more content” than when she takes care of the sick and dying. As a bonus, she never takes sick days herself. Robertson instructs the Red Cross to let her know as soon as possible whether she might become a nurse. A few days later, the Red Cross wrote back to inform her that nurses must be at least twenty-five years of age, and Edna Robertson could not serve despite her enthusiasm.

Lyle, Minn.
May 28, 17
Red Cross Nurse Department
Dear Friends,
Wishing to join the Red Cross Nurse league and become of service to our dear and glorious country. I am writing to you asking if you think I could join. I love the dear old Flag and our dear Brothers who are wishing to give their lives for this country. I am eighteen years of age in June. I have taken care of the sick and dead and I love the work. I am not nervous around them. There is a comfort that speaks to me. Never am I more content when I can give comfort to all who are in pain and suffering. I know I would enjoy going. How long does it take to train for your service? My work during my life was to become a nurse. But on account of illness at home and friends I have been delayed.
If you think it possible for me to join and become a Nurse for the War. Please let me know without delay. I am well and strong. Never knowing what a sick day means. My home is on a farm.
Thanking you very much and hoping to hear from you soon.
Sincerely your friend,
Edna Robertson, Lyle, Minn

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

"US Destroyers Escape Traps of German U-Boats" and "Steady Progress Made by Italians Moving on Trieste" - The Daily People's Press, May 27, 1917.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 27, 2017

French Aeronautical Map in Holder - May 26, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 26, 2017

Clinton Backus Jr. of St. Paul served in the French Air Corps during the First World War, much like his younger brother, David Backus. When he returned from his service, he brought his aeronautical map and holder home as a souvenir. This artifact, which shows a section of a French military map, would have been bolted into the cockpit of Backus’s airplane. The holder is made of aluminum and features two rollers that allow the user to select different sections of the map for display. The outside of the display holder is stamped with numerous identifiers, which read “M.G. / Bte SGDG,” “AERONAUTIQUE MILITAIRE,” “SFA / II,” and “19328.” The map itself is blue ink printed on white paper, and its legend is in English.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection. PUID 66.4

"First American Fighting Unit on War Front" and "Submarien Menace is Greatly Checked with American Aid" - The Duluth Herald, May 25, 1917.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 25, 2017

"Jail Awaits Man who is Delinquent Registration Day; Age Rule is Specific" and "Russ Armies to be Reconstructed" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer, May 24, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 24, 2017

American Red Cross Morale Poster - May 23, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 23, 2017

Today’s artifact, a motivational poster produced by the American Red Cross, speaks to the expectation of patriotism on the American home front. Originally intended for use in workrooms abroad, this particular motivational poster was displayed in an unspecified location in Minneapolis, Minnesota, around 1917. The poster reads, “The following notice is displayed in all French and American Workrooms in Paris, and is equally appropriate here: It is expressly forbidden in the room to speak any word of discouragement, of weariness, of criticism, or to tolerate suggestions of a nature to weaken the patriotic energy and absolute confidence in our Leaders and in our ALLIES.” As the American Red Cross saw it, maintaining high morale was essential to achieving victory abroad, and any expression of doubt, no matter how slight, would damage the prospect of victory.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collection. PUID

Tension about the Selective Service Act - May 22, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | May 22, 2017

As the Selective Service Act went into effect on May 18, 1917, U.S. government officials began to worry about the possibility of widespread resistance to the draft. Minneapolis attorney John McGee was especially concerned about the city of Duluth and its surrounding areas. McGee sent Senator Knute Nelson a copy of a letter he wrote to House Representative C. B. Miller, dated 22 May 1917, describing troubling reports that German and Industrial Workers groups from the city plan to evade the draft, destroy bridges along ore roads, and sabotage ports. In McGill’s view, the United States could benefit from expanding the Home Guard, an armed group of former servicemen, to enforce the draft and discourage rebellion. However, the Senate’s proposal to supply the Home Guard with weapons had stalled in a House Committee, and McGill was upset by this development. He urges Representative Miller, (as well as Senator Nelson) to bypass Congress’s normal procedures of debates and subcommittees, and to pass the Home Guard bill by any means. As McGill puts it, “No one but a traitor would raise any objection to that course.”


[...] May 22, 1917.
Hon. C.B. Miller,
Duluth, Minn.
My dear Mr. Miller:-
I received your telegram, saying that the agreement, made when I was in Washington recently, with Congressman Kahn and Dent and Senator Chamberlain, was not carried out and that the Senate File 995 was not tacked on the army bill in conference. The situation is far from satisfactory in different parts of the state, and from your county we get reports very disquieting, from secret service men, acting independently of and unknown to each other. These reports agree that the discussions in the I.W.W. ranks deal with the matter of destroying bridges on the ore roads and docks at lake reports. [...] It would seem, if there was any patriotism in the House, (and its bickerings would lead one on the outside to doubt whether there is any) that Senate File 995, now in the hands of the military committee of the House and in its hands for a month past, ought to be reported out of the committee and passed under suspension of the rules. No one but an out and out traitor would raise any objection to that course, in my opinion. I want to impress upon your mind as strongly as I can the gravity of the situation here, and I want to add that the responsibility for any disaster that may occur here, due to a want of military equipment, will not rest upon any person here, but upon those who refused to furnish us rifles or automatic shotguns.[...] Can you not fix up some combination that will result in the passage at once of Senate File 995, and please wire me the moment it is passed. [...]
Very truly,


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