Bethany College Digital Humanities
The “Lindsborg During World War I: Service, Sacrifice & Dissent” digital humanities project is a collaborative effort between Bethany College history professor, Dr. Tom Jorsch, and McPherson County Old Mill Museum. Blog posts are authored by Bethany College sophomores enrolled in an Honors research seminar on World War I. Artifacts from the war, photographs, and other resources will be used to tell a story about the ways people and communities responded to the First World War as experienced in Lindsborg, KS. The completed research project on Lindsborg during the Great War can be found at dh.bethanylb.edu. If you have artifacts or stories related to Bethany College or Lindsborg during World War I, please contact Dr. Jorsch at email@example.com. This project is made possible by a grant from the Kansas Humanities Council.
As part of the sophomore honors presentation on how Lindsborg and Bethany College were affected by World War I, I set out to uncover how the tradition of the Messiah Festival was affected by the war more specifically. In my research, and with the help of a fellow classmate, I came across an article from The Bethany Messenger on a particularly moving concert the Bethany College Oratorio Society gave in the late spring of 1917 to soldiers training at Camp Funston.
A trip to the Old Mill Museum revealed a lot about the conditions on Sweden during World War 1 and the position of many Swedes at the time. The letter was found in the Old Mill Museum’s archives and was written by a member of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland named Axel Palmgren. He mentions that the Swedes in both Sweden and the United States were neutral and did not want any association with the war.
During the last years of the great war, the Lindsborg Record began to feature letters from “Over There.” These letters were sent to the newspaper from the families that received them and a were featured in their own section of the paper almost every in the last few months of 1918. The image featured above is an excerpt from one of these such letters (this one in particular, is from Walter K. Hawkinson and is found in the August 16th, 1918 edition). From this letter, as well as a few others, there is evidence of letter censorship. The censorship of letters in World War One and even later can be used to both maintain morale and also to limit details that could be useful to the enemy.
The Farmers State Bank put this ad in the Lindsborg News Record. Interestingly, they describe the horrors of dying at war. In a world where so many people are having loved ones die, they choose to say that struggling with poverty is worse. They say this because while death might include pain and suffering, the suffering of poverty never ends. They combat this by saying that the way to avoid poverty is to save money by putting it in their bank. I feel it is a little distasteful to say that you can save yourself from a, “fate worse than the horrors of war” by depositing money into a bank. If I had a loved one away at war and they were sending my letters about how bad it is over there I might be very upset at this claim by Farmers State Bank. This ad was surely full of risk for them, and it would be very interesting to see how the community responded to such an ad.
Bethany College had its very own unit of the Student Army Training Corps, or SATC. The SATC was created by Congress as part of the Selective Service Act of 1917. It’s purpose, according to the SATC Training Manual, was to utilize effectively the plant, equipment, and organization of the colleges for selecting and training officer candidates and technical experts for service in the existing emergency. The SATC was a voluntary program that inducted 200,000 men on its first day. These men were given private status, which gave them no way to avoid enlistment.
Being a Music major at Bethany college, I found this old photograph from the Bethany Yearbook: 1917 very interesting. It is a picture of the music department (the called a “conservatory”) complete with students and staff. While observing this picture, I couldn’t help but draw some comparisons between this class, and 2016’s current class of music majors here at Bethany. I figure that the most obvious difference would be the amount of students. Although we are not the smallest major on campus by a long shot, we are a significantly smaller than this 1917 pictures portrays this class to be. Another difference would be the line drawn between the music department, and the rest of the majors in 1917. Today, the music department is just another department like Science, or English, but after some research looking through the yearbook that this picture was found in, I discovered that the music department wasn’t so much a “department” as it was an entirely different school within Bethany campus that’s specific job was to teach and perform music. Today, the music department is equally integrated into the campus life and catalog and not so much of a “stand alone” section of academia.
In the local Lindsborg Newspaper, the boys working reserve was mentioned. They discussed how the reserve would work broadly across the nation and school districts but also within Lindsborg, KS. The boys working reserve was created by the United States Government through the Division of Labor during the war for a multitude of reasons. They drew from boys aged 16-21 — they needed older boys because the work to be done was hard labor. A major part of the work was going to be in the fields, especially in places such as rural Kansas, to help fill in where labor had been depleted due to men being enlisted and selected into the war.
While my research group for our Honors ID course over WWI was at The Old Mill Museum a couple weeks ago trying to find some useful things to help build our website about WWI and how it affected Bethany College, we stumbled over this little booklet containing many military-approved songs.
In the Spring of 1917, the Bethany College campus played host to Seumas MacManus, a notable Irish poet and author, best known for his modern re-tellings of Irish folklore and considered one of the last great storytellers of the ancient tradition. MacManus was born to a poor farming family in Mountcharles, Ireland and began his career as a teacher. He did not start publishing his writing until the 1890’s.
This advertisement was in the Lindsborg News Record from January 4, 1918. “The Fighting Trail” was a silent movie series that was playing in the Wonderland Theatre in Lindsborg, Kansas. The Western film was released in fifteen chapters. According to a film review in the Exhibitors Herald (September 15, 1917; pg 24), the plot of this series relates to World War One. There is a valuable mineral found in one California mine. This mineral is needed for an explosive and the Central Powers desire it. The secret is described in papers held by the character, Nan, who is constantly captured by the henchmen of German spy, Von Bleck. She is rescued by mining engineer, John Gwynn.