Musée de la Vie wallonne’s Educational Collection, Liège

In early September 2021 I was finally able to go on another Flour Sack Trip to Belgium! I visited the city of Liège where I studied more than thirty decorated flour sacks at Musée de la Vie wallonne. I enjoyed speaking to the museum staff and visiting the depot, so I could photograph the flour sack embroideries in detail. Musée de la Vie wallonne (MVW) preserves an interesting collection of decorated flour sacks. An important donor, as early as 1919, was the Welsch family.

Welsch family[1]
Ernest Welsch, married to Marie Anne Dupont, worked as an education inspector. Their son Paul, married to Elise Sauvage, also worked in education.

Painting class at the Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle, Liège, Feb. 1915. Photo: coll. HHPLM

Ernest and Marie Anne Welsch-Dupont and/or their son and daughter-in-law collected 24 flour sacks of great educational value: a class project of twelve original flour sacks, and -of the same origin- twelve decorated flour sacks.

Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle

Thérèse Foidart was 17 years old when she painted and worked on her flour sack. Coll. MVW; photo: author

Pupils of the girls’ school Ecole Moyenne Professionnelle in Liège have decorated the flour sacks in 1915. Three of these flour sacks have been signed by the student who decorated them: Nelly Sasserath, Lucy Jossa, Thérèse Foidart, and the name of the school Ecole Moyenne de Liège. The girls were advanced students, at sixteen and seventeen years old.

Students of the Ecole Moyenne are taught in a room full of patriotic decorations, February 1915. Photo: coll. HHPLM

The origins of the twelve flour sacks

Twelve places in the United States where the flour sacks in the Welsch collection originated in late 1914/early 1915. Map: © Annelien van Kempen, 2021

Where did the twelve flour sacks originally come from?

  State in USA
Place Milling Co.
1 Idaho Preston Preston Milling Co Cream of the Valley
2 Rexburg Farmers Elev. & Milling Co. Record
3 St. Anthony St. Anthony Milling & Elevator Co. Yellowstone
4 Kansas Pawnee County Keystone Milling Co. Keystone
5 Peabody Moffet &Co. Pride of Peabody
6 Wichita Kansas Milling Co. Silk Floss
7 Hillsboro Ebel Bros White Lilly
8 Hillsboro Ebel Bros White Lilly
9 North Dakota Valley City Russell-Miller Milling Co. Producer
10 Ohio Columbus The Gwinn Milling Co. Square Deal
11 Oregon Portland St. Jobes Milling Co. Portland
12 Washington Tacoma Tacoma Grain Co. Millers Balloon

How were the full sacks of flour transported?

Map: © Annelien van Kempen, 2021

The transportation went overland by train to ports on the east or west coast of the United States. From the ports, steamships transported the loads of flour sacks to Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

The Oregon Daily Journal, January 10, 1915

East Coast:
– SS Hannah: the sacks of flour from Kansas (New York d. Jan. 5 – Rotterdam a. Jan. 27, 1915)
– SS South Point: the sacks of flour from North Dakota (Philadelphia d. Feb. 11 – Rotterdam a. Feb. 27, 1915)
– SS Naneric: the sacks or flour from Ohio (New York d. March 27- Rotterdam a. April 20, 1915)

West Coast:
– SS Washington: the sacks of flour from Idaho, Oregon and Washington (Seattle v. Jan 29 – Rotterdam a. March 30, 1915)

© Annelien van Kempen, 2021

In Rotterdam, the sacks of flour were transshipped into barges and transported to Liège via the Meuse River (period January-April 1915).

The Welsch donation in 1919
In 1919 the Welsch family donated twelve original flour sacks and -of the same origin- twelve decorated flour sacks to Musée de la Vie wallonne.
Here are my photos per set with original and decorated flour sacks.

1 Cream of the Valley, tablecloth; painted, embroidered, trim along the edge with band and fringe.

2 Record, tablecloth; painted, embroidered, edged with needle lace and fringe.

Nelly Sasserath, 17 years old, Coll. MVW; photo: author

Signed with the name: Nelly Sasserath (ºLiège 1897.10.08 – +Auschwitz, Poland 1944.01.17; she married Louis van Hamberg; they had three children of which two daughters survived WW II: Betty Helène Brancart, née Van Hamberg (ºAntwerp 1921.08.20) and Claudine Cougnet, née Van Hamberg (ºAntwerp 1923.06.26)). My blog “The watercolored comic on an Idaho flour sack in Liège” describes details of the tablecloth and tells the impressive life story of Nelly Sasserath and her family.

3 Yellowstone, laundry bag; embroidered, rings for cord

4 Keystone, “sous-main”, desk pad with posters from the Sacs Américains sales exhibition in Liège from November 20 till December 26, 1915.

The reverse of the original flour sack is printed with the text “1000 sacks of Flour donated to Belgium Sufferers from Pawnee County, Kansas, USA”. This text is on the back of the desk pad.

5 Pride of Peabody, tablecloth; embroidered with various decorative stitches, edge with picots.

6 Silk Floss, hanging folder for newspapers; embroidered, sewn with blue fabric on sides and back.

7 White Lily, purse; embroidered, sewn, with closing cord and tassel at bottom.

8 White Lily, table runner; art deco motifs are stamped or worked with template on the cloth, embroidered, back is lined, fringe around edges.

9 Producer, table runner; art deco motifs are stamped or worked with template on the cloth, embroidered, back is lined, fringe around edges.

Lucy Jossa, 16 years old, Coll. MVW; photo: author

Signed with the name: Lucy Jossa (ºLiège, 1898.08.07 – +1993.10.17; she married George Bartholomé; her parents were Philomène and Jean Paul Jossa-Genicot; her father was a clerk).

10 Square Deal, hanging folder for newspapers; painted and trimmed with blue border and six tassels, sewn on sewing machine.
Signed with the name: Thérèse Foidart (ºLiège 1898.04.12; she lived at Boulevard des Anglais, Spa, in 1930; daughter of Anne Marie and Laurent Foidart-De Radoux; her father was a musician).

11 Portland, tablecloth; embroidered, decorative edges with fringe; reverse of original flour sack is printed with the text: “For Belgium Relief donated by Coeur d’Alène Mining District, Shoshone County, Idaho, USA”.


12 Balloon, tablecloth; painted on reverse with sunflowers, decorative edges with fringe.

Exhibitions in Liège

Poster of the Liège sales exhibition in late 1915, design D. Poissinger. Coll. MVW, photo: author

The decorated flour sack Keystone is a sous-main, a folder or desk pad, which holds two posters from the late December sales exhibition of Sacs Américains in Liège at the “Continental, Salle Mauresque”. Would the Welsh family have made the purchase there?
Or did (one of the members of) the Welsch family help prepare an exhibition at the Ecole Moyenne?

Perhaps the collection had already been created earlier. A newspaper reported the sale of decorated flour sacks through store windows.


Le Quotidien, October 11, 1915
Photobook of CRB delegate David Nelson, February 22, 1915. Coll. HHPLM

The class contribution from the Ecole Moyenne may have been destined to go directly to the U.S.A. via the American delegates for the province of Liège from the Commission for Relief in Belgium. The CRB delegates visited the school in February 1915. David Nelson’s photo album dated February 22, 1915 bears witness to this.

When studied closely, the collection of two times twelve flour sacks resembles what today would be called a “teaching kit”. Thanks to the Welsch donation, we have a practical “pattern and inspiration book” of decorated flour sacks.


Thanks to:
– Musée de la Vie wallonne’ staff for their welcome and the preparations for my visit. In particular, I would like to thank Nadine de Rassenfosse, Aurélie Lemaire and Anne Stiernet.
– Hubert Bovens from Wilsele for his search for biographical data on the Welsch family and the three students of the Ecole Moyenne, in particular his work on and exploration of the impressive life story of Nelly Sasserath and her family.
– Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs. 


[1] Welsch family: Marie Anne Dupont (ºSaint-Josse-ten-Noode 1857.05.08) married Ernest Eugène Welsch (ºTourcoing (F) 1852.09.26) on April 17, 1879. Ernest Welsch worked as an education inspector (“inspecteur des écoles primaires communales de la ville de Liège”). In 1926 he was appointed professor at l’Ecole industrielle de Grivegnée. He wrote a play about the war ten years after the war, the Walloon one-act play Li Dièrinne lète.

The collection of MVW contains some miniature paintings painted by E. Welsch: “une palette de peintre miniature décorée et signée par un certain “E. Welsch” et qui date du début du 20ème siècle. Elle fait partie d’un ensemble de plus de 300 palettes miniatures décorées par des artistes amateurs ou professionnels à l’initiative d’un marchand de tabac-cigares Félix Schroeder.”

The son Paul Welsch (ºLiege 1886.08.30 – +Liège 1941.09.20) married Elise Sauvage (ºLiège 1887.07.28 – +Liège 1965.03.23) on April 14, 1914. Paul Welsch worked as a teacher (instituteur communal), then as a hotelier.



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