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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

Preparing For the Worst at Sea

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

In his diary George Leach describes his regiment's transatlantic journey to the war front in France. In this entry, the S. S. Transport President Lincoln has reached the most dangerous area of their journey, where torpedo and submarine attacks are most likely. In the days preceding this entry, Leach reported multiple incidents of ships in nearby regions of the ocean that met watery fates. The men aboard the Lincoln had to be vigilant of security and safety procedures. They also practiced abandon ship drills in preparation for a worst case scenario at sea.


Saturday, October 27th
Cold and cloudy. Passed a sailing vessel at daylight, and the destroyers searched her. Worked all day making fixed arrangements for abandoning the ship in case of disaster. We are only four days off our final destination tonight, and from now on all officers remain at their posts. The air is Iike winter and the water very cold, so a plunge does not look as attractive as it did, back in the gulf stream. From now on, we will be in the acute submarine and mine danger zone.

Citation: George Leach Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D570.32 151st .L3 1963

The Red Cross and War Orphans

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 26, 2017

These instructions were sent by the American Red Cross to all divisional directors of Civilian Relief. The letter refers to suggestions that the Red Cross should establish institutions for children that are taken from soldiers' families. The Director-General conveys the direction of Dr. Hastings H. Hart of the Department of Child-Helping of the Russell Sage Foundation that this should not happen whenever possible, and that children should be kept with their families except where both parents were dead, the mother was "insane or feeble-minded" or incapable of caring for her children or very cruel to them. He also indicates that these cases should be referred to and handled by the established state agencies who normally handle orphan cases.


Red Cross Information
Red Cross Info
Red Cross Info

Inter-Office Letter
Date: October 26, 1917.
To: All Division Director. of Civilian Relief
From: Director-General of Civilian Relief
Subject: Child Welfare

From individual members of Chapters the suggestion has come that institutions for the care of children to be taken from soldiers' families, should be established by the Red Cross. [...] Dr. [Hastings H.] Hart [of the Department of Child-Helping of the Russell Sage Foundation] says:

"I believe that the children of soldiers should in almost all cases be regarded as members of a family and not as separate individuals. If there is a mother who is fit to bring up her own children she should have the opportunity to do so. It is a great cruelty to express our sympathy for a soldier's widow and then double her bereavement by taking away her children also.

"I believe also that where there are competent and fit relatives they should be encouraged and stimulated to care for the children of their kinsman. [...]

"It appears to me that it might be wise for your office to select one or two responsible agencies in each state and then recommend to the local chapters that whatever placing-out work needs to be done in their several states shall be done through those selected agencies."


"Surgeons at Clinics" and "Enemy Retires on Slav Front" - The Daily People's Press. October 25, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 25, 2017

"German Army Staggered by Petain's Master Drive" and "Not a Community in United States Fails to Buy Liberty Bonds" - The Duluth Herald. October 24, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 24, 2017

"Detectives Unearth Plot to Kill President Wilson" and "French Achieve a Great Success" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 23, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 23, 2017

David Backus Has a Perfect Landing

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | October 22, 2017

David Backus has finally been able to get some flight time, and seems to be doing well in his flight classes. In this diary entry, Backus also mentions the Gulf of Riga, where a naval clash between Germany and Russia was happening around this time.


Backus diary page
Backus diary page

Sunday Oct.22 - 17
Foggy - mist still heavy. did not roll out until 9. Edwards brought me some apples, and Yob some sandwiches. mist did not clear up until after eleven - dinner. The Germans are sure raising the dead with the Russians in the Gulf of Riga - am afraid of Russians making a separate peace it surely would be to her advantage to do so. Well I got 3-15 min Tours de Piece at 200 meters + one at 100 meters. my second landing - Mr. de Hooen - told the class was a classic - or perfect landing - other three were also very good. [...]

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

"Troopship Sunk by Submarine" and "First American Casualty List" - The Daily People's Press. October 21, 1917

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

Seasick Soldiers on the Atlantic

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

On the Regiment's first full day at sea enroute to France, George Leach describes a rough scene in his diary. Many of the men on the ship, the S. S. Transport President Lincoln, are suffering from seasickness, which impedes operations and military preparations. The men would not reach their destination until the end of the month.


Saturday, October 20th
Four hundred miles east of Hatteras at sunrise. Sea is rough and most of the men sick. Whole day spent in drill and inspection below decks. Two men lost over-board last night. So many of the officers are sick that it makes a tough day for the others. The hold and decks at times look simply hopeless, and all you can do is to keep at it. Details for work get sick before they report, and it is a constant fight to get things done. Tonight the sea is not running so high.

Citatoin: George Leach Diary. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. D570.32 151st .L3 1963

Liberty Loans in St. Paul

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

Mary T. Hill wrote in her diary about the success of the 2nd Liberty Loan campaign, which sold government war bonds in the Twin Cities. Apparently a newspaper report proclaimed that $17 million in Liberty Loans were purchased in St. Paul. These bonds were heavily advertised and and marketed as a way for common people to show their support, as they were used by the government to fund the war.


Mary Hill diary

October 19, Friday; North Oaks.
Yesterdays paper reported 17 million subscribe to 2nd Liberty Loan in St. Paul. This is another dark morning - flurries of snow down to 28 last night at 930. In the afternoon I went over to Rachels to see the children found them in the Barn seeing the calves. Helen Bunn and Annita [sic] Furness came out for the night.

Citation: 1915-1920. Mary T. Hill Papers. 64. C.5.6 Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 64.C.5.6

"U.S. Coasts Are To Be War Zones" and "Sentences Pickets: Judge Gives Four Suffragists Six Months in Jail." - The Daily People's Press. October 18, 1917.

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


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