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.
Edward Gilkey describes in his diary the continued progess of his journey across the Atlantic, and changes in the weather. In this diary entry Gilkey describes standing on guard with another company from an African American regiment. Gilkey's description of his interaction with another soldier, in which he swindles this soldier with his watch, and his justifications for these actions, give some insight into the state of race relations during this time. More than 350,000 African Americans served during World War I, and they often faced discrimination, even from their fellow soldiers.
The opening of the movie Darkest Hour made me wonder; did Winston Churchill ever visit Minnesota? It turns out yes, he did, as a young MP in 1901. This photo seen here from our collection is from 1940; there are no photos from the 1901 visit.
Learn more in this Minnesota History article.
"Great Drive by Huns Expected" and "Lightless Nights May Come" - The Daily People's Press. December 12, 1917
This bumper sticker was made sometime before 1988; the exact date is unknown. It was made in California and used here.
"Great German Attack is Believed Impending" and "Lull in Battle on the Asiago" - The Duluth Herald. December 11, 1917
On this date in 1970, Norman E. Borlaug receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his research in hybridizing wheat to increase crop yields in order to feed more people. He was known as the Father of the Green Revolution, an University of Minnesota alumnus, and a crop researcher.
Learn more in our Library.
Head coverings were a common knitting project for women who wished to donate materials to soldiers serving abroad, as they provided much needed warmth. Unfortunately, if the soldiers tried to wear the head coverings underneath their gas masks it often led to disasterous results. This note was sent to the Saint Paul Red Cross detailing the trouble, and requesting that knitting patterns be changed to better accomidate a gas mask. They reccomend leaving a larger space for the face and ears. This design might not be as warm, but it would allow the masks to properly seal over the face in the event of a gas attack.
DANGER IN KNIT HELMETS
Not Gas Proof When Placed Under the Mask Necessary for Protection
CAMP FUNSTON, Kas., Dec. 10.-- The kindness of American mothers and sisters who are making knitted helmets for the sons and brothers going over will provide one of the serious risks the soldier boys will have to face, according to the French officers who are instructing the Eighty-ninth Division in the use of the gas mask. "A knitted helmet is fine," one of the officers said, "but the form of construction makes them a deadly aid to the enemy in their gas attacks. And unless the American women make the proper changes they will be courting death for their own boys whom they have meant to befriend. When the woman knits the helmet she thinks only of the cold weather, and in her desire to protect the more of the boy's face she leaves only a small triangle for his eyes and nose and mouth. Then when the gas mask is put over the helmet the edges of the mask press the helmet down tight and seem to be sufficiently snug to keep out the poisonous fumes. But after a few hours' exposure in an attack we have found that almost all of those who succumb have the woolen helmets beneath the edges of the gas masks. Gas is certain to filter thru in small quantities, if not sufficient to cause death at least enought to run the man's health." The French instructor lays great emphasis on the need of the women changing their plan of knitted helmets to conform to the gas mask, which covers the face one inch above the eyebrow, within one inch of the ears and midway between the point of the chin and the neck. Knitted helmets must not extend beyond those points of the face or the danger far exceeds the comfort gained by the wearer.
Citation: American Red Cross, Northern Division, records, 1915-1921. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P781
Alfred E. Livingston, a native of Winona, Minnesota, served at the U.S. Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego, CA. He was a member of the navy football team on the west coast. This newspaper article from The San Diego Union on an upcoming Army-Navy football game was included in Livingston's Gold Star Roll file. He is listed in the Navy lineup as number 10, Left Tackle. He died on November 19, 1918 from disease.
Citation: "Livingston, Alfred E." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota 114.D.4.4F