American collection of original WW I flour sacks

Mr. Scott Kraska from Massachusetts brought an interesting contribution to my flour sack research after watching the webinar “Spotlight on the famous flour sacks”.

Mr. Kraska wrote:
“Hi Annelien, I enjoyed your presentation with the Hoover Presidential Foundation. I have a collection of Belgian relief flour sacks and other material of the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) that I would be glad to share with you. I have three decorated and sixteen original sacks.”

On my turn I like to share the photographs and information with the readers of my blog.

Belgian Relief Flour, Pillsbury Flour Mills Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Never Forget What America Has Done For Us”, 1915, painted, embroidered. Coll. Kraska

I first asked Mr. Kraska what was the background for his inspiration to create a collection.
“I have been a historian for 40 years and have studied American military history since the age of 13. I began to focus on WW1, when I was 17.
Over the years I gained an appreciation for American volunteers in foreign service during WW1. This includes ambulance drivers with the American Field Service, Norton Harjes and other organizations, aviators with the Lafayette Flying Corps and soldiers serving with the French, British and Canadian armies, all before America joined the War officially in 1917. This led to research in a variety of other civilian service organizations, like the American Fund for French Wounded, C.A.R.D.-The American Committee for Devastated France and the CRB. I have collected and preserved a lot of their material.”

Original sacks
Mr. Kraska’s collection is the first American collection I get to know of that  includes many original flour sacks without decorations.

An important distinction made by Mr. Kraska is the distinction between original sacks with prints of the relief organizations and just printed logos and addresses of the millers:

“Some have the one side printed with a greeting presentation.

“Some have the miller/manufacturer on one side and a greeting presentation on the other.”

“Then I have a collection of standard flour sacks, plain sacks, that just have the millers/manufacturers printed logo and address, they lack the messages from donors.”

Kehlor’s Rex, Kehlor Flour Mills Co., St. Louis, Missouri (recto) – C.R.B. (verso). Coll. Kraska

“This one is interesting due to its size, as you mentioned 50 Lbs. bags are the norm. This one held a very heavy 220 pounds of flour.”

How do we know these original sacks have actually been in Belgium?

“All of mine have the Belgian/Brabant district stamp except for one.”

Decorated flour sacks

“Standard”, Goodlander Milling Co., FT. Scott, Kansas, 1915, embroidered. Coll. Kraska

“The fully embroidered owl/moon is a wall banner and was made without top fringe.”

“This one is smaller but is actually my favorite.

“Combination of paint and embroidery.”

CRB material

“These small paper tags are about 1 x 1.5 inches. I believe they were attached to decorated sacks that were sold to raise funds.”

“I believe the photo was taken in a Canadian warehouse before they were shipped overseas.”

William C. Stevenson, CRB-delegate

William C. Stevenson, CRB delegate in Namur

“I have a diary written by one of the CRB-representatives serving in Belgium. Paper was scarce, so he actually wrote much of it on CRB stationary and forms. The Diary covers June 1 to Oct. 7, 1915 and is a combination of typed pages and hand written on the back of CRB stationary from his district in Namur.”

My further research gives additional information on William C. Stevenson.

William C. Stevenson, CRB delegate

William Cooper Stevenson (ºBellevue, Allegheny Count, Pa., July 30, 1888 +Middleburg, Va., May 15, 1968) was the son of a pastor, Rev. William P. Stevenson (1860-1944) and Elizabeth Cooper Stevenson (1866-1939). Rev. Stevenson had four happy pastorates in Pennsylvania and New York; he was the pastor of Maryville College from 1917-1941.
William Stevenson was in Europe when the war broke out. He was a student at Oxford. The letters which he sent home have been published in the newspapers The Yonkers Stateman and The Yonkers Herald (Yonkers, New York).

In his letter, published on November 14, 1914 he writes: “What a changed Oxford I found when I returned from France the other day! First of all, where are the students? …. With the exception of the 97 Americans and a few whom physical infirmaties debar, the undergraduates almost to a man have responded to the Vice Chancellor’s appeal to join”. (This is the link to the full article).
No wonder Stevenson would decide in the next year to join the work of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. He served the CRB from June 1 till October 1, 1915.
In December 1915 Stevenson returned home to be engaged with his future wife Elizabeth Walker, whom he married in October 1916. They had two children: the later Mrs. Nelson Stevenson McClary of Middleburg, Va., and William W. Stevenson of Charlottesville, Va.

CRB-representatives portraits

“I also have a leather-bound portrait presentation album of all the overseas serving members of the CRB from Hoover all the way to lower echelon staff. The red book I have is shown here. About 16 of the photos have signatures, the rest are unsigned.”


“I have collected and preserved a lot of material and will be displaying these materials in a museum which I have been building. It is approx. 2700 square feet and will cover the years 1600-1975.
The museum is the white building on the right.




Thank you, Scott Kraska, for sharing the photographs and information of your unique collection. They are a valuable contribution to my research.




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