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Collecting pieces of Minnesota's past for the future

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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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"Love and Kisses to whole dam Family!" - July 31, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 31, 2017


On July 31st, 1917, Gold Star soldier Lyon Frank Leou penned an endearing letter to his family back home. A native of Austin, Minnesota, Lyon and his family had relocated to Saskatchewan, Canada when he was young. He made his living as a farmer, but in 1916 he made the decision to enlist in the British Expeditionary Forces as a private in the 49th Canadians Division. After surviving the Battle of the Somme, Lyon was killed instantly by a shell explosion on October 30th, 1917. His family described him as a chipper, brave, and generous family man, who seemed more concerned about his nieces and nephews back home than his own safety in war. Indeed, his July 31st letter to his family is speckled with lighthearted jokes and handwritten ‘ha-ha’s, and he closes by sending “Love and kisses to the whole dam family!”

 


[...] July 31, 1917
Dear Mother,
I re'cd your letter a short time ago and also the cake and thanks many times, mabey [sic] I didn't hop to it ha ha. I got the cake 29th of July. Just one month to get it, and you say dad is sending me some tobacco, gee I sure will be glad to get a good old smoke, ha ha. [...] say have you heard any more about Swede, gee I hope it is not the truth about him being killed. well they never will get me because I can fall into a shell hole too quick for them. ha ha. You aught to see the holes they make, the ground is ust churned over and over lots of times. some sites to see. [...] Well dear mother I will have to quit now and get busy so will say by by. Love and kisses to the whole dam family. ha ha.
I am as ever your son.
France



Always jolly and the life of whatever or wherever he happened to be. Was a brave soldier laddie who never complained and was only anxious to be first in the fray. Happy and considerate of others. Thoughtful of home people. While he was abroad one of his worries seemed to be of his two nieces and one nephew. They have three and a half miles to go to school. He would write, ‘please don’t let the children walk to school or go on cold days.’ In his own words, ‘I know what it is like to walk and be cold.’ We are proud of him. But at what a price.”

Citation: "Lyon, Leou F." Minnesota Public Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota [114.D.4.4F]

Bill Proposes to Grant Nurses Rank - July 30, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 30, 2017


At the end of July, Senator Knute Nelson received a copy of a proposed bill that would benefit nurses serving in the U.S. War Department. The bill proposed to give nurses rank, which here means giving them the designation of no less than Third Lieutenant and making them eligible for distinguished service awards. According to the bill’s author, these changes would grant nurses additional protection, enable the U.S. military to operate more efficiently, and facilitate cooperation between nurses, doctors, and surgeons overseas. Finally, giving nurses rank would allow women to be represented at the front, and not simply at nearby military hospitals. Despite these persuasive arguments, it was not until 1920 that members of the Army Nurse Corps could first be given rank.
 


2700 Prairie Ave., Chicago, Ill.,
July 30, 1917.
A BILL TO GIVE NURSES RANK.
All Graduate-Registered Nurses requisitioned by the War Department shall have the rank of III Lieutenant, except the Chief, or Head, Nurse who shall be II Lieutenant. Distinguished Services may be rewarded by Brevit, adding the proper title.
REASONS.
1. For protection
2. For a higher efficiency.
3. For a more logical cooperation with the doctors and surgeons
4. That women may be represented by a small commission at the front in this great War.

Citation: Knute Nelson Papers. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 114.I.13.2F Box 25

A Letter to Mother - July 29, 1917

By: Lori Williamson | WW1 Daybook | July 29, 2017


In his letter from Allentown, PA, Philip Longyear tells his mother about his orders to go to France: "We may leave even earlier than I expected when I last wrote." He describes the different restrictions for the belongings he can take like cameras. "We don't seem to be able to take much at all." Longyear doesn't seem to know what to expect besides that he would be with the French army, and he seems to be prepared for the government to change its mind about sending them at all.

 


Allentown, Pa., July 30, 1917.
Dear Mother:-
I have just written a letter to father at home, not knowing whether he was with you or not. If he is with you, tell him I have reserved a room at the Hotel Allen for the 26th. I wrote him about getting a leave of absence and going to Washington with him, but yesterday all leaves were cancelled, so we could get some good drill before going. We got a lot more information this morning which would interest you, but I can't say much. We may leave even earlier than I expected when I last wrote. We can't take cameras. We don't seem to be able to take much at all and we will probably have to do all our work at night, when these clothes we have now wear out. or invest in some barrels. Also, we are to be with the French army, not the American. We have one hundred twenty sections here now and thirty sections from the American Field Service will join us when we get there, making one hundred ninety sections of forty-five men each. You neen't think we will go right to the front when we get there, as we are going into camp over there for more training. The only reason we haven't gone before was lack of transportation. Now they have that and it is being made ready. Of course the Government may change their plans at the last minute and keep us here all summer for all we know.
I don't suppose Frank Hubacheck can get transferred to this service.
Lots of love to all at Bensonia,
Philip

Citation: Longyear (Edmund Joseph and Family) Papers. Family correspondence 1908 - 1944, Vols. 1, 2, and 22; A .L860 Box 2

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]

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?”
To enable screen reader support, press Ctrl+Alt+Z To learn about keyboard shortcuts, press Ctrl+slash
 
 

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.

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

"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!

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