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.
"Italians Take Offensive on Asiago Line" and "British and Russ Blow Up 11 Submarines to Foil Foe in Baltic" - The Minneapolis Morning Tribune. May 17, 1918
Gold Star Roll file of Private Melvin Lane, who was born in Evansville, Minnesota. He sent his mother this postcard depicting The American Spirit on this day in 1918 just before he arrived overseas. He tells his mother about his trip, saying he was lucky to have not gotten sea sick and that he expects to arrive in Europe either that night or the following morning. Lane was killed in action in France on July 26, 1917.
Will drop you a few lines to let you know we are just about across the pond so I guess we will get there O.K. Had a fine trip I was luckey [sic] enuff [sic] not to get sea sick we shore [sic] had fine weather. It is a little cold and ruff [sic] but not very bad. We expect to land tonight or in the morning. I will write you again as soon as we land.
Citation: "Lane, Melvin L." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F
"Allies Reach Out For New Vantage Points" and "Believed Austria-Hungary to be Forced to Participate More Heavily in Offensive" - The Duluth Herald. May 15, 1918
This letter was from the American Red Cross' National Headquarters and sent to all of its Division Directors of Civilian Relief. It concerns the government insurance policy of enlisted men, which usually gave relatives payments in case of a man's death. The War Risk Insurance Bureau decided that in the case of suicide, if the man was insane when he committed suicide the insurance would still be paid but if he was sane it was not payable; highlighting the stigma against mental illness during this time. But, in October this rule would change so that families receive insurance benefits whatever the mental state of the person who committed suicide.
May 14, 1918.
[...] 1. This office has requested decision from the War Risk Bureau as to whether suicide by an enlisted man will affect the validity of his government insurance policy. [...] 'If the insured was insane when he committed the act, the insurance is payable. If, however, he was sane when he committed suicide, the insurance is not payable. The question whether or not the insured was sane or insane at the time of the act is a question of fact. Before an award of insurance is made, a sufficient showing of insanity to justify this Bureau in making such an award must be presented. A statement of finding of sanity or insanity made by the Army or Navy Department is not binding upon this Bureau, but such statement or finding may be accepted as evidence one way or the other. The sanity of every person is presumed in the absence of evidence to the contrary and insanity can not be presumed from the mere fact of suicide." [...]
Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781
On this date Frances Mary Rogers left the United States for France, where she would drive supplies first for the American Fund for French Wounded and later the YMCA. Upon returning to the United States she would found the St. Paul unit of the the Women's Overseas Service League, an organization made of women who had served overseas during the First World War with the purpose of companionship and helping those who had been impacted by the war, particularly veterans. In this small biography of her from the League's papers she describes being ready to evacuate Paris, should the Germans break through, as well as dancing and visiting with the troops.
Had to work in Paris first in packing room. Then had interesting work carrying supplies to French Hospitals during bombing period and Big Bertha. Was there when we thought we must vacate Paris any moment and during the Chateau Thierry drive I had charge of the Vestiare at the Gare De L'Est when the French refugees came pouring in. Helped at ARC #2 during C.T. Drive. We had our bags packed and our machines in order expecting if the Germans should come into Paris to help the ARC vacate. Drove for ARC and visited the American boys in French hospitals. [...]
Citation: "Frances Mary Rogers." Women's Overseas Service League, St. Paul Unit, Records, 1919-1942. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. BH7/.W872
Maurice Masterson of Barnesville, Minnesota, sent this letter to his mother on Mother's Day, 1918, in which he describes how important she is to him. Masterson wrote numerous letters to his mother and father during his time in France. He was killed in action on November 1, ten days before the war ended.
On Active Service
American Expeditionary Force
May 12, 1918
Dear Mother O' Mine,
There are a few times in a fellows life, just a few, when he thinks he's out grown mother. They don't last long and may seem trivial but I'll mention them anyway. The "first long pants" stage, the first sweetheart stage, and the days son graduates from High School. But the aforementioned trousers eventually need mending, the girl changes her mind (they are that way at fifteen), And the High School diploma is viewed in its proper proportions. Then dependable old mother has to be on the job and she always is. It's a way mothers have. And again there are times in a man's life when just about the biggest thing is a mother. In moments of adversity that come now and again in ordinary living it's the thot [sic] of mother that dries the gloom away and sets the world aright. But those are ordinary times. One thinks one knows what a mother means to him. Never until a supreme test comes does she stand out as the wonderful thing she really is. We sons of American mothers are passing thru [sic] such a test now. We're staking the biggest thing we have, our lives, for the finest things in life, honor, justice, brotherhood, the right of the free men to live as God ordained that they should live. [...] And so mother dear I'm thinking of you today, on Mother's Day. You mean more to me than ever before, just because I need you more, and not because you're any different. [...] Remember, whatever may happen, that I'm thinking of you every day, that every day is mothers day to me. Be brave I know you will, andthe thot [sic] that you are is going to carry ,me thru when nothing else could. I'm well, very well. I love you mother o'mine.
Corp. M.E. Masterson
F Battery 151 F.A.
Citation: "Masterson, Maurice E." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F
Willard W. Bixby was an ambulance driver with the Red Cross in Italy. Bixby's passport was issued to him on May 11, 1918. It contains both French and Italian Visas, and includes a Red Cross Identification card. It is very interesting to see how US passports have changed and stayed the same since WWI. For example, all the different visa pages fold out instead of being bound into a small booklet as they are in modern passports.
Citation: Willard W. Bixby and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/.B624
This letter was sent to the St. Paul Chapter of the American Red Cross by Mr. Ernst Hermann along with $24. Though written in German, the Red Cross' translations reveal that the $24 was for chaplains in the army camps. The Red Cross was not entirely too sure what to do with the money, as they do not usually receive donations in this way. They didn't know if the money should be sent to Washington with the same instructions or if it should just give it straight to the militia chaplain.
I am sending herewith check for the amount of $24.00 which I have received from Red Cross workers in this community. This is to be used for the ministers in the camps.
May 15th, 1918
[...] Dear Mr. Gerould:
A check in the amount of $24.00 has just been sent to us by one who writes from Green Isle, Minn., the letter being written in German, with statement as follows: 'This donation is to be used for the chaplains in Army camps.' What is your advice as to the way in which we should deal with this? Is it your opinion that it should be remitted along to Washington with the same instructions, or should it in your opinion be turned over to the chaplain of the City Militia having men under his charge coming from the neighborhood of Green Isle? [...]
May 16th, 1918
[...] Dear Mr. Herrmann:
Your Letter of the 10th received, enclosing check for $24.00 to be used for the chaplains in the camps. We will see that it is used in this way and thank you all for this donation. [...]