WW1 Daybook

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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

"First Men Called to Serve in Army and Guard Units" and " German Air Fleet in New Raid Fails to Reach London" - The Daily People's Press. July 24, 1917.

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

German Women's Participation Inquiry - July 23, 1917

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

An anonymous inquirer wrote to the Minneapolis Red Cross Headquarters through the Friends of the People column of the Minneapolis Tribune, to ask whether women born in Germany or who are of German parentage but born in the United States can serve as an American Red Cross nurse in Europe. The Red Cross later responded that women born in Germany and first generation Americans of German parentage are not eligible for service in Europe through the Red Cross, but their service is more than welcome domestically.


St. Peter, Minn.
July, 23, 1917.
The Friend of the People Dept.
Minneapolis, Minn.
Can women born in Germany or women born in this country of German Parentage now living in the U.S. qualify and serve as American Red Cross Nurses in Europe?

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

German Air Attacks Continue near David Backus's Ambulance Division - July 22, 1917

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

After the receipt of their Fourragere of the Médaille Militaire, David Backus’s ambulance unit experienced another week of action near the Western Front. On July 22, 1917, Backus wrote of German airplane attacks, which could be heard several kilometers behind the front line. One Boche airplane flew directly overhead at ten in the morning, and it was shelled by nearby troops. Due to the recent increase in military action, Backus’s division would no longer conduct operations in the highly dangerous Rouge Maison sector, but Backus noted that the Vailly sector was still considered sufficiently safe. The next day, Backus and a few other drivers attended bomb practice, threw a few explosives, and took pictures. Soon, they would relieve a French ambulance section that had recently lost four men.


Sunday July 22-17
Out 9. Slept OK. Slept & read all day. Wrote a couple of letters. We are going back to same Vailly Sector. have ceased going to Rouge Mason - too dangerous. There was a Boche attack this a.m. could hear the big boys way back here - 15 kilometers behind the lines, also a Boche avion went over about ten which they shelled. [...]

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [123.D.10.5B]

"First 6,000 Will Include First Army" and "First Quota will be Drafted from First 3,000 Numbers Drawn; Completed List of Beltrami Co.'s First Draft" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. July 21, 1917.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 21, 2017

"These girls could do this" - July 20, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 20, 2017

In her letter to Mrs. Lowry of the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross, Mrs. Corell of the Women's Club inquires if a group of Camp Fire Girls could hem towels as she "wants them to work at something." Mrs. Corell would also like to get a group of women to make sheets and pillowcases. She requests information about fabric and prices so that she can get her groups started.
Mrs. Lowry responds that she thinks it would be fine to have the girls hem towels and the women make pillowcases and sheets and includes the prices for the material and recommendations for where to look for the material. She also encourages the idea of the children who may not be able to help with the towels paint pictures for the soldiers in the hospitals.


Front of letter
Back of letter

Dear Mrs. Lowry-
I wish to get a small club of Camp Fire Girls at work for Red Cross. I was wondering if they could not hem towels. I want them to work at something they can do & have it accepted. Will you please tell me what the material costs per doz. towels & where it can be gotten. Some where I heard, maybe in your lecture in St. Paul, before Public Safety Com that funny sayings & pictures pasted on paper and sent in to hospitals for soldiers was requested. if this is true, will you tell me the size of sheets required for pasting the scraps on. These girls could do this, they are too young to attempt much. [...] A club of women here want to get at some of the work at once. What do you say to them beginning with sheets & pillow slips? [...]
Mrs. F.C. Corell
Big Falls

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

"Germans Expect Peace Before U.S. can Strike Hard" and "British in Russia Assist Slavs in New Offensive" - The Daily People's Press. July 19, 1917.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 19, 2017

"German Reinforcements Halt Russ; French Gain at Verdun" and "Members of I.W.W. Freed" - The Duluth Herald. July 18, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 18, 2017

An Urgent Plea

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

This letter by Kate Lowry of the Hospital Supplies Committee of the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross lists supplies, mostly clothing, that were needed by the Alllies. Lowry also records the articles that were shipped in June from the Minneapolis Chapter, as well as the donations of supplies given to the Base Hospital by various organizations including the Woman's Club, the Anti-Suffrage Association, the D.A.R, and East Side Station.


"Freeborn County Soldiers Take Oath" and "French Assaults Crumple German Defenses in West" - Freeborn County Standard. July 16, 1917

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

David Backus's Unit Recieves French Military Award

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

For their evacuation of the dead and wounded at Chemin des Dames in the summer of 1917, David Backus’s unit of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps was awarded the Fourragere of the Médaille Militaire from the French Government. In a speech to Backus’s unit on July 14, 1917, the General of the Division informed Backus and his fellow drivers that they had received this prestigious award. The General proclaims that they are no longer simply attached to a unit of Chasseurs, a designation for French army soldiers trained for rapid action. Rather, with their service at Chemin des Dames, they had become honorary Chasseurs themselves. In recognition of this honor, Backus and his unit were given elements of the Chasseurs’ uniform, which included, as Backus put it, “funny little floppy caps.” Though Backus displayed a fairly non-serious, irreverent attitude toward the uniform, the fact remained that the award was notable. In fact, Backus’s division was the only ambulance division to receive this award during the First World War.


David Backus's Unit Recieves French Military Award
David Backus's Unit Recieves French Military Award

Saturday July 14-1917.
French Fourth, most of fellows left 5 A.M. went to Paris in our cars to see [...]. I stayed with four or 5 others. Rolled out 8. The General of this Division in a talk to us said that we were not attached to a Regiment of Chasseurs, but are Chasseurs, first Sanatiry [sic] Section to whom this honor has been awarded. We wear the Berry's [?] funny little floppy caps of the Chasseurs. [...]



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