Sewing Machine from the Lodz Ghetto

Entrance to Lodz

In Poland, the Nazi persecution of the Jews was concentrated at two main centers throughout the Second World War—Warsaw and Lodz. Both of those cities were transformed into large Jewish Ghettos which served as slave labor camps with the express intention of working the Jews to either death or until sent to one of the extermination camps. Although the Warsaw Ghetto was the larger of the two, Ghetto Lodz ran for a longer time, existing from February 1940 until it was liquidated in August 1944.1

In Lodz the persecution of the Jews began six month prior to the formation of the ghetto, on November 8, 1939, when the German army occupied the city.2 From that point the Nazi government enacted systematic laws for the isolation and repression of the Jews so as to reduce their ability to resist deportation and the eventual extermination.3 Another part of the germanization of Lodz involved renaming the city Litzmannstadt, after the German general who had captured the city during the First World War.4

General Litzmann

With the order for segregating the Jewish community, 160,320 people were forced by the Germans into a space barely over four square miles. The following year that number was augmented by another 19,722 Jews from other German territories and 17,826 Jews from smaller ghettos in 1941. In addition to these numbers 5,007 Austrian Gypsies were also shipped to Ghetto Lodz, bringing the total number of slaves to nearly 200,000.5

One of the factors contributing to the longevity of the ghetto was the fact that the Jews, under the administration of Chaim Mordechaj Rumkowski, produced an enormous amount of goods for Germany.6 The primary industry of Lodz before the war was textiles, and as Litzmannstadt this continued to be true.7 During Arthur Greiser’s (the governor of the majority of occupied Poland) trial after the war he related that the “the Lodz Ghetto was one of the largest industrial centers in the Reich.”8 The rapid growth of its labor institutions revealed the truth of that statement:

The Lodz Ghetto excelled in the organization of its labor and its achievements in production. The production system in the ghetto, set in motion immediately after the ghetto was established, quickly expanded… The first sewing workshop went into operation in May 1940, and by September 1940 there were seventeen resorts including seven sewing factories… in 1942-1943, 95 percent of the adult population in the ghetto was working.9

In order to fuel the rapid expansion of slave industry, Germany ordered Jewish possessions helpful to those ends to be shipped to Lodz from across the Reich. An example of this kind of edict from March 21, 1942, included a provision stating, “Sewing machines and manual machines are to be sent to Lodz (for the occupations by inhabitants of ghettos.)”10

The machine pictured is one of those sewing machines used by the Jewish slaves in the Lodz Ghetto. It is a black Clemens-Muller brand treadle head which appears to have been originally branded as a Singer sewing machine. Engraved on the maintenance panel is the Star of David with the word getto within. Surrounding the star is the phrase Tekstil Abteilung Litzmannstadt. Altogether the inscription reads “Textile Division—Ghetto Litzmannstadt.” The Clemens-Muller base is 37 centimeter long and 18.5 centimeters wide. This sewing machine was most likely one of the 7,000 operational by the end of 1942 within the ghetto.11

By August of 1944 the Russian army was steady approaching Poland and, with the success of the D-day invasion, defeat was fast approaching the Germans. This led to the final series of deportations from the Lodz Ghetto resulting in the murder of 67,000 Jews at Auschwitz. This, however, was only the last round of mass exterminations, with another 77,867 having been executed at the Chelmno death camp in the years prior—this includes the 15,681 children under 10 and elderly over 65 who were abducted on September 4, 1942. These numbers, added to the 45,327 people who died due to the inhuman conditions of the ghetto, means that out of the circa 200,000 Jews that were kept there, at least 190,194 of them died—a mortality rate of ~95%.12

Below are pictures of the machine in the collection followed by several photos of the textile industry from the Lodz Ghetto.


 

 


Endnotes

1 The Holocaust Encyclopedia, “Lodz” (Read here).
2 Centrum Dialogu, “The History of the Litzmannstadt Ghetto” (Read here).
3 The Holocaust Research Project “The Lodz Ghetto” (Read here).
4 Litzmannstadt Ghetto, “Introduction” (Read here).
5 The Holocaust Research Project “The Lodz Ghetto” (Read here).
6 Centrum Dialogu, “The History of Litzmannstadt Ghetto – The Ghetto Establishment” (Read here).
7 Litzmannstadt Ghetto, “Introduction” (Read here).
8 Isaiah Trunk, Lodz Ghetto: A History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), p. xli. (Read here).
9 Ibid.
10 Edith Kurzweil, Nazi Laws and Jewish Lives: Letters from Vienna (New York: Routledge, 2004) (Read here).
11 Trunk, Lodz Ghetto, p. 150. (Read here).
12 Numbers from The Holocaust Research Project “The Lodz Ghetto” (Read here).

Yorktown Mortar Shell

Throughout the War for Independence, from the Siege of Boston to the Battle of Yorktown, artillery played a decisive role in securing America’s freedom.

Starting on September 28th and ending with British capitulation on October 19th, the Battle of Yorktown was the last major military engagement of the war. Commanders for the Allied land forces included Generals Henry Knox, Marquis de Lafayette, and Rochambeau under George Washington, while the Allied naval forces consisted of the French fleet led by Comte de Grasse. Most of the engagement at Yorktown centered on the artillery of the two sides, while the main infantry movements were the capture of Redoubts 9 and 10.

The military journal of Major Ebenezer Denny, a Pennsylvanian recruit present at the Battle of Yorktown, describes the stages of the siege and the dramatic effect the artillery had. On the 28th of September, the beginning of the engagement, Major Denney noted that:

One-third of the army on fatigue every day, engaged in various duties, making gabions,1 fascines,2 saucissons,3 &c., and great exertions and labor in getting on the heavy artillery. Strong covering parties (whole regiments) moved from camp as soon as dark, and lay all night upon their arms between us and the enemy. … Now and then a heavy shot from the enemy’s works [artillery pieces] reached our camp.4

After getting the artillery parks in place and operational, he gives an account of siege works and the nightly barrages:

At length, everything in readiness, a division of the army broke ground on the night of the 6th of October, and opened the first parallel [trench] about six hundred yards from the works of the enemy. Every exertion to annoy our men, who were necessarily obliged to be exposed about the works; however, the business went on, and on the 9th our cannon and mortars began to play. The scene viewed from the camp now was grand, particularly after dark—a number of shells from the works of both parties passing high in the air, and descending in a curve, each with a long train of fire, exhibited a brilliant spectacle.5

On October 11th he explains that the:

Second parallel [was] thrown up within three hundred yards of the main works of the enemy; new batteries erected, and additional number of cannon brought forward—some twenty-four pounders and heavy mortars and howitzers. A tremendous fire now opened from all the new works, French and American. The heavy cannon directed against the embrasures and guns of the enemy. Their pieces were soon silenced, broke and dismantled. Shells from behind their works still kept up.6

Shell Cross Section

Major Denny mentions all three types of artillery—cannons, howitzers, and mortars. Denny noted that of these three, the mortars were the ones most notable for firing the distinctive bomb shells which left the long trains of fire. Mortars have short barrels with an extremely large bore in proportion to the length. Their main purpose was to “throw hollow shells, filled with powder, which falling on any building or into the works of a fortification, bust, and their fragments destroy everything within reach.”7

Major Denny participated in the assault led by Alexander Hamilton upon the redoubts on the 14th of October, and the next day he noted:

Heavy fire from our batteries all day. A shell from one of the French mortars set fire to a British frigate; she burnt to the water’s edge, and blew up—made the earth shake. Shot and shell raked the town in every direction. Bomb-proofs the only place of safety.8

General Cornwallis, realizing that his troops could not continue through such an unrelenting barrage and seeing that his supplies were dwindling due to the French blockade, made the decision to surrender. After the articles of capitulation were signed and the British grounded their weapons on the 19th of October, Major Denny and the rest of the troops took possession of Yorktown, whereupon he stated:

Never was in so filthy a place—some handsome houses, but prodigiously shattered. Vast heaps of shot and shells lying about in every quarter, which came from our works. The shells did not burst as expected.9

Powder Chart from 1801 Manual

The shells Major Denny refers to were mortar-fired hollow casings made of iron which would have a hole an inch in diameter for the fuse to enter. In operation, the shells would be filled with powder, a fuse would be fed through the hole, and the hole would be sealed with a plug of either cork or wood.10 The bombs themselves would be prepared during the days leading up to the engagement in what was called the laboratory.11 When packing the shells in the laboratory, it was generally accepted that, in order to achieve the most complete fragmentation, the shell should not be completely filled; with some saying that it should be as much as 1/3 empty.12 What exactly Major Denny meant when he said that the shells failed to burst as expected could mean two things. It could mean that the shells did not fragment at all, due to a failure in the fuse or powder;  it could just mean that the fragmentation was not even or to the desired degree.

Whatever the case, is was the incredible skill of the French and American artillery men which forced General Cornwallis to surrender Yorktown to George Washington, thereby ensuring independency for the American people.13

In our collection at Wallbuilders we have an unfragmented mortar shell excavated near Yorktown at the site of an overturned wagon. It is 8 inches in diameter making it a medium sized mortar. The pitted surface was standard among the shells from all nations. You can clearly see the hole which the fuse would be fed through and the seam connecting the two halves of the shell.



Endnotes

1 Gabions are cages made from wicker which then are filled with either stones or soil in order to construct defensive fortification such as parapets.

2 Fascines are bundles of sticks tied together which are employed for crossing marshy ground or trenches, and sometimes used for supporting the sides of preexisting earthen works.

3 Saucissions, deriving their name due to perceived similarities to French sausages, are longer versions of fascines which typically take more than one man to transport, typically being from 18 to 20 feet long. See The British Military Library, or, Journal Comprehending a Complete Body of Military Knowledge (London: J. Carpenter and Co., 1801), II:531.

4 Ebenezer Denny, The Military Journal of Major Ebenezer Denny, an Officer in the Revolutionary and Indian Wars (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1859) September 28, 40.

5 Denny, Military Journal, 41.

6 Denny, Military Journal, 42.

7 The British Military Library, II:508.

8 Denny, Military Journal, 43.

9 Denny, Military Journal, 45.

10 The British Military Journal II:570-571.

11 The British Military Library, II:415.

12 John Muller, Treatise of Artillery (London: John Millan, 1768), 90.

13 Jerome A. Greene, The Guns of Independence: The Siege of  Yorktown, 1781 (New York: Savas Beatie, 2005), 384.

American troops land at Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings of 1944.

WWII – Crickets in Normandy

Maxwell Taylor

The landings which took place on the coast of Normandy on June 6, 1944, remain one of the most notable episodes of bravery throughout military history. Prior to the deployment on the beach, however, 13,000 American troops from the 82nd and 101st Airborne landed in the dark behind enemy lines to secure targets which would prevent a heavy German counter attack.1

The commander of the 101st, Major General Maxwell Taylor, realized that in the confusing pre-dawn hours of the attack, troops would need a way to signal to others that they were friendly without giving their position away to the Germans. To solve this problem he turned to a clicker device known as a “cricket,” and issued them for the 101st to use during the mission.2 Taylor explained:

It rose out of my experiences earlier in the Mediterranean and from our Eagle exercise in England. There was so much dispersion in Sicily that I realized we needed some method of identification behind enemy lines. Eagle convinced me more than ever. We needed a little noisemaker a man could carry in his hand. The cricket seemed just right.3

James Gavin

In operation, the lower tab made a “click” sound when depressed and another upon release. Thus the call would result in a “click-click” sound. The response, signaling that the recipient was friendly, involved pressing the cricket twice, producing a “click-click, click-click.” General Taylor himself, who jumped with the troops, used the cricket to locate his soldiers among the dark French hedgerows.4

General James Gavin, commander of the the 82nd, decided against using the device and instead used only a vocal password-answer system in which a soldier would call out “Flash” and expect the reply “Thunder.” When asked about his decision to not issue the crickets to his troops, Gavin remarked:

There was a lot of gadgetry around, and a lot of it didn’t make much sense. In Normandy, the 82nd used only an oral password. It’s always more important to carry more ammunition … to stay alive … to fight … to get there. I even cut the fringes off the many maps I carried so there’d be more room for ammunition.5

Members from the 82nd did still acquire various styles of clickers to be used, though these were not issued by Gavin. Private Don Lassen who served in the 82nd Airborne’s 505th recalls using one during his drop on D-Day:

When I landed at about 2 am, it was darker than pitch. I was totally alone in a field, and tracers were going all around me. I couldn’t find anyone, so I went to get closer because I wanted to be sure that whoever it was would hear my click. As the sound got closer and closer I finally clicked. Sure enough, the person approaching me, someone from the 101st as it turned out, clicked his cricket and we both were OK.6

Another member of the 82nd was Walter Barbour, who acquired and kept several cricket-style clickers he used during the war. Pictured below is Mr. Barbour during the war and one of those crickets which he carried.



Endnotes

1 John M. Taylor, “World War II: 101st Airborne Division Participate in Operation Overlord,” Military History Quarterly, 2006, https://www.historynet.com/world-war-ii-101st-airborne-division-participate-in-operation-overlord.htm.

2 Gerald Astor, June 6, 1944: The Voices of D-Day (New York: Dell Publishing, 2002), 154.

3 Ibid.

4 Cornelius Ryan, The Longest Day: June 6, 1944 (New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 1987), 141.

5 Astor, June 6, 1944, 155.

6 Richard A. Berantly, “The Airborne Infantry “Cricket”: Dime Store Toy Becomes D-Day Legend,” Warfare History Network, December 31, 2015, https://warfarehistorynetwork.com/daily/wwii/the-airborne-infantry-cricket-dime-store-toy-becomes-d-day-legend/.

John Clem and his Hymn Book

John Clem

When looking back upon his service in the Civil War, John Clem remarked, “Almost literally it might be said that I went from the nursery to the battlefield.”1 Such an observation was not an overstatement. Widely held to be the youngest soldier in the Union army,2 John Clem first attempted to join the Third Ohio Regiment of Volunteers when he was nine years old only to be laughed off.3 This did not deter him though, and when the Third Ohio boarded their train to the mobilization camp in Covington, Kentucky, Clem climbed aboard as well.4 He explained:

My father had no notion of allowing me to go to the war. Accordingly, I decided to run away. The spirit of adventure had gripped me. It was necessary that the Union should be preserved, and my help was obviously needed.5

Once in Covington, John Clem again attempted to enlist but this time with the Twenty-Second Michigan. Although he was officially rejected Clem continued with the regiment serving as a drummer boy and drawing the standard soldier’s pay.16 The Twenty-Second were quick to accept the young boy, and equipped him with a uniform and a rifle altered to a manageable size.7 In his own words:

From the view-point of the Twenty-Second Michigan, I was a member in full standing of that military family—the baby of the regiment. … In all the hardships of war I endured my share—such as marching in rain or snow, sleeping without protection against the elements, and on occasions going hungry.8

Throughout the war he fought at the battles of Shiloh, Chickamauga, Stone River, Resaca, Kenesaw, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, and Nashville.9 During these battles Clem was wounded twice10—one time receiving shrapnel from a shell in the hip (either at Atlanta11 or Chickamauga12), and the other time having his ear “nipped” by a bullet in Atlanta.13

During the war, due to his bravery at the battle of Chickamauga, he became the youngest non-commissioned officer in the history of the American armed forces due. Clem recalled that battle:

At the close of the day the Union forces were retiring toward Chattanooga, and my brigade was sore beset by the enemy. In fact, we were in a tight place. A Confederate colonel rode up and yelled at me, “Surrender, you damned little Yankee!”

Raising my musket without aiming, I pulled the trigger, and he fell off his horse, badly wounded. …

As I have said, however, it was a tight place. Three musket balls (as I subsequently ascertained) went through my cap. I decided that the best policy was to fall dead for the moment, and so I did. I lay dead until after dark, when I “came alive” again and managed to find my way to Chattanooga.14

Ulysses S. Grant

As a result, he was praised by General Rosecrans and General Thomas in addition to being promoted to Sergeant.15 After rejoining the pushed back Union forces in Chattanooga, Clem met General Ulysses S. Grant for the first time. Clem would meet Grant again during his presidency.

After the war, in 1871, the now experienced veteran attempted to enroll at West Point. However, due to his education being on the battlefield instead of in the classroom, Clem was unable to pass the academic entrance exam. Not one to be discouraged, he related his next steps:

That was certainly hard luck. What is the use of being a Civil War veteran, beating honorable scars, if in one’s old age—the age of twenty, let us say, in sight—one is turned down my an unappreciative Government?

I thought I would speak of the matter to my old acquaintance and military comrade General Grant, who was at that time occupying the White House. I went to see him.

I told him that I had failed to get into the Point, and that I meant to try for a civilian appointment in the army. His reply was, “We can do better than that. I will appoint you now a second lieutenant.16

After this John Clem continued to serve his country. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in 1874, Captain in 1882, Major is 1895, Lieutenant Colonel in 1901, and full Colonel in 1903.18 Upon reaching the maximum age for army offices in 1915,[xviii] the 64-year-old John Clem was retired and given a final promotion to Brigadier General.19 He moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he died at the age of 86 in 1937.20

This piece is the hymnal which John Clem carried with him during the Civil War. It bears his signature on the inside of both the front and back covers. Published in Chicago in 1861 by the United States Christian Commission arm of the Young Men’s Christian Association these hymn books were passed out to many soldiers throughout the war. The, Commission in their official address, explained their purpose and called for action:

There are over 700,000 men now in the army and navy, who have left the comforts of home to endure hardship, and it may be to die, for us. A large number of them have now no means of religious instruction, and all are exposed to the demoralizing influences of war. We propose to encourage in them whatever is good, and keep fresh in their remembrance the instructions of earlier years, and to develop, organize, and make effective, the religious element in the army and navy. The field is open to us. We can have free access to their immortal souls; the chaplains desire and call for our aid; the Government wish it; and the men ask for and receive religious reading and teaching, with eagerness most touching. Thousands, who at home never entered the house of God, and had none to care for their souls, now in imminent peril, desire to know of Him who can give them the victory over death, through our Lord Jesus Christ. The time is short; what we do must be done quickly.21

In the execution of these ends, delegates of the Commission gave this hymnal to John Clem while he served in the Twenty-Second Michigan


Pictures of John Clem’s Hymn Book

Front Cover

 

Signatures in Front Cover

In the above photo Clem noted that he was in Company C of the Michigan Twenty-Second. We also see that during this time time he switched from spelling his name as “Klem” to the now famous “Clem.”

Title Page

 

Signatures in Back Cover

 

Back Cover

1 John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 546. (Read here)
2 Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio (Cincinnati: C. J. Krehbiel & Co., 1907), Vol. 2, p. 72. (Read here); John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 546. (Read here); “Gen. John Clem, a Drummer Boy at 11, dies at 86,” Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1937, 20. (Read here)
3 “Last Veteran of ’61 to Leave the Army,” The New York Times, 8 August 1915. (Read here)
4 Ibid.
5 John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 546. (Read here)
6 Ibid.
7 “Last Veteran of ’61 to Leave the Army,” The New York Times, 8 August 1915. (Read here)
8 John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 546. (Read here)
9 “Gen. John Clem, a Drummer Boy at 11, dies at 86,” Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1937, 20. (Read here); John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 547. (Read here)
10 Ibid.
11 “Last Veteran of ’61 to Leave the Army,” The New York Times, 8 August 1915. (Read here); “Gen. John Clem, a Drummer Boy at 11, dies at 86,” Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1937, 20. (Read here)
12 John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 547. (Read here); Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio (Cincinnati: C. J. Krehbiel & Co., 1907), Vol. 2, p. 73. (Read here)
13 Ibid.
14 John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 547. (Read here)
15 Henry Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio (Cincinnati: C. J. Krehbiel & Co., 1907), Vol. 2, p. 73. (Read here)
16 John L. Clem. “From Nursery to Battlefield,” Outlook, 4 July 1914, 548. (Read here)
17 “Last Veteran of ’61 to Leave the Army,” The New York Times, 8 August 1915. (Read here);
18 Ibid.
19 “Last Veteran of ’61 to Leave the Army,” The New York Times, 8 August 1915. (Read here)
20 “Gen. John Clem, a Drummer Boy at 11, dies at 86,” Chicago Tribune, 15 May 1937, 20. (Read here)
21 Lemuel Moss, The Annals of the United States Christian Commission (Philadelphia: L. B. Lippincott & Co., 1868), p. 112. (Read here)

Benjamin Harrison 1894 Letter to His Son

Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901) was a lawyer, a Civil War brigadier general, and eventually the twenty-third president of the United States from 1889-1893. In this letter to his son, Russell Benjamin Harrison, on July 12, 1894, he admonishes the younger Harrison to remain steadfast in the faith. The former president explains to his son, “It’s well to be diligent in your business, and you know how anxious I am that you should succeed – but my dear boy there are things of vastly greater importance. You ought to give more thought to your religious life and duties.” Such a candid and clear call to a higher life came due to a recent incident in which Russell Harrison had cursed in front of his father. President Harrison continues, writing, “Young men are so prone to think there is no danger and to forsake the only safety – God’s grace and help.”

Benjamin Harrison’s faith, however, was not confined to personal letters to his son. While he was sitting president he routinely expressed his faith when acting in an official capacity. Harrison made it evident from the beginning that he and all Americans had God to thank for their country, declaring in his 1889 inaugural address:

No other people have a government more worthy of their respect and love, or a land so magnificent in extent, so pleasant to look upon, and so full of generous suggestion to enterprise and labor. God has placed upon our head a diadem, and has laid at our feet power and wealth beyond definition or calculation. But we must not forget that we take these gifts upon the condition that justice and mercy shall hold the reins of power, and that the upward avenues of hope shall be free to all the people.1

Following this introductory address, President Harrison issued several proclamations calling the nation to prayer. Of these included a yearly call for Thanksgiving which continually reinforced the national reliance our country had upon God. Selections include:

A highly favored people, mindful of their dependence on the bounty of divine Providence, should seek fitting occasion to testify gratitude and ascribe praise to Him who is author of their many blessings. It behooves us then to look back with thankful hearts over the past year and thank God for his infinite mercy. – THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION 18892

I do invite the people, upon that day to cease from their labors, to meet in their accustomed houses of worship and to join in rendering gratitude and praise to our beneficent Creator for the rich blessings He has granted to us as a nation, and in invoking the continuance of His protection and grace for the future. – THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION 18903

To God, the Beneficent and the All Wise, who makes the labors of men to be fruitful, redeems their losses by His grace, and the measure of whose giving is as much beyond the thoughts of men as it is beyond his desserts, the praise and gratitude of the people of this favored nation are justly due. – THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION 18914

He [God] has stayed the pestilence at our door; He has given us more love for the free institutions in the creation of which His directing providence was so conspicuous; He has awakened a deeper reverence for law; He has widened our philanthropy by a call to succor the distress in other lands; He has blessed our schools and is bringing forward a patriotic and God-fearing generation to execute His great and benevolent designs for our country; He has given us great increase in material wealth and a wide diffusion of contentment and comfort in the homes of our people; He has given His grace to the sorrowing. – THANKSGIVING PROCLAMATION 18925

On top of these prayer proclamations, he also issued a special call to prayer on the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration. In the proclamation itself Harrison explained the purpose behind it:

In order that the joy of the occasion may be associated with a deep thankfulness in the minds of the people for all our blessings in the past, and a devout supplication to God for their gracious continuance in the future, the representatives of the religious creeds, both Christian and Hebrew, have memorialized the Government to designate an hour of prayer and thanksgiving on that day.6

Therefore, in accordance to the wishes of the Christian and Jewish representatives, Harrison recommended that at 9 o’clock in the morning:

The entire community repair to their respective places of divine worship, to implore the favor of God that the blessings of liberty, prosperity, and peace may abide with us as a people, and that His hand may lead us in the paths of righteousness and good deeds.7

Benjamin Harrison, both in his private life and while before the public eye, always remembered and strove to remind others that God was the source of safety, prosperity, and comfort.


Pictures of the Letter

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Page 1 Close Up

Transcription

My dear Son,

I hoped to out get out to see you before I went East but for several weeks I have been very busy, preparing for the argument in the street railway case, and only today finished revising my argument for the printer. I hope we will gain the case. Certainly we had a decided advantage in the argument. If we succeed in the main point, it will make all street property in the state much more valuable.

You ought once in a while to let me hear from you and from your family. I have been not a little concerned about you since my visit to Terre Haute. It’s well to be diligent in your business, and you know how anxious I am that you should succeed – but my dear boy there are things of vastly greater importance. You ought to give more thought to your religious life and duties. And it pained me very much to hear you swear when I was with you. I have known Terre Haute for many years and there are dangers to a young man there that you must avoid. If I could talk with you I would explain fully. But you will understand what I mean, and in some degree appreciate my solicitude for you. I have prayed very much for you that you might be kept from evil. Young men are so prone to think there is no danger and to forsake the only safety – God’s grace and help. I expect to go to New York tomorrow and will be a couple of weeks with Mama – “The Hawthorne, 128 West of 59th St.” is the address.

With much love,
Your father,
Benj. Harrison


Endnotes

1 Benjamin Harrison, Public Papers and Addresses of Benjamin Harrison (Washington: Government Printing Office), 35.

2 Harrison, Papers and Addresses, 240.

3 Harrison, Papers and Addresses, 241.

4 Harrison, Papers and Addresses, 241-242.

5 Harrison, Papers and Addresses, 242.

6 Harrison, Papers and Addresses, 243.

7 Harrison, Papers and Addresses, 243-244.

Laura Bridgman Letter

Laura Bridgman (1829-1889) was a blind and deaf student under Samuel G. Howe at the Perkins School for the Blind during the middle of the 1800’s.1 (The school was originally chartered in 1829 and opened in 1832 by Dr. John Fisher and Howe with the support of Col. Thomas Perkins. It sought to enable the blind to live a full life through a holistic curriculum.2)

Laura Bridgman’s incredible success helped illustrate the school’s mission by being the first person with her disabilities to receive a high degree of education and the ability to communicate in the English language, paving the way for others such as Helen Keller. During her life she became widely known not only in American, but in England as well due mostly to the extensive treatment she received in Charles Dickens’ book American Notes.

During his visit to the school in 1842 Dickens describes seeing her write, saying

In doing so, I observed that she kept her left hand always touching, and following up, her right, in which, of course, she held the pen. No line was indicated by any contrivance, but she wrote straight and freely.3

At the time of his visit, Dickens also explains that Dr. Howe, “is occupied now, in devising means of imparting to her, higher knowledge; and of conveying to her some adequate idea of the Great Creator of that universe in which, dark and silent and scentless though it be to her, she has such deep delight and glad enjoyment.” 4

Years later Laura herself described her salvation to her minister writing:

In June, I heard Jesus speak down from his throne into my heart, before and after meeting an humble, devoted and Christian woman, in Vermont [Mrs. Palmer] for whom I had a glow of respect and love, because she appeared to have love to God and Jesus and was rich in faith.…My heart was opened by the hand of Jesus, and He illumined my heart with glory and light and grace. I beheld his face boldly, granting his Holy Word I felt my soul fall into his hands. My feelings were governed by the Spirit of God, and Jesus Christ. God taught me to pray and guided my heart in his way.5

This letter, written by Laura when she was 39, discusses the passing of her father, Daniel Bridgman, which occurred towards the end of November in 1868.


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L.B. March 14th 1869

My very dear friend

A happy morn the beam of the sun is very brilliant & gladdening to my heart in my room. It is a blessed Sabbath that we should enjoy as far as possible. I presume that you are designed to go to church all day. Do you remember of writing & invited me while I was with my dear parents last summer. I shall be happy to accept the invitation if nothing occurs to prevent the visit in your cheerful home. I invite you to accompany me home if it is convenient for you to guide me. Julia takes the same cars going home near the house of my home I can go to the dep. with her you could meet me thereat. I will be much obliged to you for the trouble of procuring a ticket for my free trip immediately. There is not decision for a vacation yet. I shall look for a reply from you to this rather shortly & to know your plans. My dear Papa was released from all his suffering the last week of Nov. unto the throne of God. What a sad journey I shall take in his death. I cannot anticipate the enjoyment of being at home as high as before. My last sister is engaged to the last Brother of mine in law. So it seems to my poor heart like a broken home I am so anxious to go to my lonely Mother & comfort her. They seem so impatient to welcome her home. John & his wife live there. But they do not sit with Mama at all. Give my love to all folks. God bless you.

Your aff. friend, Laura


Endnotes

1 “Laura Bridgman,” Perkins School for the Blind, accessed December 8, 2023.
2 “Perkins Founding,” Perkins School for the Blind, accessed December 8, 2023.
3 Charles Dickens, American Notes (New York: John W. Lovell Company, 1883), 622.
4 Dickens, American Notes (1883), 625-626.
5 Maud Howe, Laura Bridgman: Dr. Howe’s Famous Pupil and What He Taught Her (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1903), 283.

Barbary Powers

On August 3rd, more than two centuries ago in 1804, America was at war, engaged in the midst of conflict that lasted for more than three decades between Americans and Muslim Islamicists/terrorists, now known as the Barbary Powers War. Five Muslim nations in North Africa and the Middle East1 (a region that was the home to the Berber people,2 resulting in the name Barbary Powers) regularly attacked American ships and citizens traveling in the Mediterranean region.

Seeking an end to those unprovoked attacks, in 1784 Congress dispatched Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin to negotiate with those terrorists.3 At that time, America lacked a military capable of protecting Americans overseas, so the only solution was marking large “payments” (that is, paying extortion money) to those Muslim nations in exchange for safe passage for American ships and citizens. Those payments rose to fifteen percent of the federal budget, and President George Washington requested that Congress fund a permanent navy to protect Americans overseas.4

President John Adams oversaw the construction of the Navy,5 and when Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801, he ordered a stop to any further extortion payments.6 Tripoli (now Libya, the home of Benghazi) officially declared war on America. Jefferson dispatched the Navy and Marines to the region, and on August 3, 1804, Commodore Edward Preble and General William Eaton began attacking Tripoli,7 eventually bringing them to the peace table in 1805.8

The following year, the first American edition of The Koran was published (the title page for this Koran, from the WallBuilders collection, is pictured on the right). Americans were encouraged to see for themselves what the Koran actually taught so they would understand why we had been attacked and forced into a war. Significantly, the editor’s preface told readers:

Thou wilt wonder that such absurdities have infected the better part of the world and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, will render that [Sharia] law contemptible.9

In short, if you read the Koran, you will understand their unprovoked attacks against us. But the fighting still wasn’t over. While America was engaged in the War of 1812 against Great Britain, Algiers (one of the Muslim Powers that had negotiated a peace treaty with the US in 179510) declared war on the United States. President Madison was unable to take any action until the war was concluded in 1815, at which time he dispatched the American Navy back to North Africa, where it easily achieved victory over Algiers.11 Tunis and Tripoli also agreed to American demands for peace treaties,12 thus finally ending a conflict with Muslims that had spanned more than three decades and involved America’s first four presidents.

The Bible reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that “There is nothing new under the sun.” Technology may change from generation to generation, but human nature stays the same; and this has certainly been the case with centuries of unprovoked Muslim attacks against Americans. May our American service members experience the blessing that King David announced over his troops long ago:

Through God we will do valiantly,
For it is He who shall tread down our enemies.
Psalm 60:12


Endnotes

1 “Barbary Pirates,” The Encyclopedia Britannica (New York: The Encyclopedia Britannica Co., 1910), III:383-384.
2 “Berber people,” Britannica, accessed Nov. 30, 2023, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Berber.
3 Thomas Jefferson to William Carmichael, November 4, 1785, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. William Ellery Bergh (Washington, DC: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1903), V:195.
4 George Washington, “Eighth Annual Address,” December 7, 1796, A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Bureau of National Literature, 1897), I:193.
5 “John Adams,” Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Washington, DC: Navy Department, 1968), III:521-523.
6 “Jefferson, Thomas,” Dictionary of American Biography, ed. Dumas Malone (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933), 10:30.
7 “Prebble, Edward,” Dictionary of American Biography, ed. Malone (1935), 15:182-183. See also The Life of the Late Gen. William Eaton (Brookfield: E. Merriam & Co., 1813).
8 “Treaty of Peace and Amity, Signed at Tripoli,” June 4, 1805, The Avalon Project, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/bar1805t.asp.
9 The Koran: Commonly Called the Alcoran of Mahomet. First American Edition (Springfield: Henry Brewer, 1806), iv.
10 “Treaty of Peace and Amity, Signed at Algiers,” September 5, 1795, The Avalon Project, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bar1795t.asp.
11 James Madison, “Seventh Annual Message,” December 5, 1815, The Writings of James Madison, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908), VIII:335.
12 “The Barbary Treaties: 1786-1836,” The Avalon Project, https://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/barmenu.asp.

Celebrating Mother’s Day!

Hopefully, we already show appreciation for moms all year long, but Mother’s Day is a great day to go a step beyond and do something special for mothers! In celebration of Mother’s Day, we wanted to share with you some fun facts about its history:

    • American celebrations of mothers were held prior to the official Mother’s Day holiday. For example, Anna Reeves Jarvis coordinated celebrations in Virginia before the Civil War and in West Virginia after the War. Other early versions of Mother’s Day were organized from the 1870s to the early 1900s by Julia Ward Howe, Juliet Calhoun Blakely, Mary Towles Sasseen, Frank Hering, and others.
    • On May 10, 1908, Anna Jarvis (pictured on the right), daughter of Anna Reeves Jarvis, organized the first modern Mother’s Day celebrations in West Virginia and Philadelphia in honor of her own mother. (She also spoke against the rampant commercialism related to Mother’s Day.)
    • In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to hold an official statewide celebration.
    • On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued the first federal Mother’s Day proclamation (on the right), declaring the holiday to be recognized the second Sunday in May.

Mothers deserve recognition for their many contributions to America’s history, and at WallBuilders, we have several wonderful works related to some of the great mothers in history as well as much more.

American troops land at Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings of 1944.

America Responds to Victory

V-E (Victory in Europe) Day is commemorated on May 8, 1945. One day earlier, German forces unconditionally surrendered to the Allies, signaling the end of most fighting in Europe — although fighting would continue against Japan for an additional 3 months.

President Harry Truman addressed the nation, reading his proclamation calling for a day of prayer. (WallBuilders’ collection includes an original printing of this proclamation, signed by President Truman.) Truman’s proclamation acknowledged the work of God in winning the war and the continuing need for His help:

For the triumph of spirit and of arms which we have won, and for its promise to peoples everywhere who join us in the love of freedom, it is fitting that we, as a nation, give thanks to Almighty God, who has strengthened us and given us the victory.

Supervision over transitioning post-war Germany was divided among four major Allied nations — France, England, the Soviet Union, and the US. General Omar Bradley, commander of the Twelfth Army Group, oversaw the region leading up to the post war transition. He issued special orders (found in WallBuilders’ collection) that provide an interesting glimpse into American policy concerning Germany during this time:

4. To avoid acts of violence, except when required by military necessity.

For you are on American soldier, not a Nazi.

7. To be fair but firm with Germans.

a. Experience has shown that Germans regard kindness as weakness. Every soldier must prove by his actions that the Americans are strong. This will be accomplished if every soldier treats the Germans with firmness and stern courtesy at all times.

b. Firmness must be tempered with a strict justice. Americans do not resort to Nazi gangster methods in dealing with any people. Remember, your fair but firm treatment of the German people will command the proper respect due a member of a conquering nation.

Part of the rebuilding of Germany included pointed efforts to institute democratic policies, as demonstrated in a June 1946 letter by President Truman to a minister. (This letter is also in WallBuilders’ collection.)

As you set out in the capacity of a representative of the Protestant churches in the United States to serve as a liaison representative between German religious leaders and the United States Military Government, may I take this opportunity to express my personal interest in this undertaking.

I attach importance to its success as a contribution to the reestablishment of contacts between the German churches and those in other countries. It would, moreover, seem to me that the revival of German religious life would greatly promote the Allied program for the development of democratic principles in Germany.

The actions of America after fighting in Europe ended affirm that we openly embraced religious principles as part of our public policy — that America did not consider itself a secular nation. This is a lesson worth remembering today, and should encourage us to push back against efforts to secularize the country, whether those efforts occur at a local school or in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Religious Messages from WWI

On April 6, 1917, the US entered World War I, providing much needed troops to a war effort that cost millions of lives across the world. In a speech calling for a declaration of war, President Woodrow Wilson used a phrase that would summarize America’s intent in becoming involved in this and future conflicts: “The world must be made safe for democracy.” Although America was officially involved in fighting for just over a year, there were still more than 53,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in that conflict. Today, let’s take some time to remember these people and the war they fought in.

Americans had initially preferred remaining neutral in what was seen as a European conflict but actions taken by Germany led to a shift. In May 1915, a German U-boat (submarine) sank a British ocean liner killing over 1,000 people including about 120 Americans. Then, in February 1917, a telegram was intercepted in which the Germans offered Mexico a return of territory lost to the US if Mexico would join the war. These actions raised outrage among the general public, making the declaration of war more acceptable when it was made.

As would also happen during WWII, war bonds were used as a way to raise money for the war effort. In our collection of original documents and artifacts, WallBuilders has war bond posters from both WWI and WWII that used religious messages to ensure support and raise money for those wars.

Also, throughout American history, Bibles have been distributed to soldiers going into war and sometimes these Bibles would include messages from leaders on the importance of Bible reading. For example, a letter from President Franklin Roosevelt was inserted in a Bible distributed during WWII. A letter from President Woodrow Wilson was used in a WWI era Bible (pictured on the left, from a Bible in WallBuilders’ library), as was a letter by General Pershing.

John Pershing was put in command of the American forces in WWI. His involvement in several victories in the later months of the war helped the Allies obtain victory. General Pershing returned to America a war hero and was promoted to General of the Armies in 1919. His letter printed in the front of a 1917 Bible provides a glimpse into his religious beliefs:

To The American Soldier:

Aroused against a nation waging war in violation of all Christian principles, our people are fighting in the cause of liberty.

Hardship will be your lot, but trust in God will give you comfort; temptation will befall you, but the teachings of our Saviour will give you strength.

Let your valor as a soldier and your conduct as a man be an inspiration to your comrades and an honor to your country.

Our history demonstrates that America accorded religion and morality a prominent place in military life — a belief that, sadly, is today being eroded.