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Mar 17

[ARCHIVED] Kansas in 1917

The original item was published from March 17, 2017 11:56 AM to March 17, 2017 12:00 PM

Have you ever wondered what life was like in "The good old days"? No cellphones.  Mass production of automobiles and airplanes was still relatively new. The amenities of the 21st century lived only in the imaginations of some back then.

Well, let's step into the virtual time machine over in the southwest corner of the State Library of Kansas' KGI Online Library... (it's over by the virtual cappuccino machine)... and hop back 100 years ago to Kansas seen through 1917 state government publications.

A great world war being fought overseas came home to the United States when we declared war on Germany in April, 1917 and Kansans was gearing up for the battle ahead, supporting troops and making sure the day to day operations of society still functioned.

In 1917 Governor Capper formed the Kansas State Council of Defense to coordinate state efforts in mobilizing all the resources of the state in support of the war effort. You can see this happening in publications by and about the Kansas State Council of Defense. Our KGI collection includes a History of the Council as well as many of the Council's Circulars... . The Circulars covered topics such as cooking without wheat (Wheat was diverted to feed soldiers overseas), canning, drying fruit and vegetables and other ways to economize and serve the drive to provide more food for the military. The Council was especially intent on increasing Kansas agricultural production for the war effort as evidenced in the promotional publication, Winning the War with Wheat.

The Kansas State Council of Defense's Women's Committee began operation in July, 1917. As stated in the foreword of their 1917/1918 Report of Activities: "The Woman's Committee, Council of National Defense, was organized in Washington, April 21, 1917, by the Council of National Defense. It was created for the purpose of mobilizing the woman power of the country for war work, and to be the channel through which the various departments of the government controlling war work were to reach the womanhood of the country. Its province was also to coordinate all the different societies of women which were doing war work and to prevent duplication; to ascertain and report the war work to be done by women and women’s organizations."

Various "Home Guards" were established in communities throughout Kansas in 1917 as a means of civil defense during the War. These Home Guards were at first operated locally with no official state status, but as the local Home Guards developed across the state the governor issued an Executive Order in February, 1918 organizing the home guards under a statewide Kansas State Guard. You can view a history of the local home guards and Kansas State Guard, 1917-1919 at KGI.

Winning the hearts and minds of citizens preparing them for the worldwide struggle ahead was an important goal of government as well. No group of people was more important in these efforts as children. With this in mind the Civil War Veterans auxiliary organization, the Kansas Woman's Relief Corp, put together a 14 page booklet titled "Patriotic literature compiled for the use of public schools and all patriotic entertainments." The booklet, published at the State Printing Plant in 1917 was distributed to schools around the state.

The winds of war weren't the only forces sweeping across the state imbuing most people with a drive to achieve war time and economic goals. The automobile was making its presence felt powerfully with a need for good roads moving goods and people across the state. The Kansas Good Roads Association, in cooperation with the Kansas State Highway Department published a promotional document, "The Road Builder," in 1917 pushing for better public roads. Motor vehicle laws were passed by the Kansas Legislature in order to keep up with the advent of faster paced travel and these new fangled cars and trucks. Specifications were instituted for bridges and culverts dealing with more traffic. The newly created State Highway Commission issued a road map of the state (1918) showing roads that linked cities, towns and farms across Kansas. A new age of transportation was dawning and Kansas was meeting it with gusto.

The world was alive with the buzz of war machines and machines of personal, public and commercial transport. As humanity advanced along this path strides were also being made in public health and welfare.   The Kansas State Board of Health issued reports on different "wars" battling the spread and treatment of diseases that had long plagued humankind. Sanitation of processed foods, food preparation, life styles and cleaning up home, school and workplace were promoted in Kansas State Board of Health Bulletins for 1917 and 1918. The Kansas Mother's Manual was a practical guide for mothers on taking care of their children and themselves. Vaccination, treatments for tuberculosis, proper diet, dental health, typhoid fever preventative measures, stopping the halt of measles and mumps... These issues and many more were touted in the publications of a very progressive Kansas State Board of Health, bringing home to the people of this state ways of improving their lives.

Care of aged and incapacitated veterans and their spouses was offered at Fort Dodge.  A report was issued on tragic coal mining accidents in southeast Kansas with suggested precautionary measures needed to prevent anything like that happening again. The Kansas Irrigation Commissioner reported that western parts of our state were greening with the work of different forms of irrigation.

Summing all of this up were the Annual Reports to the Legislature of Governor Arthur Capper (January 1917)  and Henry J. Allen (January 1919). The former stood at the beginning of 1917 looking to the future. The latter stood before the 1919 legislative session reviewing accomplishments of the two previous years and the need to improve upon those accomplishments.

A busy year... 1917. We've only taken a short peak into the past but it's time to return to 2017... and another delicious cup from the virtual cappuccino in the virtual KGI Online Library!

For those interested in seeing other resources on the year 1917:

1917 at Kansas Memory
(sponsored by the Kansas Historical Society)

How The World Has Changed From 1917 to 2017
(by Peter Diamandis)

1917 Articles in Wikipedia

1917 in the United States

List of American Films of 1917