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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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David Backus Returns to Vailly, Reflects on “How Low Men Can Fall” - July 28, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 28, 2017


Still prohibited from visiting the dangerous Rouge Maison, David Backus returned once again to the town of Vailly. As he drove up, he recalled a story that a local wine shop worker had recently recounted. The famous German general Alexander von Kluck had once visited the same wine shop, and he had forced the worker to taste his glass of water to make sure it was not poisoned. When Backus arrived at Vailly, he found it a wreck, “much worse off than when [he was] last here.” The town, which rested a mere 600 yards from the Second Line trenches, experienced near-constant shelling, and there was almost nothing left. While Backus was there, a shell exploded a mere 100 feet from his ambulance; in his diary, he confesses that he was “scared stiff for the first time.” Later that day, Backus picked up an injured German soldier who was suspected to have important military information. While his ambulance had room for four, Backus could not transport three additional Allied soldiers, for fear that they would kill the German before authorities could extract any information. Backus simply states, “hell of a state of affairs – does it not show how low men can fall?”
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Still prohibited from visiting the dangerous Rouge Maison, David Backus returned once again to the town of Vailly. As he drove up, he recalled a story that a local wine shop worker had recently recounted. The famous German general Alexander von Kluck had once visited the same wine shop, and he had forced the worker to taste his glass of water to make sure it was not poisoned. When Backus arrived at Vailly, he found it a wreck, “much worse off than when [he was] last here.” The town, which rested a mere 600 yards from the Second Line trenches, experienced near-constant shelling, and there was almost nothing left. While Backus was there, a shell exploded a mere 100 feet from his ambulance; in his diary, he confesses that he was “scared stiff for the first time.” Later that day, Backus picked up an injured German soldier who was suspected to have important military information. While his ambulance had room for four, Backus could not transport three additional Allied soldiers, for fear that they would kill the German before authorities could extract any information. Backus simply states, “hell of a state of affairs – does it not show how low men can fall?”


Saturday July-28-17
Bob Drake and I walked down to take a picture of Archie-mounted on armored motor trucks. Coffee, breakfast 10. Up to Vailly - yes same old place. [...] - have cut out Rogue Mason as it is too dangerous. [...] The other night at Hartennes a girl in a wine shop told us that two years ago she had to give Von Kluck, the famous German General a drink of water and he made her drink part of the water first for fear it was poisoned. Met a chap up at the Farm who has been a waiter in Savoy Hotel, London and consequently speaks good English. He was within 15 yds of Boche Trenches last night putting up Barbed wire in No Man's Land and is goign to do it again tonight. We are only 600 yds. from Second Line Trenches and 1500 yds. from First. There are not Third Line Trenches here. The Farm is a complete wreck. Vailly is most worse off than when we were last here. Well the Huns have been quiet so far today. Lots of Avions over - back & forth - few shells but no many. got some rather good pictures; [...] Am going to try & come up tomorrow again as an aid & go up to the second & if possible first line trenches. What is left of this town - nothing. Rather quiet. We all had supper here at Abri. Got call 7:30. Stan Metcalf came along as Aid Astel. Well we got a couple of shells just after we reached there. All beat it down Abri then shortly went down. We had a Boche Barrage & French attack this at ten. Stars shells fell within three hundred feet from car. I was in rode watching & Boche drolled six shells in a row. At first one I ran dropped alongside of wall - rockes dust. one shell exploded about 100 feet from me on the rode. scared, yes. I was scared stiff for the first time. not at the first shell, but for that I could not get to the Abri & was there on road uncovered with shells all around [...] Got call at 4 A.M. Boche both knees smashed, has important information, young chap only 22 years and from a Reserve Regiment. There were three other Blesses but doctor refused to let me take any of them. Afraid they might kill the Hun - hell of a state of affairs it it not. shows how low men can fall. [...]
 

Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [123.D.10.5B]

Army Motorcycle

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 28, 2017
Army motorcycle 1940

This is a  photograph of a US Army motorcycle rider and mechanic working on a bike in June, 1940.

This image forms part of our Minneapolis and St. Paul Newspaper Negative collection. Additional photographs in this series may be available in the library, please view the finding aid here.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.

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"England Depressed over the Future" and "I.W.W. Agitator Arrives in Bemidji" - The Bemidji Daily Pioneer. July 27, 1917.

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

Summit Keg Cap

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 27, 2017

A green plastic beer keg cap produced by Summit Brewing Company of Saint Paul, Minnesota, for their Extra Pale Ale, circa 1986.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this cap in our collections database.

We have a new website for all our blogs, Item of the Day and podcasts. Please visit the new site.

"Shall I say it is wonderful? Yes!" - July 26, 1917

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


This letter of gratitude was sent from Curtis Sprogue to Mrs. Lowry of the Minneapolis Chapter of the American Red Cross. The Minneapolis Chapter had sent him socks and a vest, which he treasures, as a reminder of the work that women in the United States are doing to support soldiers, as well as the city of Minneapolis. "Shall I say it is wonderful? Yes!" He believed he spoke for many of the American soldiers in France who had received their gifts.

 

Letter to Mrs. Lowry
Letter to Mrs. Lowry
Letter to Mrs. Lowry


New York City.
July 25-17
Dear Mrs. Lowry-,
I wish most sincerely to thank you and your chapter for the vest and socks you sent me. This is the first opportunity I have had to express my appreciation of the wonderful work the women of this country are doing to ease the hardship and suffering of the soldiers at the front. Shall I say it is wonderful? Yes! But that does not half express it. You have risen nobly to the occasion and cheerfuly taken up your work, work which only woman with her sympathy and appreciation, or should I say understanding, can do. There is probably not a soldier at the front who has not some token to remind him that the women at home for whom he is fighting are also "doing their bit." I have mine and I know that on cold nights "Some where in France" that little vest will recall pleasant memory of Minneapolis and the thoughtful women who sent it to me.
Sincerely yours,
Curtiss W. Sprogue.

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

Gaytee Glass

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 26, 2017
Gaytee Stained Glass sample

A small rectangular polychromatic glass sample used by Gaytee Stained Glass Studios of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Probably from the 1960s.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this glass sample in our collections database.

We have a new website for all our blogs, Item of the Day and podcasts. Please visit the new site!

Max Winkel's Draft Cards - July 25, 1917

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


As the Selective Service Act went into effect on May 18, 1917, young men between the ages of twenty-one and thirty were required to appear before their local draft boards to register. Max Winkel of St. Paul was only twenty years old when the Act was passed, but approximately one year later, he too registered for the draft. St. Paul’s Local Draft Board issued Winkel a registration card on June 5, 1918, and he was ordered to appear for a physical examination on the 24th of July. His “Notice to Appear for Physical Examination” warns him emphatically against dodging the draft, noting that failure to appear for his examination would be a misdemeanor, “punishable by not to exceed one year’s imprisonment” and potentially leading to “loss of valuable rights” and “immediate induction into military service.” At his examination, Max Winkel was found fit for military service, and he ultimately did serve overseas.

 

Draft card
Draft card
Draft card
Draft card

Stereoview of Limestone Quarry

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 25, 2017
Stereoview of Limestone Quarry

A stereoview photograph of a limestone quarry somewhere outside Red Wing, Minnesota in the 1880s.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this photograph in our collections database.

We have a new website for all our blogs, Item of the Day and podcasts. Please visit the new site!

"First Men Called to Serve in Army and Guard Units" and " German Air Fleet in New Raid Fails to Reach London" - The Daily People's Press. July 24, 1917.

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

Benjamin Harrison Pendant

By: Lori Williamson | Item of the Day | July 24, 2017

This small shield-shaped mother of pearl pendant was used during the 1888 United States presidential campaign promoting Benjamin Harrison and Levi Morton.

For more information or to purchase a photograph of this item, view this pendant in our collections database.

We have a new website for all our blogs, Item of the Day and podcasts. Please visit!

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