WW1 Daybook

collections up close Blog

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.

See Collections Up Close Blog Archive

All MNHS Blogs

Subscribe by e-mail:

 Subscribe in a reader

WW1 Daybook

Machinists' Union Fears Vigilante Action

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

The St. Paul chapter of the International Association of Machinists union wrote to Senator Knute Nelson expressing concern for the fate of their members should they be accused of anti-American activities. They forwarded Nelson a resolution passed by the Enid Lodge of Oklahoma, which they have endorsed, that demands fair trials and, if uprisings do occur, just punishments for members of labor organizations. The resolution cites occurrences in other states (Arizona, Montana, and Oklahoma) that they are afraid will be repeated. Members of the I.A. of M asked Nelson to take action in the Senate to ensure that worker's rights would be protected.

Their concerns were not unfounded, as sedition laws and vigilante justice against those thought to be unpatriotic were not uncommon. The Brisbee Deportation in Arizona saw over 1,000 mine workers who were considered un american forced into boxcars by vigilantes and sent across the Arizona border to New Mexico. In Montana, sedition laws were enforced by local committees, while in Oklahoma, tenant farmers revolted in the Green Corn Rebellion because they opposed the war. In many cases, antiwar behavior was associated with union organizing. (Sources: http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/bisbee/history/overview.html, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/year-montana-rounded-citizens-shooting-their-mouths-180953876/, http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=GR022)


Sept 12, 1917.
Hon. Knute Nelson M.C.
Washington, D.C.
Dear Sir:-
The following resolutions were endorsed by the members of this lodge of machinists, and a copy directly sent to you:
[...] Whereas, During these most trying times there are being used by the enemies of organized labor various methods to frustrate every effort made by the workers to keep abreast of the progress of the nation, and
Whereas, The right of public assemblage, free press and free speech is being jeopardized, and
Whereas, These are the cardinal virtues of the Constitution of the United States, and
Whereas, We as organized men do not uphold violence in any manner but demand that law violators be given a fair trial before an unprejudiced jury, and
Whereas While this at present is affecting a small per cent of the workers, only, unless it is brought to the attention of the workers, it may soon become nationwide.
Therefore be it resolved, That when uprisings occur, the Federal Authorities investigate and find the guilty parties and prosecute them according to law, and avoid a repetition of the Arizona, Montana, Oklahoma and other similar troubles, [...].
I.L. Chambers
W.H. Vanvalkenburg
C.F. Kautz, Secretary.
Yours truly,
G.J. Sherwood
R.S. Lodge #112
607 Topping St.
St. Paul, Minn.

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

Red Cross Letter on Yarn Shortages

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 11, 2017

In September 1917, the American Red Cross experienced a small conflict concerning the nationwide scarcity of yarn, a conflict that took place between its Washington Headquarters and its regional Northern Division. Earlier in the year, the Red Cross Headquarters at Washington had requested enormous supplies of knitted goods from its regional divisions. However, Washington was unable to provide yarn, knitting needles, or instructions on how to knit, and the particular difficulty of acquiring yarn made it impossible to meet requirements. Mr. R. C. Noyes, Chairman of St. Paul’s Section for Military Relief, wrote to his local Red Cross about this problem, and the Division Manager issued a prompt reply. He expressed his agreement with Mr. Noyes’ position, noting that Washington was “a bit off” in its expectations, given that the entire nation’s supply of yarn could not provide one-third of the requested knitted goods. He went on to report that the Northern Division was in the process of pressuring the Washington Headquarters to purchase more yarn, and the Division was also working to buy whatever supplies became available. Though he doubted that this strategy would bring a full solution, the Division Manager nonetheless encouraged Mr. Noyes to follow up on the matter. As he put it, “Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington.”


Red Cross Yarn Storage
Red Cross Yarn Storage

September 11, 1917.
Dear Mr. Noyes:
I have your letter of the 8th and take pleasure in acknowledging receipt of it at once. First as to the yarn, Washington was evidently a bit off to ask the Red Cross workers of this country to produce a large quantity of knitted articles, when they were unable to deliver either raw materials, instructions for knitting, or needles. They find now that it is almost impossible to obtain yarn with which to produce articles and I am told there is not sufficient yarn in the United States to supply one-third of the required amount. That is the situation. We are putting every possible pressure to bear on Washington to get the yarn as well as buying every pound that is obtainable. I can only express regret at my inability to help in this unfortunate situation. The best you can do I think is to string things along until we can get it. Keep after us, we are keeping after Washington. Second in regard to the Surgical Dressings Committee of America. Through the instrumentality of the Headquarters at Washington an amalgamation has been made with this committee whereby they became a department of the American Red Cross but with authority to solicit independently. I think it remains with the individual to contribute or not. My own personal thoughts is that I would prefer to see one fund for all purposes. I cannot consistently advise in the matter as it is purely a personal question with each individual. Of course the Red Cross is also producing surgical dressings.
Very truly yours,
A.R. Rogers

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




David Backus's Photos and Notes from Flight School

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 10, 2017

After serving for eighty-nine days as an ambulance driver on the Western Front, St. Paul native David H. Backus enrolled in flight school at Tours, France. While there, he learned from both theory and practice: from classroom-style lectures on the basics of flight mechanics and from test drives of combat planes. Backus is pictured here after his first solo flight in an 80 horsepower Gnome model, built by a French plane manufacturer. His notebooks from flight school discuss the aerodynamic forces of lift, thrust, weight, and drag, and they weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a variety of wing styles. For example, the reverse Curre style, diagrammed below, stabilizes the wing but slightly reduces its ability to generate lift. After twenty-five hours of in-flight training and fifty successful solo landings, Backus received his pilot’s license on November 3, 1917. Of his class of seventeen pilots, six would be assigned to the French Air Squadron C. 21, and they would be the first American aviators to see combat in World War I.


Backus Flight School Notes
Backus Flight School Notes
Backus Flight School Notes

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

"Order Restored in Russian Army through Retiring" and "U-Boats Aided by Neutral, Notes Held by U.S. Show" - The Daily People's Press. September 9, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 9, 2017

"United States War Aims Made Public" and "Anti-American Conspiracy Seen in Government Raid Wednesday" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. September 8, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 8, 2017

Inventory and Financial Statement for University of Minnesota Base Hospital no. 26

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

During World War I, the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic were responsible for the operation of Red Cross Base Hospital No. 26. Though the hospital was technically inaugurated in mid-December of 1917, its officials worked to document detailed inventories and financial statements well into September. On the sixth of that month, the hospital’s Purchasing Officer sent a financial statement and a lengthy inventory to a Mr. E. C. Gale at the Security Building of St. Paul, Minnesota. The enclosed inventory was forty-six pages long, and it included laboratory and kitchen equipment, office supplies, and hospital furniture. Also included was a lengthy list of medicine and antiseptics, which lists 60 tubes of cocaine and 3 bottles of heroine. Including donations, the value of all equipment and supplies was calculated to be $49,473.57. Of that sum, $32,345.59 was spent by the Purchasing Officer of the University of Minnesota, while the Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Rochester branches of the American Red Cross contributed an additional $9,000.
[Background information on the hospital, such as its inauguration date, may be found here and in the accompanying document.


UMN Hospital
UMN Hospital
UMN Hospital
UMN Hospital

September 6, 1917
Mr. E.C. Gale
800 Security Building,
My dear Mr. Gale:--
I enclose herewith a copy of my report, as purchasing officer of U. of M. Base Hospital #26, to the American National Red Cross dated September 1st, consisting of financial statement and valued inventory of equipment purchased by me and equipment and supplies donated. [...] I shall be glad to give you any further information you may desire upon request. So far as the purchasing and assembling of th equipment is concerned the Unit was ready for service July 15th last. [...]

Citation: University of Minnesota Base Hospital Committee records, 1917-1918. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [P2173]

"Federal Agents cover Nation in Big I.W.W. Raid" and "Cadorna's Troops Gain as Germans Plan to Retreat" - Freeborn County Standard. September 6, 1917

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

"Allied and Enemy Navy Yards are Raided by Airmen" and "President Sends Message to New National Army" - The Daily People's Press. September 5, 1917

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

George Leach Marches Out to War from Fort Snelling

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | September 4, 2017

George E. Leach was a Colonel of the 151st Field Artillery, the Minnesota unit of the Rainbow Division. The Rainbow Division was composed of National Guard units from across the country. Leach kept a diary while in the service because he was aware that his father, Captain William B. Leach, regretted not keeping an account of his own service in the Civil War. In his first diary entry, George Leach has his father's service at the forefront of his mind as his Regiment begins its journey overseas.


Tuesday, September 4th, 1917
Broke camp at Fort Snelling at two P.M. and marched down the same road with the Regiment that my father marched down with his to the Civil War and at six-thirty entrained on our first leg of the journey to France. The regiment was carried in two sections.

Citation: George Leach, War Diary, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota. D570.32 151st .L3 1962

Soixante Trois, published in France by St. Paul Red Cross volunteer

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

In the sixth issue of Soixante Trois, published in France by St. Paul Red Cross volunteer ambulance driver Ezra Curry, the main topic is the militarization of the volunteer motor ambulance sections in France. Curry was a member of the 63rd Section of the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Service until it was taken over and militarized by the United States Army. Most issues of the newspaper feature news from the front, personality profiles, poetry, cartoons, and even advertisements. Curry is specifically mentioned in a poem "Here's a Little Story" on page 7.


Publication of Red Cross Ambulance Driver
Publication of Red Cross Ambulance Driver
Publication of Red Cross Ambulance Driver
Publication of Red Cross Ambulance Driver
Publication of Red Cross Ambulance Driver

Soixante Trois
Vol. 1 No. 6 Aux Armees, France Sept 2, 1917. Prix 25C
A Volunteer's Point of View.
The importance to us of the step just taken by our government in militarizing car service cannot be exaggerated. This step has long been foreseen by us and we have awaited it with interest. It was a step that we welcomed. Now that it has come we are filled with dismay: we welcomed militarization but not this militarization. Frankly we are disappointed. We had hoped to preserve the advantages of the old system while receiving the benefits of the new. We had hoped that our own standing and the standing of our officers would be regularized; and yet we trusted to preserve the volunteer spirit and personal initiative that have made our work successful. We feel that the government is over-looking an important factor in suppressing the field service of the American Red Cross. In every country there is a large element fit for military service of a kind, who are not, however, up to the physical standard set by our army. Many of the most efficient men, past and present, in our sections, are ment that would be refused in any active service, some because of their age, others because of some physical defect. Now that our country is at war there will be thousands of such men who know themselves capable of work that the army regulations deny them, and who, whether from pride or conscience, will be eager to do their share. Our service, maintained as it was, but recognized officially by our government, woul dhave offered these men their opportunity. Enlistment might have been required for the duration of the war or confined to those rejected for military service and those not coming within the limits of conscription. We regret, too, that we have not been given the opportunity to finish our engagements and that we are required to enlist at once or to leave the service as soon as we can be spared. There are many of us not yet of age; for these it is hard to take such a step without the advice of their parents; for those of us who can decide for themselves and wish to enter another service, the necessity of waiting is a hardship: time is golden - at any rate it seems to to a man who wants to act and cannot. We wonder why each section could not have been continued on the former enlistment basis, at least so long as the engagements of a certain proportion, say four-fifths of its present personnel, remained in force. We have not hesitated to give our points of view frankly. But let nothing we have said be misinterpreted. Explain the action as you will, call it military necessity or anything else, the fact remains that it has been accomplished. Whether we intend to leave the service or not, we are needed here until we can be replaced; we are not serving individuals but our own country and France. This is our opportunity. -A Volunteer.

Citation: Ezra Curry Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P123


Subscribe to RSS - WW1 Daybook