Author Archives: Joan Weaver, Kinsley Library Director

#38 Nick Oster, Loyal American

Caption reads:  I may ask you at any time to strike down your own mother, sister or sweetheart.(Scene from the movie, “The Kaiser, The Beast of Berlin”)   May 2, 1918 Kinsley Mercury

 I’ve been blogging about how Germans fared in this area during the war.  With movies playing like the one advertised above, it was little wonder that people were suspicious and afraid.  This animosity was even evident with people who had lived in the area for over thirty years.

Nickolaus Oster is a good example.  He was born in 1857 in Germany and came to the Sts. Peter and Paul neighborhood in 1879. He married Gertrude Herrmann in 1881, and they had three children.   After a couple of failed attempts at farming, he made final proof of his land claim in March, 1898.  Unfortunately Gertrude died in 1910 and she was buried in the cemetery at Sts. Peter & Paul Church.

Nick Oster had many occupations over the years, from ranching to real estate, especially promoting the land around Sts. Peter and Paul.  From 1910 to 1912, he was the first president of Farmers and Merchants State Bank, located at 200 E. Sixth St. in Kinsley.  He was an agent for the new Waterbury Sanitary Indoor Closets (1915) and also sold Rio automobiles (1916).  In 1917 he bought a hotel in Macksville.


In 1916 Nick married for the second time and left Kinsley.  His son Peter and his family were still in Edwards County, and according to the paper, Nick and his wife made frequent visits back.  On one visit in April, 1917, he must have been venting to J. M. Lewis, the editor of the Kinsley Graphic, about rumors regarding his loyalty to the country.   Lewis wrote the following:

Mr. Oster returned from the Pacific Coast recently and has expressed himself as greatly surprised at certain stories in circulation here regarding his loyalty to the United States.  He says he is ready and willing to fight for his adopted country or the people who have been guilty of maligning him.  He says he was born in Germany and has been here for thirty-eight years.  He has accumulated property and reared a family and every tie binds him to his adopted country, and that any stories reflecting on his loyalty are untrue and that the story of his having been arrested for treasonable utterances against this government are malicious and without any foundation in fact.  Mr. Oster seemed very much in earnest and we believe it will be well for any who may desire to express a doubt as to his loyalty to be a good running start or they may find themselves in need of first aid to the wounded.  (Kinsley Graphic, April 19, 1917)

Nick’s son Peter registered for the draft Sept. 19, 1918, but the war ended before he had to go. Tragically, Peter died of influenza in February, 1920.  From what I can tell, Nick and his wife settled down in Wichita.  He died in 1937, just short of his 80th birthday and is buried in the cemetery at Sts. Peter and Paul.


#37  Anti-German Sentiments Bring Froetschners to Offerle

We’re had the privilege of recording over 80 oral histories here at the Kinsley Library.  You can read transcripts, listen to audio tapes, view short video clips, and look at family pictures from these oral histories on our website.  We try to get a snapshot of the lives of the people we interview.  At the time, we never know where the stories they tell us will fit into the mosaic of our local history.   The general standard question of “Why did your ancestors come to Edwards County” has offered some insights into our current World War I study.

When I interviewed Marilyn Froestchner Kersting in 2011, she told an interesting story about her grandfather Alvin Froetchner.

“When my grandfather was down in the Coldwater area, there was animosity against Germans.  My grandfather still had very close ties to Germany.  He had a picture on his wall of Kaiser Wilhelm II.  The neighbors said, ‘You get that off your wall!’  Well, he took that picture down and put a baby picture of my Dad (Harry Froetschner) and my Uncle Bill (William Froetchner) over the top of the Kaiser.  We have that picture!”

The original pictures (reproduced below) are large and came out of a big antique oval frame.
Marilyn’s brother, Jerome Froetschner, came in the library last week and reiterated this story.  He said that his grandfather Alvin left the area and moved south of Offerle because most of the people in the area were of English-Americans.  It was not comfortable to continue to live there.

I found out a little about Alvin from Julie Ackerman’s book, Offerle History:  1876-1976.  Alvin was born in 1878 in Germany.  His father came to America when Alvin was 3 years old.  He settled in Larned , worked for the railroad, and tried to make a home for his family to join him.

The following is taken from the Offerle History book:  “When Alvin was 18 years old he decide to accompany his father back to America.  But the German government changed his plans—insisting that he serve in the army before leaving the country.
At the end of two years, Alvin obtained a furlough to come to America….(in 1900) he left his home near Leipsig, Germany, not able to speak a word of English, but he made the trip without any trouble.  It took eighteen days to make the boat trip. There were 1,400 people on the ‘Boon’, a combination freight-passenger trip.  His fare was $85.”

Alvin settled in Larned working on farms and delivering ice. He became a naturalized citizen in 1904, 13 years before his neighbors thought he was a German sympathizer.  His granddaughter, Joanne VanCoevern, (her mother was Dora) sent me a copy of his naturalization papers:In 1906 he bought land and met Sophie Marting, a recent immigrant from Germany.  They married in 1907, had 3 sons (William, Harry & Carl), and built up a farm which they sold for $2,500 in order to purchase a half-section of land in Comanche County, near Coldwater.  They had two daughters (Alma & Dora) and lived on this land for nine years until they sold it to move to Offerle in August, 1918.  In December, 1919 Ernest was born.  The extended family became integral members of Zion Lutheran Church and the farming community.  PICTURED BELOW Standing:  Harry, Alma and Carl.  Seated: William, Alvin, Baby Ernest, Sophie and Dora standing.

#36  German Language is Verboten

In a previous post, I described how Edwards County had many German-Americans with some thriving German-speaking communities.   The people who lived around Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church north of Kinsley spoke German.  As did the Zion Lutheran Church community south of Offerle.  Cordelia Gall Froetschner (1918-2011) grew up in that area.  During an interview in 2009, she said, “Our church had German services for years, and then as long as there were some of the older members who knew German, there were German services.”

Cordelia’s niece, Marilyn Froetschner Kersting, grew up in the rural neighborhood also.  She said in a 2011 interview, “My folks (Harry and Clara Froetschner) understood German.  My dad spoke only German until he went to school.  All the Froetschner boys did.  Maybe Ernest, the youngest, didn’t because they did enough speaking of English by the time he was old enough. But the others, that’s the only language I think they knew until they went to school.”

In the February 8, 1917 edition of the Kinsley Graphic, Pastor Walter Berg of the German Methodist Church located north of Kinsley extended an invitation which points to the fact that German was the first language in that area and accommodation was being made for the English-speaking folk during their services.

“We are endeavoring to adapt ourselves to the needs of the entire community.  Among other things we have introduced some services for the benefit of those who cannot understand the German Language.  We now have two classes in the Sunday-school that are being conducted in English.  The Epworth League (group for young adults, 18-35) and preaching services on Sunday evenings are also in the English language.  This will give everyone an opportunity to receive the blessings that a church in a neighborhood brings in the individual and to the home.

Even before WWI, the German language was being taught in Kinsley High School.  It was reported in the Kinsley Mercury on January 26, 1917 that a German Club had been organized and was publishing a newspaper.  The staff was made up of first, second, and third year students with Olive Maud Stewart as the German and Latin teacher.  Ms Stewart received her B.A. from Baker University and Berlin University.  Students wrote articles in German on different high school subjects. ”They have recitations, debates, and conversations in the German language and each one of the class contributes a current event in the German language.”

Olive Maud Stewart, 1917 Kinsley High School Annual

The German language was alive and well in Edwards County before the U.S. entered the war.  After war was declared, the story changed.  At the same time that enemy aliens were being registered, there was an ongoing effort to eradicate German “Kulture” and language.  Fear was making Americans suspicious of their neighbors.  People began to worry about spies and sabotage.  Hearing the German language both reminded people of the enemy that was killing American boys overseas and also aroused suspicions because what they were saying was not understandable to the English-speaking American.  In 1918, there was a call made to eliminate the speaking of German in America.

Mary Kallaus came into the library last week and talked about her mother-in-law, Marie Schinstock Kallaus, who had grown up in the Sts. Peter and Paul area.  At the time, they had a nun who taught German in the parochial school, but her mother had said that it was stopped in 1918 and never taught again.  During those years, the women did not like to go to town because their English was not as good as the men’s who had more contact with English speakers.  Mrs. Kallaus had also said that the county attorney, A.L. Moffat, would periodically make visits to the community looking for any suspicious activity.

In January 24, 1918, the Kinsley Graphic reported:  “The Teachers’ Council in Topeka last week went on record favoring the expulsion of the German language from all schools, public, private or parochial in Kansas.  Chancellor Strong of the University (of Kansas) led the fight on the German language, making an especial plea that the school where all instruction is in German shall teach the English.

It was ten weeks before the Kinsley School Board “decided to cut out the teaching of the German language in our city schools next year.”  Kinsley Graphic, April 4, 1918

That summer the Graphic wrote that the German teacher, Olive Maud Stewart, was moving to Cimarron.  The Cimarron Record subsequently reported her arrival in Cimarron where she was to take over the duties of principal.  She was no longer teaching German.

When the United States entered World War II, anti-German sentiments would be rekindled.  A look through the Kinsley High School annuals shows that Latin, Spanish and French were the only languages taught at various times since 1918.  The German Language was never again part of the curriculum.

#35  Female Enemy Aliens Required to Register

As mentioned in the last post, female enemy aliens were required to register between June 17 and June 26, 1918 using a slightly different form called Registration Affidavit of Alien Female.  Both men and women made three sets of their affidavits with one being sent to Washington, one held by the United States marshal within the district where the person registered, and one kept in the local records.  Each enemy alien was given an identification card which had to be carried on their person at all times for the duration of the war.

German born women who had become naturalized or were married to American men before April 6, 1918 were not required to register.  But what was very surprising to me is that American born women who married German men were required to register.  In fact, of the seventeen women who registered as enemy aliens in Edwards County, eleven of them were actually American citizens.

The June 20, 1918 edition of the Kinsley Mercury set forth how registration should take place.  The instructions end with the following:

“The regulations admonish registering officials to be courteous to their treatment of the women, and to render all necessary assistance in filling out the affidavit blanks.  The photographs required must be unmounted, and ‘without hat or other head covering’.  (Kinsley Mercury, June 20, 1918

Richard Nickel’s wife, Ellen, was one of the American-born women who was required to register.  We learn from her form that she was born Ellen Collier in Stockton, Cedar County, Missouri on January 21, 1884.  Her parents were John and Mary Collier and United States citizens who lived in Kinsley.  On the female form it asks for the names of children without the age restrictions.  She lists one son, Virgil S. Nickel, who was born July 24, 1901 in Lewis, Kansas. On the female form it also asks what language is spoken and she lists English.

Following are the names of the 17 women who registered as Enemy aliens in Edwards County. The women’s names un red were U.S. citizens.

Anna Breitenbach, Lydia Neidig, Mathilda Griep, Bertha Grimm, Louisa Grybowski, Elizabeth Herrmann, Mathilde Krenzin, Ellen Nickel, Emma Grimm, Emily Scwarz, Ella Ploger, Elizabeth Ploger,  Emma Ploger, Margaret E Salm, Margaret M. Salm, Elizabeth Scholtz, and Helen Tuchtenhagen.

Below are Ellen Nickel’s registration forms.  I recommend looking for these affidavits if you are of German descent and might have an ancestor who was required to register as an enemy alien.  The information, descriptions, fingerprints, and picture (if it is good quality) are surely interesting.



#34 Registration of Enemy Aliens

“You are hereby notified that the registration of German alien enemies is to commence at six A.M. on February 4, 1918 to continue…up to and including the 9th day of February, 1918 at eight o’clock P.M….Persons required to register should understand that in so doing they are giving proof of their peaceful dispositions and of their intention to conform to the Laws of the United States.”  Kinsley Graphic, January 31, 1918.

One hundred years ago, all non-naturalized males over the age of 14 were required to fill out a Registration Affidavit of Alien Enemy with the United States authorities as a national security measure. This registration focused primarily on non-citizen German residents, but included Italians and other nationalities, as well.  Non-naturalized female enemy aliens were later required to register using a Registration Affidavit of Alien Female form in June, 1918.

The information on these registration forms included immigration dates and places, birth and parentage, names of family members, address, occupation and employer; residents were also asked if they were sympathetic to the enemy and the names of any relatives serving in enemy forces.  Registrations included a physical description, fingerprints and photograph for the person.

According to the National Archives, most of these Enemy Alien records were destroyed by authorization of Congress in the 1920s, but some survive, including the forms for Edwards County which are on microfilm at the Kansas State Historical Society.  We borrowed the film and printed the 44 forms which we now have in our archive.

Richard Nickel was one of those who was required to register.  From his form we learn that he was born in “Somewhere in Germany” on November 15, 1873.  His father was Carl Nickel and he didn’t know the name of his mother as she died when he was young.  He came to the United States and Edwards County in 1881 at the age of 7.  At the onset of the war, he had been in this country 36 years.  He was married to Ellen .They had no children between the ages of 10-14.  He had been arrested once for playing poker.  He had started the naturalization process in 1898 but must not have finished it.

Following are the names of the men who registered as alien enemies in Edwards County:

Margan Breitenbach, John Hackenbroich, Charles Weidekind, Joseph Wolf, Henry Ditges, August Neidig, Erich Griep, John Grybowski, Herman Gutsche Sr., Herman Gutsche Jr, John  Havas, Henry Herrmann, Julius Krenzin, Richard Nickel, Oscar Grimm, Frank Mauler, Herman Scwarz, John Haas, August Munchow, Erich Munchow, Henry Ploger, August  Ploger,  W. C. Ploger, Henry Salm, John Salm, Frank Scholtz, and Willie Tuchtenhagen.

Below are Richard Nickel’s registration forms.


#33 Germans Immigrate to America

My next few posts will look at some newspaper articles which reference German-Americans in Edwards County during the war years.  Many Germans immigrated to the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century.  By 1900 German-Americans were the largest ethnic group making up about 8 million of the 76 million total population.  At the turn of the century, one-third of the foreign born population in Kansas had been born in Germany.  Some Germans had come to America fleeing religious persecution, some were avoiding being conscripted into the German army, and some, including the Volga Germans, were seeking better economic opportunities for their families.  According to Erik Kirchbaum in his book Burning Beethoven, “German influence in the United States was more dominant than Hispanic influence is now.”

In 1900, Edwards County had many German-Americans living within the county including 176 persons who were born in Germany.  Offerle, Belpre and Kinsley all had citizens of German origin.  A thriving German community south of Offerle was centered around Zion Lutheran Church (founded in 1878).  Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church (1893), Salem German Methodist Church (1891) Church and Peace Lutheran Church (1906) were all founded by German immigrants and located northwest of Kinsley within two miles of each other.

Zion Lutheran                  Saints Peter & Paul          Peace Lutheran

The German immigrants were very proud of their German ‘kulture’ and language. They spoke German in their homes, churches and communities.  This pride is detailed in Kirchbaum’s Burning Beethoven which is the title chosen for February in the High Plains Radio Reader’s Book Club and our Kansas Humanities Council Book TALK series here at the library.  It is an interesting book and encourage you to read it.

When President Wilson declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, many German immigrants had not been naturalized.  Wilson warned aliens living in the United States that they must keep peace and “refrain from crime against the public safety…and from actual hostility or giving information, aid or comfort to the enemies of the United States.  All who fail to conduct themselves properly are liable to restraint and other penalties…”  Wilson outlined that aliens could not have a firearm, weapons, or implements of war, aircraft, wireless, signaling devices or codes.  Among other things, “An alien enemy shall not write, print or publish any attack or threat against the government.”

The Herrmann family is one German family that found themselves labeled “enemy aliens”.  They had begun coming to Edwards County in 1879 and settled in the Sts. Peter and Paul perish area. Henry Herrmann (seated left) was born in Germany in 1889 and immigrated to the United States in 1911 after his Uncle Nick Oster had visited in Germany and encouraged him to do so.Henry was not a naturalized citizen by the time war was declared.  In February, 1918, he was required to register as an enemy alien.

Pictured above are Elizabeth Lobmeyer and Henry Herrmann on their wedding day on June 6, 1922. The bride’s brother and sister, George Lobmeyer and Anna Lobmeyer Weiss, stand behind them.George Lobmeyer seved in the 353rd All-Kansas Regiment 89th Division in World War I and fought for 99 days in France and Germany.

The treatment of Germans-Americans will be continued in my next post.



#32 Eustace Smith Admitted to Training Camp

“Many friends of Eustace Smith will be pleased to learn that he is among the few Kansans admitted to the officers’ training camp which has just been established.  When he failed to get into the first camp, he enlisted in a Hutchinson company, where his abilities were promptly recognized and he was made first sergeant.  This made it easy for him to get into the officers’ training camp, and his previous military training will be of great help to him in his new field.”

As an implant to a small town, I often find myself listening to conversations where because everyone knows all about the person being discussed, details are assumed and left unsaid.  This small item in the January 10, 1918 issue of the Kinsley Graphic had that effect on me, and I decided to find out more about Eustace.

I discovered that Eustace was the son of F. Dumont and Florence E Smith, who had come to Kinsley from Illinois in the fall of 1886.  This was the year Frederick had earned his law degree from the National Law School in Washington, D.C. (part of George Washington University today). He practiced law in Kinsley for 22 years, was elected mayor in 1893 and served as a Kansas State Senator, 1900-1908.

Eustace was born to this prominent couple on March 26, 1889.  He was a bright and adventurous child.  He is mentioned in the newspapers as being at the head of his class, performing in musicales, and delivering orations.

According to the August 14, 1903, Kinsley Graphic, Eustace and Paul Higgins, in between their junior and senior year of high school,“…started for Colorado Wednesday evening.  They will return as soon as their money runs out.”  In the following week’s paper, Eustace reported on their experience of riding burros to the summit of Pike’s Peak to see the sunrise.  The overnight trip cost $3 for burro, slicker, and blankets and a quarter for lunch.  There were 24 in the party including seven ladies in “divided skirts”.  Starting out at 3 p.m. in fine weather, it soon turned to rain and then snow.  They camped halfway up and being cold and wet, spent the night singing around a campfire instead of sleeping.  They continued their journey about 3 a.m.

After a while it began to snow and our clothes which were wet froze and we also about froze. I thought we were never going to reach the Peak.  It was terrible!!!  When we did reach it, I was so cold that when I got off my donkey, I had to walk in the same position that I had ridden as my legs were frozen into that position.”

They warmed up in a shelter at the top, watched the sunrise on the snow covered peak, and then rode back down in delightful weather.

Eustace was one of three in the Kinsley High School, Class of 1904.  He delivered the Salutatory Oration on “Our Navy” while his father, Senator Smith, gave the commencement address.

He graduated college from Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, N. J., and in 1908 he attended his father’s alma mater, the National University in Washington D.C. where he was unanimously elected president of his class. He graduated and was admitted to the Kansas bar in 1911 and returned to his father’s law firm which had relocated to Hutchinson, Kansas.

All through his college years and his early career, Eustace was part of the social scene.  When I read of the dinners and house parties, I found myself being envious of an age when people entertained, and the TV and digital devices did not occupy all their time.  The fancy fetes surrounding his engagement to Anna Keturah Steele and their subsequent marriage on October 29, 1913 were attended and celebrated by all the prominent people of Kinsley and Hutchinson.

In 1914, the young attorney made an unsuccessful run for Reno County Attorney on the Republican ticket.  In 1916, he was actively helping to enlist Cavalry troops to be ready for immediate service in the event that war is declared against Mexico.

At the outbreak of the WWI Eustace was one of the first Hutchinson volunteers, joining a machine gun company, part of the 137th All-Kansas infantry.  At Camp Doniphan he was commissioned a second lieutenant and assigned to the 140th infantry with which he went overseas.  This bright, talented young man was willing to serve, and the army made a wise decision training Lieutenant Smith as an officer as we will see as the war news progresses.

#31 Mincemeat as the War Pie

  Antique mincemeat tart pans                                NONE SUCH still on the shelf at Kinsley Food Pride

Every year my mother (Eloise Tillotson LaRue) made mincemeat tarts for Christmas.  I never developed a taste for mincemeat myself, but my mother had this English tradition handed down in her family.  In fact, I inherited the set of little tin tart pans pictured above which she got from her grandmother (Rosina Kirk Straw).  Mom thought she had brought them to northern Michigan from England in 1879, and they may have originally belonged to her great grandmother (Eleanor Dawson Straw).  Forgive my need to honor these women by name, but the tart tins are one of my favorite things, even though I bake cherry or strawberry tarts in them.

Traditionally, mincemeat is a mix of chopped dried fruit, brandy, spices, beef suet and beef.  The directions for one 19th century recipe goes as follows:

Stone and cut the raisins once or twice across, but do not chop them;  wash dry and pick the currants free from stalks and grit, and mince the beef and suet, taking care the latter is chopped very fine; slice the citron and candied lemon and orange peel, strain the juice and when all the ingredients are thus prepared, mix them well together, adding the brandy when the other things are well blended; press the whole into a jar, carefully exclude the air, and the mincemeat will be ready for use in a fortnight (two weeks). 

It’s easy to see that homemade mincemeat is quite a bit of work.  Like my mother, early American cooks did not want to spend the time and effort required to make it.  For that reason, ready-to-use condensed mincemeat is one of the oldest American convenience foods and has been steadily marketed in the U.S. for more than 100 years.  In the Kansas City Times, the NONE SUCH MINCE MEAT brand boasted:

1884-1817, For 33 years NONE SUCH MINCE MEAT has cost you only 10¢ a package. Today, with all food costs high, NONE SUCH still sells at 10¢ a package.  Same Quality, Same Price.” (NONE SUCH MINCEMEAT is still available at Kinsley Food Pride for $7.07 a jar.)

World War I had brought on food shortages. The 1916 wheat harvest had been lower than usual.  In 1917, many U.S. farmers were in the armed services which left the county not only short of farm workers, but also in need of food to feed the soldiers.  Agricultural products were getting less accessible and more expensive, as mentioned in the mincemeat ad.  The rationing of sugar, flour, meat, and other food items was about to begin.

In the November, 1917 issues of the Graphic, the Merrell-Soule Company (later Borden) advertised NONE SUCH MINCEMEAT that made a specific appeal to the American housewife’s patriotism with the simple act of baking a pie with only one crust.  They called it a “War Pie”.


Bull Durham, mentioned in the previous post, and NONE SUCH MINCEMEAT would be just the beginning of companies incorporating the war into promoting their products.

#30 The Smoke of the Service

Wilbur Baxter, Kinsley High School, Class of 1912
100 years ago, Wilbur Baxter, had just started serving in an evacuation hospital in France.  The Kinsley Graphic contained this short item: “Wilbur Baxter has written his family that he is very well, and that if they are thinking of sending him anything to please put in a little ‘Bull Durham’.  His sisters answered the ‘S.O.S.’ by return mail.”  (February 14, 1918)

My curiosity was aroused by this item and the fact that Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco ads had started appearing in December in both the Kinsley Graphic and Kinsley Mercury. At this time, Bull Durham was owned by the American Tobacco Company.  The familiar Durham bull image and the wide circulation of advertisements in newspapers and magazine had made “Bull Durham” a household name long before World War I.

Bull Durham Smoking Tobacco was a loose-leaf tobacco, not a ready-made cigarette.  Those had been around since 1876, but men in the west considered them too expensive and a little prissy.  Even before the U.S. entered WWI, the American Tobacco Company targeted prospective smokers in a 1916 magazine advertisement by showing army officers deployed along the U.S.-Mexican border taking time to “roll their own”. The accompanying caption reads, “Wherever you find a group of US. Soldiers you’ll always find the ‘Makings.’”


Bull Durham was sold in a cotton bag with a drawstring that had a tag attached to it.  This tag was highlighted in a January 3 advertisement that quoted a cable written by Floyd Gibbons to the Chicago Tribune from the base of American Troops in France on June 28, 1917.

 “The French People recognize the American Troops by their “Bull” Durham Tags.
One common symbol of service in both the army and navy has been accepted as distinctive by the French peasants. It is a little black and white paper tag which hangs by a piece of yellow string from the left hand breast pocket of the service shirt or the navy jacket.  This identifies the bearer as possessor of a sack of a well known tobacco brand and has been interpreted as uniform equipment.

(An interesting side note about these bags of tobacco is they were typically tagged by home workers as a true ‘cottage industry’.  Women and children, sitting on their front porches or in the kitchens, would be paid to tag thousands of bags for the tobacco company.)

Later, the Bull Durham advertising headline on January 31 was, “Send Them Away With a Smile”.  It asserts that “Bull” Durham is “The Smoke of a Nation ….Note the sacks of ‘Bull’ Durham in their pockets.  That’s why they were going away with a smile.”

Bull Durham was branded as “The Smoke of the Red, White, and Blue.”  The American Tobacco Company sold all of its production to the War Department to satisfy U.S. troops’ craving for tobacco “over there”. Bull Durham was included in the rations given to soldiers on the front lines.   So great was the urge to smoke to relieve the boredom and tension of war in the trenches General Pershing himself was said to have remarked that cigarettes were more important to our soldiers than bullets.

Bull Durham made its last hurrah in 1918, when the company announced that, since it was sending all its Bull Durham tobacco to U.S. soldiers in World War I, it would suspend advertising. And sure enough, the Bull Durham advertisements disappeared from the Graphic and Mercury after February, 1918.


#29 – Happy New Year – 1917

As you are popping champagne corks tonight to herald in 2018, a big change in alcohol consumption was being proposed one hundred years ago.  On December 18, 1917, the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Prohibition had been on the minds of many Americans and their elected officials ever since Carrie Nation began swinging her ax in Kansas at the beginning of the century.  Congressman Jouett Shouse (see Blog #11) was a Prohibition proponent and had spent much time the year before getting bills passed prohibiting alcoholic beverages in U.S. territories.  The Anti-Saloon League wrote the following to him:

“The victories won, in which you had a large part, are, we hope, the earnest of still greater victories in the future, when the Resolution to submit the National Prohibition Amendment to the states for ratification will be adopted, in which also we confidently trust you will have a part.”  (Kinsley Graphic, March 22, 1917)

Indeed, the Anti-Saloon League of Kansas arranged for a special train to run from Topeka to Washington, D.C. on December 8, 1917.  “The idea is to make such a great demonstration at the national convention in Washington that Congress will be impressed and respond to the demands of the organization and put through national prohibition.  It is on the way and coming fast.”(Kinsley Graphic, Nov. 22, 1917).

You might ask what prohibition has to do with World War I.  Erik Kirschbaum, the author of “Burning Beethoven:  The Eradication of German Culture in the United States during World War I” suggests that Anti-German sentiment helped to pass the 18th Amendment.

German immigrants and their descendants formed the largest ethnic group in the United States at the time.  In 1901, the National German-American Alliance was formed to promote and preserve German culture in America.  It essentially sought to resist the assimilation of Germans in America.  At the peak of its growth, around 1916, the national organization had chapters in forty-five states, and the District of Columbia, and a membership of approximately 2.5 million people.  Kirschbaum explains:

The NGAA was funded in part by breweries and distilleries, and the organization devoted considerable time and effort to the battle against the Anti-Saloon League and that organization’s push for a national Prohibition….

“The prevailing anti-German sentiment galvanized opponents of alcohol in the U.S.  The anti-Saloon League latched on to this unexpected opportunity to help its long-running but so far unsuccessful crusade to ban alcohol.  Purley Baker, president of the Anti-Saloon League, attacked German-Americans as a ‘race of people who eat like gluttons and drink like swine,’ and the League was able to raise doubts about the loyalties of German brewers.”

The movement for Prohibition gained momentum when the United States entered the war and anti-German fever and distrust grew.  Thirty-six 36 states ratified the amendment on January 17, 1920.  It would remain the law until it was repealed in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.