“Thanks from Oppuers”

The Europeana Collections website 1914-1918 put me on the trail of this unique photograph of two young, Belgian embroiderers, plus two decorated flour sacks in a private collection [1].

In the online contribution “Oscar De Keersmaecker from Oppuurs”, his son Jozef talks about his father’s experiences as a soldier in WWI and the burning down of his father-in-law’s mill in 1914. Jozef De keersmaecker is Honorary Alderman of Oppuurs, he is also a writer of historical books, including the “History of Oppuurs 1311-2003”.

This story “Thanks from Oppuers” (“Oppuers” is the old spelling of “Oppuurs”) brings together a Belgian and an American mill.

View of Oppuurs, November 2019

Oppuurs, part of the municipality Puurs-Sint-Amands, is located in the province of Antwerp. I traveled there in November, Mr. and Mrs. De keersmaecker-Verbruggen were so kind to welcome me in their home to study the decorated flour sacks and shared with me the accompanying family stories.

Memory of the mill of Oppuurs, painted by M. Depaep, 1950. De keersmaecker-Verbruggen collection

The mill of Oppuurs was originally a wooden grain windmill, which was founded before 1508. In 1887, miller Petrus Edmond Verbruggen inherited the mill from his deceased wife. Verbruggen remarried Maria Rosalia Van Der Linden; when he died in 1907, he left the mill to his wife and children.

Photo of the mill of Oppuurs, early 1900. Image: History of Oppuurs 1311-2003

In the meantime, during a storm in 1898, the standard mill had been toppled, but had been rebuilt in 1901 as a “belt mill” with a fairly high base, grounded on a slope. After the outbreak of the First World War, fate struck again. The Belgian army set fire to the mill: the mill would obstruct the view from the Bornem fort of the advancing German troops; and if they would advance, the mill could not serve as a lookout post for them.

The mill was never rebuilt on the spot, the only thing that reminds us today is the mill well. [2]

The miller’s family Verbruggen went with the times, in 1917-1918 they founded a new steam mill at Oppuurs station. After years of back and forth, the Belgian state eventually paid compensation for the destruction of the mill.

Family photo Verbruggen, 1915. Image: History of Oppuurs 1311-2003

A lot of needlework has been done in the family of Rosalie Verbruggen-Van Der Linden. The girls went to school in Oppuurs and were educated by the nuns of Annonciaden from Veltem; by far the majority of people in the village owe part of their upbringing to these nuns.

L: Irène Verbruggen, R. Antoinette Verbruggen, sisters, aunts of Jeanneke Verbruggen. Image: History of Oppuurs 1311-2003

Antoinette and Irena Verbruggen made a diptych on flour sacks with the image of the family mill in operational and destroyed condition: “Praise and Thanks Oppuers 1914” and “America Relief in Need 1915”. It was hemmed with a wide strip of bobbin lace and decorated with band and brushes. It must have been a colorful needlework.

The girls proudly showed their work in the photo. On the back of the photo is written: ”L. Irène Verbruggen, R. Antoinette Verbruggen, sisters, aunts of Jeanneke Verbruggen. These sacks were a memento as a thank you for the American help. They are flour sacks and are owned by the Verbruggen family.”

Unfortunately, it is not known whether the decorated flour sacks on the photograph have been preserved.

The entire Verbruggen-Van Der Linden family was portrayed during the photo session, nine children were still alive. The two boys, Modest and Frans, are on the left and right of their mother Rosalie; they would continue the business. Irena and Antoinette would later enter the monastery as nuns.

Decorated flour sack “Koene Held” (Valiant Hero), 1914-1916

There are two well-preserved flour sacks in the family. After the death of Frans Verbruggen, his eldest daughter Jeanne and her husband Jozef De keersmaecker dicovered the sacks at his home.

I have written about one of these decorated flour sacks before, in my blog “Verwondering over een Koene Held” (“Marvel of a Valiant Hero”).

Flour sack “Belgian Relief Flour, Wheatland, WYO, with embroidery “Thanks from Oppuers “, hemmed with a wide bobbin lace border
Flour sack ‘Belgian Relief Flour, Wheatland Roller Mill Co., Wheatland, Wyoming, VS

“Dank van Oppuers” (Thanks from Oppuers) is written in capital letters on the flour sack from Wheatland Roller Mill Co. in Wheatland, Wyoming, USA. The sack “Belgian Relief Flour” arrived in Belgium in March 1915 through the relief campaign “The Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement 1914-15” from the Northwestern Miller, the magazine of American millers in Minneapolis [3].

Wheatland Roller Mill Co. early 1900. Image source: internet
Wall painting in downtown Wheatland, Wyoming, executed by “Platte County Art Guild” in 2017. Image source: internet

In the fall of 1914, the people of the state of Wyoming raised money for the needy Belgian population. To contribute to the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement flour was purchased from the Wheatland Roller Mill Co., as reported in the relief effort Report.

The flour mill existed from 1897 to 1931 [4]. The town of Wheatland commemorates the history of the mill to this day with a mural in the city center, applied in 2017 by the “Platte County Art Guild”.

The steamer “South Point” transported a load of 6200 tons of relief goods for a value of $ 500,000 from Philadelphia to Rotterdam. The ship arrived safely in the port of Rotterdam on 27 February 1915, where the sacks of flour were immediately loaded on inland vessels and shipped to Belgian ports. A number of barges sailed to Antwerp; hence the flour would be distributed to Oppuurs.

“Cooking soup with Oppuers stoker for aid and food for school children and refugees during WWI.” History of Oppuurs 1311-2003
The flour sack “Thanks from Oppuers” is rimmed with a wide hem

Empty sacks will have been handed over to the Annonciaden Sisters’ Monastery School in Oppuurs, where the schoolgirls processed the flour sacks in class as part of their needle training.

Detail embroidery: the coat of arms of Oppuers flanked by two lions, below a buttonhole

 

 

 

 

 

On the unprinted side of the flour sack, first a design would have been made and the pattern drawn, in some places you can still see blue lines on the canvas. The embroidery is meticulously executed, as well as the wide lace border, see the appendix with the complete inventory of the flour sack.

 

Remarkable are:

Detail embroidery “België 1915” (Belgium 1915)
  • The three buttonholes
  • The year “1915” as the year of decoration, instead of a timeline 1914-1915
  • Europeana Collections 1914-1918 mentions the contribution of Henri Vertongen including the image of a correspondingly decorated flour sack with “Thanks from Puers”. See my blog of January 23, 2020.
Jeanne and Jozef De keersmaecker-Verbruggen

My warm thanks go to Jozef De keersmaecker and his wife Jeanne Verbruggen. She is the granddaughter of Rosalie Verbruggen-Van Der Linden and has always known her grandmother as an independent, decisive woman. Jeanne’s aunts, who became nuns as adults, embroidered the dyptich of flour sacks with the mills when they were schoolgirls.
Who knows they and the other sisters Verbruggen may also have worked on the two flour sacks preserved by their brother Frans.

Footnotes:

[1] The decorated flour sacks “Dank van Oppuers” and “Koene Held” have been on display to the public at Heemkundige Verzamelkring (“Historical Collecting Circle”) St-Amands HeverStam during the exhibition “The face of the Great War” in 2018

[2] The history of the mill of Oppuurs is described in the Molendatabase.EU: see the collection “Lost Belgian Mills”

[3] See also my blog / article “A Famous Flemish Flour Sack in The Land of Nevele” of 25 October 2018

[4] More about the history of Wheatland Roller Mill Co. in the book by Starley Talbott, Platte County. Images of America. Charleston SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2009

Christmas 1914-1917

1914

St-Josse-ten-Noode received the first sacks of flour from America on December 25 and 26: 200 sacks of flour, of which 176 sacks of flour of 64 kg to be distributed to the bakeries during the Christmas season: ‘L’ ALIMENTATION’. – La commune de St-Josse-ten-Noode, a reçu les 25 et 26 courant, 200 sacs de farine; 176 sacs ont été réparti entre les boulangers de la commune et 24 sacs ont été remis à l’Œuvre de l’alimentation de la commune. Chaque sac était de 64 kilos. (“FOOD’. – The municipality of St-Josse-ten-Noode, received the 25th and 26th, 200 sacks of flour; 176 sacks were distributed among the bakers of the commune and 24 sacks were given to l’Œuvre de l’alimentation of the commune. Each sack was 64 kilos (Le Bruxellois, December 30, 1914).

The cover photo of the Christmas issue of the Belgian illustrated magazine Le Temps Présent shows a young, hungry girl, a toddler, taking a bite of a thick sandwich. It would turn out to be an iconic photo.

“”Heureux Age”: A small refugee in Dixmude does not spoil her appetite because of the war.” Meaningful photo on the cover of the Christmas issue 1914 of the Brussels magazine “Le Temps Présent”, December 25, 1914

The American Edward Eyre Hunt (1885-1953), author of the book “War Bread”, published about his life in Belgium when he worked in the province of Antwerp for the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB).

The “Christmas girl”, image on the frontispiece of “War Bread” by Edward E. Hunt, 1916

In his book Hunt uses the same photo on the frontispiece as the published photo on the Christmas cover of the Belgian magazine: the ‘Christmas girl’, enjoying a big sandwich.

Hunt reports on the decorating of flour sacks by ladies in Antwerp. The caption under the photograph of six decorated flour sacks is: “FLOUR SACKS. Embroidered and painted by the Belgians as souvenirs for the Americans.” Through my research of decorated flour sacks from WWI, I can add that the Belgians made the souvenirs not only for the Americans, but also for themselves.

 

 

Decorated flour sacks from Antwerp, donated to Edward E. Hunt. Image in War Bread, 1916

 

The “Christmas girl” on the back cover of Jeffrey B. Miller’s “WWI Crusaders”, 2018

A hundred years later, the image of the “Christmas girl” shows up again. In 2018, “WWI Crusaders” was published by author Jeffrey B. Miller from Denver, Colorado. The image of the “Christmas girl” decorates both the side and backcover of the book. The author is grandson of Erica Bunge (1892-1986) from Antwerp, Belgium, who married CRB employee Milton M. Brown (1893-1979) from Cincinnati, Ohio. Miller describes the love story of his grandparents and the intense life of the young men and women who worked for the CRB from August 1914 to May 1917.

1915

The cover photo of L’Evénément Illustré shows a painting by Belgian artist Gaston Haustraete.

Gaston Haustraete: ‘Noël 1915. Vision…’, L’ Evénément Illustré, December 25, 1915
Gaston Haustrate, Portrait, flour sack Belgian Relief Flour, 1915, Moulckers Collection, St. Edwards University, Austin, Tx, USA

I became acquainted with Haustraete (Everbeek, 1878 – Ixelles, 1949) through his painted flour sack from Thompson Milling Co., included in the Moulckers Collection, St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas, USA. The child’s portrait on the flour sack shows a striking resemblance to the child’s portrait on the Christmas cover. In both paintings the child holds something in his right fist, on the cover photo it looks like a toy soldier, symbol for father, fighting at the front? The red flowers on the flour sack symbolize hope. The story of the flour sack is described in my (Dutch) blog of November 30, 2018 about the Moulckers Collection.

 

 

Advertisement in La Belgique, December 23, 1915

 

December call in the newspaper: “Go look at the American Sacks. Works made by workers. 105, rue Neuve, Brussels”.

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In Anderlecht, near Brussels, an exhibition of art and crafts opened in December 1915 in the veterinary school, where works of art could be obtained through a raffle. The proceeds of the fundraising were intended for the local relief commission.

Exhibition poster, Anderlecht commune. L’ Evénément Illustré, January 1, 1916
Collar made of flour sack, ‘Bébé, Anderlecht 1914-1915. Collection HHPLM

I suspect that decorated flour sacks would have been amongst the displayed artworks. The institute of the Sœurs de Notre Dame, a professional school for girls, was established in Anderlecht. They have decorated a lot of flour sacks in class during their lessons. The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa owns dozens of pieces of the students from Anderlecht.

 

Evariste Carpentier, painted flour sack Preston Milling Co., Noël 1915, postcard, Liège

Evariste Carpentier (Kuurne, 1845 – Liège, 1922) painted a flour sack from Preston Milling Co., Preston, Idaho, USA. As a leading painter and former director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Liège, Carpentier’s Christmas painting was photographed. The image was reproduced as a postcard, of which copies were sold for charity: the soup distribution in Liège. The postcards are still sought-after collectables.

During the Christmas and New Year period, the former students of the Academy in Liège organized the 15th Salon of Art and Applied Art, the proceeds of which were intended for, among other things, the “Solidarité Artistique”. The fund provided discreet assistance to the many poor artists who were affected by the war and occupation conditions. The program booklet contains various embroidery items from the ladies Irma Terhell and Nina Kepenne-Delheid, but I cannot tell whether they were decorated flour sacks.

 

 

 

 

 

1916

Women and young children around the Christmas tree make up the painting on the cover of the Christmas edition.

“The Christmas Tree”, L’Evénément Illustré, December 23, 1916

“C’est la fête intime de la famille, qui réunit tous les cœurs en une douce communion de pensées, de souvenirs et de joies. (It is the intimate celebration of the family, which unites all hearts in a sweet communion of thoughts, memories and joy).”

1917

In London, in the great hall of the Criterion building, an elite party gathered to attend a thé concert, organized by an extensive ladies’ committee, for the “Noël des Petits pauvres d ‘Anvers” (Christmas of the Little Poor of Antwerp). The concert started with an old dance of dancers in classical costumes, then some soloists sang beautiful songs. The following interlude included the sale by auction of a series of embroidered flour sacks. The auction raised 40 pounds.

La Métropole d’Anvers, December 25, 1917

Georges Desplas, who was mentioned on the program with the pompous title of “official speaker of the Belgian army”, … received much applause after singing his army songs. With astonishing energy, he acted as an auctioneer, improvising, who auctioned off decorated, in Belgium, embroidered flour sacks from WWI. He raised nearly forty pounds, which will be transferred to charity; the result of his wordsmithing…

At the end of 1916 and the end of 1917, the Belgian newspapers reported few articles about decorated flour sacks. The population suffered greatly from food, clothing and fuel shortages and ice-cold winters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The emotions of the flour sack

In June 2019 I did research in the Ypres Salient, Belgium.
The Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum published this interview in VIFF Magazine no. 70, 2019-3:

“Last summer, artist and researcher Annelien van Kempen, hailing from Voorburg in the Netherlands, did research on the collection of the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, focusing on the decorated flour sacks of Herbert Hoovers Commission for Relief in Belgium with support of the Koen Koch Foundation.
The Koen Koch Foundation raises funds through membership fees and donations to the Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum to support students and trainees with their studies on WWI in the Ypres Salient or on the IFFM Collection.

The sacks of flour from the USA and Canada were intended as food aid to occupied Belgium in World War I. Generally, you do not assign a backbone or feelings to a flour sack. The Belgian seamstresses, embroiderers, lace workers and painters who artfully worked on the sacks, however, testified to enthusiasm, creativity and ingenuity, as well as patriotism and deep gratitude towards the generous donors. The IFFM already houses a number of masterpieces, which further fueled Annelien van Kempen’s passion for her research subject.”

Interview and photos by Marc Dejonckheere.

You can read the interview here.

 

Article in Patakon

Embroidered flour sacks in WW I: Nice souvenirs, serve well as gifts; the profits are worth talking about.
The relic of a heroic people.

My first article about the WW I decorated flour sacks has been published in print!
23 pages with text, photos and a selective bibliography can be found in the September 2019 issue of Patakon, the bakery heritage magazine of the Furnes Bakery Museum.

Summary

The article in Patakon is putting the Furnes Bakery Museum WWI flour sacks in their historical context. Through historical newspaper reports and photographs I broaden and deepen the Belgian perspective on the remembrance culture of the decorated “American” flour sacks.

I present 15 newspaper reports and 8 images from illustrated magazines, published between 1914 and 1918, with flour sacks related quotes.

Ferdine de Wachter is showing proudly her embroidered and decorated flour sack, 1915. Photo courtesy of Rumesta History Circle.

Another 7 images illustrate the relief efforts of women in occupied Belgium, including Madame Vandervelde whose campaign for food aid in the USA resulted in flour sacks, printed with the name of her own Madame Vandervelde Fund.

Embroiderer Ferdine De Wachter, at the age of 18, is proudly standing next to her embroidered flour sack.

My research of the Furnes Bakery Museum flour sack collection led to the discovery of several remarkable details. The detection of similar flour sacks in other collections led to new conclusions through comparative research with the three Furnes decorated flour sacks. In addition, I delved into historical information about the origin of the flour sacks.

These flour sacks are souvenirs that the Furnes Bakery Museum is right to store with care and display with pride.
The article was created in collaboration with Ina Ruckebusch, scientific staff member/collection manager.

The article originally appeared in the Dutch language.
You can read its English translation here.

Reusing Flour Bags as Clothing

Decorated flour sack from flour factory in Buffalo, NY, with embroidery and needlework “Merci aux Américains” by “École Morichar de Saint-Gilles”, 1915; Fig. “From Aid to Art”, San Francisco Folk Art Museum, 1987, Hoover Institution Library & Archives Collection, Stanford University, USA.

One of the goals of my research is to unravel the mythical history of the origins of the decorated Flour Bags in WWI. Decorated Flour Bags in WWI can be both embroidered, decorated with needlework and with lace, as well as painted on by artists. Flour Bags have been transformed into clothing.

Who had the idea of reusing these bags and where and when did that start? Was it a Belgian initiative or did it happen due to American suggestion?

Belgian newspapers and magazines
To find answers to my questions, I systematically went through a number of Belgian newspapers and illustrated magazines from the end of 1914, beginning of 1915; these have been digitized and are online.

I had already found some American publications before and combined them with the information from Belgium.

Color photo in “1914 ILLUSTRÉ, no. 22, February 1915”: Flour arrives in Brussels

I have split my analysis and findings into four parts:

  1. Reuse of Flour Bags into clothing.
  2. Transformation of Flour Bags with embroidery, needlework and lace into decorated Flour Bags, Belgian primary sources.
  3. Transformation of Flour Bags into painted decorated Flour Bags, Belgian primary sources.
  4. Transformation of Flour Bags into decorated Flour Bags, American primary sources.

Reusing Flour Bags as clothing
In this blog I will discuss the origin of the reuse of Flour Bags as clothing. Two primary sources, one Belgian from early 1915 and one American from late 1914, bear witness to this.

1) January 1915: Madame Vandervelde

Madame Vandervelde; Fig. gw.geneanet.org

The earliest Belgian source with information that I have found so far is an article about Madame Vandervelde. Her maiden name was Charlotte ‘Lalla’ Speyer, British by birth but from German parents, she was married in 1901 to her second husband, the Belgian Minister of State, Emile Vandervelde. The couple divorced immediately after WWI. [1]

Article in “Le XXe siècle: journal d’union et d’action catholique” of January 16, 1915

Since October 1914, Madame Vandervelde had been in the United States to ask for help for the Belgian population in need. In Buffalo, New York, she gave a lecture and received 10,000 bags of flour as a gift. The bags were made of fine cotton and intended for reuse.

La propagande pro-belge aux États-Unis.
‘Madame Vandervelde, la femme du Ministre d’Etat, est aux
États-Unis depuis plus de trois mois. Elle y a donné et y donne sur la Belgique et les horreurs, dont elle a été victime, une série de conférences qui ont le plus grand succès et dans lesquelles on acclame la Belgique et les Belges. …..
A Buffalo, des industriels lui ont offert un bâteau chargé de 10.000 sacs de farine, – sacs confectionnés en fine toile et en étoffe, afin qu’ils puissent servir par la suite et être transformés en vêtements et en linges pour les habitants. …

Translation: “In Buffalo, manufacturers have donated to her a ship with 10,000 bags of flour – bags made of fine canvas and cloth, so that these can afterwards be used and transformed into clothing and towels for the inhabitants…. “

Madame Vandervelde had apparently set up her own relief fund, the ‘Madame Vandervelde Fund’, to house all the donations she received in the United States. I have deduced this from:

Unprocessed flour sack Madame Vandervelde Fund.  Image: Imprimerie Société Anonyme Belge de Phototypie (Collection IFFM)

a) the unprocessed Flour Bag on a photo of a Flour Bags-collage, provided to me by the In Flanders Fields Museum (IFFM), Ypres, with the text: “War Relief Donation Flour from Madame Vandervelde Fund – Belgian Relief Fund, Buffalo, N.Y. U.S.A. 49 Lbs.”[2]

Decorated flour sack “Madame Vandervelde Fund”, collection IFFM, Ypres

 

 

b) the decorated Flour Bag, which I see online at the ‘Ieperse Collecties’ (Ypres Collections). Object number IFF 003008 is an “Embroidered and painted Flour Bag attached on a stretcher with the text “War Relief Donation – Flour 1914-1915 – from Madame Vandervelde Fund “. At the top the portrait of Emile Vandervelde, Minister of State of Belgium.”

 

2) November 1914: Mr. William C. Edgar

The earliest American source on the reuse of Flour Bags as clothing comes from Mr. William C. Edgar, editor-in-chief of the American newspaper “The Northwestern Miller” in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On November 4, 1914, he started the aid campaign “The Miller’s Relief Movement”. [3] The newspaper, a trade magazine for grain millers, made a request to subscribers and advertisers, in particular the flour mills, to donate flour for Belgium’s aid. The quality of the flour was specified in detail and the packaging had to meet the following conditions: cotton bags, sturdy for transport, dimensions suitable for handling by one person and last but not least “suitable for reuse“:

Instructions were issued at the same time for packing the flour. These stipulated that a strong forty-nine pound cotton sack be used. This was for three reasons: the size of the package would be convenient for individual handling in the ultimate distribution; the use of cotton would, to a certain extent, help the then depressed cotton market, and finally and most important, after the flour was eaten, the empty cotton sack could be used by the housewife for an undergarment, the package thus providing both food and clothing. ‘(Final Report: The Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement 1914-1915, p. 9). [4]

Tradition

Undergarment made from Flour Bag. Fig.: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum, Iowa, USA

The motive for reuse was widely used among the American female population. Reuse of cotton bags had already been established for decades and earlier. Cotton was a product of the country, bags were usable pieces of cotton. It provided the sparing housewife with simple items of clothing for free or for a low price. After good washing, the seamstresses cut the pattern of the clothes out of the bags and mainly made undergarments for their own family. After the First World War, the reuse of cotton bags developed further in the US from the 1920s.

Lou Hoover poses in a cotton evening gown to encourage women to wear cotton clothing, in particular evening gowns (around 1930); Fig. firstladies.org

During the depression in the 1930s, the Americans protected their distressed cotton industry, reusing cotton bags was a sign of frugality and also a patriotic duty. Product development and marketing efforts by bag suppliers resulted in washable prints, washable labels and finally colorful, fashionable and hip prints on the bags. In the 40s and 50s it was particularly fashionable to wear garments made from bags. A true “Feedsack” cult prevailed among rural women to sew clothes from used cotton bags that had served as packages of chicken feed, flour, sugar and rice for the entire family. [5]

Photo in ‘L’ événement Illustré: L’Ouvroir des Dames Namuroises’, April 1915, no. 9
Jacket made from Flour Bag. Fig.: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library & Museum, Iowa, USA

The reuse of flour bags into clothing would have been taken up by Belgian women’s organizations under the protection of the Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation, as soon as the relief work had properly started in January 1915.

It was typical of Belgian women that they not only made undergarments from the flour bags, but also cute, happy dresses for their children. In Heverlee, 80 children, mostly girls from around 4 to 6 years old, were photographed, dressed in Flour Sacks with the “American Commission” logo.

Image in Europeana Collections

Mr. Robert Bruyninckx shared this black and white photo of 14 × 9 cm in the Europeana Collections under the title: “Group photo with children dressed in clothes made from bags of the American Commission for Relief in Belgium.”

Description: “Group photo with Jeanne Caterine Charleer (° 17 Aug 1910 in Heverlee), top row, 7th from the right. Children dressed in clothes made from bags of the American Commission for Relief, with the American flag in the background. The photo is a family piece. Jeanne Caterine Charleer was the mother of Robert Bruyninckx.”[6]

Girl in Flour Bag dress from California. Fig.: Hoover Institution Library & Archives, Stanford University, V.S.

A girl in New York was photographed in a “Belgian” dress with the “Sperry Flour” logo from California.

Conclusion

Although I have only found two primary sources to date, I nevertheless come to a provisional conclusion about the origin of the reuse of Flour Bags as clothing: this practice was taken up in Belgium at the suggestion of American relief workers. The Belgian women found the Flour Bags so special, they made, apart from undergarments, also nice dresses for their children.

 

[1] Gubin, Eliane, Dictionnaire des femmes belges: XIXe et XXe siècle, p. 510-512; gw.geneanet.org: “Charlotte Hélène Frédérique Marie Speyer”

[2] Delmarcel, Guy, Pride of Niagara. Best Winter Wheat. Amerikaanse Meelzakken als textiele getuigen van Wereldoorlog I. Brussel, Jubelpark: Bulletin van de Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis (‘American flour sacks as textile witnesses of World War I’. Brussels, Cinquantenaire: Bulletin of the Royal Museums of Art and History), deel 84, 2013, p. 97-126

[3] See also my blog: “A Celebrity Flemish Flour Bag in The Land of Nevele” of October 25, 2018

[4] The Millers ’Belgian Relief Movement 1914-15 conducted by The Northwestern Miller. Final Report of its Director William C. Edgar, Editor of the Northwestern Miller, MCMXV

[5] Three sources to continue reading about ‘Feed Sacks’:
Linzee Kull McCray, Feed Sacks, The Colourful History of a Frugal Fabric, 2016/2019;
– Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, 
For a few sacks more, online exhibition Textile Research Centre, Leiden, 2018
– Marian Ann J. Montgomery, 
Cotton and Thrift. Feed Sacks and the Fabric of American Households, 2019

[6] The group photo with the children in Heverlee in clothing from bags with the logo ‘American Commission’ is printed in the article by Ina Ruckebusch: ‘Belgische voedselschaarste en Amerikaanse voedselhulp tijdens WOI’ in: Patakon, tijdschrift voor bakerfgoed, (Belgian food scarcity and American food aid during WWI’ in: Patakon, Magazine about bakery heritage) 5 nr. 1 (2014) , p. 29.

 

A Canadian flour bag and embroidery of proud Belgian women

This is my first article about a decorated flour bag in WWI, written in June 2018.

The Flour Bag has been part of the collection of the Textile Research Center (TRC) in Leiden, The Netherlands, since 2017 and was a gift from Pepin van Rooijen of Pepin Press, Amsterdam.

Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood, director of TRC, wrote on the occasion of the donation about the ‘Belgian Embroidered Flour Bags’.

You can read the English translation of my article here.