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

"What to Eat and How to Cook It"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 5, 2018

This poster was produced to promote the Patriotic Food Show, put on by the State Council of Defense. The poster boasts the slogan "What to Eat and How to Cook It." Propaganda like this was very common and it was deemed patriotic to change ones diet in order to support the war effort. Individuals and families were advised to eat less meat and use less sugar so that more food could be sent to soldiers overseas. Because of the more limited diet, new foods and recipies were developed to keep meals from becoming boring. Eating 'patriotically' was seen as one of the best ways to support the war on the homefront.


A request from the Knox Presbyterian Church

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 4, 2018

In a letter to Senator Knute Nelson, The Knox Presbyterian Church in St. Paul called for him to support several moral measures they believed to be important. They asked him to support the prohibition of alcohol, censorship of motion pictures, a ban on inter-state race gambling, and an anti-polygamy resolution. These measures would not just impact Minnesota, but all of "the States and Territories." It is signed by the church pastor, but was compiled by the entire congregation. During this time, many conservative groups had a growing feeling of fear that the nation was descending into immorality, which forshadows the coming prohibition.


Senator Knute Nelson,
Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Nelson:-
As loyal and patriotic American citizens, we, the members and friends of Knox Presbyterian Church, do most respectfully, yet empathetically, request your hearty and active support of certain moral measures in this session of Congress and as early in the session as possible - measures that are important at any time to the highest welfare of the nation, but which are many fold more so in this time of crisis.
First: Effective War Prohibition of the liquor Traffic in this country and its dependecies, and a strong request of our Allies to follow suit.
Second: A thorough investigation of the alleged nation-wide boycott system by the brewers.
Third: An amendment to the "bone-dry law" making it apply to the District of Columbia, as well as to the States and Territories.
Fourth: A law to privide deferal censorship of motion pictures by a competent federal commission.
Fifth: A law to supress inter-state race gambling.
Sixth: The Gillett anti-polygamy amendment resolution.
We thank you for your past stand in favor of moral measures and feel sure that you will be glad to be active in favor of the above and other needed motives of patriotism and conservation. We wish to assure you of our support in your efforts along this line, and shall be pleased to have you suggest to us ways of co-operation. In lieu of individual signatures we are asking our Pastor and Clerk to sign this letter for us.
Respectfully yours,
Knox Presbyterian Church & Congregation

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers, 1861-1924, Minnesota Historical Society. 144.I.13.2F Box 27

"Debt $5,615,000,000" and "Enemy Agents Fire Norfolk" - The Daily People's Press. January 3, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 3, 2018

"Rush Troops to Europe, Say U.S. Delegates" and "Italian Soldiers Win First Victory of Year, Defeating Invaders" - The Duluth Herald. January 2, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 2, 2018

German Crimes Calendar

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 1, 2018

A paper 1918 calendar that reads, "GERMAN CRIMES CALENDAR" across the top. It consists of six pages, with a calendar for the months of January through June on the front of each page, and July through December on the back. Each page also features an image and a description of crimes committed by the German Army. There are two holes in the tops of the pages with pieces of string tied through to hold the pages together. This calendar is a prime exampe of the anti-German sentiment that was rampant during WWI in America. Individuals were very distrustful of their German neighbors, and prejudice was at an all time high. Items like this were not uncommon, and were not seen as offensive during this time period.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 12WM.90

Midnight in Coetquidan, France

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

William K Fraser was a Private First Class in the 151st Field Artillary, part of the U.S. Army 42nd Infantry ("Rainbow Division") and the same regiment we have seen through the eyes of George Leech. Fraser recived this diary for Christmas in 1917, and wrote entries consistently until July 1918.

Fraser's New Year's Eve was a bit uneventful, until it came time for midnight celebrations. It seems that others in Fraser's company did not appreciate his celebrations, as he had "hobnail shoes" thrown at him. Hobnail shoes are boots with small blunt metal projections on the soles for traction and durability.


December 31, 1917.
Nothing much. Stayed up till midnight. Then went thru company barracks with a crowd of fellows beating cans and awaking them up. Had our helmets on. Many hobnail shoes came after us. Bed 12:45 p.m.


"U-Boat Sunk; 4 Captured by U.S." and "To Appeal to Allies" - The Daily People's Press. December 30, 1917

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

"Japan Wants to Aid Allies" and "Peace Offer Will Go Before Allies" - The Twin City Star. December 29, 1918

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

The American Jewish World: On the Altar of Democracy

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

First Class Private Milton S. Mark of St. Paul died in France on December 17, 2017 from an illness that developed during his Atlantic crossing. He was 19 years old, and attended Central High School before serving in the military. Mark was featured on the cover of The Jewish American World newspaper on December 28, 1917 as the first St. Paul boy to die in U.S. Military service.

[...] Milton Marks, of St. Paul, a young Jew, was among those who went - and will not return. He is the first great sacrifice offering of St. Paul upon the altar of democracy. [...] The Jews of St. Paul will grieve at this loss. But if death had to come they will be proud that they were the first to make the great offering unto a freer world.

"Mark, Milton S." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F


David Backus Describes Christmas at War

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

This lengthy letter from David Backus to his mother, dated 28 December 1917, contains a variety of information. He recounts his Christmas festivities of decorating trees and stockings (which they filled themselves), as well as how he and his comrades spent their day off for the holiday. After expressing strong feelings about the Y.M.C.A., Backus comments on the dangers of pneumonia, though his mother shouldn't worry about him.


France, Dec. 28 1917
Dearest Mother:
Well Xmas is over we had a two day holiday but as the camp was in quarantine I could not get down to [Biarritz]. You will notice that I am a first lieutanant now. The weather certainly has been cold, have had snow on the ground for over two weeks and it snowed yesterday + again today. I am quite well and happy. Should send Father a check or via Wells Fargo for 55.00 to reimburse him for my Insurance, which he so kindly paid for me. [...] Yes we all donated in our barracks had two Xmas Trees [...] trimmed ours up, very well indeed. We each had a stocking hung on our bunk in the black hours, with our name on it filled with candy, nuts, apples + figs that we bought. Had three foot-ball games in the afternoon + a Minstral Show in the evening. Please don't subscribe anything to the Y.M.C.A. they charge about two prices more than the store even for things we are not liked, here at any rate. The Red Cross does more good in one day than the Y. does in a month. Pneumonia is very prevelant and a lot of fellows have died with it, oh don't worry. I have a corking sleeping bag, & 8 blankets, most of the poor fellows only have three & four then one and I take very good care of my feet. Wet feet I am afraid cause most of the [trembls] & cold, coowee! Tell Clinton to be sure & carry or take that sheepskin bag of mind, it will be a treasure and give him a lot of satisfaction. [...]
With Love your son

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


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