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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

"American Sailors Warmly Greeted in Paris" and "Government Seeks Horses for Army" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 21, 1917

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

"French Begin Offensive on Verdun Front" and "Abandoning Deep Dugouts" - The Duluth Herald. August 20, 1917

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

Backus Receives Disappointing News - August 19, 1917

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

In a diary entry penned on August 20th, David Backus describes receiving two pieces of disappointing news. In some sense, his day was not all that unfortunate; he was not involved in any military action that day, and he and some friends were able to visit a French Blimp Camp, where Backus took a few pictures. However, Backus also received word that his application to serve in the French Officer’s Reserve Corps had been rejected, which surprised him, as he had been accepted to a similar position in the United States. More troublingly, a letter from his mother informed him that both of his brothers had been drawn into the draft. Backus’s younger brother, Romayne, and his older brother, Clinton Jr., would both serve in the war.

Backus diary page
Backus diary page
Backus diary page

Monday Aug, 20, 1917
Out 9, Cleaned up. Mr. Hayes was here for a minute, he said he would have something for me in a week or so. Yes, got a letter from him day before yesterday telling me to wait, he had me in mind. Also, got a letter rejecting my application for Officers Reserve Corps over here, after I had been accepted in the States. [...] Howard, Hill, Tommy & I walked over to Sausage Camp, very interesting & took some pictures, got one of the chap he came down in the parachots [sic] the other day, fine fellow. [...] Received letters from Mother & Joe [Lehman]. Clint & Romayne were drawn in the draft. poor little Mother. [...]

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

"Teutons Destroy Cathedral; Loot Invaded Villages" and "Drastic Action Planned Against I.W.W. Activities" - The Daily People's Press. August 18, 1917

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

The Red Cross Plans an Exhibition at the 1917 Minnesota State Fair - august 17, 1917

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

As part of its continuing effort to raise funds and recruit volunteers, the Minnesota Headquarters of the Red Cross planned a series of exhibitions for the Minnesota State Fair in September 1917. In an August 17th letter, the Chairman of the State Fair Red Cross Committee outlined the organization’s various planned exhibitions. In one booth, Red Cross nurses and Boy Scouts were scheduled to perform first aid demonstrations for the public. Other booths focused on the production of necessary supplies, such as surgical dressings, hospital garments, and knitted clothing. Twice-daily musical performances were scheduled to lighten the mood, and an Information Booth contained pamphlets on how to get involved with the Red Cross, either as a nurse, a volunteer, or a contributor. The Chairman is sure that the Red Cross exhibitions will be a success. She notes in her letter, “I feel sure we shall all enjoy the week, even though it will be very strenuous.”


Red Cross State Fair Plans
Red Cross State Fair Plans
Red Cross State Fair Plans
Red Cross State Fair Plans
Red Cross State Fair Plans

August 17, 1917
My dear Mrs. Lowry:
This is not a formal report, but an informal one, meant to embody the decisions of the State Fair Red Cross Committee during the course of the two meetings which have been held. The Committee decided that every department should send me a report on certain points, so I am suggesting that you let me have, as soon as possible, the data outlined in the enclosure. I am also embodying decisions made by the Committee on various questions of management. As you all know, the Fair opens Monday September 3rd and closes Saturday September 8th. I feel sure we shall all enjoy the week, even though it will be very strenuous. A letter will follow soon, showing positions and space of each exhibit. It seems to me we have a fine committee and that we are sure to be really proud of the results. Please be sure to let me help in any way I can and report any matter that is not being attended to.
Sincerely yours,
Caroline M. Crosby

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

"Popes Initiative Strongly Opposed" and "Free War Prisoners, is Demand of I.W.W." - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. August 16, 1917.

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

"Allies Sweep Through German Lines" and "Allies will Probably Refuse Consideration of Pope's Peace Appeal" - The Duluth Herald. August 15, 1917

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

American Red Cross Nurse Apron

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 14, 2017

Of the nearly 20,000 Red Cross nurses that were sent to active duty during World War I, a majority of them served overseas. However, this particular Red Cross apron was used domestically, by Olive J. Clark of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The plain white cotton garment had long sleeves and two front hip pockets. The wearer would secure the garment by closing buttons that ran down the back of the apron, and by wearing a uniform belt at the waist.

 Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 7339.6

American Red Cross Nurse Apron

"German Air Raid on British Coast; 23 Killed, 50 Hurt" and "Talk of Peace Aids Kaiser" - Freeborn County Standard. August 13, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 13, 2017

Press Censorship Threatens Alexandria's Park Region Echo - August 12, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | August 12, 2017

In the wake of the recent arrest of the New Ulm Volkszeitung’s editor, Senator Knute Nelson received another letter concerning wartime press censorship. The letter arrived from Alexandria, Minnesota, where a local organization had already formed against the Park Region Echo, which members of the community believed to promote anti-war and pro-German propaganda. Constant Larson, an attorney representing the community organization, suggested that the paper be removed immediately from mail circulation, citing the paper’s violation of the Espionage Act. While he believed the editor could also be arrested under state law, Larson understood that this course of action would result in a drawn-out legal process and an uncertain jury trial, and it would be far better for the Federal Government simply to remove the Park Region Echo from circulation. In his letter, Larson noted that he had already appealed to the Commission on Public Safety, which ruled in favor of censoring the Park Region Echo, but he implored Senator Nelson to speed up the censorship process.


Press Censorship Letter

Aug. 10th, 1917.
Senator Knute Nelson,
Washington, D.C.
Dear Senator:-
As you doubtless know, from the very beginning the Park Region Echo has continually misrepresented everything the government has done to prosecute the war and lied about any one who has done anything to further the purposes of the government. We have thought to have him arrested under the state law, but that would lead to the delay and his case would come before a jury on which there would likely be some of his sympathizers, and we concluded that the most effective way to handle him would be to try to get his paper excluded from the mails. I think every issue of his papers contains stuff contrary to the espionage act recently passed. We took the matter up with the Commission of Public Safety and I had a letter from the secretary yesterday to the effect that the commission had made its recommendation to the postal authorities that the paper be kept out of the mails. I do not know, of course, what action the postal authorities will take or how soon they will act in the matter. We are anxious to have action taken just as soon as possible, and if you are in a position to urge speedy action, your assistance would be very much appreciated. If the government will not act, we will have to take steps ourselves here to put a stop to the treasonable sheet, but action by the government would be, I think, much to be preferred. The enemies of the government are very active and much trouble will result if early and firm measures are not taken to put a stop to their activities. We have begun to form a local organization to handle the situation in this country, and I think we will have no trouble in doing so, but it would be a great help to have the Echo shut out of the mails. If for no other reason than that it will show the people that the government means business. I do not care to criticise too much, but I think that if our Commissioner of Public Safety had taken proper action at the right time most of the disturbance which we have in the state would never have had a chance to start. I have sent you last issue of Echo.
With best regard,
Yours sincerely,
Constant Larson

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


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