Embroidered Flower Sack, from the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society

Embroidered Flour Sack, from the collections of the Kansas State Historical Society

It was one of the greatest relief efforts ever.  In 1914-1915 Belgium, which had been overrun by the German army, was facing mass starvation of its citizens.  What food that was available was largely confiscated by the Germans to feed its army.

In the United States, Americans got behind an effort to bring relief to the Belgians.  The Commission for Relief in Belgium was organized, founded in part by Herbert Hoover.  Kansans in particular responded generously; over 50,000 barrels of flour were donated by November 1914.  Money was also contributed.

In Belgium, the flour sacks were often converted into clothing, but some found a more artistic outlet.  Belgian women embroidered many of the sacks, and returned them to their benefactors.  Several would be displayed in a storefront in downtown Topeka, before being given to the Kansas State Historical Society.

The sacks in the Society’s collection represent the following communities and counties:  Pawnee County, Manhattan, Burlington, Topeka, Russell, and Kiowa.  Many other Kansas communities played a part in the effort.  This is an area where local communities today could take a look at how their ancestors dealt in Belgian war relief.

Visit this article on Kansapedia for more info.

Blair Tarr is the Museum Curator of the Kansas State Historical Society. He oversees the three-dimensional collections of the Society, but has special interests in the Civil War, Wichita-made Valentine diners, and Leavenworth's Abernathy Furniture. In the last few years he has also done a lot of cramming on The Great War. He is a past president of the Kansas Museums Association and the Civil War Round Tables of both Kansas City and Eastern Kansas. He is currently a board member of the Heritage League of Greater Kansas City.