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

"A Few Points ... of Immediate and Urgent Importance"

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 26, 2018

In a letter to Senator Knute Nelson, Abbot Edes Smith "briefly" provided five pages of suggested policy changes he felt would improve the Country. Firstly, he states that the Federal Government should take control of the railroads during the way to speed transportation and decrease the cost, with the railroads being promptly returned to the private companies that owned them after the war. He then goes on to discuss the growing socialist population in the United States and his belief that they should be sought out and eradicated. He fears they will bring the ideas of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia to the United States. Smith also states his belief that the Secretary of War is incompetent in his position and should either be replaced or edged out of power. Furthermore, Smith brings up the idea of having a universal military that every able-bodied man would join once they reached the age of twenty-one, which would decrease lawlessness in America. He concluded by saying that Presidential cabinet positions should be filled by the best businessmen, of any party, as opposed to "weak democrats whose only qualification appears to be a blind submission to the will of the administration."


26 January 1918
[...]My Dear Sir:
Will you kindly permit me, as briefly as possible, most earnestly to offer for your consideration a few points which seem to me of immediate and urgent importance to our Country? All good citizens of Minnesota and thoughtful men throughout the Country would look upon your retirement from the senate as an irreparable loss to the Nation, and this necessarily to the world. Mot only during the war, but during the reconstruction period after the war, men of your character and ability cannot be spared. Pardon this unavoidable personality, but no other man from Minnesota could even begin to repair such a loss. Your Country calls you just as truly as it calls its soldiers, and I am confident that you will not refuse to listen to the call. [...]

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

Enthusiasm at Camp Jackson

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 25, 2018

Raymon Bowers was a soldier from Minnesota who served in France as part of the Army ordnance repair. In a letter to the staff of the Minnesota Historical Society [presumably where he worked before entering the Army], Bowers describes the enthusiasm of all of the soldiers and gives an account of his daily schedule at Camp Jackson in South Carolina.

Camp Jackson S.C.
Jan. 12, 1918
Dear Mr. Talman,
It seems years since I left St. Paul: after figuring, it's a month today since I enlisted. Some months pass like a week & some extend over a period of years. Such was the last. I arrived here this morning after 61 hours of riding on a train. we were given chairs cars & while we had plenty to eat the mere fact we must stay on the train so long, tired every one. It's rather difficult sleeping sitting up & as we spent three nights that way, we landed here in good shape to lie down & snooze. [...]
It is difficult to realize what real conditions exist here compared to St. Louis. A real iron bed with springs, a tick filled with straw, 3 blankets, and a comforter. Ye Gods! I expect to sleep better tonight than ever before in ages. The officers treat you like humans and you feel as tho you're someone. When I look around and see the boys it really seems like home. Every one smiling and happy, everyone in good beds and lots of fresh air. From sleeping on the floor packed just as close as mortals could get, never a window open, the air absolutely vile, cold, and damp and shivering. May be you don't think this doesn't look good! [...] Tell the rest of the Hist. staff that a letter would be a great treat & as time passes I hope to be able to write them all. [...]
As ever,

Citation: Raymon Bowers Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P111

Flight Instrument and Log

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 24, 2018

This is an instrument used for calculating an aircraft's course and distance, developed by the Compass Department of the British Admiralty and used by Donald Harries during World War I. It consists of three concentric German silver discs and two arms that pivot on a central bolt. The outer disc is marked "TIME OR / DISTANCE" and is graduated from 10 to 270. The second disc has the same scale around its edge as well as a 360 degree compass scale with the North arrow at "60" on the time/distance scale. The smallest disc is covered with a grid of squares with the four cardinal points scaled from the center of the disc to the edges. The arms each have a sliding indicator and extend to the edge of the smallest disc. Donald Harries went to flight school training in Italy at an air school named Battaglione Scuole Aviatiori. After this he found himself in bombing raid training in England with the Royal Air Force. One of the images below is of a movement order for Harries from the Royal Air Force. Harries participated in bombing raids with the Royal Air Force and France in bombing raids targeted in Germany. Harries kept a flight log while he was abroad that is dated from September 1917 to September 1918. In a log dated January 19th (1918) at 7:30 P.M. Harries writes that he had his first flight at night. The log book is in Italian but Harries wrote his log responses in English.


Citation: Donald Harries Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota. P108, PUID 6159.5

"War Preparation is Ahead of Plans" and "Ottoman Troops Quit Foe Leader" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. January 23, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 23, 2018

"German Editor Arrested" and "Ostend is Bombarded" - The Daily People's Press. January 22, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 21, 2018

"Pyromaniac Set Fire To Big U.S. Storehouse; Agents of Germany Trying To Stop Ship Sailings" and "Attitude of Expectancy" - The Duluth Herald. January 21, 1918.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 21, 2018

David Backus Flying High

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 20, 2018

In this entry, Backus describs a day of exploring and flying. He states that he found ruins of a Roman forum while going for a walk. He also discusses giving a General a ride back to camp in his plane. He is proud of himself because he did not have any mishaps while flying with the General. The photo included depicts Backus standing in front of the plane he flew during this period. The photo is dated January 20th, 1918.


Sunday Jan. 20, 18.
Out at ten, glourious day. [...] we went for a walk, most quaint old town. Afterwards I strolled up hill near Fort- found near the church Ruins of old Roman Forum 1337- then after walls the ruins of an old Monastic School 1636- [...] We all had dinner at hostel Meet Captain Bloch - head of Eadill- as he had been away on a mission. I drive Capt Bloch - queen - younger Super - home - 1 hr. to camp - never shifted once- back in 45 min. Met gang at tea rooms- went to dinner with Brenner at his house- has three beautiful children- his wife is French- [...] Then left 8: for Opera [...]


"Air Feats of Lafayette Men" and "Italy is Making Slackers Fight" - The Appeal. January 19, 1918

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 19, 2018

American Red Cross Nurse's uniform

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 18, 2018

This American Red Cross nurse's uniform was used by Elizabeth Hensel of Saint Paul. It consists of a heavily starched white cotton wrap dress with blue collar, a red cross sewn at right collar, three red stripes on the left forearm (indicating length of service), a pair of dark blue cotton cuffs, a white lawn "Priscilla" cap, an organdy headband with a red cross at front, and a navy blue lawn headpiece with white organdy front piece featuring a red cross and blue stripe.


Nurse's uniform

Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 9657.16.A-E

"Ruin in Wake of Hun in France" and "Ambulance Men Have a Little Concert" - Bemidji Daily Pioneer. January 17, 1918.

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | January 17, 2018


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