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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 Red Cross Knitting Pattern Book

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

The Red Cross continuously received letters, from people all over the country, asking how individuals at home could contribute to the war effort. In response, the Red Cross created resources like this book of knitting patterns, produced September 10, 1917. People could order one of these pattern books, produce the patterns inside, and contribute their work to the war effort. These pattern books ensured that home-produced items were standardized and allowed those who wished to contribute their time and talent to produce items that were useful and needed on the front lines. Patterns in this book include socks, scarves (or "mufflers"), hoods (or "helmets"), and sweaters.

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 67.29.7

Knitting instructions

"The American Red Cross will Provide One Million Christmas Boxes"

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

In September 1917, the American Red Cross began an ambitious project to send one million Christmas packages to soldiers at home and abroad. As the Red Cross saw it, the war in Europe made Christmas of 1917 “more worthwhile” than any Christmas of the past thirty years, and they hoped that each soldier and sailor would receive a package for the occasion. In a pamphlet published by the American Red Cross Women’s Bureau, the organization provided instructions for the preparation and shipment of Christmas packages. Suggested gift items included dried fruit, harmonicas (or “mouth organs”), electric torches, compasses, playing cards, licorice, chewing gum, tobacco, and water-tight matchboxes. Donors were advised against including glass items, perishable food products, or chocolate that might melt in transit. Once the donor had collected a number of these suggested items, the Red Cross would provide packaging materials, namely a khaki handkerchief, which would be tied around a pad of writing paper. Beginning November 1st, these Christmas packages were shipped abroad in phases, since shipping space was scarce.


Red Cross Package Letter
Red Cross Package Letter
Red Cross Package Letter
Red Cross Package Letter

Remember Christmas is going to be more worth while this year than any in thirty years past, because we have a real duty to perform to our Soldiers and Sailors. The AMERICAN RED CROSS will provide one million Christmas boxes, as prescribed in A.R.C. 404, a few of which are herewith enclosed. The allotment to this Division is thirty-three thousand of these packets, which amount has been pro-rated throughout the Chapters of the Division. Your quota is 4500 packets. You will kindly subdivide this number throughout your branches and auxiliaries. Please remember we are depending on you for this amount, as only in this way can ALL of our Naval and Army forces here and abroad receive a Christmas greeting from home Khaki Handkerchiefs, Writing Pads and fine Checkerboards can be secured through the Red Cross Bureau of Supplies, 527 Second avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota. A requisition should be made at once for these articles. One-third/or as many as possible of your apportionment must be in the Division Bureau of Supplies depot not later than November 1st so as to give time to make shipment abroad, the balance as soon as possible thereafter. If for any reason you cannot possibly fill the requirements herein requested, please notify Division Headquarters. Packets for foreign shipment should be made as compact and small as possible, as the Government is having difficulty in securing shipping space.

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

"United States Navy is in Pink Condition" and "Illegitimate Use of Neutral Diplomats by Germany Widespread" - The Duluth Herald. September 14, 1917

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

University of Minnesota Professor Fired After Accusations of Pro-German Sentiment

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

On September 13, William Schaper, a Political Science Professor at the University of Minnesota, was fired by the Board of Regents for expressing "pro-German sentiment" and disloyalty. Schaper, who had worked at the U of M for 16 years, maintained that while he did oppose the war, he had always complied with the law and encouraged his students to do likewise. Speaking out against the war in any way was dangerous, and many people who were considered "sympathizers" risked losing their jobs and the possibility of violence from their neighbors. While Schaper was exonerated in 1938, his firing is an example of widespread Anti-German hysteria that gripped the nation.


The University of Minnesota
Board of Regents
September 13, 1917
The following resolution was unanimously adopted:
Whereas, the Minnesota Commission of Public Safety by letter addressed to the President of this Board, advised that it was claimed by informants of that Commission that W.A. Schaper is a rabid Pro-German, and, on this day, at the request of the Board, Professor Schaper appeared before it and was interrogated concerning his loyalty to this Government, and,
Whereas, the statements made by him before his Board satisfy that his attitude of mind, whether due to conscientious consideration or otherwise and his expressed unwillingness to aid the United States in the present war render him unfit and unable rightly to discharge the duties of his position as Professor in the Department of Political Science of this University, and
Whereas, this Board holds that the best interests of the University, the State, and the Nation require unqualified loyalty on the part of all teachers in the University, coupled with willingness and ability by precept and example to further the national purpose in the present crisis.
Therefore, be it resolved that the relations existing between W.A. Schaper and this University be, and the same are, hereby terminated...

Citation: William A. Schaper papers


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]


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