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.
J.G. Purple sent this letter to Senator Knute Nelson to chastise him and the rest of the United States Government about their lack of action against spies during the war. Purple claims that the Government simply gives them a slap on the wrist and tell them they've been "naughty" and then lets them go. Purple is clearly extremely upset about this and states that this "riles" him up. He also included a sensationalist newspaper clipping stating that the city of Philadelphia had created an air torpedo that could level the city of Berlin and end the war in 30 days. Purple is again extremely frustrated that the Government has not used this weapon and states that he sees that the majority of Congress is Pro-German.
Hon. Knute Nelson,
I am only an ordinary citizen, with millions of others, watching the great struggle. I have been wondering with them at our Government's apparents laxity in the matter of dealing with spies. [...] It seems beyond belief that after three and a half years of war the United States cannot deal with spied as they are dealt with in every other country in the world. Clemenceau has ordered "Pro-Germans shot," but the United States, to use the phrase of one of these newspaper items, simply says, "Naughty, naughty," slaps them on the wrist and either interns them, puts them under bond or frees them entirely. It riles me to even see one of these "sugar babies" or "sugar hogs" kicking and making a fuss about not getting enough sugar at a restaurant or hotel, but when a bomb thrower or incendiary or spy isn't taken out and shot when arrested, I am good and peeved. I am wondering if you would be kind enough to tell me whether anything will be done about this. Then, please note the air torpedo item herewith. If one didn't know better it would seem as though the majority in both the Senate and the House were pro-German, if a circumstance of this kind has come to their notice with no action being taken. Assuring you of my appreciation of your faithful work, I am
Yours very truly,
Philip Longyear sent this letter to his mother on April 6 from "Somewhere in France", where he recounts his first impressions of France. He comments on how lush and green the countryside it, and tells a story about his interaction with French children. He states that he had some chewing gum in his pocket that he gave out to the children who followed his company through town and that he immediately became the most popular soldier there. He even says that one little girl followed him for quite a while; she walked with him while holding on to his finger and he even put her on his shoulders for a while.
Somewhere in France
Apr. 6, 1918.
At last we are here. I suppose you have already heard by various ways that I am here. We have just had the censorship rules read to us and I am quite discouraged as to what I can write, but will do my best. You will have to use your imagination as to what I omit. [...] This is the most beautiful and picturesque country I ever saw. The grass is bright green, the trees are all coming out, and it is as warm as summer [...] A whole army of little children ran along side of us jabbering away, asking for pennies. [...] I had a dollars worth of gum, but found it stale so started passing it out to the children. I immediately became as popular as Santa Clause. [...] You would have laughed yourself sick seeing this huge mob of little boys and girls completely surrounding me, hanging to my coat tails to keep up with the pace. I happened to be the only one near who could speak any French at all and this also pleased them. One little girl in particular ran along with me for a long ways, holding onto my finger. [...] I was quite surprised how easily I understood her when I got her slowed down to about a hundred words a second. She was very bright and answered a lot of questions I managed to say in French. I let her ride on my shoulder for quite a ways and she had the time of her life. When I finally put her down she said, 'J'aime les Americains tres bien! Au Revoir" and ran off with her wooden shoes, clicking on the pavement. [...]
Love to all,
Citation: Edmund Joseph Longyear and Family Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A .L860 Box 2
In this letter to his sister Ruth, Paul Thompson tells his sister that he will be going to serve in Italy on a new special mission. He says that in preparation for this he has been asked to learn Italian and has been told that the mission has a diplomatic nature. He will first be heading to New Jersey to attend an Italian Conference, and will then head to Rome, which he calls the eternal city.
Apr. 4 - 18
Here is surprising news, I expect to go to Italy. When I reported yesterday they looked over my blank and immediately saw the word Italy. Then they were very anxious to have me go to Italy. Either I made a good impression or they were giving me Taffy for they said they wanted to send their best men to Italy. That they had a lot of preachers but they couldn't use them with either the French or Italian armies. There are only EJ men in Italy now - it is a new work especially requested by the Italian government. They further said that it was also in the nature of a diplomatic job to keep the armies of Italy friendly to our gov't and that I [...] be given a commission without rank - Whatever that is [...] So - on to the Eternal City. What do you think of it?
Citation: Paul Thompson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. A/T475 4/19-8/19
This is the Gold Star Roll file of Private Kingo Hvolboll, a Danish immigrant to Minnesota who composed and sold music. On this date, Hvolboll wrote a letter to his brother in Winnipeg after he had been drafted. Hvolboll tells his brother that he never really imagined that he would actually have to go to war and states that he ignored the fact that he could be called. But, Hvolboll seems determined to make the best of it, as wallowing would only make things harder. Included at the top of the letter is a few bars of music Hvolboll had composed. Hvolboll died if influenza at Camp Dodge on October 12, 1918.
Winnipeg, Man. Apr 3 - 1918.
First I design to thank you for your letter and Book of Army regulations which you sent me some time ago. In regard to the latter, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for your prudent advise [sic]; and discreet idea of exercizing [sic] the same, it does me a lot of good. I really never did think serioudly of the fact that I might be called, in fact, I ignored the idea entirely. Now I must admit that I really halfway believe that I am going, and if so, - I'm going into it for all there is in it, and try to make the best out of it. To show repugnance will only make things harder. [...] I certainly would rejoice if providence would act in obedience of my desire and thus lead me down to your Company. Say, wouldn't we have a great time though? __ Say Len, there is one of the rules that I should like to alter a little, it's about this here going to roll-in at 10 P.M. I don't believe it can be done. I must have a pass 7 times a week. [...]
Venlig Hilsen fra
Citation: "Hvolboll, Marinus K." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.D.4.4F
This small booklet, titled "Instructions and Information for Red Cross Workers in France", describes the various information and expectations for a Red Cross worker while stationed in France. Procedures are included for registration, travel, vacation time, requests to enter a war zone, personal expenditures and more. The booklet also discusses the uniform for both men and women. Men were allowed much more freedom in their dress and had the opportunity to earn and wear insignias and awards on their uniform. Womens uniforms varied based on their job and they were not allowed to earn or wear any insignia on their uniforms. The section titled "Don't Talk too Much" is particularly interesting as it advises Red Cross workers to not share war secrets with strangers.
[...]This booklet contains general information of assistance to Workers, including a digest of the orders and instructions which have been issued up to date. [...] Always remember we are a country at war, -- a country which is concentrated upon but one idea--TO WIN THE WAR. If perhaps some regulations seem cumbersome or complicated, remember that Military necessity has caused their adoption, and follow them scrupulously and cheerfully. We are Representatives of the United States of America. We must be thoughtfully careful that nothing we say or do, even inadvertently, shall reflect unfavorably upon our country or upon our Red Cross. [...] "Don't Talk too Much: Never forget that we are at war and that the enemy is always listening. Always look with suspicion on strangers, and never tell anything of a confidential nature to a woman, as women are the most successful of enemy spies. Be suspicious of anyone who asks questions of a military nature, who appears unduly interested in Military information, even though he may be or may appear an American officer. [...] Do not express your opinion on military matters nor on the general situation. Be loyal to your Government and to your superiors. Trust them to conduct the war while you attend to your own particular part of it. [...]
Citation: Helen Scriver papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P362
This is a very interesting letter form a concerned citizen in Chicago, (who wished to remain anonymous) urging Minnesota Senator Knute Nelson to vote against womens sufferage because of a conspiracy in the Catholic Church. The author states that the Catholic Church has long been conspiring to take over all public offices at the city, state, and federal level, and they plan to do this by giving women the right to vote. But they are hiding this desire because they do not want their plans revealed. He says that after the bill is passed the church will collect the spoils for themselves and get female members of the Catholic Church to get out and vote in droves. He states that only Catholic women will go out and vote because the church will be urging them to, while other women do not have an organization behind them telling them to do so. Once women have the right to vote, they will vote in Catholic individuals to all offices, and the US will never be able to take the government back from Catholic hands. The author urges Senator Nelson to look into this with other non-Catholic senators and to vote against womens sufferage.
Chicago Mar. 28th 1918
Through this letter I appeal to you to vote against Womems Equal Sufferage, when the bill comes up for final action in the Senate.
My reasons for so asking are as follows.
The Catholic Church, throught their powerful organization has for years been trying to get control of public offices in this country. Their political organization, the Knights of Columbus, are working hard to grab all public offices, City, State or Federal. They are not making public their attempts to have Equal Sufferage bills passed, for fear it would expose their aims, and it would have a tendency to prevent the bills from being passed. They are for equal sufferage good and strong, but are keeping it secret and letting the other side fight the battle, and if the Bill is passed and made a law the Catholic Church will gather the spoils, and in 10 years or less from now this Country will be in control of the Catholic Church. Remember that their organization is one, and when their strength is massed, with the aid of the women votes, they will be able to elect to office, men or women who will make laws to suit their church. The Catholic women will all go to the polls and vote, and many of the women on the other side will not care to vote, the reason being, that they are not under control of any organization to lead them to do so. [...] If the Catholic Church once gets control, how are the American people going to get it back? This question should be studied by yourself and other Senators who are not Catholics. I am not a member of any secret society, to any church or political organization, But I am just a common true American citizen who is looking for the future wellfare of my country. Vote against Womens Equal Suffrage and save the U.S.A. [...]
Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 144.I.13.5 Box 28
A small pocket dictionary with red paper cover and black lettering that reads 'POCKET-DICTIONARY / ENGLISH-FRENCH / FRENCH-ENGLISH'. Published by G.G. Duvivier, Paris, Librarie Fishbacher, 33, Rue de Seine. It was used by Stanley J. Harper of Annandale, Minnesota, when he served in the 349th Infantry during World War I. Dictionaries like this were common among US soldiers serving in France, as one would need to know at least a little French while out and about in town or if he hoped to start up a conversation with any French ladies!