Home / Collections / Podcast & Blog » World War I


Collections Up Close

Progress on the World War I Daybook!

Friday, September 11th, 2015

Hello everyone! My name is Mary Lesher. I’m a senior History major at Vassar College and I was this summer’s World War I Daybook Research Assistant Intern. I followed up on some of the great research the previous intern, Molly, did into the various kinds of World War I collections items the Minnesota Historical Society has acquired. I spent the majority of my internship in the Gale Family Library examining the Minnesota Gold Star Roll, which was compiled by the Minnesota Public Safety Commission in the years just after the close of the war. The Gold Star Roll is a record of every Minnesotan who died during the war from combat, plane, train and automobile accidents and influenza, which affected soldiers domestically and abroad. These records were filled out by close family members- mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wives and children- and include various details of these men and women’s lives, from their place of birth to their schooling, character, vocation and military service. Family members often sent in photos, letters they received during the war and newspaper clippings about their loved one who died to give a more complete understanding of who that person was. I combed through every single record to find stories, primary sources and photos to share with you in the World War I Daybook.

One of my favorite Gold Star Roll records is that of Miss Sabra R. Hardy, a nurse in the United States Army Nursing Corps. She was from Minneapolis and worked as a nurse in Minneapolis Hospitals before enlisting for service in WWI. Hardy trained at Camp Travis in Texas before shipping out to New York to finish her training and await her journey to Europe. When she reached England she wrote a brief note to her parents alerting them that she had arrived safely overseas, and told them she would write again once she was permanently located at a hospital near the French Front. This was the last her family ever heard from her, as Hardy contracted Influenza-pneumonia and died about a week after reaching France.

New York
Aug 23-18
Dearest Mother and Dave:

I am here at last and, I just can’t wait till I’ve got my gov’t. outfit together & my Red cross suit on. They are such a good looking blue serge suit [symbol] & U.S.A. emblems worn on lapels beside the Caducci [plural form  of caduceus] which stands for the medical dept. & a black sailor hat & heavy brown army shoes. The duty uniform is grey crepe & white (No. 2) aprons & bibs & caps…”

Citation: “Hardy, Sabra R.” Minnesota Publc Safety Commission. Gold Star Roll. Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota [114.D.4.3B]

Be sure to join us for more incredible stories from World War I when the blog launches in April, 2017!

Bookmark and Share

Stay Tuned for Another Daybook

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Research has begun for the forthcoming World War I Daybook blog!

My name is Molly Kamph, and through the Minnesota Historical Society’s internship program, I acted as the first World War I Daybook Research Intern. Over the past few months, I have surveyed the vast collections of the Minnesota Historical Society in order to lay the foundations for the World War I Daybook blog, scheduled to launch in April, 2017.

Much of my work involved reading through the huge collection of manuscripts and attempting to make connections to other collections like artifacts, photographs and posters, and even recorded pieces from the Oral History collections, through associated dates, events, or general themes. Many of the manuscripts I initially examined discussed the war efforts abroad, but I also found many sources that detailed the various examples of sociopolitical turmoil occurring in Minnesota and the United States.

One particularly interesting example from the MNHS manuscript collections was Walter E. Quigley’s reminiscence entitled “Out where the west begins”, which describes his time as an organizer for the Nonpartisan League (NPL), an organization advocating for state ownership of various farm-related industries. The League began in North Dakota and became fairly popular in Minnesota during World War I. Leading up to the election of 1918, the Nonpartisan League started the Farmer-Labor Party and endorsed candidates running for numerous positions locally, statewide, and nationally to further their left-leaning platform.

Nonpartisan League opponents immediately began to rally against the League. Many within the government were against the League and their aims. For example, Quigley mentions that on October 7, 1918, former president Theodore Roosevelt came to Minneapolis to endorse Governor J.A.A. Burnquist’s reelection and to denounce the NPL. Due to the mention of Roosevelt, I was able to make a connection between the Quigley manuscript and some photographs within the Audio/Visual collections. Two photographs from October 7, 1918 show former president Theodore Roosevelt speaking with Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company workers on behalf of Minnesota Governor J.A.A. Burnquist.

Some opponents of the Nonpartisan League were more violent. League supporters John Meintz and Nels Hokstad, were tarred and feathered by a mob of those opposing the NPL, who saw the League as “pro-German” and “yellow”. Meintz (top) and Hokstad (bottom) are shown in this photograph. Meintz’s ordeal is also mentioned in Quigley’s account. Quigley states, “Mob rule became the worse after the primary [of 1918]. W.W. Latta, editor of the paper at Luverne, and friend of the League, was deported into Iowa. John Meintz in western Minnesota was tarred and feathered… The homes of many League workers were painted yellow, organizers were chased out of dozens of cities and towns; and all in all, the campaign was intensified by the war spirit” (Quigley p.67, 73).

Overall, the collections at the Minnesota Historical Society demonstrate the varied aspects of this complex time in Minnesota and the United States. We hope that you all will join us in April of 2017 for the launch of the World War I Daybook.


  • Quigley, Walter Eli. “Out where the west begins”. Minnesota Historical Society. [P2302]
  • Men tarred and feathered in Minnesota during 1918 campaign by anti-Nonpartisan Leaguers. Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota. [J1.4 p26]
  • Theodore Roosevelt speaking to workers at Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company. Minnesota Historical Society. St Paul, Minnesota. [E435.19 p10]
  • Theodore Roosevelt speaking to workers at Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Co. Minnesota Historical Society. St. Paul, Minnesota. [E435.19 p11]
Bookmark and Share

U.S. Army Soldier’s housewife

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

U.S. Army soldier's housewife

United States Army soldier’s homemade sewing kit or “housewife” carried during World War I by James Martineau of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. The corduroy kit is lined in a polished cloth and fastens closed with a dark brown ribbon with a snap sewn to each end. It is folded three times and opens to reveal three inside pockets and a handmade image of the Sacred Heart. Some of the contents may have been added after the kit’s original period of use.

For details, view the housewife in our online collections database.

Bookmark and Share

Gas mask

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

World War I gas mask

U.S. Army issue, World War I-era gas mask and carrying bag.  Also included are a metal canister of anti-dimming compound with application instructions printed on the canister, a waxed paper envelope containing an instruction card, and a split ring and pin. Worn by Corporal Frederick A. Berlin of the 3rd Pioneers, Company F.

Bookmark and Share

Bread baked during World War I

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Bread baked during World War I

Slice of black bread baked in Germany between 1914 and 1918. Black bread, a coarse, dark rye bread, was commonly given by Germans to their prisoners of war.

For details, view the bread in our online collections database.

Bookmark and Share

Navy seaman’s trinket box

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

Navy seaman's trinket box

Ditty box owned by United States Navy Seaman Edward R. Stensrud.  The wooden box, originally painted red, white and blue, is now yellowed from varnish.  The box fastens with an iron clasp and contains a removable tray.  It also contains souvenirs relating to Stensrud’s WWI service and subsequent life; see 1976.28.B – 1976.28.S.  One of Stenrud’s dogtags (1976.28.S) is attached to the front of the box.  The brass hinged lid and side of the box are carved and painted with details of Stensrud’s military service, including: “E.R. / STENSRUD SK-2C / EASTLEIGH, ENG. AVN. / WORLD WAR I / 1917-1918″, “U.S. NAVY”, and  ”E.R. STENSRUD / U.S. NAVY / APRIL 19,1917 / OCT. 21, 1919 / SK 2C”.  Railway tags have been pasted on each end of the box.  One reads “London and South Western Ry / TO / GOSPORT”.

For details and additional images, view the box in our online collections database.

Bookmark and Share

Bud vase

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Bud vase

Bud vase made from hammered sheet copper.  The vase has a triangular base and three arms shaped and angled to hold a glass vial.  Made as an occupational therapy project by Joseph Kontek of Saint Paul, Minnesota, while at the U.S. 29th General Hospital at Fort Snelling during World War I.

Bookmark and Share

Portable altar

Thursday, March 8th, 2012

Portable altar

Portable altar with three panels that fold into a compact, fabric-lined carrying case with a leather strap handle. Used by Father George R. Metcalf of St. Paul, Minnesota. Metcalf served as chaplain for General George S. Patton during World War II. The style of the military uniforms depicted in the painting suggest that the altar was originally used during World War I.

For details, view the altar in our online collections database.

Bookmark and Share

Model ship in a light bulb

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Model ship in a light bulb

Model ship in a light bulb made by Karl Schreiber, a German prisoner-of-war detained in Canada during World War I.  The clear glass bulb contains a miniature three-masted sailing ship within a harbor diorama that includes a hilly townscape, trees, and a chromolithograph of a castle.  Schreiber created the diorama while held in Morrissey, British Columbia, circa 1914-1917.

Bookmark and Share

Toy dog

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Toy dog

Toy dog made of painted wood with movable limbs, tail, ears, and head. Made as part of an occupational therapy project by a wounded soldier at U.S. General Hospital #29, Fort Snelling, Minnesota, circa 1918-1919.

Bookmark and Share

An Ounce of Preservation: A Guide to the Care of Papers and Photographs