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.
In 1917, the University of Minnesota awarded Dr. R. E. Morris of St. Paul a medal for his service in the First World War. The circular, gold-colored medal, which is pictured below, features an image of a woman holding a torch. Along the border, it reads, “FOR / DEMOCRACY / TO / MAKE / THE / WORLD / SAFE”. Inscribed in the center is, “AWARDED TO / R.E. MORRIS / IN RECOGNITION OF / HIS PATRIOTIC / SERVICE.” The back side of the medal features a date as well as the name of the awarding organization: “THE / UNIVERSITY / OF / MINNESOTA / 1917.”
Citation: Minnesota Historical Society Collections. 6591
"Another Advance by British Indicated by Artillery Action" and "Violation of Voluntary Censorship by Papers Strongly Condemned" - The Duluth Herald. October 15, 1917
With continued poor weather in Tours, France, David Backus and his flight school classmates begin to feel the effects of being kept grounded by the conditions. Though this entry suffers from particularly illegible handwriting, Backus mentions spending most of his day downtown (in the rain) after a lecture on map reading. He meets up with some friends, and later witnesses some fights break out at the canteen back at the base. Backus attributes this behavior to the weather messing with everyone's heads.
Note: Backus has his days of the week mixed up-- he had two Thursdays earlier in the week. He eventually gets back on track near the end of the month, but the hectic and weather-dependant schedule of military flight school seems to have him confused as to the day of the week. He writes that is is Saturday, but it is actually Sunday.
Saturday Oct. 14-17
Still raining lecture on compass + map reading voyages etc. Cleaned up at 11. Went downtown on truck back 2 - Well it started to rain - cleared up three but heavy wind. John Hurlbent (?) took me down to dinner. We walked down - Got our hair cut. [...] for dinner met Stuffy + Foster there [...] truck back 10:30. Lot of fellows stayed downtown. Big crew light up at the Canteen last night, few fights etc. This weather is playing [..] with everybody. Hours of flying changed I now fly from 2 P.M. until dark 5:30. used to fly from 4- +5. Rolled in.
This letter from George R. Case, the chairman of the Soldiers' Aid Committee, to the Chairman of the American Red Cross in Minneapolis conveys Case's regrets that his committee cannot perform the task it was organized to do: to meet troop trains with refreshments. Case describes how he organized volunteers, conducted research, and arranged for food and equipment. The Committee faced an impasse, however, in trying to obtain train schedules, since the movement of troop trains was generally kept secret. Case also found that soldiers were not permitted to bring food onto the trains. In his letter, Case expresses his regrets to the chairman and assures his that if their task becomes possible, the volunteers will be ready to complete it. Railway canteens eventually became allowed in December 1918.
October 13th 1917.
Mr. Karl DeLaittre,
Chairman American Red Cross Minneapolis.
Dear Mr. DeLaittre;-
I am sorry that as chairman of the Soldiers' Aid Committee I cannot report substantial service rendered. When you asked me to organize a committee to meet troop trains with refreshments the idea appealed so strongly that I asked my company, K company, of the Civilian Auxilliary, [sic] for volunteers for the service. [...] After quite a thorough investigation which included interviews with many of the men and officers of the First Minnesota, the nature of the refreshments most appreciated by men on troop trains was determined and arrangements made with the Minneapolis Club to provide such food of the best quality at cost on short notice. The necessary equipment was also arranged for. There only remained the matter of locating the troop trains in time to provide service. I wrote to the representatives of the railraods entering the Twin Cities requesting their cooperation in the way of advising us of movements of such trains and was informed that the most positive instructions had been issued that no such news should be divulged. On taking the matter up with army authorities I found this to be the case. For evident military reasons troop trains are moved with as little publicity as possible and care is taken to avoid stop in large cities unless necessary. [...] With the case the drafted men leaving for cantonments we found that the insructions to the draft boards prohibited the men from taking food aboard trains which rendered service there impossible. [...]
It is possible that conditions may yet allow the committee to perform in some way its function and if so the list is still on file and there will be a ready response.
Very truly yours,
George R. Case
"Death Blow for Food Hoarding" and "Mud Hinders British" - The Daily People's Press. October 12, 1917
"German Discontent with Leaders Seems to be Brewing" and "Red Cross Helps Restore Belgium" - Rochester Daily Post and Record. October 11, 1917
This recruitment letter from the War Camp Community Recreation Fund asks William Hascal Brill to help the war effort by writing for or to his local newspapers "to develop the morale and fighting efficiency of our Army and Navy." The letter tells Brill that he will be appointed as a member of the Publicity Committee. Brill is asked to help make "the Spirit of the American Army" and "help to enlist America's Best," by creating a strong message of patriotic support for soldiers abroad and the war effort on the homefront. "The American boys must know that the finest ideals of civilization are in their hands," the letter reads," that the folks at home are fighting in their hearts." War Camp Community Recreation Fund wants to create a patriotic atmosphere at home to support a fighting spirit on the front lines, and also raise money for their recreation and morale efforts in war camps.
Though Brill is essentially being asked to write and publish propaganda for free, he did contribute his talents to the war effort in this way. Calls action like this letter inspired patriotism from Minnesotans and Americans across the country.
Washington, October 10, 1917.
Mr. William Hascal Brill,
2365 Carter Ave.
St. Paul Minn.
My dear Mr. Brill:
To help Win the War will you give some of your personal service during the next few weeks to this War Camp Community Recreation Fund - to develop the morale and fighting efficiency of our Army and Navy?
Unless I hear from you to the contrary I shall understand that you accept appointment as a member of our Publicity Committee. No meetings will be held. Each member will serve in his own place and way.
YOUR HELP seems indispensable for, within six or eight weeks, we must stir the mind and heart of all America to this vital, new conception that -
"The Spirit of the American Army is to be made in the new few months. Mere numbers do not make an army - millions of soldiers who lack the fighting spirit can retreat without struggle. The American boys must know that the finest ideals of civilization are in their hands; that the folks at home are fighting in their hearts."
[...] Make the uniform a passport to all that is wholesome and strengthening in the community life - a blood-bond of fraternity, democracy and mutual service. [...] Help potential contributors to understand this and to realize that all we can possibly do for our fighting men is far less than they are doing for us. [...]
John N. Willys
WAR CAMP COMMUNITY RECREATION FUND.
These minutes are from a meeting held on October 7 at the St. Paul Hotel for what would become the American First Association. This first meeting was composed of a gathering of concerned citizens who felt that anti-war and pro-German sentiments were too common in their communities, especially in rural areas. They also felt actions of the Non Partisan League and its president, Arthur Towney, constituted disloyalty. University of Minnesota President Marion Burton was among the vocal attendees, and stated that the University stood for patriotism. Those in attendance determined that the best course of action would be to promote patriotism and to hold a loyalty meeting in St. Paul, though many would have liked to see more drastic action against Towney and the Non Partisan League. This group would hold the Northwest Loyalty Meeting in St. Paul on November 16th and 17th, where the America First Association was officially established. "
Meeting of Representative Americans, held at the Saint Paul Hotel, Sunday, October 7th, 1917.
Mr. George Gage of Olivia, Minn., was duly elected chairman of hte meeting. Mr. James J. Quigley of St. Cloud, Minn,. was duly elected secretary of the meeting. Mr. Gage then explained conditions as they now exist in Minnesota as a result of the organization and the work of the Non Partisan League, and in particular of the actions of Mr. Townley, its President. Mr. Gage suggested the need of calling a gigantic meeting in St. Paul for but one purpose -- developing Americanism and called special attention to the getting of an attendance from the rural districts. [...] The secretary then read an affidavit signed by four men in Renville county, including statements of disloyalty as made by an agent of M. Townley, and the Non Partisan League. Henry Nolte of Duluth spoke of the public spirit of St. Louis County as being very good, but nevertheless endorsed the idea of a great loyalty meeting in St. Paul. Mr Hunter spoke of the need of more than a great meeting, and suggested following meetings of Townley with a realy loyalty meeting in the same locality. President Burton said that the University would stand for everything patriotic at all times. That he himself was absolutely out of sympathy for anything or organization that was in any way disloyal. That he too thought there was a strang undercurrent of disloyalty. Mr. Wallace said the papers were getting many letters indicating disloyalty and said the recent St. Paul meeting had a tremendous bad effect. Mr. Frisbee said [...] we should make patriotism so popular that anything to the contrary could not live. [...] Mr. Kelly told of the great amount of disloyalty among the people in the vicinity of Menahga particularly the Fins. [...] Mr. Hadley said that while there was practically no disloyalty in the vicinity of Winnebago, he strongly urged the Public Safety Commission to make it illegal to print any newspaper in anything but the English language. Mr. Nolte endorsed this suggestion of Mr. Hadley. Mr Briggs suggested that meetings of the Non Partisan League be attended by our representatives and if anything disloyal is said that arrests be immediately made and a stenographic copy of the utterances made. Said he thought it unwise to martyrize the Non Partisan League. Mr. Lawson said the Constitution of the Non Partisan League was all that could be asked but said the trouble was that the officers deviated and got the League into trouble. He said that to try to put the League out of business would act as a tremendous tonic to its growth.[...] Mr. Wallace moved that a call be made for a loyalty meeting, to be held in St. Paul, in the near future and that the call be signed by the men attending this meeting. [...] Mr. Kelley moved that a committee of three be appointed to arrange for the printing of dodgers and advertising matter and to see that publicity was sent to the papers of the State. Seconded. Carried. [...] Upon motion meeting duly adjourned.
Citation: America First Association records; Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. P109
A slow day for David Backus at flight school in Tours, France means time for leisure--and boredom. Rainy and windy weather frequently kept Backus and his classmates out of the air. The consistently poor weather conditions would ultimately delay his graduation from flight school.
Well we marched down to Pilotage -- hung around for hour -- no flying too windy -- rained in aft [afternoon]. Had dinner at Canteen -- Played checkers read.
Citation: David Backus Collection. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. 123.D.10.6F