Arch Madness 2020: Meet the Artifacts!

*Post written by James Wethington, senior library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

The crowds are going crazy! Pure pandemonium! Arch Madness is back and we have some stiff competition. The University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) is competing against the following seven historic institutions:

  • Evansville Museum of Arts, History, & Science,
  • John James Audubon Museum,
  • John M. Lawrence ’73 Library,
  • Newburgh Museum,
  • University of Evansville (UE)’s University Archives,
  • USI Archaeology Lab, and
  • Working Men’s Institute.

You can vote online at or in-person at Rice Library 3021. Voting begins on March 16 through April 12, 2020.

Brackets for Sweet 16 tournament, n.d.

Let’s look at this year’s competition!

North Region

Beaver Top Hat (Newburgh Museum)

Black beaver top hat from Newburgh Museum.

Beaver Top Hat.

From the late 16th to mid-19th centuries, beaver top hats were an essential aspect of men’s fashion across much of Europe. By the late 17th century, beavers were nearly extinct in Europe; however, North America was an alternate supply source for beaver, causing another high demand for beaver hats. One reason for their popularity is beaver pelt were water-repellent. This hat is from the collection of Janet Stout.

Marijuana and the Bible Pamphlet (UASC)

Marijuana and the Bible Pamphlet, n.d.

Marijuana and the Bible Pamphlet.

Published by the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church, giving the public an opportunity to study the church and its doctrine. The Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church revered ganja, or marijuana, as their “holy” Eucharist and “spiritual intensifier” with Biblical, historical, and divine associations for its use.

Roman Red Ware Terra Sigillata Jug (John M. Lawrence ’73 Library)

Roman Red Ware Terra Sigillata Jug from circa 150 BE.

Roman Red Ware Terra Sigillata Jug.

This terra sigillata jug is said to have been found in North Africa. These jugs originated in the Roman Empire around BCE 100. They were constructed from terra sigillata, a bright red, polished pottery. Terra sigillata clay was found in Gaul, modern-day France, but largely exported to the far reaches of the Roman Empire. It was excavated in North Africa.

Lord Byron’s Dueling Pistols (Evansville Museum of Arts, History, and Science)

Lord Byron's Dueling Pistols from Evansville Museum.

Lord Byron’s Dueling Pistols.

These pistols were made for the famous English poet and politician Lord George Gordon Byron (1788-1824). Among Byron’s best-known works are Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Lord Byron had several controversial relationships before he married Annabella Milbanke in 1815, who left him a year later because of his infidelity. The pistols are engraved with Lord Byron’s coronet and a “B” and were crafted by H. W. Mortimer and Company of London circa 1809.

*Defending 2019 Arch Madness champion.

South Region

Audubon Print of Raccoon (John James Audubon Museum)

John James Audubon print of a raccoon.

Raccoon print by John James Audubon.

Framed lithographic print titled, “Procyon Lotor, Cuvier” or “Raccoon” by John James Audubon for Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America. Shown is a large male raccoon crouched on a tree limb. The print number is 13 and the plate number is LXI, or 61.

Golden Theatre Troupe Boots (Working Men’s Institute)

Boots from the Golden Theatre Troupe, n.d.

Boots from the Golden Theatre Troupe.

These red leather boots were worn by a member of the Golden Theatre Troupe, probably Grace Golden. When they were not on tour, the Golden Theatre Troupe lived in New Harmony, Indiana. Grace Golden graduated from New Harmony High School in 1883.

Cast Iron Coffee Roaster (Working Men’s Institute)

Cast Iron Coffee Roaster, n.d.

Cast Iron Coffee Roaster.

This is a cast iron coffee roaster, designed to be used on a wood fired stove. This roaster was made by Roys and Wilcox Company in East Berlin, Connecticut. It dates from a period when almost all coffee was roasted at home. It was not until the 1900’s that more coffee was commercially roasted than was roasted at home.

USS Navy LST Cartoon (UE’s University Archives)

USS Navy LST Cartoon by Karl Kae Knecht.

USS Navy LST Cartoon by Karl Kae Knecht.

This cartoon depicts one of the 167 landing ship tanks built at the Evansville shipyard between 1942 and 1945.

East Region

Native American Knife (USI Archaeology Lab)

Native American Knife.

Native American Knife

This knife was made circa AD 500 and from the Kuester Site in Vanderburgh County, Indiana. When making the knife, the flintknapper encountered a naturally occurring hole in the stone and decided to flake around it and incorporate the hole into the finished piece. A unique piece likely made to show off the talent of the person who made it.

Silk Tapestry (University of Evansville’s University Archives)

Silk Tapestry with a dragon.

Silk Tapestry.

Embroidered with dark and light blue thread in the shape of a dragon, pink emblem embroidered beside it. It is an artifact from a missionary’s collection of objects with unknown country of origin but possibly from China.

Ancient Egyptian Faience Shabti (Evansville Museum of Arts, History, & Science)

Blue Egyptian Shabti statue.

Ancient Egyptian Faience Shabti.

Affluent ancient Egyptians would often be buried with a number of these figurines called shabtis. It was believed that they would come to life in the afterlife and serve their master. This faience shabti is found in a tomb in Sakkara, Egypt.

Membership Certificate in the Audubon Society (John James Audubon Museum)

Membership Certificate from the Audubon Society.

Membership Certificate from the Audubon Society.

This is a blank certificate for membership in the Audubon Society for the Protection of Birds. The certificate shows the image of Henry Inman’s portrait of Audubon off-center in the certificate and image of Audubon’s Cedar Bird painting to the left. This is certificate number 38877 as printed in red ink and pledge number “3981” is written in at the upper right.

West Region

“Soup Nazi” Autographed Photograph (Newburgh Museum)

Autographed photograph from the

“Soup Nazi” Autographed Photograph.

Based on Al Yeganeh, who owned and operated the Soup Kitchen International in New York City, the “Soup Nazi” character on the hit NBC sitcom, Seinfeld, (1989-1998) was portrayed by Larry Thomas.

Aztec Snake Sculpture (USI Archaeology Lab)

Aztec Snake Sculpture

Aztec Snake Sculpture.

The sculpture was made of basalt with traces of red pigment on the surface. It was made in Mexico, circa AD 1400.

Surgical Amputation Kit (UASC)

Surgical Amputation Kit, n.d.

Surgical Amputation Kit.

The amputation kit was originally a part of a traveling exhibit by Mead Johnson Company used at medical conferences. The exhibit was donated to New Harmony and used for an 1850 doctor’s office exhibit. The kit consists of a bone saw, sutures, clamps, and many other medical instruments.

“FRED” Woodcut (John M. Lawrence ’73 Library)

FRED” Woodcut Print.

This woodcut print is a portrait of every child’s friend, Mr. Fred Rogers, famously known on the PBS television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (1968-2001). It was created circa 2015 by Valerie Wallace.

Posted in Arch Madness, Art, history, Indiana history, Local history | Leave a comment

“Home, James!!”

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Queen Victoria had a coachman whose name was James Darling. Ordinarily, she’d address him by his surname, but that would mean that when she wanted to return to the palace, she’d be forced to say, “Home, Darling.”  Clearly this would never do, so it became “Home, James.”  This phrase has come into fairly common parlance when a person gets in a car and says this in jest to the driver.  Here it’s being used to capture your attention, but the home part is vital.

Today, communication is almost instantaneous with the use of Internet or satellite technology. Distance is no longer a barrier—you can transmit a message to someone on the other side of the world, or even into space, for that matter, and quickly get feedback.  This hasn’t always been the case, and from earliest times, carrier or homing pigeons were used to transmit messages.  “Pigeon Post as a method of communication is likely as old as the ancient Persians from whom the art of training the birds probably came. The Mughals also have used them as their messengers. The Romans used pigeon messengers to aid their military over 2000 years ago. Frontinus said that Julius Caesar used pigeons as messengers in his conquest of Gaul. The Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to their various cities by this means.”

By the 20th century, other forms of communication such as telegraph, radio, telephone, were already available, yet use of the pigeon as a means of communication continued.  It played an important role in WWI, which we’re going to examine here.  Technology, while wonderful, was not always reliable.  Sometimes “armies outpaced their established lines of communications or when the enemy disrupted communications lines for the telegraphs or telephones, as they often did during battle.”  According to the HistoryExtra website, “More than 100,000 birds were responsible for sending rescue messages back and forth from soldiers to their base, with an incredible 95 per cent successfully reaching their destination with their message.”

Pigeon Liaison, Charles Baskerville, Jr. Source: "The Great War. U.S. Army art". Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D522 .G66 2018.

Pigeon Liaison, Charles Baskerville, Jr. Source: “The Great War. U.S. Army art”. Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D522 .G66 2018.

Right is a drawing entitled Pigeon Liaison, done in France in 1918 by Charles Baskerville, Jr.  Charles Baskerville, Jr. (1896-1994) was a student at Cornell when the U.S. entered World War I, and he immediately enlisted and served with the 166th Infantry, 83d Infantry Brigade, 42d Division in France.  He served gallantly and was severely wounded; after the war he returned to college and later had a career as a muralist and portrait painter, serving as the official portrait painter for the Army Air Force in World War II.  During World War I he kept a visual diary of his experiences, carefully annotating the entries. “Baskerville’s Pigeon Liaison is an intimate record of the close relationship between soldiers and carrier pigeons, one of their most reliable forms of communication during the war.  Each unit during World War I was assigned a “Pigeon Officer,” trained by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.  These soldiers cared for the unit’s pigeons, often sharing their limited rations with their birds.”  (The Great War: U.S. Army Art)  This piece of art is part of the Army Art Collection at the Army’s Museum Support Center, Ft. Belvoir, VA.

One type of pigeon deployment was midair, from airplanes. “Launched mid-mission, the birds would fly back to their coops and update ground commanders on what the pilots had observed. Quick updates like this were essential for leaders to know what the battlefield looked like and what the enemy was doing in its own trenches.” They could also be launched from tanks as seen below.

Carrier pigeon carrying information being released from a British tank, France, 1918. Source:

Carrier pigeon carrying information being released from a British tank, France, 1918. Source:

“Tanks carried the birds in order to relay the advance of individual units. Even after the introduction of the radio, pigeons were often the easiest way to help coordinate tank units without exposing the men to dangerous fire. Without a radio set, the soldiers would have had to leave the relative safety of their tanks to relay or receive orders.”

Probably the most common method of deployment was to take birds with the soldiers to the front line and use them to communicate with commanders and planners in the rear.  The rear position would be considered the birds’ home loft, and at the front, they lived in mobile units like these.  Birds could be taught to fly back and forth.  Double-decker buses or converted carriages were commonly used for the mobile lofts.  Mobile lofts were particularly useful “when the armies outpaced their established lines of communications or when the enemy disrupted communications lines for the telegraphs or telephones, as they often did during battle.”   Below are two examples of mobile lofts.

Photograph of a mobile station that was used to house pigeons when they were deployed away from their home. (National Archives Identifier17391470) Source:

Photograph of a mobile station that was used to house pigeons when they were deployed away from their home. (National Archives Identifier17391470) Source:

London double-decker bus converted for use as a mobile loft for carrier-pigeons, 1918. (British) Ministry of Information First, World War Official Collection; photograph by 2nd Lt. David McLellanSource:

London double-decker bus converted for use as a mobile loft for carrier-pigeons, 1918. (British) Ministry of Information First, World War Official Collection; photograph by 2nd Lt. David McLellan. Source:

Pigeons are not big birds—they range in weight between 9.3-13.4 oz., have a wingspan of 19.7-26.4 in., and are somewhere between a robin and a crow in size.  Make no mistake about it, however, these birds are tough! Pigeons can fly at altitudes of 6000 feet or more, can fly at average speeds of up to 77.6 mph but have been recorded flying at 92.5 mph, and can fly between 600 and 700 miles in a single day, with the longest recorded flight in the 19th century taking 55 days between Africa and England and covering 7000 miles.  Naturally, when the Germans saw a pigeon carrying a message, they tried their best to shoot it down, and no matter how high or fast a bird can fly, it is no match for ammunition.  Yet, there are some remarkable stories of what they managed to accomplish.

Homing Pigeon, President Wilson. U.S. Army Museum Support Center, Ft. Belvoir, VA. Source: "The Great War. U.S. Army art". Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D522 .G66 2018.

Homing Pigeon, President Wilson. U.S. Army Museum Support Center, Ft. Belvoir, VA. Source: “The Great War. U.S. Army art”. Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D522 .G66 2018.

One named President Wilson is pictured here. President Wilson “supported an infantry unit…during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.  On the morning of 5 October 1918, his unit came under attack and heavy enemy fire.  The unit released President Wilson to deliver a request for artillery support.  Flying back to his loft at Rampont some forty kilometers away, he drew the attention of the German soldiers who fired on him in an attempt to shoot him down.  Despite this challenge, President Wilson managed to deliver the lifesaving message within twenty-five minutes, an unmatched AEF [American Expeditionary Forces] speed record.  When he landed, his left leg had been shot away and he had a gaping wound in his breast.  President Wilson survived his wounds…”  (The Great War: U.S. Army Artifacts, p. 13) He lived in New Jersey and did not die until 1929, 12 years after receiving what should have been a fatal wound.  The bird was preserved and mounted and given to the Smithsonian, which returned it to the U.S. Army in 2008.  Today President Wilson is on display at the Pentagon outside the office of the office of the Chief of Staff of the Army.

Homing Pigeon Mocker. Photo credit: CECOM Historical Office. Source:

Homing Pigeon Mocker. Photo credit: CECOM Historical Office.

Mocker, seen right, “flew 52 missions during World War I before he was finally wounded.  On his last mission, his left eye and part of his cranium were destroyed by a shell splinter.  Even with his extensive injuries, Mocker still managed to deliver an extremely important message that detailed the location of enemy artillery.  Due to Mocker’s valor, the Americans were able to destroy the enemy battery within 20 minutes.  Consequently, Mocker’s efforts enabled U.S. troops to capture the town of Beaumont, France.”   Amazingly, given that he lost his left eye and part of his cranium, this bird lived until 1935!

Perhaps the most famous World War I carrier pigeon was Cher Ami (French for “dear friend”).

French Croix de Guerre awarded to Cher Ami. Source: National Museum of the U.S. Army. The Great War. U.S. Army artifacts. Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D503 .G74 2018.

French Croix de Guerre awarded to Cher Ami. Source: National Museum of the U.S. Army. The Great War. U.S. Army artifacts. Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D503 .G74 2018.

“On October 2nd, 1918, American soldiers from the 77th Division pushed too far into the Argonne Forest and became trapped behind German lines on the slopes of a hill. Cut off from reinforcements and supplies, roughly 550 men from the 306th, 307th, and 308th regiments under Major Charles Whittlesey held their ground against a far larger German force for several days. Far beyond radio range, the only way the Americans could communicate with their own lines was via carrier pigeon. However, it did not take long to realize that the skies were as dangerous as the ground. Trapped in a horrible meatgrinder of machine guns and rain, the Lost Battalion held their ground against vicious German attacks.  On October 4th, American heavy artillery started to bombard the Lost Battalion’s position on accident, killing thirty men as they held the line. Major Whittlesey and his men watched as bird after bird fell out of a sky torn apart by German fire. With supplies running out and casualties mounting rapidly, Major Whittlesey desperately sent out his last pigeon, Cher Ami, to the American lines with a note that simply read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.” With fire raining down on them from all sides, Cher Ami was now the last chance for the Lost Battalion to walk off that hill alive.  The brave bird flew straight into the German fire, dodging bullets as he went. However, his luck did not last for long. Cher Ami was hit in the chest soon after takeoff, as American soldiers watched in horror as their last hope hit the ground. Against all odds though, Cher Ami got up again! Wounded but still alive, the little bird took flight again, charging head-on into wave after wave of gunfire. By the end of the trip, he covered 25 miles in roughly half an hour. He arrived at base heavily wounded, but alive. Army medics were able to save Cher Ami’s life, but his right leg was barely attached to his body and he was blind in one eye. However, because of Cher Ami’s delivery, the artillery stopped and took up new firing coordinates away from American lines. The next day, shells started to fall on German positions, relieving pressure on the bloodied 77th and the battle turned in America’s favor. On October 8th, one hundred and ninety-four men made it back to the American lines thanks to Cher Ami’s sacrifice.”  

Homing Pigeon Message Kit. National Museum of the U.S. Army. Source: The Great War. U.S. Army artifacts. Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D503 .G74 2018.

Homing Pigeon Message Kit. Source: The Great War. U.S. Army artifacts. Washington, D.C: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections, D503 .G74 2018.

For her (when the bird was stuffed, it was found to be a hen) heroic efforts, Cher Ami was awarded this French Croix de Guerre medal, one of France’s highest military honors, given for gallantry in the field.

Those messages had to be “short and sweet” to fit in a capsule on a bird’s leg and not weigh it down.  Note the capsule on the leg of Mocker, pictured earlier in this post.  Here is a picture of a homing pigeon message kit, holding a message book, pencils, and capsules.

In addition to any amazement you might feel at the feats of these birds, you might also wonder just how they do this.  How does a bird manage to find its home over those of miles and unfamiliar territory?  There have been various theories, but scientists seem to have settled on a combination of two things.  In familiar areas, the birds are able to follow landmarks.  For further distances and/or unfamiliar territory, the bird is able to use a combination of an internal clock and an internal compass to achieve its mission.




How a Homing Pigeon finds home. Source:

How a Homing Pigeon finds home. Source:

Home, President Wilson!  Home, Mocker!  Home, Cher Ami! We owe a debt to these and many more unnamed carrier pigeons who helped the Allies win in World War I and World War II.  If you’ve enjoyed this blog, you might also enjoy this simple animated video about these birds and their exploits.

Resources Consulted:

Alter, Jesse.  The Incredible Carrier Pigeons of The First World War.  London: Imperial War Museum, June 25, 2018.

Bieniek, Adam.  Cher Ami: The Pigeon that Saved the Lost Battalion.  U.S. World War I Centennial Commission.

Carrier Pigeons.  Maltese History & Heritage–a project run by the website.

Copping, Jasper.  “Honoured: the WW1 pigeons who earned their wings.”  London Telegraph, January 12, 2014.

The Great War. U.S. Army art.  Washington, D.C:  Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018.  Special Collections,  D522 .G66 2018.

The Great War. U.S. Army artifacts.  Washington, D.C:  Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018.  Special Collections,  D503 .G74 2018.

McLaughlin, Elizabeth.  Meet the hero carrier pigeon that saved US troops during a WWI battle 100 years ago.  ABC News, October 5, 2018.

“The Pigeon Post.”  Blog module for Boston University’s Introduction to Engineering class, September 25, 2012.

“Pigeons—Everything There is to Know About the Pigeon.”  Pigeon Control Resource Centre (UK), 2009.

“Unsung heroes of World War I: the carrier pigeons.”  Pieces of History blog, U.S. National Archives, January 8, 2018.

Winged warriors: pigeons in the First World War. HistoryExtra, website for BBC History Magazine, BBC History Revealed and BBC World Histories Magazine.

Wu, Jane.  Top 10 Heroic Wartime Pigeons.  ListVerse Ltd., July 5, 2016.

Not specifically used, but interesting: RAF Pigeon Service Manual.  London: Air Ministry, 1919.  supplied by Maltese History & Heritage–a project run by the website.

Posted in American history, European History | Leave a comment

Hail to the Chief!

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Four U.S. Presidents celebrated their birthdays this month. This is not the month with the largest number of presidential birthdays—that would be October, with 6 of our 45 presidents born that month, but February is the month traditionally associated with presidential birthdays, largely based on George Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays falling this month. Currently, the 3rd Monday in February is called Presidents’ Day, February 17th, this year.

The Father of our Country was born on February 22, 1732 and died December 14, 1799.  As one might expect, given Washington’s larger-than-life status and importance to this country, as early as 1800 his birthday was remembered in celebration. The celebration was unofficial until the late 1870’s when it became a national holiday, but only for the District of Columbia. In 1885, it was expanded to the entire country.

Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1821. This portrait hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  Source:

Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, c. 1821. This portrait hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Source:

The next February-born president was William Henry Harrison, born February 9, 1773.  Harrison set a lot of “records”—he was the oldest man elected president (this record did not stand—he was 67 when elected and 68 when sworn in; Reagan was 69 when elected), gave the longest inaugural address, 105 minutes, and had the shortest time in office, dying one month after that interminable inaugural address. This made him the first president to die in office. For years popular thought attributed his death to catching a cold that turned into pneumonia after refusing to wear a hat and coat on a blustery March inaugural day, but now there is some evidence that he died of typhoid fever.

2. William Henry Harrison

Portrait of William Henry Harrison, c. 1813. This portrait hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Source:

Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809. Lincoln was the third president (after William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor) to die in office, but the first to be assassinated. Lincoln shares the same larger-than-life iconic status as Washington, and for years, his birthday was celebrated, but never as a federal holiday. “By 1890, Lincoln’s birthday was observed as a paid holiday in 10 states. According to one blog that tracks the holiday, in 1940 24 states and the District of Columbia observed Lincoln’s Birthday.

4. Abe Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln as a young man. This portrait is held by the National Park Service. Source:

Ronald Reagan is the final February birthday boy, born on February 6, 1911.  By the time of his 1980 election, the practice of celebrating presidential birthdays, at least on the federal level, had completely changed.

5. Ronald Reagan

Official Portrait of Ronald Reagan, c.1981-1983. Photographed by the White House Photographic Office. Source:

The shift from Washington’s Birthday to Presidents Day began in the late 1960s, when Congress proposed a measure known as the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Championed by Senator Robert McClory of Illinois, this law sought to shift the celebration of several federal holidays from specific dates to a series of predetermined Mondays. The proposed change was seen by many as a novel way to create more three-day weekends for the nation’s workers, and it was believed that ensuring holidays always fell on the same weekday would reduce employee absenteeism. While some argued that shifting holidays from their original dates would cheapen their meaning, the bill also had widespread support from both the private sector and labor unions and was seen as a surefire way to bolster retail sales.  The Uniform Monday Holiday Act also included a provision to combine the celebration of Washington’s birthday with that of Abraham Lincoln, which fell on February 12. Lincoln’s Birthday had long been a state holiday in places like Illinois, and many supported joining the two days as a way of giving equal recognition to two of America’s most famous statesmen. McClory was among the measure’s major proponents, and he even floated the idea of renaming the holiday Presidents Day. This proved to be a point of contention for lawmakers from George Washington’s home state of Virginia, and the proposal was eventually dropped.

The law eventually passed in 1968 and went into effect in 1971 following an executive order by President Richard Nixon. The order specifically called the new holiday “Washington’s Birthday,” but it soon became known as Presidents’ Day. Retailers jumped in by promoting big sales and the new name stuck—most calendars now say Presidents’ Day, although interestingly, “the federal government has held fast to the original incarnation of the holiday as a celebration of the country’s first president. The third Monday in February is still listed on official calendars as Washington’s Birthday.” One curious outcome of this third Monday in February change is that Presidents’ Day will never fall on the actual birthday of Washington, Harrison, Lincoln, or Reagan—they were all born either too early or too late!

Two of the February-birthday presidents have a real connection with Indiana, and another has, at least, visited on a campaign swing. George Washington, given his time period, never came to Indiana which was neither a territory nor a state during his lifetime. Indiana was initially part of the Northwest Territory, which was created post-Revolutionary War, in 1787, so it’s probable that he was aware of this area in a general fashion, but a map of his travels shows him no further west than locations on what is now the West Virginia/Ohio border, along the Ohio River.

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, VA, on the banks of the Rappahannock River. It was built by his father in 1834; George Washington took over its administration in 1854. What is seen here is the result of his efforts—an expansion of the house from 3500 sq. ft. to 11,00, and an expansion of the property from 3000 acres to 7600. Source: MSS 022-2939, John Doane collection.

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, VA, on the banks of the Rappahannock River. It was built by his father in 1834; George Washington took over its administration in 1854. What is seen here is the result of his efforts—an expansion of the house from 3500 sq. ft. to 11,00, and an expansion of the property from 3000 acres to 7600. Source: MSS 022-2939, John Doane collection.

William Henry Harrison, prior to becoming elected president, was secretary of the Northwest Territory in 1798 and governor of the Indiana territory from 1801 to 1812. The Indiana territorial capital was near Vincennes, and his home, Grouseland, is still there and open to visitors. Harrison is also affiliated with the Lafayette area in his role in winning the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. This victory led to his presidential campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe, and Tyler, too!” John Tyler was his running mate.

1. Grouseland

Grouseland, the home of William Henry Harrison in Vincennes, IN. It was built in 1804. This is the southern side and front. Source:

Honest Abe was born in Kentucky, but his father moved the family to southwestern Indiana (now Spencer County) in December 1816. Lincoln grew to adulthood in Indiana—he was 21 when the family moved to Illinois in March 1830. He left part of his heart in Indiana—his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died in 1818 and is buried on the property, on what is now Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial. His older sister, Sarah Lincoln Grigsby, died in childbirth in 1828 and is buried in what is today Lincoln State Park. The state park and national memorial are adjacent.

This cabin is at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Spencer County, IN. The Memorial contains a “Living Farm,” which contains no original structures from Lincoln’s time there, but rather is an attempt to depict what life would have been like on an 1820's Indiana farm.  Source: MSS 124-862, Eric Braysmith collection.

This cabin is at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Spencer County, IN. The Memorial contains a “Living Farm,” which contains no original structures from Lincoln’s time there, but rather is an attempt to depict what life would have been like on an 1820’s Indiana farm. Source: MSS 124-862, Eric Braysmith collection.

MSS 124-858

Nancy Hanks Lincoln gravesite at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial in Spencer County, IN. This is her actual gravesite, in the Pioneer Cemetery portion of the Memorial. She died in 1818 in her mid-30s from milk sickness, a disease caused by drinking milk produced by cows which have eaten white snakeroot, which poisons their milk. Her son was only 9 years old at the time of her death. The headstone seen here was erected in 1879 “by a friend of her martyred son.” Source: MSS 124-858, Eric Braysmith collection.

Ronald Reagan is probably far better known as being from California, given his profession as an actor and later two-term governorship of that state, but he initially was a Midwestern boy. He was born in Illinois and graduated from both high school and college there. It’s highly likely that he at some time visited Indiana, but this photograph proves that he was in Evansville during his second campaign (unsuccessful) to garner the presidential nomination in 1976.

MSS 034-1126

Ronald Reagan shaking the hand of a supporter at the airport in Evansville, IN April 27, 1976. He was on the campaign trail of his 2nd of 3 attempts to garner the U.S. presidential nomination. Source: MSS 034-1126, Gregory T. Smith collection.

Happy birthday, Mr. President!

Resources Consulted

Abraham Lincoln.

Bomboy, Scott. “How Abraham Lincoln Lost his Birthday Holiday.” Constitution Daily (National Constitution Center), February 12, 2019.

Bomboy, Scott. “What Really Killed the First President to Die in Office?” Constitution Daily (National Constitution Center), April 4, 2018.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon website—biography of George Washington.

McHugh, Jane and Philip A. Mackowiak. “What Really Killed William Henry Harrison?”  New York Times, March 31, 2014.

Presidents Day 2020. editors. June 7, 2019.

Ronald Reagan. Miller Center, University of Virginia.

Ronald Reagan.

William Henry Harrison. editors.  August 21, 2018.

William Henry Harrison.  POTUS: Presidents of the United States.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Juliette Gordon Low

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Do you recognize that name? If you’ve ever enjoyed a Thin Mint, Samoa, Do-Si-Do, or Shortbread cookie, you probably should!

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, GA on October 31, 1860, into a well-to-do, prominent family on both sides of her lineage. Her parents married in 1857 and in 1860, welcomed their second daughter, Juliette, always known as Daisy.  Daisy may have been born into a world of privilege, but her timing was less fortunate. A mere week after her birth, Abraham Lincoln was elected U.S. president, an inflammatory event, in Southern eyes, that contributed to the April 1861 firing on Ft. Sumter and the beginning of the Civil War. “Daisy had family fighting on both sides of the war. Daisy’s father William Washington Gordon II served as a lieutenant for the Confederacy while her mother’s side of the family fought for the United States.” This could easily have proved disastrous for family unity, were it not for her mother, Nellie’s, attitude. She freely admitted her northern kinship and kept in touch with her Illinois kin, often traveling to visit, but also helped other Savannah women pack boxes of necessities for Confederate soldiers. “While Nellie always used “we” to refer to the Confederacy, her loyalties lay less with the South or the North than with her husband and family” (Cordery, p. 9).

Oil portrait of Daisy Low by Edward Hughes, 1887. Source:

Oil portrait of Daisy Low by Edward Hughes, 1887. Source:

The family stayed in Savannah during the war and, while they did suffer privation, managed to “hang tough.” In 1864, Sherman began his famous March to the Sea; Savannah surrendered in mid-December. Nellie, who had promised her husband not to leave, stayed until she was forced to go. In the interim she opened her house and offered hospitality to General Sherman, a man her family had long known.  On the other hand, she refused to take the oath of loyalty to the Union.  In March 1865, Nellie and her family traveled to Illinois, with escorts provided by Sherman—but only after she had demanded and been granted a Sherman-arranged rendezvous with her husband!

With the war finally over, the Gordon family slowly recovered its fortunes and life went on as per usual for a family of its stature. In 1886, Daisy married William Mackay Low, a Savannah native who lived in England, and they moved to the continent to lead an aristocratic life. “Her parents did not approve of William Low. Daisy’s father had always wanted his daughters to marry a man who was accustomed to hard work and not dependent on family wealth. William Low’s father was a trusted business partner of William Washington Gordon II, however, and so he could not outright refuse the match.” Daisy had been raised in a family that valued industriousness and making a difference in society, where loyalty and honor were important.  Her parents were in love and devoted to each other. A bit naïve, she soon found herself in a society that did not share her mores. Her husband associated with the Prince of Wales, a notorious dilettante. He and his crowd had prodigious appetites—they drank to excess, they gambled, they had mistresses—anything to stave off the dreaded boredom. “High society “did not like brains” and only understood how to spend, not make, money.  [They] considered the heads of historic houses who read serious works, encouraged scientists and the like very, very dull” (Cordery, p. 141).

The Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 and Daisy’s father was appointed by President McKinley as brigadier general of the Second Brigade, Second Division, Seventh Army Corps, USV. Daisy came home to stay with her mother, but the family soon ended up in Camp Miami, FL. It was known as “Camp Hell” for the deplorable conditions, and the Gordon’s and their daughter jumped head-first into caring for the soldiers, even spending their own money to open a convalescent hospital and purchase supplies.  As horrific and miserable as the situation was, Daisy had purpose in her life, and her self-confidence began to revive. Upon her return to England, she found she was no longer able to countenance her husband’s infidelity and began divorce proceedings. Proceedings were still under way when Low died in 1905.

Daisy found herself at loose ends and felt she was a failure. She was 45 years old, widowed, with no children. In the times in which she lived, childlessness reflected very poorly on a woman, who was not considered to have fulfilled her proper social role in providing an heir. In 1911, she found her calling in a chance meeting with Sir Robert Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell was a British war hero—a creative and brilliant man with an insatiable curiosity who authored several books about reconnaissance and scouting.  Returning home to England after the Boer War, he was amazed to see “that all across England, boys were emulating him by adapting information from his books.  They wore homemade uniforms and played tracking games.  Some groups of boys named themselves in his honor …” (Cordery, p. 185)  Baden-Powell, who had long been concerned that British youth were ill-prepared to face an emergency, jumped on his own bandwagon, as it were, and began to promote and refine the nascent organization. By the time Daisy met him in 1911, Baden-Powell had resigned from the army to devote himself full time to what became his greatest achievement—Boy Scouting.  Girls wanted to join, and soon Girl Guides was born.

Daisy was enchanted with the practicalities as well as the fun the organization provided, plus it gave her a sense of purpose again. She was living in Scotland at the time and started a Girl Guides group there.  These girls “were from very poor families and expected to leave home at a very young age to begin earning money.  Daisy taught the girls to raise poultry and spin yarn so that they could earn money for their families without leaving home.  In just a few months, Daisy had made a difference” (Hent, p. 48).  She was eager to bring Girls Guides to America, and in March 1912 she returned to Savannah. “Upon returning to Savannah, Juliette made her now famous call to the future Girl Scout commissioner of Savannah Miss Nina Pape.  In the call Juliette exclaimed “Come right over. I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all America, and all the world, and we’re going to start it to-night.”  On March 12, 1912 Juliette Gordon Low registered eighteen girls into the United States first troop of Girl Guides. After establishing the first troop in Savannah, Juliette left them in the capable hands of her cousin Miss Pape.  Juliette traveled between England and the United States spreading the word about the Girl Guides and calling upon all the friends she had made as a young woman to grow the movement. In 1913, the Girl Guides in the United States officially changed their name to the Girl Scouts.

2. Girl Scouts

Photograph of Girls School Troop 1. From the Ann Mintz collection of Girl Scouts Troup 1 records, MS 2351, Georgia Historical Society. Source:

With the Girls Scouts now established, let’s take a brief step back to look at what might be a little-known fact about Daisy and how it demonstrates her character. Upon arrival in Chicago after evacuation from Savannah, the Gordon’s were thin and malnourished, and Daisy, unable to fight off infection, succumbed to what was called brain fever. It’s unclear exactly what this malady was—possibly encephalitis, meningitis, or another dire illness. Despite fears for her life, she eventually rallied and recovered, but the illness left her with chronic ear infections and excruciating earaches. In 1885, in the throes of an earache, she visited a doctor who treated it with silver nitrate, which caused her “tremendous agony and set in motion a series of complications from which she would never fully recover.  By the time the soreness finally subsided, Daisy Gordon’s hearing was significantly impaired” (Cordery, p. 92). Silver nitrate had been used to treat ear infections, but it is extremely caustic and must be used with great care. It’s not clear if the physician used too much silver nitrate or if this was an unfortunate occurrence.  Eventually the perforated eardrum did heal and some hearing returned. As if to add insult to injury, in 1886, as Daisy and her new husband embarked on their honeymoon, a piece of rice thrown by guests managed to lodge itself in her good ear. After returning from her honeymoon with a painful ear infection underway, her husband took her to a doctor in Atlanta. He removed the grain of rice, but in the process her eardrum was punctured, causing her to lose all hearing in that ear.

Deafness was not uncommon in Victorian times, due to infectious diseases and loud noises compounded by a lack of treatment options and lack of medical knowledge about the inner workings of the ear.  Daisy learned to cope.  Because she was not born deaf and thus had known what it was to hear, she became a skilled lipreader.  Her own speech was unimpaired to the extent that her hearing challenges weren’t always obvious.  And if she did misunderstand and thus respond inappropriately? Well, her social status protected her. “Eccentricities among elites were accepted among peers and across class lines. Daisy’s hearing loss might have exacerbated what companions—especially family who knew her before she lost her hearing—called her “craziness,” but her circle of friends tolerated irregular behavior” (Cordery, p. 108). Indeed, she learned to use her deafness to her advantage—when receiving a rejection of her request for volunteering with or donating to Girls Scouts, she simply pretended not to understand!

3. Juliette Gordon Low

Juliette Gordon Low, n.d. Source:

Back to the beginnings of Girl Scouting in America in Savannah—”The first Girl Scouts got to know Daisy personally, and they thought of her as a quirky, funny fairy godmother type of person who would stand on her head at meetings and tell spooky stories around the campfire. Daisy liked to ask the girls what they thought and what they wanted to do, rather than telling them. From the beginning, Daisy wanted the Girl Scouts to be inclusive, meaning that it would be open to girls of any race, background or financial situation. The girls would be encouraged to be independent, to make their own choices and to develop their talents and skills. They would also be challenged to learn new things. Daisy thought it was important for the girls to spend time outdoors, so camping, swimming and playing sports such as basketball were early activities.

Daisy continued to travel between England and America, promoting Girl Scouting.  In 1914, World War I broke out, and she and her sister volunteered with the Belgian Red Cross.  America maintained its neutral stance for several more years until President Woodrow Wilson’s hand was forced in 1917 and he declared war. Almost immediately, Girls Scouts offered to help with the war effort. “The Girl Scout movement seemed to blossom overnight in response to the United States’ entry into the war. Girls all over the country tended to victory gardens, volunteered as ambulance drivers for the Red Cross, relieved overworked nurses during the Spanish Influenza epidemic, sold war bonds, and gathered units at Red Cross sewing rooms. Suddenly, girls were putting to use the skills they learned to use in the pursuit of badges. Important figures began to recognize the girls’ hard work. Future President and then Secretary of the U.S. Food Administration Herbert Hoover wrote to Juliette Gordon Low on two separate occasions to thank the Girl Scouts for their great work in food conservation. Mrs. Woodrow Wilson accepted the title of honorary president of the Girl Scouts as would all future first ladies including Michelle Obama.

4. Gordon Family Papers

From the Gordon Family papers, MS 318, Georgia Historical Society. Source:

For the rest of her life, Daisy worked tirelessly to promote the Girls Scouts, both in this country and internationally. “After the war ended in 1918, Low returned to England to continue her work with the Girl Guides and to revive their connection with the American Girl Scouts. Olave Baden-Powell spearheaded an International Council of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in 1919. Low was in London at that time and acted as the American representative on the Council. Its aim was to expand the work of the girls’ organizations throughout the world. During the 1920s, this International Council of Girl Guides created troops in many parts of the globe, including South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and China.  For her extensive and continued work for the Girl Guides, Low was awarded the organization’s Silver Fish by Olave Baden-Powell in 1919, its highest honor. Low is one of the few Americans to have received this award. The following year, Low stepped down as President of the Girl Scouts of America and focused more of her attention on promoting the organization internationally. The organization established Low’s birthday, October 31, as Girl Scouts’ Founder’s Day in 1920.”  At the time Low stepped down from the presidency and became known as Founder, there were 70,000 Girls Scouts; in the next seven years, that figured more than doubled to 168,000.

Juliette Magill Kinzie Gordon Low died January 17, 1927 after a long and private struggle with breast cancer. From a sickly child who suffered through the Civil War, a madcap girl who loved to stand on her head, a childless woman who was a failure, in her eyes, as a wife, and a deaf individual in a time when disabilities were stigmatizing, Daisy persevered to become a beloved figure and founder of a movement that far outlived her.  As of 2018, there were 2.6 million Girls Scouts in the U.S. alone, with over 50 million alums. Every time you enjoy a Girl Scout cookie, sales of which began in 1917, her legacy continues.

In 2019, UASC received a collection of materials from the Girls Scouts of Southwestern Indiana, a regional council serving 11 counties.  This collection includes uniforms, cookie tins, dolls, toys, badges, photographs, and scrapbooks, dating as far back as 1923.  This collection is here on a temporary basis—at such time as Girls Scouts of Southwestern Indiana settles into its new location, it will make a decision about reclaiming the items or making the donation permanent. Here are a couple of the more interesting items from this collection.

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Resources Consulted

About Daisy.  Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.

Cordery, Stacy A.  Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts.  New York: Viking, 2012.   HS3268.2.L68 C67 2012

Gambino, Megan. The Very First Troop Leader.  March 7, 2012.

Juliette Gordon Low.  Georgia Historical Society website.

Juliette Gordon Low.  Girl Scouts of the United States website.

Kent, Deborah.  Extraordinary People with Disabilities.  New York: Children’s Press, 1996.  HV1552.3 .K45 1996

Kleiber, Shannon Henry.  Juliette Gordon Low, who had no children of her own, started Girl Scouts in 1912.   Washington Post online, March 9, 2012.

Spring, Kelly A.  Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927)  National Women’s History Museum online, 2017.

Posted in American history, history, women's history | Leave a comment

“War is Hell”… and Expensive, Too.

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

That quote is attributed to Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, but it surely applies to every other war, as does the comment about the cost. Declaring war, assuming you have the political will and the necessary votes, is one thing—funding it is another.

The United States entered World War I late in the conflict. The war began in 1914, but the U.S., due to the isolationist leanings of President Woodrow Wilson and much of the American public, vowed to remain neutral. This façade wavered a bit in 1915 with the bombing of the Lusitania and the loss of some 2,00 lives, 128 of them American, but it did not crack. It took the threat of an alliance between Germany and Mexico for Congress to declare war on April 6, 1917.

William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941), n.d. Source:

William Gibbs McAdoo (1863-1941), n.d. Source:

Generally speaking, the secretary of the Treasury proposes a funding plan for war financing and works with Congress to enact the necessary legislation, while the Federal Reserve operates with considerable independence from both the executive and legislative branches of government. But World War I was different. The Treasury and the Fed, united under one leader, worked together in both the creation of the financial war plan and its execution.” The Federal Reserve System was new to the country, only established in 1914. During the political debates over its very establishment, it became clear that there was strong opposition to even the concept of a central coordinating board.  President Wilson, however, was adamant that there be “a public agency with supervisory powers over the banks.” A compromise was reached that established a Federal Reserve Board of 7 members, headquartered in Washington, D.C., with the Secretary of the Treasury ex-officio chair. The author of this compromise was none other than Wilson’s Treasury secretary, William Gibbs McAdoo, who thus found himself with huge responsibilities 3 years later when war was declared.

Funding America’s entry into World War I wasn’t going to be cheap, even if it was for a relatively short period of time—not, of course, was there any idea of the actual duration of the war at the time. The options available for raising the necessary funds were taxation, borrowing, printing money, or some combination thereof. McAdoo was strongly opposed to printing money, based in part on Civil War experience that issuing “greenbacks” promoted inflation. He also believed that this would lower morale, damage the reputation of currency, and hide the true cost of war. “Any great war must necessarily be a popular movement,” he thought, “… a kind of crusade.” McAdoo opted for both taxation and borrowing. “Taxation would work directly and transparently to reduce consumption. Taxes are compulsory, and those who must pay are left with less purchasing power. Their expenditures will fall, freeing productive resources (labor, machines, factories, and raw materials) to be employed in support of the war.” Although there was a faction that supported taxation as the sole basis of war funding, the eventual compromise was 1/3 from taxes and 2/3 from borrowing.

From whom was the government going to borrow? It would borrow from the American people through the sale of war bonds.  The public would hopefully lower consumption and purchase bonds, further adding to the freeing of productive resources. “It was at this point that McAdoo conceived of the Liberty Loan plan. It had three elements. First, the public would be educated about bonds, the causes and objectives of the war, and the financial power of the country. McAdoo chose to call the securities “Liberty Bonds” as part of this educational effort. Second, the government would appeal to patriotism and ask everyone – from schoolchildren to millionaires — to do their part by reducing consumption and purchasing bonds. Third, the entire effort would rely upon volunteer labor, thereby avoiding the money market, brokerage commissions, or a paid sales force. The Federal Reserve Banks would coordinate and manage sales, while the bonds could be purchased at any bank that was a member of the Federal Reserve System.

The successful sale of war bonds depended upon two key factors, the first of which was financial. Although the lowest denomination available was $50 (2 weeks of wages for the average worker), an installment plan was offered. War Thrift Stamps cost only $.25. “The Treasury Department called them “little baby bonds,” and like the Liberty Bonds, they earned interest. The stamps were pasted on a card until sixteen had been collected, at which point they were exchanged for a $5 stamp called a “War Savings Stamp.” These were affixed to a “War-Savings Certificate” which also earned interest. When ten $5 stamps were collected, the certificate could be exchanged for a $50 Liberty Bond.

3. Inside of the Thrift Card

Inside of the Thrift Card, used to paste Savings Stamps, n.d. Source:

The second aspect of selling war bonds, and perhaps the most important one, was the battle waged in the court of public opinion. To add to the cachet of owning a bond, they were sold only in 5 brief, heavily publicized campaigns. To this end, the Committee on Public Information was created and staffed with psychologists, journalists, artists, advertising experts, etc. One of the experts in mass psychology was Edward Bernays … who was Sigmund Freud’s nephew! The very name “Liberty Loan” or “Liberty Bond” was an appeal to patriotism; the final issue of bonds, sold after the armistice, were called “Victory Loans/Bonds.” Within the Committee on Public Information was Division of Pictorial Publicity, producer of colorful, emotional, and sometimes lurid posters.  Famous artists such as N.C. Wyeth (you might better recognize the work of his son Andrew and grandson Jamie) and Norman Rockwell signed on to lend their talents to the cause.  The Division was headed by Charles Dana Gibson, who had made the “Gibson Girl” an iconic figure. (These artists also created other posters in support of the war effort beyond those to sell Liberty Bonds, but we’re going to focus on the Bond posters.) War Bond posters were not subtle in their appeal, instead invoking motives of family, guilt, social image, revenge, fear, competitiveness, the American spirit, etc.

The Statue of Liberty even got involved!

Poster by Charles Raymond Macauley, 1917. Source:

Poster by Charles Raymond Macauley, 1917. Source:

Although this poster doesn’t specifically say anything about buying bonds, the idea is clear from the dollar signs.

6. Liberty Bound or Liberty Bond

Original design for “Liberty Bound or Liberty Bond? U Can Change It” by James Hart, 1917/1918. Source:

An even more dire threat to Lady Liberty shows her under attack and headless, although realistically, a direct attack on the United States in World War I was not likely.

That Liberty Shall Not Perish From the Earth by Joseph Pennell, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 41" by 28 1/4".

That Liberty Shall Not Perish From the Earth by Joseph Pennell, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 41″ by 28 1/4″.

This play to patriotism, drawing on another iconic American figure, is an appeal to purchase savings stamps. The imagery here says that the American eagle is safe due to the protection of biplanes, thanks to the purchase of War Savings Stamps.

8. Keep Him Free (Pg 147)

Keep Him Free, Buy War Savings Stamps by Charles Livingston Bull, 1917. Color lithograph on paper, 29 7/8” by 20 1/8”.

Other posters play to anti-German sentiment and focus on the horrors of war, sometimes with pejorative language.  This one has a bloody handprint “to represent atrocities committed by an uncivilized enemy.” (The Great War: U.S. Army Art, p. 131)

The Hun--His Mark, Blot it Out by James Allen St. John, 1917. Color lithograph on paper, 42 ¼” by 28 ¼”.

The Hun–His Mark, Blot it Out by James Allen St. John, 1917. Color lithograph on paper, 42 ¼” by 28 ¼”.

This poster references what was called The Rape of Belgium—the German invasion and occupation of Belgium (a direct violation of Belgium’s neutrality) and mistreatment of civilians. This image is from the 4th Liberty Loan campaign, which strictly emphasized German “bestiality.”

Remember Belgium by Ellsworth Young, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 30" by 20 1/4".

Remember Belgium by Ellsworth Young, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 30″ by 20 1/4″.

Immigrants were targeted as a reminder that their loyalty was now due to the United States and not to any European power who might be an enemy in the war.

Pg 132

Remember Your First Thrill of American Liberty, artist unknown, 1917. Color lithograph on paper, 30″ by 20″.

Here Joan of Arc is presented as a model for American women. If Joan could lose her life in order to save France, surely American women could make the paltry financial sacrifice necessary to buy war savings stamps!

Pg 148

Joan of Arc Saved France by William “Haskell” Coffin, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 30″ by 20″.

The Boy Scouts joined forces with Lady Liberty, called into service by President Wilson.  “In the five loan drives the Scouts sold 2,328,308 bond subscriptions amounting to $354,859,262.  Over two million War Saving Stamps were sold totaling $43,043,698.

USA Bonds by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 29 7/8" by 19 7/8".

USA Bonds by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1918. Color lithograph on paper, 29 7/8″ by 19 7/8″.

Everyone was involved in war bond drives. “Civic and religious organizations were recruited by Liberty Loan committees to assist in bond sales. … A separate women’s-only organization, the National Women’s Liberty Loan Committee, was created and chaired by Secretary McAdoo’s wife Eleanor (who was also the daughter of President Wilson). The Women’s Committee worked primarily through existing women’s groups and fraternal organizations: the Ancient Order of the Hiberians Ladies’ Auxiliary, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the National Grange, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the Women’s Suffrage Association, the Young Women’s Christian Association, and countless others. Under the aegis of the committee, the women of America became a formidable salesforce numbering in the hundreds of thousands, and they were frequently able to outraise their male counterparts (National Women’s Liberty Loan Committee 1920). On Liberty Loan Sundays, America’s clergy took their pulpits to preach the virtues of bond buying, and model sermons were distributed widely.” College campuses were not immune. “At the University of Michigan, “bond hysteria” dominated the headlines of The Michigan Daily and the wallets of students. Headlines and bond ads encouraged students to “buy until it hurts” and that “patriotism is now spelled sacrifice.” The University of Michigan was given a quota of $200,000 for the second Liberty Loan by the Ann Arbor Loan Committee, translating to a rate of almost one bond for every student enrolled. Faculty and boosters participating in a 24-hour bond drive adopted the slogan “A bond for every student.” … Even when Michigan students were buying massive amounts of bonds, some faculty members feared that the University would fail to meet its quota, with one headline in the student newspaper speculating that the University was doomed to fail. However, the University proceeded to oversubscribe its quota by $42,000 only ten days later.” Celebrities like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Al Jolson, and Douglas Fairbanks went across the country rallying loyal Americans to buy liberty bonds. Douglas Fairbanks came to Evansville on April 15, 1918, here standing on the steps of the Hotel McCurdy, looking at a newspaper.


Douglas Fairbanks promoting war bonds in Evansville, Indiana, 1918. Source: Thomas Mueller collection (MSS 247-1166).

The Committee on Public Information (CPI) “organized a volunteer speakers bureau known as the Four Minute Men (FMM), “the most unique and one of the most effective agencies developed during the war for the stimulation of public opinion and the promotion of unity.” Supplied with material by the CPI, the volunteers wrote their own speeches and presented them during intermission at movie theaters. The speeches were calibrated to last no longer than the time it took the projectionist to change reels during a movie, and speakers were instructed to deliver them without notes. Soon the work of the FMM expanded to include forums at churches, fraternal lodges, labor unions, and other gathering places. The FMM were issued talking points for each of the four Liberty Loan drives by the CPI. In addition to reminding their audiences of the principles for which the allies were fighting, the FMM were asked to provide information on the particulars of the issue, explain basic principles of investing, and exhort the virtues of savings and thrift. … Seventy-five thousand volunteered for service as FMM across more than five thousand communities giving more than seven million speeches. Four Minute Men were found on 153 college campuses, and a junior division was created to sell War Savings Stamps.

Posters and pins were everywhere.

7. Liberty Loans

Liberty Loans, 2nd Loan: (location not identified). Source: Harris and Ewing, 1917. //

8. I Own A Liberty Bond

Purchasers of Liberty Bonds could wear this “Badge of Honor”, n.d. Source:

9. Liberty Loan Campaign Buttons

Liberty Loan campaign buttons, Andrew Babicki Collection (1916-1936). Source:

And then, suddenly and abruptly, it all stopped.  According to the chair of the CPI,  “Within twenty-four hours from the signing of the armistice orders were issued for the immediate cessation of every domestic activity of the Committee on Public Information.”  The Committee on Public Information, moreover, was not an outlier. Virtually the entire government apparatus that had been assembled to run the war economy was scrapped the moment the war ended, reflecting the public’s desire to get the whole experience over with.” Those after-the-armistice Victory Bonds were sold, just not under the aegis of the CPI.

By war’s end, after four drives, twenty million individuals had bought bonds. That is pretty impressive given that there were only twenty-four million households at the time. More than $17 billion had been raised. In addition, the taxes collected amounted to $8.8 billion. Almost exactly two-thirds of the war funds came from bonds and one-third from taxes. This was a time when $17 billion was an almost unthinkably large number. An equal share of gross domestic product today would amount to $6.3 trillion. Most of McAdoo’s bonds were purchased by the public, 62 percent of the value sold by one estimate. A government survey of almost 13,000 urban wage-earners conducted in 1918 and 1919 indicated that 68 percent owned Liberty Bonds. It seems undeniable that the emotional advertising campaign effectively produced a broad and strong desire to do one’s part for the war effort by participating in this way. After the war, McAdoo’s assistant in fiscal matters, Assistant Secretary Russell Leffingwell, described the loan campaigns “as the most magnificent economic achievement of any people. … the actual achievement of 100,000,000 united people inspired by the finest and purest patriotism.””  Most of the bonds were retired (i.e., paid off) between 1921-1927. When the 4th was called in 1934, the Treasury refused to pay off in gold as had been promised when they were sold. (Click here to see the rationale.) Due to the increased price of gold since the 1918 sale, bondholders stood to lose a potential $2.9 billion and took this default as far as the Supreme Court, but never received compensation.

The Liberty Loan Acts that authorized the sales of these bonds have never been repealed, and this type of bond has been issued occasionally since World War I. The latest issuance helped rebuild/restore parts of New York after the 9/11 bombings. While it’s highly unlikely that there was a publicity campaign on the World War I scale in this latest instance, war is still hell, and it’s still expensive.

Resources Consulted:

Brown, Judi. “What Were Liberty Bonds in World War 1?” Owlcation website, March 4, 2013.

The Great War. U.S. Army Art.  Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections: D522 .G66 2018

The Great War. U.S. Army Artifacts.  Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2018. Special Collections: D503 .G74 2018

Hilt, Eric and Wendy M. Rahn. “Turning Citizens into Investors: Promoting Savings with Liberty Bonds During World War I.” RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences: v. 2, no. 6, October 2016, p. 86-108.

Kang, Sung Won and Hugh Rockoff.  “Capitalizing Patriotism: The Liberty Loans of World War I. NBER Working Papers no. 11919, National Bureau of Economic Research, January 2006.

McDermott, T.P. “USA’s Boy Scouts and World War I Liberty Bonds.” SISSI Journal, May/June 2002, p. 68-73.

Natanson, Barbara Orbach.  “The Bonds of Liberty: a World War I Liberty Loan Poster.”  Picture This Library of Congress blog, February 22, 2017.

Patton, James.  “The Liberty Bonds.” Kansas World War I Centennial Committee website, January 26, 2019.

Schuffman, Lawrence D.  “The Liberty Bond: 2007 Marks the 90th Anniversary of the First War Bond of the 20th Century.” Financial History, Spring 2007.

“The Statue of Liberty in Recruitment and War Bonds Posters.” Statue of Liberty National Monument, National Park Service, August 18, 2017.

Sutch, Richard.  “Liberty Bonds April 1917–September 1918.” Federal Reserve History.

“The University of Michigan and The Great War.”  Public history exhibit is presented by the History Department and the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

World War I Posters: Liberty Bound or Liberty Bond? U.S. National Archives and Records Administration.

Posted in Business, European History, Local history, World War 1 | Leave a comment