Tuesday, June 26, 2012

World War One Wednesday

This past Monday I was privileged to be able to visit Soldiers' Field Park in Rochester, MN, home of the Soldiers' Field Veterans' Memorial. The above picture shows part of the memorial. It's beautiful, stirring, and sobering. The names of veterans are inscribed on pavers and on the wall at the rear of the memorial. Along the outside of the granite circle are engravings depicting the wars the citizens of Minnesota have fought in, from the Civil War through the present day. Quotations are inscribed on the inside of the circle. There are statues, cannons, and benches. You can see a bit more about the memorial by clicking on this link: http://www.soldiersfieldmemorial.org/vm-index.htm

This is the flag that flies at the center of the memorial. As you can see, the flags in MN were at half-mast on Monday. Funeral services were held on Monday, June 25th, 2012 for Minnesota soldier Marine Corporal Taylor J. Baune of Andover who was killed earlier this month in Afghanistan.

Once I completed my tour of the memorial, I was ready to visit the Honoring Our History Exhibit, created in partnership with the National World War One Museum and Waddell & Reed Investment and Asset Management Company. Chauncey Waddell and Cameron Reed were both World War One veterans, and they founded their investment company together in Kansas City in 1937. The Waddell & Reed company is a solid contributor to the WW1 Museum, and in honor of the company's 75th Anniversary, they chose to create the traveling exhibit and send it to 75 cities that have Waddell & Reed offices.

The exhibit was full of interesting treasures, facts, photographs, and video displays. Most amazing of all, was that the entire exhibit was contained in a single semi-truck. The whole exhibit is wonderfully put together and displayed, and I would love to see it again sometime. Below are a few pictures I took of the exhibits and some of the things I learned. I hope you'll find them as interesting as I did.

I love to learn new things from history, and I was delighted to find this little gem in one of the display cases of the exhibit. This is a Princess Mary Christmas Box. Britain's Princess Mary led the effort to provide "everyone who would be wearing the King's uniform on Christmas Day, 1914 with a gift from the nation." The brass box held candy, tobacco, and other small treats, and the box served as a keepsake. The top of the box shows a silhouette of Princess Mary, and is stamped with her initial, and the countries of France, Russia, Japan, Belgium, Servia, (sic) and Montenegro. Each box contained a Christmas card that read: With Best Wishes For a Victorious New Year, From The Princess Mary and Friends at Home.

This is a wicked-looking machine gun. This particular model had a seat, and the entire gun and seat swiveled, giving the gunner a wide swath to cut through enemy lines. In the photographs of "no-man's land" the area between the German and Allied lines on the battle field, bare dirt, rough wooden barricades, and miles and miles of barbed wire stretched. It was into this hostile wasteland that thousands of soldiers went 'Over The Top' and into the very mouths of machine gun nests like the photograph above. The command to go over the top was the one the soldier dreaded the most.

A Doughboy uniform complete with rifle, knife, pack, and puttees. Puttees are long strips of cloth wound around the leg from knee to ankle. They serve as support and protection for the wearer, and were a distinctive feature of the allied soldiers' uniforms.

 I thought these paper dolls were charming. The kids look like the Campbell's Soup kids, don't they? These types of books were sold in an effort to show how everyone was expected to do their part in the war effort, even kids.

This is an emergency naval medical kit. It contains sutures, scalpels, scissors, probes, and tweezers. The small boxes on the right are bandage kits. They hold cotton gauze, safety pins, and cotton balls. The Red Cross on the white background is the international symbol of military medical, and of the Red Cross and was worn as an armband to identify its wearer as a non-combatant. 

I took a bunch more pictures, watch a lot of video tape, and read lots of signage in the exhibit which is all housed in an 18-wheeler semi truck. The stop in Rochester is the 54th stop on a 75 city tour. Check out http://honoringourhistory.com/ to see if the World War One exhibit will be in a town near you. And if you're passing through Kansas City, be sure to visit The National World War One Museum. Details can be found at http://www.theworldwar.org/s/110/new/index_community.aspx

And on a fun note, the local television station visited the exhibit while I was there and shot this video. The back of my head made it into the video. :)


Question for you: Museums or Amusement Parks? What's you're pleasure?


  1. Erica, this looks amazing! I'm slightly jealous of you...okay, I'm really jealous! Last year the Minnesota Historical Society brought a WWII exhibit to my hometown and I was able to go and visit that, which was a blast. One of my favorite pieces to that exhibit was listening to the records of the Andrews Sisters! I also learned about people who voluntarily participated in a starvation study in the Twin Cities to see what stages the body goes through while starving. The pictures were awful and the stories the men told made me cry. I will never tire of learning about history.

    If I had to choose between an amusement park and a museum, there would be no contest (just ask my family).

    1. I got to see that exhibit when it was in Wabasha. We were visiting the National Eagle Center and just stumbled upon the MN Historical Society exhibit by accident. Those pictures of the starvation study were so heartbreaking!

      Did you see that the MN Historical Society was debuting a new Dakota War exhibit this weekend? I can't wait to see that one. Oh, and there is a huge Rembrandt exhibit that just opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. That one's on my list, too.

    2. Isn't this the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War? I heard about the exhibit and would love to go and see it. I have an excellent book called Old Rail Fence Corners published my MHS Press - it's full of hundreds of accounts of original pioneers to Minnesota and there are some powerful stories by people who survived the Dakota War. I hope to write about it someday!

  2. What a great exhibit! I used to love amusement parks, but that was in my younger days. Now, I'm happier to go to a museum.

    1. It really was a fascinating museum. I guess I've always preferred a museum to an amusement park. I've been to Florida a bunch of times and been to lots of museums down there, but I've never been to see Mickey Mouse.

  3. Great pictures!! The Christmas box is really interesting. I've never heard of that before.

    1. I hadn't either. I went on eBay and saw that there are several for sale. I want one!!!

  4. So cool! About 10 years ago I'd say amusement parks, but now I get dizzy when I turn my office chair around. So Museums.