American Collections in Figures 2022

“What collections of decorated flour sacks exist in the United States? Can I represent these in figures?” I asked myself, in parallel with the inventory Belgian collections in figures 2022. “Will new insights arise when comparing the American and Belgian data?”

American flour sack = Belgian embroidered flour sack
First of all, a change of perspective seems required. The naming and framing of flour sacks in the US and Belgium is different.
What the Belgians call in Flemish: “Amerikaanse bloemzakken (American flour sacks)” or in French: “Sacs américains (American sacks)”, are known in the US as: “Belgian Relief flour sacks” or “Belgian embroidered flour sacks”.

American institutions
On my weblog page Museums there is a list of 13 American institutions [1] in nine states with an estimated 571 decorated WWI flour sacks. This is a listing with numbers kindly provided by the institutions’ staff, plus data I found online.

Flour sack “American Commission-Grateful Belgium”, lithography by Josuë Dupont, Antwerp. Coll. and photo: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Mo.

Two so-called “Hoover” collections stand out numerically, containing 90% of all Belgian Relief flour sacks in the US:
* 350 pieces in Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa (HHPL);
* 160 pieces in Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California (HIA)

Register of WWI Flour Sacks
In my Register of WWI Flour Sacks I have recorded 220 of these 571 decorated flour sacks in American collections; thanks to hundreds of photographs received from collectors and museum curators, I have been able to process the data of these sacks. With 40% of flour sacks registered, there is still much research to be done!

Providing an outline of the American “Belgian decorated flour sacks” collections based on these limited figures is a tricky task, but one I am venturing into to provide direction for my further research.
The comparison with the results of my research in Belgium provides a basis for a first exploration.

American public and private collections

13 public and 11 private collections collectively contain 220 flour sacks, of which 190 (86%) are in public collections and 30 (14%) are in private collections.

Flour sack table runner “Sperry Mills, American Indian”, recto “California”; embroidery “Remembrance” by Mary-Jane Durieux [2], 1914-19; American private collection
The two largest public collections are partially listed in my register: 77 flour sacks of HHPL and 52 flour sacks of HIA.

Decorated flour sacks
In the American collections, 99% of the flour sacks have been decorated. Unworked/unprocessed sacks are an unfamiliar phenomenon; American collectors are amazed at the Belgian collections of unprocessed, original WWI flour sacks.


Painting, embroidery and lace borders are the most important decorations of the flour sacks.
Of the 220 processed objects recorded, 89 flour sacks are painted, 145 sacks are embroidered, at least 15 sacks have bobbin lace or needle lace. Several sacks have undergone multiple treatments, they were first painted, then embroidered and/or fitted with lace.

Flour sack The Craig Mills, Newcastle, VA; embroidery and lace by Françoise Bastiaens, (°Brussels, 1892.07.02). Coll. HIA; photo EMcM

The origin of flour sacks
The countries of origin of the flour sacks are the United States and Canada. This information is provided by the original printing on the sacks. The indication of origin is sometimes missing, because the original print was cut away when flour sacks were transformed into tapestry, table runner, bag, etc. in Belgium; these sacks are included in the category “Unknown”.


70% of the flour sacks have the USA as their country of origin, 10% are from Canada and of 20% the origin is unknown.
That concludes the figures from my Register of WWI Flour Sacks.

Diptych flour sacks “Castle”, Canada, adaptation Ecole libre des Sœurs de Notre-Dame, Anderlecht, Brussels, 1915. Coll. HHPL; photo: Callens/Magniette

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum Collection
HHPL’s collection list includes 350 flour sacks. What stands out numerically in this largest collection?
Counting and creating graphs provided me with new observations that I didn’t make before based on the Belgian collections: the importance of the outward and return journey.

The outward journey and the return journey of the flour sacks
In North America people are curious to know:
– by whom and from where was the sack filled with flour sent from here to Belgium?
– who in Belgium processed the emptied flour sack, who was the embroiderer, the artist, the lace maker and from where in Belgium was the flour sack sent back to the US?

The outward journey: “Belgian Relief” organizations
A rough count conducted into the origin of the HHPL flour sacks shows that approximately 200 flour sacks (55%) bear the printing of a “Belgian Relief” organization.


The shown imprints are ‘American Commission’ (100); ‘Madame Vandervelde Fund (8); ‘ABC-Flour’ (10); ‘Belgian Relief Flour’ (10); ‘Flour. Canada’s Gift’ of ‘Gift from the Motherland’ (60); Rockefeller Foundation (7); ‘War Relief Donation’ (8).

Flour sack “A.B.C. Flour- Gratitude”, 1916, embroidered in Assche (Asse), Brabant. Coll. and photo: Champaign County Historical Society Museum, Urbana, Ohio

Comparison with Belgian collections: 35% of flour sacks bear an imprint of a “Belgian Relief” organization.

The return trip: Belgian embroidered flour sacks
HHPL curator Marcus Eckhardt classifies the HHPL collection of flour sacks as “Gifted from”, among other criteria. It answers the question: “who in Belgium donated the flour sack to the Commission for Relief in Belgium or sent it back to the US?”

Names of schools and embroiderers on the flour sacks plus attached cards, the signatures of artists, all these details are listed on the collection list and are generally well preserved.
The list shows that of the total collection of 350 flour sacks, almost 200 items (57%) come from girls’ schools in Brussels.

The school of the Sœurs de Notre-Dame in Anderlecht takes the crown: 152 handicrafts made by pupils come from this school; that is 43% of the HHPL collection.

Other Brussels girls’ schools are: Ecole Moyenne-Sint Gillis, (27), Ecole Morichar (10), Ecole Professionnelle Bischoffsheim (4), Ecole Professionnelle d’Ixelles (4), Ecole Professionnelle Couvreur (4), Ecole Professionnelle Funck (2).

Flour sack “American Commission”, embroidered in Anderlecht, 1915. Coll. HHPL nr. 62.4.142; photo: EMcM

Conclusion
Thanks to the cooperation and assistance of many people worldwide, I was able to collect the data of hundreds of decorated Belgian Relief flour sacks preserved in the United States.
Are there more sacks kept in private collections and institutions, hidden in archives, depots, closets, attics, basements?
Further research into the American collections of “Belgian embroidered flour sacks” is needed!

Sacks are full of memories. Every sack houses a fragile and precious story.

Many thanks to:
– Marcus Eckhardt, curator of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, for sharing photographs, information, and providing the museum’s Flour Sack collection list.
– Georgina Kuipers, Jason Raats, Florianne van Kempen and Tamara Raats. With their expert advice and work I have created my “Register of WWI Flour Sacks”.
– Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs.

 

Notes on the two largest American collections of Belgian Relief flour sacks:

Stanford University, Palo Alto, Ca., Main Quad overlooking Hoover Tower where the Hoover Institution Archives are located; photo: E. McMillan, 2018

Since 1920 the archives and “memorabilia” (commemorative gifts, including the decorated flour sacks) of the Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) had been stored in the Hoover Institution Archives at Stanford University, Palo Alto, Ca. (HIA).

In 1962 the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum (HHPL) was established in Hoover’s hometown of West Branch, Iowa, and dedicated to the presidency of Herbert Hoover. He was the 31st President of the United States, his term ran from March 4,1929 to March 4, 1933.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, West Branch, Iowa, USA. Photo: online

When the Presidential Museum was created, the decision was made for some of the CRB’s archives to be transferred from HIA to West Branch. Hundreds of decorated flour sacks were part of that move. In other words, in 1962 the collection of flour sacks in the CRB archives was split into two parts: 70% came under the management of HHPL in Iowa and 30% remained at HIA in California.

Both collections continue to attract public attention to this day, thanks to HHPL’s presidential status and museum function and because of the HIA’s status as a leading institution.


[1] On my website under “Museums” the numbers of decorated flour sacks in American collections are different because I have discovered new items after writing this blog.

Detail flour sack “Sperry Mills”, verso; embroidered by Mary-Jane Durieux; American private collection

[2] The embroidery was made by Mary-Jane Durieux. It possibly concerns this young lady: Marie-Jeanne Durieux, ºBrussels 11.04.1893; her parents: mother Marie Everaerts, ºBrussels, father ‘Jean Baptiste’ Léopold Durieux, ºBrussels, furniture maker.
Thanks to Hubert Bovens for these biographical data.

 

 

Amerikaanse collecties in cijfers 2022

“Welke collecties versierde meelzakken zijn er in de Verenigde Staten? Kan ik deze in cijfers weergeven?” Ik vroeg het me af, parallel aan de inventarisatie ‘Belgische collecties in cijfers 2022’. “Zal er bij vergelijking van de cijfers nieuw inzicht ontstaan?”

Amerikaanse bloemzak = Belgian embroidered flour sack
Allereerst blijkt een verandering van perspectief noodzakelijk. De benaming van de meelzakken in de VS is anders. Wat in België zijn:
‘Amerikaanse bloemzakken’ of Amerikaanse meelzakken’ en ‘Sacs américains’
noem je in de VS: ‘Belgian Relief flour sacks’ of ‘Belgian embroidered flour sacks’

Amerikaanse musea
Op mijn weblogpagina ‘Musea’ staat een lijst van 13 Amerikaanse musea in negen staten met naar schatting 571 versierde meelzakken. Dit is een opgave van de musea zelf, plus gegevens die ik online heb gevonden.[1]

Meelzak ‘American Commission-Grateful Belgium’, lithografie Josué Dupon, Antwerpen. Coll en foto: National WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, Mo.

Twee zogenaamde ‘Hoover’-collecties springen er getalsmatig uit, ze bevatten 90% van alle meelzakken in de VS:
* 350 stuks in Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa (HHPL);
* 160 stuks in Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, Palo Alto, Californië (HIA)

Register van Meelzakken
In mijn Register van Meelzakken in WO I heb ik 220 van de 571 versierde meelzakken in Amerikaanse collecties geregistreerd; dankzij honderden foto’s, ontvangen van verzamelaars en museumconservatoren, heb ik de data van deze zakken kunnen verwerken. Met 40% van de meelzakken geregistreerd is er nog veel onderzoek te doen!

Op basis van deze beperkte cijfers een schets geven van de Amerikaanse collecties van ‘Belgische versierde meelzakken’ is een heikel karwei, waar ik me wel aan waag om richting te geven aan mijn verdere onderzoek.
De vergelijking met uitkomsten van mijn onderzoek in België geeft houvast voor een eerste verkenning.

Amerikaanse publieke en privécollecties


13 publieke en 11 privécollecties bevatten gezamenlijk 220 meelzakken, waarvan 190 (86%) in publieke collecties en 30 (14%) in privécollecties.

Tafelloper van meelzak ‘Sperry Mills, American Indian’, achterkant ‘California’; borduurwerk Mary-Jane Durieux [2], 1914-19; particuliere collectie VS
De twee grootste publieke collecties staan gedeeltelijk in het register: 77 zakken van HHPL en 52 zakken van HIA.

Bewerkte meelzakken
In de Amerikaanse collecties is 99% van de meelzakken bewerkt. Onbewerkte zakken zijn een onbekend fenomeen; Amerikaanse verzamelaars verbazen zich over de collecties onbewerkte meelzakken in België.


Schilderwerk, borduurwerk en randen van kloskant zijn de belangrijkste bewerkingen van de meelzakken.
Van de 220 geregistreerde bewerkte objecten zijn 89 meelzakken beschilderd, 145 zakken geborduurd, minstens 15 zakken zijn voorzien van kloskant of naaldkant. Een aantal zakken heeft meerdere bewerkingen ondergaan, ze zijn eerst beschilderd, daarna geborduurd en/of voorzien van kant.

Meelzak The Craig Mills, Newcastle, VA; borduurwerk en kant door Françoise Bastiaens, Brussel. Coll. HIA; foto EMcM

De herkomst van de meelzakken
De landen van origine van de meelzakken zijn de Verenigde Staten en Canada. De originele bedrukkingen op de meelzakken bieden de informatie. Soms ontbreekt de herkomstaanduiding, omdat de originele print is weggeknipt bij de transformatie van meelzakken in België tot wandkleed, loper, tasje, etc.; deze zakken zijn opgenomen in de categorie ‘Onbekend’.

70% van de meelzakken heeft als herkomst de VS, 10% is afkomstig uit Canada en van 20% is de herkomst onbekend.

Tot zover de cijfers van het Register van Meelzakken.

Tweeluik meelzakken ‘Castle’, Canada, bewerking Ecole libre des Sœurs de Notre-Dame, Anderlecht, Brussel, 1915. Coll. HHPL; foto: Callens/Magniette

Collectie Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum
De collectielijst van HHPL bevat 350 meelzakken. Wat valt cijfermatig op in deze grootste collectie?
Tellen en grafieken maken leverde me nieuwe observaties op, die ik op basis van de Belgische collecties niet eerder maakte: de essentie van de heen- en terugreis.

De heenreis en de terugreis van de meelzakken
In Amerika wil je weten:
– door wie en van waar is de zak gevuld met meel verstuurd vanuit Amerika naar België?
– wie in België heeft de geleegde meelzak bewerkt, wie was de borduurster, de kunstenaar, de kantwerkster en uit welke plaats in België is de meelzak teruggestuurd naar de VS?

De heenreis: ‘Belgian Relief’ hulporganisaties
Een ruwe telling uitgevoerd naar de herkomst van de HHPL-meelzakken laat zien dat circa 200 meelzakken (55%) de bedrukking dragen van een hulporganisatie voor ‘Belgian Relief’.

Ze zijn voorzien van de bedrukkingen ‘American Commission’ (100); ‘Madame Vandervelde Fund (8); ‘ABC-Flour’ (10); ‘Belgian Relief Flour’ (10); ‘Flour. Canada’s Gift’ of ‘Gift from the Motherland’ (60); Rockefeller Foundation (7); ‘War Relief Donation’ (8).

Meelzak ‘A.B.C. Flour- Gratitude’, 1916, geborduurd in Assche, Brabant. Coll. en foto: Champaign County Historical Society Museum, Urbana, Ohio

Vergelijking met Belgische collecties: 35% van de meelzakken draagt een bedrukking van een ‘Belgian Relief’ hulporganisatie.

De terugreis: ‘Belgian embroidered flour sacks’
Conservator Marcus Eckhardt rubriceert de HHPL-collectie meelzakken onder meer als ‘Gifted from’: wie in België doneerde de meelzak aan de Commission for Relief in Belgium of stuurde de meelzak terug naar de VS?

Namen van scholen en borduursters op de meelzakken plus aangehechte kaartjes, de signeringen van kunstenaars, deze gegevens zijn op de collectielijst vermeld en zijn in het algemeen goed bewaard gebleven.
De lijst laat zien dat van de totale collectie van 350 meelzakken bijna 200 exemplaren (57%) afkomstig zijn van meisjesscholen in Brussel.

De kroon wordt gespannen door de school van de Sœurs de Notre-Dame te Anderlecht: 152 handwerken gemaakt door leerlingen zijn afkomstig van deze school; dat is 43% van de HHPL-collectie.
De andere meisjesscholen zijn: Ecole Moyenne-Sint Gillis, (27), Ecole Morichar (10), Ecole Professionnelle Bischoffsheim (4), Ecole Professionnelle d’Ixelles (4), Ecole Professionnelle Couvreur (4), Ecole Professionnelle Funck (2).

Meelzak ‘American Commission’, geborduurd in Anderlecht, 1915. Coll. HHPL nr. 62.4.142; foto: EMcM

Conclusie
Dankzij de medewerking van velen zijn in vier jaar tijd de gegevens van honderden versierde meelzakken in WO I in de Verenigde Staten bij elkaar gebracht.
Zouden er nóg honderden zakken door Amerikaanse families én musea bewaard zijn, die verborgen liggen in archieven, depots, kasten, op zolders, in kelders?
Verder onderzoek naar de Amerikaanse collecties van ‘Belgian embroidered flour sacks’ is nodig!

Zakken zijn vol herinneringen.
Iedere zak koestert een kostbaar en kwetsbaar verhaal.

Mijn grote dank aan:
– Marcus Eckhardt, conservator van de Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum. Hij stuurde mij foto’s, deelde informatie en stelde de museum collectie-lijst van Belgian Relief meelzakken ter beschikking;
– Georgina Kuipers, Jason Raats, Florianne van Kempen en Tamara Raats. Met hun deskundig advies én werk is het Register Meelzakken WO I tot stand gekomen en in gebruik genomen.

 

Toelichting op de twee grootste Amerikaanse collecties WO I-meelzakken:

Stanford University, Palo Alto, Ca., Main Quad met uitzicht op Hoover Tower waar de Hoover Institution Archives zijn gevestigd; foto: E. McMillan, 2018

Alle archieven en ‘memorabilia’ (herinneringsgeschenken, waaronder de versierde meelzakken) van de Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB) waren sinds 1920 opgeslagen in de Hoover Institution Archives op Stanford University, Palo Alto, Ca. (HIA).

De Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum (HHPL) is opgericht in de geboorteplaats van Hoover, West Branch, Iowa, in 1962 en gewijd aan het presidentschap van Herbert Hoover. Hij was de 31e president van de Verenigde Staten, zijn ambtstermijn liep van 4 maart 1929 tot 4 maart 1933.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, West Branch, Iowa, VS. Foto: online

Bij de oprichting van het presidentiële museum is besloten een gedeelte van de archieven van de CRB over te plaatsen van HIA naar West Branch. Honderden versierde meelzakken van WO I maakten onderdeel uit van die verhuizing. Met andere woorden, de verzameling ‘decorated Belgian relief’ meelzakken in de CRB-archieven is in 1962 opgesplitst in twee delen: 70% kwam in beheer van HHPL in Iowa en 30% bleef bij HIA in Californië.

Dankzij de presidentiële status en museumfunctie van HHPL én het vooraanstaande instituut dat HIA is, weten beide collecties tot op de dag van vandaag de aandacht te trekken van het publiek.

 

[1] De pagina ‘Musea’ kan iets andere cijfers tonen in aantallen meelzakken en Amerikaanse collecties, omdat nieuwe gegevens beschikbaar zijn gekomen na het samenstellen van dit blog.

Detail meelzak “Sperry Mills”, verso; geborduurd door Mary-Jane Durieux; Amerikaanse particuliere collectie

[2] Het borduurwerk is gemaakt door Mary-Jane Durieux. Het gaat mogelijk om deze jongedame: Marie-Jeanne Durieux, ºBrussel 11.04.1893; haar ouders: moeder Marie Everaerts, ºBrussel, vader ‘Jean Baptiste’ Léopold Durieux, ºBrussel, meubelmaker.
Dank aan Hubert Bovens voor deze biografische gegevens.

 

Kerstmis 1914. Madame Vandervelde: “België bedankt Amerika”

Lalla Vandervelde. Foto: Mathilde Weil, Philadelphia, 1914. Coll. Library of Congress

Het was Kerstmis 1914. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, opende de ‘Star Tribune’ met het gedicht “België bedankt Amerika” van Mme. Vandervelde.
Madame Emile Vandervelde, née Speyer, op rondreis door de Verenigde Staten en Canada, stuurde in versvorm haar erkentelijkheid voor de helpende handen die Amerika bood aan België.

 

 

 

“België bedankt Amerika”
Vandaag is het Kerstmis; we horen de Kerstklok niet,
Maar toch vertellen we het verhaal dat we eens zo graag vertelden –
“Welwillendheid”, “Welwillendheid” – luidt het: en “Vrede” – klinkt de roep,
We hurken tussen de ruïnes, en kijken naar het wrede vuur,
Horen de kinderen huilen, en wenden onze ogen af
Voor hen is er geen brood of thuis, deze gelukkige Kerstdag.

“Het Kerstkind”: ’tekening van Louis Ketels, 1917. Coll. Museum Plantin-Moretus; foto uit ‘Nieuwe meesters, magere tijden’, Diane De Keyzer (2013)

Maar kijk! een bericht komt van ver over de zee,
Van harten die nog in staat zijn tot medelijden, en ogen die nog kunnen huilen-
Oh kleine hongerige lippen, oh gezichten bleek en wit
Er is ergens, ergens vrede op aarde, ergens welwillendheid voor de mensheid,
In de vage verte van de wateren, duizenden mijlen ver,
Daar zijn mensen die zich herinneren dat het Kerstdag is.

Oh God van Vrede, gedenk, en houd in Uw genade
De harten die nog in staat zijn tot medelijden, de ogen die nog kunnen huilen-
Te midden van vernedering en kwelling, de ruïnes en de graven
Voor hen, de natie van vrijheid; van ons, de natie van slaven,
Welke weerklank kunnen we ze zenden? – we zijn alleen bij machte te knielen en te bidden –
God geve, God geve in ieder geval aan hén een gelukkige Kerstdag.

Mme. Vandervelde, New York, 25 december 1914

Het vers van Madame Vandervelde op de voorpagina van The Morning Star Tribune, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 25 december 1914
Roméo Dumoulin, ‘Knaap met boterham’, 1915; versierde meelzak Madame Vandervelde Fund (recto). Coll. HIA, George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

Beschilderde meelzakken in de Hoover Institution

Recente fotografie heeft interessante versierde meelzakken in de Hoover Institution aan het licht gebracht! Wat blijkt: Hoover Institution Library & Archives bewaart vijf beschilderde meelzakken van de hand van de Belgische kunstenaars Paul Jean Martel, Roméo Dumoulin, de broers Henri en Alphonse Logelain en Armand Rassenfosse.

Stanford University, Main Quad met uitzicht op de Hoover Tower waar de Hoover Institution is gevestigd; foto: E. McMillan, 2019

Hoover Institution
Stanford University in Palo Alto, Californië, huisvest de Hoover Institution. Het echtpaar Leland en Jane Stanford stichtten de universiteit in 1891.
Herbert Clark Hoover (West Branch, Iowa, 10.08.1874 – New York, NY, 20.10.1964) was een van de eerste studenten; hij kwam aan in 1891 en studeerde af als mijnbouw ingenieur in 1895.

Lou Henry studeerde geologie (afgestudeerd in 1898) op Stanford University; foto: HIA

Hij ontmoette er zijn partner, Lou Henry (Waterloo, Iowa, 29.03.1874 – New York, NY, 07.01.1944), die op Stanford in 1898 als eerste vrouwelijke studente afstudeerde in de geologie. Herbert en Lou Hoover zouden gedurende hun hele leven betrokken blijven bij Stanford University.

‘Founded by Herbert Hoover in 1919, the Hoover Institution Library & Archives are dedicated to documenting war, revolution, and peace in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With nearly one million volumes and more than six thousand archival collections from 171 countries, Hoover supports a vibrant community of scholars and a broad public interested in the meaning and role of history.
Between 1919 and 1964 Herbert Hoover routinely deposited his papers in the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.’

Herbert Hoover, 1895, jaar van afstuderen in geologie aan Stanford University; foto: HIA

(‘De Hoover Institution Library & Archives, opgericht door Herbert Hoover in 1919, legt zich toe op het documenteren van oorlog, revolutie en vrede in de twintigste en eenentwintigste eeuw. Met bijna een miljoen boeken en meer dan zesduizend archiefcollecties uit 171 landen biedt Hoover Institution ondersteuning aan een levendige gemeenschap van wetenschappers en een breed publiek dat geïnteresseerd is in de betekenis en rol van geschiedenis op dit gebied. Herbert Hoover maakte er tussen 1919 en 1964 een routine van om zijn documenten in de Hoover Institution Library & Archives te deponeren.’)

Archieven CRB en Herbert Hoover
De Hoover Institution Library and Archives (HIA) bewaart de archieven van de Commission for Relief in Belgium (CRB); persoonlijke archieven van CRB-medewerkers bevinden zich er ook. Herbert Hoover was directeur van de CRB, hij zorgde ervoor dat de archieven van alle vestigingen van de CRB in New York, Londen, Rotterdam en Brussel naar het Hoover Institution werden gestuurd.
Later is Herbert Hoover verkozen tot president van de VS, van 1929-1932. Alle documenten die zijn werk als Amerikaans president aangaan, zijn bewaard in het Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum in West-Branch, Iowa (HHPLM).

Onderzoek in de HIA
Op zoek naar sporen van versierde meelzakken in de archieven van Hoover Institution heb ik online de vijf beschilderde meelzakken gevonden in het ‘Register of the Commission for Relief in Belgium Records, 1914-1930’ en wel in de persoonlijke archieven van drie CRB-medewerkers:
– Chatfield (Frederick H.) papers 1914-1919: 1 exemplaar
– Gay (George I.) papers 1915-1929: 3 exemplaren
– Kirby (Gustavus T.) papers 1914-1941: 1 exemplaar.

Toegang krijgen tot de archieven van HIA is gemakkelijk als je je ter plekke bevindt. Woon je, zoals ik, in Europa dan stuit je op problemen.
Bij de start van mijn onderzoek in 2018 had ik aan HIA via het online contactformulier informatie gevraagd over versierde meelzakken. Een van de archivarissen was zo vriendelijk mij enkele foto’s van geborduurde meelzakken in hun collectie toe te sturen. Ze nodigde me uit zelf verder onderzoek te komen doen in de archieven, dan wel een onderzoeksassistent in te huren om dit voor mij te doen.
Mijn conclusie was vanwege de grote afstand deze research voorlopig te moeten ‘parkeren’.

Evelyn McMillan
In januari 2020, een jaar geleden, kwam het onderzoek toch in een stroomversnelling. Ik had het grote voorrecht in contact te komen met Evelyn McMillan, bibliothecaris van de Tanner Philosophy Library van Stanford University.

Evelyn McMillan op de tentoonstelling ‘Warlace@kantieper’, College van Ieper, 2018; foto coll. E. McMillan

Evelyn McMillan is auteur van enkele instructieve artikelen over ‘war lace’, Belgisch oorlogskant gemaakt in WO I.[1] Zij is ook gepassioneerd verzamelaar van kennis over de versierde meelzakken. Dit alles vanuit persoonlijke interesse.
Evelyn is geboren en getogen in Palo Alto en ging al als klein meisje met haar ouders naar Stanford University om te kijken naar de versierde meelzakken die daar tentoongesteld waren. Zij vertelde me over een aantal van ongeveer 160 meelzakken in de collectie van de HIA; tot enkele jaren geleden waren enkele tientallen fraaie zakken permanent tentoongesteld in de Hoover Tower op Stanford.[2] Door verbouwingswerkzaamheden zijn ze tegenwoordig allemaal in de archieven opgeborgen.
Evelyn verzamelde zelf een kleine collectie meelzakken. Ze bezit uitgebreide documentatie over het werk van de CRB en de meelzakken. In de loop van de jaren heeft zij in samenwerking met de medewerkers van de archieven ook een waardevolle foto-verzameling weten aan te leggen van versierde meelzakken die bewaard zijn in de HIA. Op deze wijze zijn recent de vijf beschilderde meelzakken gefotografeerd.

Vijf beschilderde meelzakken in HIA

1 Henri Logelain: ‘Moeder zoogt kind’

Henri Logelain, ‘Moeder zoogt kind’, 1914-1915. Versierde meelzak ‘Belgian Relief Flour Kinsley, Kansas’. Recto. Coll. HIA George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

Henri Logelain beschilderde in 1915 een meelzak met het portret van een moeder die haar kind de borst geeft. (Ook Joseph Dierickx beeldde een zogende vrouw af.)
Hij creëerde daarmee een universele afbeelding van troost en dankbaarheid; een iconisch beeld op een zak die meel had aangevoerd om vele broden te bakken voor hongerige mensen.
Het schilderij is ingelijst, maar de achterzijde niet afgedekt, zodat de origine van de meelzak bekend is: Belgian Relief Flour uit de plaats Kinsley in Kansas.

Henri Logelain, ‘Moeder zoogt kind’, 1914-1915. Versierde meelzak ‘Belgian Relief Flour Kinsley, Kansas’. Verso. Coll. HIA George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

Op het etiket staat: ‘George I. Gay Collection. Painting of woman nursing baby. Artist Henri Logelain. 16” x 21”. (Schilderij van vrouw die kind zoogt. Kunstenaar Henri Logelain, br 40 x h 53 cm).

Henri Logelain (Elsene, 11.02.1889 – Elsene 11.01.1968) volgde kunstonderwijs aan de Academie in Brussel. Hij was leraar Toegepaste Kunst en Decoratie aan de Academie van Leuven in 1925-1926; hij is docent geweest aan de School voor Kunsten en Ambachten in Vilvoorde (Piron 2016).

De inwoners van Kinsley schonken 251 barrels meel als voedselhulp voor België. Report Miller’s Relief Movement, Minneapolis, Minn., 1915

De inwoners van Kinsley gaven geld voor 251 barrels meel, gelijk aan ruim 1000 zakken van 49 Lbs (22 ton) meel. De voedselhulp kwam naar België met de hulpactie van de Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement van de krant Northwestern Miller onder leiding van William C. Edgar in Minneapolis.

2 Alphonse Logelain: ‘Vaas bloemen’

Alphonse Logelain, ‘Vaas met bloemen’, 1915; versierde meelzak, recto. Coll. HIA, Gustavus T. Kirby Papers; foto: HIA staff
Alphonse Logelain, ‘Vaas met bloemen’, 1915; versierde meelzak, verso. Coll. HIA, Gustavus T. Kirby Papers; foto: HIA staff

Alphonse Logelain schilderde in juni 1915 een vaas bloemen op een meelzak van de American Commission.

Pierre en Alphonse Logelain, Album met werkbeschrijvingen, Ecole Supérieure de Peinture Logelain, Brussel, 1912

Alphonse Logelain (Elsene 26.04.1881 – Elsene 05.01.1963) was de oudere halfbroer van Henri Logelain. Hij kreeg zijn opleiding aan de Academie te Elsene en realiseerde landschappen, stadsgezichten, interieurs, portretten en bloemen (Piron 2016).

Alphonse Logelain heeft een school voor schilderkunst geleid: l’Institut Supérieur de Peinture de Bruxelles. Omdat hij geen opvolger had, nam hij in zijn 70ste levensjaar het initiatief zijn instituut te laten fuseren met zijn belangrijkste concurrent, de school van Clément Van Der Kelen; dat was in 1951. Het Institut Supérieur de Peinture Van Der Kelen-Logelain is tot op de dag van vandaag een Belgische school met internationale reputatie voor decoratief schilderen: het onderwijst de kunst van faux-bois, faux-marbre en trompe l’oeil.

3 Paul Jean Martel: ‘Vrouw met handwerk’

Paul Jean Martel, ‘Vrouw met handwerk’, 1915; versierde meelzak. Coll. HIA, George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

De beschilderde meelzak van Paul Jean Martel toont een sfeervol portret van een zittende vrouw in blauwe japon, zij buigt haar hoofd over een witgekleurd handwerk.
Het schilderij is ingelijst, de achterzijde afgedekt, waardoor we moeten raden naar de origine van de meelzak. Het etiket vermeldt: ‘George I. Gay Collection. Oil painting of woman sewing. 17” x 23” (schilderij in olieverf van vrouw die naait, br. 43 x h 58 cm).

Detail Paul Jean Martel, ‘Vrouw met handwerk’, 1915; versierde meelzak. Coll. HIA, George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

Paul Jean Martel (Laken, België, 04.08.1879 – Philadelphia, Penn. VS, 26.09.1944) werd als jongste van een tweeling geboren in België en emigreerde met zijn ouders in 1889 naar de VS. Hij keerde terug om een kunstopleiding te volgen aan de Koninklijke Kunstacademie in Brussel. Vervolgens studeerde en werkte hij weer in de VS, maar keerde na zijn huwelijk in 1911 terug naar Europa. Na het uitbreken van de Groote Oorlog vestigde Martel zich in Auderghem en nam er deel aan tentoonstellingen van de Cercle Artistique, zo ook aan die van de beschilderde meelzakken, blijkens het volgende krantenbericht:
…we trokken naar het Gemeentehuis, een klein, onaanzienlijk gebouwtje, waar in eene der zalen de tentoonstelling ingericht wordt van … Amerikaansche zakken. Prachtig zijn twee tafereelen, door M. P. Martel op het ruwe lijnwaad geborsteld; bijzonder zijne ‘Glimlachende vrouw’ is buitengewoon kleurrijk. (Geïllustreerde Zondagsgazet, 25 juli 1915)

Maclovia en Carmen Martel met zelfportret van Paul Jean Martel, 2015. Foto: Bondo Wyszpolski, website: easyreadernews.com

Na de oorlog verhuisde Martel definitief naar de VS, hij schilderde er portretten van vooraanstaande families en werd docent. Zijn actuele website biedt uitgebreide informatie over zijn werk als post-impressionistisch schilder; contactpersoon is zijn kleindochter, de singer/songwriter Maclovia Martel.
Citaat uit de online biografie: “Viewing this is an emotional experience, once again as in Martel’s other works, one ‘feels’ that emotion through the tremendous vigor of his closely set brush strokes.  Truly a ‘tour de force’ all the more remarkable as his materials were a flour sack, with the stamp of an American charity on the reverse, for a canvas, and house paint for oils!” (‘Hiernaar kijken is een emotionele ervaring, omdat je net zoals in Martel’s andere werken, de emotie voelt die door de enorme kracht van zijn dicht bij elkaar geplaatste penseelstreken wordt opgeroepen. Echt een ‘tour de force’, die des te opmerkelijker is, omdat zijn schildersdoek een meelzak was, aan de achterkant voorzien van de stempel van een Amerikaanse liefdadigheidsinstelling en zijn ‘olieverf’ een gewone huis-tuin-en keukenverf!’)[3]

4 Roméo Dumoulin: ‘Knaap met boterham’

Roméo Dumoulin, ‘Knaap met boterham’, 1915; versierde meelzak recto. Coll. HIA, George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

Dumoulin schilderde in 1915 het portret van een vrolijke knaap die met zijn rechterhand een grote boterham naar zijn mond brengt. HIA vermeldt de titel ‘Painting of boy eating half of a long roll by Romeo’ (‘schilderij door Roméo van een jongen die de helft van een stokbrood eet’). Het schilderij is ingelijst, de afmeting van het portret schat ik in op br. 30 x h 20 cm.

Roméo Dumoulin, ‘Knaap met boterham’, 1915; versierde meelzak, verso. Coll. HIA, George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

De achterzijde van het HIA-schilderij is open, waardoor de origine van de meelzak zichtbaar is. De zak kwam uit Buffalo, New York: ‘War Relief Donation Flour from Madame Vandervelde Fund’ staat herkenbaar gedrukt op het doek. In een serie van drie eerdere blogs over Madame Lalla Vandervelde schreef ik over haar omvangrijke lezingentour in Noord-Amerika.

Detail Roméo Dumoulin, ‘Knaap met boterham’, 1915; versierde meelzak. Coll. HIA, George I. Gay Papers, coll. nr. XX069; foto: HIA staff

Roméo Dumoulin (Doornik, 18.03.1883 – Brussel, 20/22.07.1944) was een bekend schilder, tekenaar, aquarellist, graficus en illustrator. Hij was autodidact, woonde vanaf 1909 in Stockel bij Brussel en ‘vond de inspiratie voor zijn vaak schalkse genretafereeltjes en figuren zowel in de stad als het platteland. …hij mag gerust tronen naast andere humoristische meesters als Léandre, Daumier, Poulbot en Abel Faivre’. (Piron 2016).

Roméo Dumoulin, ‘Kind met boterham’, detail van ‘Eau forte, les commères’; foto 2dehands.be

Op internet vond ik prenten van hem uit de oorlogsjaren, op een ervan tekende hij ook een boterham etend kind.

Een humoristisch schilderij is het tafereel van wat lijkt op een kanon, voortgetrokken in de sneeuw, wellicht de illusie van de ‘soixante-quinze’, een ‘canon de 75 modèle 1897’, pronkstuk van de Franse artillerie.

In werkelijkheid trekt een paard een kar met grote wielen voort, waarop een lange boomstam, bereden door de voerman en twee kinderen. Dumoulin schilderde het doek in 1917 en gaf het de titel ‘Halte!’

Roméo Dumoulin, ‘Halte!’, 1917, olieverf op doek (66×178 cm); foto: artnet.com

5 Armand Rassenfosse: Mijnwerkster
Armand Rassenfosse drukte op een meelzak de prent van een jeugdige mijnwerkster af. Deze bespreek ik in het blog: Rassenfosse’s hiercheuse op meelzak in Hoover Institution.

Het HIA-archief van CRB-medewerkers

George I. Gay, CRB-medewerker. Foto: website commissionforreliefinbelgium.com, auteur Jeffrey Miller

– Drie beschilderde meelzakken, die van H. Logelain, Martel en Dumoulin, zijn het bezit geweest van George Inness Gay (Mount Vernon, NY, 1886 – Palo Alto, Ca., 23.10.1964). Gay was CRB-medewerker vanaf juli 1916. Van zijn hand, samen met H.H. Fisher, zijn de twee standaardwerken over het werk van de CRB ‘Public Relations of the Commission of Relief in Belgium. Documents. Volume I and II. Stanford University, 1929’.

– De beschilderde meelzak van A. Logelain, de vaas met bloemen, was het bezit van Gustavus T. Kirby. Kirby werkte mee in de Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF) die voortkwam uit de CRB ná de beëindiging van de activiteiten. Kirby was atleet geweest en had een leidende rol bij de Olympische Spelen van 1920, gehouden in Antwerpen. Hoe Kirby in bezit kwam van de beschilderde meelzak is niet bekend.

– Het archief van Frederick H. Chatfield bevat de meelzak met de prent van Rassenfosse, zie volgend blog.

Identificatie Belgische kunstenaars
Dankzij het verzoek van Evelyn McMillan heeft de HIA-staf foto’s gemaakt van de vijf beschilderde meelzakken. Daarna moesten de Belgische kunstenaars geïdentificeerd worden. Hubert Bovens, Wilsele, gespecialiseerd in opzoekingen van biografische gegevens van kunstenaars, leverde in korte tijd de gegevens aan.

Ik ben allen die hebben bijgedragen aan dit onderzoek zeer erkentelijk. Deze co-productie maakte het mogelijk, ondanks de grote afstand, studie te doen naar de interessante collectie beschilderde meelzakken in de Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

 

[1] Evelyn McMillan:
-War, Lace, and Survival In Belgium During World War I. PieceWork, Spring 2020
-Gratitude in Lace: World War I, Famine Relief and Belgian Lacemakers. PieceWork May/June 2017, 10

[2] Danielson, Elena S., Hoover Tower at Stanford University. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2018

[3] www.pauljeanmartel.com, geraadpleegd januari 2021.
Lees ook het online-artikel A Second Chance’ van Bondo Wyszpolski, 22 januari 2015

Thanksgiving Ship ORN sailed from Philadelphia

On Thanksgiving Day 2020, as a thank you to all who inspire, encourage and inform me in my research on the decorated flour sacks, I share the story of the Thanksgiving Ship ORN that sailed from the Philadelphia harbor 106 years ago on November 25, 1914, loaded with sacks of flour on the way to Belgium, as it was waved goodbye by thousands of people, including a special guest: Madame Lalla Vandervelde.

Collecting relief supplies
Immediately after the outbreak of the “European” war in August 1914, spontaneous campaigns arose among the people of Canada and the United States to raise money and goods to help victims of the violence.

Loading the Thelma in the Philadelphia harbor, children also participated in the relief efforts. The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 10, 1914

The relief efforts for the Belgian refugees and the population in occupied Belgium were led by Belgians, living in Canada and the US: the Belgian Consul Pierre Mali, the Consul Generals, businesspeople, prominent private individuals and emigrants, supported in a special way by Madame Lalla Vandervelde, the wife of a Belgian Minister of State, who traveled across the US to draw attention to the Belgian cause and to call for American aid.
Their call was heard by local newspapers and magazines, who with great zeal made urgent appeals to their readers to help out by depositing money in funds specially created for the purpose.

The Thelma’s cargohold full of flour sacks in Philadelphia harbor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 1914

The transport of the relief supplies from America to Europe across the Atlantic Ocean had to be done by ship, but that caused a financial headache. This was not the case in Canada, where the government paid for the transportation. But in the US, who would pay for the transportation?

Department store magnate and philanthropist John Wanamaker, Philadelphia. Photo: internet

In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the immediate response came from department store magnate and philanthropist John Wanamaker (Philadelphia, July 11, 1838 – December 12, 1922). He took initiative and chartered two ships himself to bring relief supplies to Belgium.

Thelma
The first ship chartered by Wanamaker was the steamer Thelma. Loading the ship attracted a lot of interest, the “Philadelphia Inquirer” published about it daily. *)

 

Left the loading of the Thelma in the harbor of Philadelphia, center Captain Hendrickson, right Petrus Verhoeven and his family, Belgian refugees in London. Evening Ledger, November 11, 1914

On Thursday, November 12, 1914, the ship departed after a brief official ceremony at which Mayor Blankenburg of Philadelphia spoke:
My fellow-citizens, twenty-two years ago Philadelphia sent a relief ship-the Indiana-to give aid to the suffering Russian peasants, far away from their own homes. Today Philadelphia is sending another relief ship, the Thelma, this time to the suffering people, the unfortunate people of Belgium. It shows the greatness of the heart of the Philadelphia people. It shows the power of the press, for had it not been for the Philadelphia newspapers I do not believe that this ship would today be ready to sail. The newspapers of Philadelphia did everything in fact to make it possible to send this ship.”
The Girard College Band was on the pier playing the “Star Spangled Banner”.

Food Ship Thelma Off For Belgium, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 13, 1914

The mayor asked the crowds of hundreds of men, women and children to pay tribute to Captain Wolff Hendrickson and his crew with a three-yard “Hooray”. Mr. Francis B. Reeves, Treasurer of the American Red Cross, on behalf of the Red Cross, officially received the relief supplies on the Thelma and Bishop Garland of Philadelphia blessed the ship.

Decorated flour sack Rosabel, embroidered in Roulers / Roeselare, 12 Lbs. Coll. HIA. Photo: E. McMillan

Then Mr. Wanamaker handed a letter to Captain Hendrickson, addressed to Dr. Henry Van Dyke, Minister of the United States in The Hague, Holland: “The steamship Thelma is to carry this to you today … the gifts of the people of Philadelphia and vicinity… The usual papers of the ship will manifest the cargo as of the value of $ 104.000 and it consists wholly of flour, corn meal, beans, canned goods, potatoes in sacks, etc. …  articles of food, because of the statement made by the Honorable Brand Whitlock, Minister at Brussels, a few days ago, regarding the destitution among the women and children and old and sick people in Belgium. …

 

Flour sack ‘A-Flour’, Millbourne Mills. Coll. RAHM, no. 2657, photo: Author

This great old city, that you know so well, the first of the American cities and the first seat of the government of the United States, without neglecting its duties of the poor and suffering in Philadelphia, has risen as it with one heart, to show sympathy and affection, just as the City of Brotherly Love always does, to the world’s sufferers. I may add for your own pleasure that almost enough additional contributions are flowing in to load another ship.”

Advertisement in the Philadelphia Inquirer, November 11, 1914

The Thelma crossed the ocean in three weeks and moored safely on December 3, 1914 with her precious cargo in the Maashaven of Rotterdam. Transhipment started immediately, barges brought the foodstuffs to the intended places via the inland waterways of Holland and Belgium.

Le XXe siècle, December 17, 1914

“Le XXe siècle” reported in mid-December 1914 about the foodstuffs supplied by the Thelma:
“The steamship “Thelma” has arrived in Rotterdam with 1,740 tons of supplies, destined for the Belgians who stayed in Belgium. The load consists of 94,600 sacks and 100 barrels of flour, 1,600 bags of corn flour, 2,000 bags of beans, 1,600 sacks of rice, 1,200 bags of salt, 500 boxes of corn, 5,000 boxes of potatoes, 1,200 bags of barley, 2,500 bags of peas, 600 boxes of condensed milk, 600 boxes preserved peaches, 1,000 boxes of soda salt, 1,200 boxes of plums, 1,000 bags of sugar and 1,250 bags of oatmeal.”[1]

Meanwhile, the second ship chartered by Wanamaker did indeed cross the ocean with the next cargo of relief supplies: the ORN had departed as the Thanksgiving Ship.

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 1914

‘Thanksgiving’ Ship ORN

Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 1914

The day before Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, 1914, the steamer ORN left the port of Philadelphia on its way to Rotterdam, as thousands of spectators waved goodbye. The cargo value was $ 173,430, consisting mostly of sacks of flour plus other food items.
The official ceremony to wish the ORN God Speed was attended by many dignitaries. The musical accompaniment was again in hands of The Girard College Band.

 

Lalla Vandervelde. Photo: Mathilde Weil, Philadelphia, 1914. Coll. Library of Congress,

Present were Mayor Blankenberg and his Cabinet with the responsible officials; Mr. Wanamaker and company; M. Paul Hagemans, the Belgian Consul General. Special guest was Madame Lalla Vandervelde.
Also present were the committee of publishers and editors of Philadelphia newspapers, the representatives of the Belgian Government, official and unofficial, the ministers who sanctified the undertaking, and the crew of the ship itself.
The clergymen blessing the Thanksgiving Ship were of three different denominations: Dr. Russell H. Conwell of the Baptist Temple; Very Rev. Henry T. Drumgoole, rector of St. Charles’ Seminary, Overbrook; Rev. Joseph Krauskopf, of Temple Keneseth Israel.
The company of dignitaries first had their picture taken upon arrival on the ship. Madame Vandervelde took an active part in photography: she insisted upon being photographed with a hand camera of her own, placing herself between Mr. Wanamaker and Mayor Blankenburg.

“Thanksgiving Ship Orn Sails”, Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 1914

Thanksgiving Day
Mayor Blankenburg presided at the exercises: “I do not believe that Philadelphia could celebrate a greater or better Thanksgiving than by sending this steamer to Belgium, laden to the very limit with all kinds of provisions for its starving people.”

Flour sack ‘Southern Star’, Millbourne Mills. Coll. WHI, Photo: Author

Dr. Krauskopf spoke in part as follows: “… We are assembled on this eve of our National Thanksgiving Day with our hearts both joyful and sorrowful. We are joyful because we are able to share our bounty with those who are in need of it on the other side of the sea, and we are sorrowful because the need has arisen for them, not because of any Divine dispensation, but because of the sinfulness or the error of man.”

Decorated flour sack Rosabel, 1916, 12 Lbs, embroidered, wooden tray with glass. Photo and coll. Sara Leroy, coll. Bebop

Dr. Conwell formally presented the vessel and her cargo to the Red Cross Society. He said in part: “… it is beautiful that we have an opportunity to send out to the suffering Belgians a division of what we have, and if I understand, the spirit of America aright, we would, if we understand their needs, be willing to divide to the last loaf of bread with the Belgians who so bravely defended their homes and showed to the world a most magnificent example of their bravery and patriotism that has ever been known to the history of man.”

Mr. Paul Hagemans accepted the shipment of relief supplies on behalf of Belgium: “For the second time within two weeks, Philadelphia and her charitable people are sending to the Belgian sufferers a shipload of merchandise. In doing so Philadelphia and her people are setting a magnificent example of human solidarity to thousands of my people who will be saved from famine, for we note by the recent reports that conditions are appalling now…. You cannot imagine, therefore, what a ship like this, with its cargo, means to my countrymen…. I thank you, gentlemen of the press, for your efforts on our behalf; and I thank you citizens of Philadelphia for your generous response to our appeal. God speed the Thanksgiving ship.” [2]

In the middle from left to right John Wanamaker, Lalla Vandervelde with the Belgian and American flags, Mayor Blankenburg on board the ORN. Philadelphia Inquirer, November 26, 1914

Madame Vandervelde
Mme. Vandervelde herself brought two small flags, one Belgian and one American, which she carried in her hand. Handing the Belgian red, yellow, black to Mr. Wanamaker, Mme. Vandervelde said:

Flour sack Rosabel, embroidered. Coll. Frankie van Rossem, photo: Author

I want to present this flag of Belgium to Mr. Wanamaker in thanks for his most beautiful gift to Belgium. I want to present to him first this Belgian flag. It is a symbol of the heroism and the courage of a small country fighting against most awful odds. It is a symbol also of the distress of millions of her people”.
Turning again to Mr. Wanamaker Mme. Vandervelde concluded: “I want to present you with this American flag, which is always the symbol of what we love in the life of freedom, and liberty and independence. This flag is also at the present moment a symbol of the generosity and the goodwill of thousands of men, women and children, and I have the greatest pleasure in thanking Mr. Wanamaker for all he has done and in presenting him with these two flags.”

As Mr. Wanamaker, taking the two flags, held them high in the air, the band leader made a signal to his men, and the full brasses sounded the opening strains of the American National Anthem. When this had been sung by the thousands of spectators, present on the quay, Father Drumgoole pronounced the benediction.
The guests left the ORN and the vessel pulled out from the dock.

Flour sack ‘Jack Rabbit’. Coll. WHI, photo: Author

John Wanamaker left the ship as soon as he had cast off her headline – an operation which he insisted on performing himself; he had gone back to his offices in his private automobile. On learning there that the ship had been delayed- her papers at the Custom House not being quite ready – he returned in a delivery automobile from the Wanamaker stores for a last look at the vessel whose departure he had made possible.

On December 18th, 1914, the ORN arrived safely with its valuable cargo in the Maashaven in Rotterdam. The relief supplies were directly transferred to inland vessels and further distributed in Belgium.

Flour sack “Hed-Ov-All”, Buffalo Flour Milling Co.; 1914-1915, Anderlecht, embroidered by Hélène Coumans, age 16, Auderghem; through the intervention of Mme Buelens. Coll. HIA, photo: coll. Author

Decorated flour sacks from Pennsylvania 

Flour sack Rosabel, cushion cover, embroidered, “La Belgique Reconnaissante”, ribbon, diam. 25 cm. Coll. HIA, photo: coll. Author

Flour sacks transported on the THELMA and ORN would have come from mills in the state of Pennsylvania. My research shows that several dozen of these unprocessed and decorated flour sacks have been preserved in Belgium and the US. It is remarkable that all bags have a small size, the stated content measure is 12¼ LBS (5.5 kg flour) to 24½ LBS (11 kg flour). The usual size of flour sacks was 49 or 98 LBS.

 

There are flour sacks of:

Flour Sack ‘Hed-Ov-All’, Buffalo Flour Milling Co. Coll. RAHM, no. 2658, photo: Author

– Buffalo Flour Milling Co in Lewisburg, brand name Hed-Ov-All in the collections of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, Western Branch, Iowa (HHPLM); Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford University, California (HIA); War Heritage Institute, Brussels (WHI); Royal Art & History Museum, Brussels (RAHM);
– An unknown mill delivered a sack with brand name Jack Rabbit, shown in the WHI;
Millbourne Mills in Philadelphia, brand names Rosabel, A-flour, Southern Star in the collections of HHPLM, HIA, WHI, RAHM and several Belgian private collections;
– Miner-Hillard Milling Co. in Wilkes-Barre, brand name M-H 1795 in the collections of WHI and the MoMu Antwerp.

Meelzak ‘M-H 1795’, Miner-Hillard Milling Co., verso. Coll. WHI, foto: auteur
Meelzak ‘M-H 1795’, Miner-Hillard Milling Co., recto. Coll. WHI, foto: auteur
Flour sack “M-H 1795”, Miner-Hillard Milling Co. Apron, embroidered. Coll. MoMu, photo: Europeana

Knowing that these decorated flour sacks left Philadelphia around Thanksgiving Day 1914 adds extra color to my day!

Flour Sack ‘Hed-Ov-All’, Buffalo Flour Milling Co. in a display case in the exhibit hall. Coll. HHPLM, foto: E.McMillan

Special thanks to Marcus Eckhardt, curator of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, who made me aware of Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday in the US, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, this year on November 26th. He called it a time to reflect on the past year and all one is thankful for; our long-distance friendship is one of them. We both look forward to meeting in person, when the circumstances allow. 

 

Flour sack ‘Hed-Ov-All’, Buffalo Flour Milling Co., embroidery, lace. Coll. HHPLM, nr. 62.4.363. Photo: E.McMillan

*) Philadelphia Inquirer, editions November 10,11,12,13,17, 21, 24, 26, 1914

[1] Le XXe siecle: journal d’union et d’action catholique, December 17, 1914

[2] Hagemans, Paul, unpublished biography, Philadelphia, Penn, undated. Mentioned in Carole Austin’s bibliography, From Aid to Art, San Francisco Folk Art Museum, 1987

Flour sacks. The art of charity. 2020 Yearbook In Flanders Fields Museum

Annelien van Kempen conducted research into the decorated WWI flour sacks of the In Flanders Fields Museum. Photo: Marc Dejonckheere

My article “Flour sacks. The art of charity” has been published in the 2020 Yearbook of the In Flanders Fields Museum, Ypres!

In the summer of 2019, I conducted research into the decorated WWI flour sacks in the museum’s collection*). One of my ‘sack trips’ took me to Ypres, where I examined the American and Canadian flour sacks for a week thanks to a grant from the Koen Koch Foundation. The museum possesses 23 original flour sacks, eight of those have been included in Flanders’ List of Masterpieces as unique heritage items.

In my article, I report in word and image on my discoveries and give historical context to the Ypres collection of flour sacks. The following topics are discussed: the supply of food to Belgium; the US charities with a graph of contributions by state; Madame Lalla Vandervelde, her journey through America and successful appeal for aid to the Belgians; examples of the Belgian charities with an infographic showing dozens of sales exhibitions of flour sacks held between 1915-1925; girls’ education in vocational schools with unique photos of their lessons; German censorship on decorated flour sacks.

Flour sacks. The art of charity. In Flanders Fields Museum, room divider details; photos: author

My conclusion is: decorated WWI flour sacks are the symbol of the many charities run and supported by Belgian women and girls during the German occupation, besides the symbol of international food aid and Belgian gratitude.

Here is the link to the article: “Flour sacks. The art of charity.

The IFFM Yearbook 2020 is beautifully designed by Manu Veracx. The original Dutch article with 17 color and 7 black and white illustrations, is fully translated in English by Marc Hutsebaut; it covers 9 pages. You can order the IFFM Yearbook 2020 through the webshop of the museum.

Collection WWI flour sacks, In Flanders Fields Museum. Artistic photo collage: Annelien van Kempen, April 2020. 2020 Yearbook IFFM

*) Marc Dejonckheere interviewed me for VIFF Magazine, magazine of The Friends of the In Flanders Fields Museum; “The emotions of the flour sack” was published in September 2019.

De weldaad van de meelzak. Jaarboek 2020 In Flanders Fields Museum

Annelien van Kempen onderzocht de versierde meelzakken in WO I, In Flanders Fields Museum. Foto: Marc Dejonckheere

Mijn artikel ‘De weldaad van de meelzak’ is verschenen! Het is gepubliceerd in het Jaarboek 2020 van het In Flanders Fields Museum, Ieper.

In de zomer van 2019 deed ik onderzoek naar de versierde meelzakken van WO I in de collectie van het museum*). Een van mijn ‘zakkenreizen’ bracht mij naar Ieper, waar ik dankzij een toelage van het Koen Koch Fonds gedurende een week de Amerikaanse en Canadese bloemzakken uit de collectie onder de loep nam. Het museum bezit 23 originele meelzakken, waarvan acht exemplaren op de Topstukkenlijst zijn geplaatst als beschermd Vlaams erfgoed.

In mijn artikel doe ik -in woord en beeld- verslag van mijn ontdekkingen en geef historische context aan de Ieperse collectie meelzakken. Aan de orde komen: de bevoorrading van België; de Amerikaanse liefdadigheid met een grafiek van de bijdragen per staat; Madame Lalla Vandervelde, haar reis door Amerika en succesvolle oproep tot hulp voor de Belgische bevolking; voorbeelden van de Belgische liefdadigheid met een infographic waarin tientallen verkooptentoonstellingen zijn genoemd, gehouden tussen 1915-1925; het meisjesonderwijs op beroepsscholen met unieke foto’s van hun lessen; Duitse censuur op versierde meelzakken.

‘De weldaad van de meelzak’;  In Flanders Fields Museum, details van kamerscherm; foto’s: auteur

Ik kom tot de conclusie dat versierde meelzakken van WO I symbool staan voor de veelvoudige weldaden, de liefdadige werken, van Belgische vrouwen en meisjes tijdens de Duitse bezetting, naast het symbool van internationale voedselhulp en Belgische dankbaarheid.

U kunt het artikel hier lezen: ‘De weldaad van de meelzak’

Het IFFM Jaarboek 2020 is prachtig vormgegeven door Manu Veracx. Mijn artikel beslaat 22 bladzijden en bevat 17 kleuren en 7 z/w illustraties; de Engelse vertaling is van de hand van Marc Hutsebaut, het beslaat 9 bladzijden. U kunt het IFFM Jaarboek 2020 bestellen in de webshop van het museum.

Collage van foto’s van de collectie versierde meelzakken in WO I, In Flanders Fields Museum; artistic photo collage: Annelien van Kempen, April 2020. IFFM Jaarboek 2020

*) Marc Dejonckheere interviewde mij voor het tijdschrift van de Vrienden van het In Flanders Fields Museum, VIFF. Het interview ‘De emotie van de meelzak’ verscheen in september 2019.

Madame Vandervelde Fund 3: Home on the Lusitania (ENG)

To me, the WWI decorated flour sacks of the Madame Vandervelde Fund stand out. It makes me happy to know that there was a woman who came to the rescue of the Belgian people with conviction. That woman was Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer (Camberwell, England, April 4, 1870 – Putney, England, November 8, 1965). She is one of the many women who worked determinedly towards her goal: care for destitute Belgian compatriots. Her decorated flour sacks also tell the story of charity, gratitude and food aid.
This is part 3 of a series of three blogs.
(See my blogs: Madame Vandervelde Fund 1 and Madame Vandervelde Fund 2)

Decorated flour sack “War Relief Donation Flour from Madame Vandervelde Fund”, 1914-1915-1916. The embroidery looks official and is in three sections; left section has an eagle on an American shield; right section has a Belgian coat of arms with a crown on top; the center section has the coat of arms of the Belgian Congo. Wheat stacks and cornflowers are in each corner. Wide crocheted lace sewn around edges and between each section; machined made Torchon bobbin lace. Signature resembles the name “Honorma”. Courtesy Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum nr. 62.4.446. Photo: E. McMillan

The decorated flour sacks are surprisingly featured in Lalla Vandervelde’s biography “Monarchs and Millionaires”.[1]
She reflects on her relationship with American men during her stay, which leads to the sacks of flour she sent to Belgium and her name on these sacks. She was in fear about added print, because the Germans did not accept that there would be names of senders on the relief goods. It turned out fine and later Lalla saw decorated flour sacks: they had been sent to her by schoolgirls, who had embroidered the stamped letters of her name “Madame Vandervelde” on the sacks.

In a few paragraphs, Lalla summarized it in her book: “Men did not try to make love to me. I suppose they realized that being in mourning, very much upset about what was going on in Europe, and very hard worked with speaking all over the country, any advances would have been discountenanced immediately. But some of them were distinctly sentimental. One, who was also very energetic and helpful, wrote me almost passionate letters about my work. He compared me to Joan of Arc and Diana of Ephesus: a curious mixture. Knowing that my chief interest in peace time had lain in questions pertaining to art, he used to send me long disquisitions on Berenson’s latest book, at the same time quoting prices, in the most business-like way, of commodities that I might buy and send to Europe.’

Marthe Robinet, Ecole Moyenne St. Gilles, Brussels, embroidered this flour sack “Madame Vandervelde Fund”. Collection Hoover Institution Archives. Image taken by HILA Staff. Photo: E. McMillan

About the choice of cotton flour sacks: ‘It was this kind and generous friend who helped me to send off the first lot of sacks filled with flour to Belgium, the country that needed bread most at the time. It was his idea to choose linen of which the sacks were made in such fine quality that when washed and bleached it could be used for men’s shirts or for little frocks or overalls for children.’

About stamping the name Madame Vandervelde on the flour sacks: ‘My name was stamped on each one of the sacks, and I remember my anguish when, shortly after they had been shipped, the news came that the Germans would not allow any object marked with a name to enter a country they were occupying. I spent a sleepless night wondering what would happen to the flour that was wanted so badly. Much to my relief, the German Embassy in Washington, to whom my kind friend had wired, answered that permission would be given for the sacks to be landed.

Decorated flour sack “Madame Vandervelde Fund”, embroidery and open stitching. Collection Hoover Institution Archives. Image taken by HILA Staff. Photo: E. McMillan

About the embroidered flour sacks that she sees later: “Later I had the great joy to see some of them again. They were sent to me by school children who had embroidered the letters of my name on them surrounded by pretty designs of their own making.’ 

Contrary to the impression that arises from these paragraphs about the contributions to food aid, Madame Vandervelde herself preferred to use the money she collected mainly for the real heroes: the Belgian soldiers, who fought in the trenches on the small piece of Belgian land that was still in their occupation. However, this was impossible. America’s neutrality only allowed the collection of money for aid to the civilian population of the war countries. Nevertheless, in private conversations, she managed to acquire some donations for the help of soldiers. She bought and shipped the following goods to them: 10,284 pairs of socks, 2,160 sets of underwear and 400 blankets.

Manhattan, New York, 1914. Photo: Wolfgang Wiggers online Flickr album

Despite her mission’s success, Lalla experienced her six-month stay in the US as a major burden on her nerves. She didn’t know what it was like to be unhappy for so long, she couldn’t forget the horrible war for a moment, she was tired and depressed. ‘The mere fact of being so very far away from my own people, from my compatriots and friends, on another continent, in another world, where, however kindly received, the whole point of view, the whole outlook on life, was different, seemed more than I could bear sometimes. Almost every time I opened a European paper I saw news of the death of a friend, and I used to leave my letters from Europe unopened for days, so terrified was I of finding bad news.

Bad news from home, continual speaking in public, equally important private engagements, when I tried to enlist the sympathies of influential individuals for the cause of the Allies, long railway journeys by night, at the end of which there were always crowds of reporters anxious to interview me before I even had a bath or breakfast; such conditions were not destined to improve an already uncertain nervous system.”

At Yale College in New Haven, she was the first woman to speak to the students: “they attended my meeting en masse”. She also visited Harvard. Then she went to Canada where she spoke in Ottawa in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught and Princess Patricia. At her farewell, the Duke pressed a $ 600 check in her hands.

Manhattan, New York, 1914. Photo: Wolfgang Wiggers online Flickr album

Back in New York in December 1914, she tried to express her sense of art, attended several concerts, and went to museums and galleries to view paintings. During her visits to millionaires, she was usually given the opportunity to see these people’s private art collections.

American praise
In mid-March 1915, Lalla Vandervelde was in Carnegie Hall, New York, where she delivered the last speech of her mission. Mr. Choate, one of the foremost lawyers in the US, praised her. The speech is fully printed in her book.

The illustrated Sunday edition of The New York Times posted this photo of Lalla Vandervelde after her departure from America to Europe on April 11, 1915. Photo: “Photo by Mathilde Weil, from Paul Thompson”

“TO MADAME LALLA VANDERVELDE:
On the eve of your departure for your home in Belgium it seems fitting that there should be some expression, inadequate though it must be, of the great regard in which you are held by hosts of men and women in this country.
During the five months since you came to us, shortly after the outbreak of the War, you have presented all over the United States the dire need of your unhappy countrymen. More than any other person you have made us realize the urgency of this need, its appaling extent and its heartrending appeal. You have been inspired by an eloquence born of your noble mission and you have won the response which could not fail to come.
There are forms of patriotic service which demand courage of a higher order even than that of the soldier in battle, a courage which has not the spur of excitement or impulse, a courage in the face of suspense, of heart-sickness far from home, family and friends, of utter weariness of body and spirit. Such courage, dear lady, since first you came to these shores to this present moment, has been yours.
We honor you as a brave souled woman; we thank you for making so clear our privilege of such human helpfulness as we can give, and we bid you farewell with feelings of deepest sympathy and the most earnest hope that brighter days will soon return to the country you love so truly and serve so devotedly.
New York, March 17, 1915”

The Lusitania of the British Cunard Line. Photo: internet

Home on the Lusitania
On April 3, 1915 she left for Europe on the ship “Lusitania” of the British Cunard Line. In Lalla’s words, the ship made “the last journey to Europe before the ever memorable one”, the second to last trip before it would be torpedoed by a German submarine and perished. This voyage of the passenger ship was also full of tension for the passengers, there was danger during the crossing.

The New York Evening World headlined, “Lusitania sails to-day with 838 pale passengers – Fear of German Submarines Makes All on Board Nervous – Some Cancel Passage. – Fast Trip is Planned- Liner’s Speed Expected to Protect Greatest Number to Sail Since War Began.” The security measures were strict, all passengers were carefully examined and their luggage checked.

Manhattan, New York, 1914. Photo: Wolfgang Wiggers online Flickr album

At the last minute, a messenger brought a package with $ 500 for Madame Vandervelde on board. Three war correspondents, including Mr. E. Alexander Powell of the “New York World”, were also on board.[2]

All this has not been mentioned in Lalla’s biography. She did talk about a luxury problem. Her cabin on the ship was loaded with gifts from American friends and supporters, and she shared them as much as she could with staff and fellow passengers. She kept the fruits for her family in England. 

Decorated flour sack “Madame Vandervelde Fund”, embroidery and applications. Courtesy Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum. Photo: E. McMillan

Back in Europe

The Sun, October 3, 1914

In New York Lalla had prepared for the possible suspicion about her work from people back in Europe. She had the finances and administration of the Madame Vandervelde Fund, punctually maintained by her secretary Miss Conklin, verified by a leading accounting firm. After returning to England, she was visited by a journalist who asked her which cities she had visited on her mission. The American place names were so unknown to him that she had to spell them for him. Then he asked how much money she had collected. Her answer “about $ 300,000, equivalent to 60,000 British pounds or one and a half million francs” led to his response “That is quite impossible for a woman”. Whereupon the auditor’s report emerged and she urged him to publish the detailed justification of the funds in his article.

Belgian newspapers reported in April on the results of Mrs. Emile Vandervelde’s mission[3]:
“With the thought of coming to the aid of the Belgian refugees, Madame Vandervelde, wife of the Minister of State, went to America to give a series of lectures about Belgium and about the German invasion of our country. These lectures yielded one and a half million francs.”

De Legerbode (The Army Messenger), September 2, 1915

Five months later, another article appeared in De Legerbode[4] (The “Army Messenger”), showing the destination of the funds raised in America:
“The courageous traveler traveled through the United States from September 18, 1914 to April 2, 1915. She managed to collect the good sum of 1,437,135.75 fr., which was spent as follows:
For return to the homeland 388,479.45 fr.
For food purchases for Belgium: 995,426.30 fr.
For the special fund: 53,230 fr.
Madame Vandervelde continued her apostolate in England, where her brilliant readings yielded the sum of 30,000 francs. Here is a vigorous woman, and a brave propagandist of noble thoughts, who deserves general gratitude.”

Further research
In the past three blogs I have tried to tell part of the life story of Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer. She was a striking, yes, legendary woman. Especially when I consider her role towards the decorated flour sacks from WWI.
Yet surprisingly little has been written about her. Where she has been mentioned, sometimes blatant inaccuracies have been debited. After her divorce from Emile Vandervelde, living in England again, she apparently disappeared from publicity. She died in Putney at the age of 95.
For twenty years Lalla Speyer and Emile Vandervelde were partners with a great mutual influence on each other’s work and life. They both played a role, together and separately, on the world stage in the turbulent time of 1900-1920.
I would heartily recommend further research into the life of Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer.

 

Sincere thanks to Evelyn McMillan, Stanford University. She sent me pictures of decorated flour sacks in the collections of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum and the Hoover Institution Archives.

Sacks are full of memories. Each sack cherishes a precious and fragile story.

 

[1] Vandervelde, Lalla, Monarchs and Millionaires. London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1925

[2] New York Evening World, April 3, 1915

[3] De Legerbode (The Army Messenger), April 24, 1915; also: De Gentenaar. De landwacht. De kleine patriot, April 28, 1915

[4] De Legerbode (The Army Messenger), September 2, 1915

Madame Vandervelde Fund 3: Naar huis op de Lusitania

De versierde meelzakken in WO I van het Madame Vandervelde Fund springen er voor mij uit. Het maakt me blij te weten dat er een vrouw is geweest die met overtuiging de bevolking van België te hulp is gekomen. Die vrouw is Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer (Camberwell, Engeland, 4 april 1870 – Putney, Engeland, 8 november 1965). Zij is een van de zeer vele vrouwen die vastberaden werkten aan haar doel: zorg voor hulpbehoevende Belgische landgenoten. Ook haar versierde meelzakken vertellen het verhaal van liefdadigheid, dankbaarheid en voedselhulp.
Dit is deel 3 van een serie van drie blogs.
(Lees hier mijn blogs Madame Vandervelde Fund 1 en Madame Vandervelde Fund 2)

Versierde meelzak ‘War Relief Donation Flour from Madame Vandervelde Fund’, 1914-1915-1916. Het borduurwerk doet officieel aan en is in drie delen; links Amerikaans schild met arend; rechts het wapen van België; midden het klein wapen van Belgisch Congo. In de vier hoeken graanhalmen en korenbloemen. De randen van kant zijn van machinaal gemaakt kant. Handtekening lijkt de naam ‘Honorma’. Courtesy Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum nr. 62.4.446. Foto: E. McMillan

De versierde meelzakken komen op verrassende wijze aan bod in de biografie ‘Monarchs and Millionaires’ van Lalla Vandervelde.[1]
Ze reflecteert op haar relatie met Amerikaanse mannen tijdens haar verblijf, wat leidt naar de zakken met meel die ze naar België stuurde en haar naam op deze zakken. Ze verkeerde daarover in angst, omdat de Duitsers niet accepteerden dat er namen van afzenders op de hulpgoederen zouden staan. Het kwam goed en later zag Lalla versierde meelzakken terug: ze waren haar gestuurd door schoolmeisjes, die de gestempelde letters van haar naam ‘Madame Vandervelde’ op de zakken hadden overgeborduurd.

In enkele alinea’s vatte Lalla het in haar boek samen: “Men did not try to make love to me. I suppose they realized that being in mourning, very much upset about what was going on in Europe, and very hard worked with speaking all over the country, any advances would have been discountenanced immediately. But some of them were distinctly sentimental. One, who was also very energetic and helpful, wrote me almost passionate letters about my work. He compared me to Joan of Arc and Diana of Ephesus: a curious mixture. Knowing that my chief interest in peace time had lain in questions pertaining to art, he used to send me long disquisitions on Berenson’s latest book, at the same time quoting prices, in the most business-like way, of commodities that I might buy and send to Europe.’

Marthe Robinet, Ecole Moyenne St.Gilles, Brussel, borduurde deze meelzak ‘Madame Vandervelde Fund’. Collectie Hoover Institution Archives. Image taken by HILA Staff. Foto: E. McMillan

Over de keuze van katoenen meelzakken:It was this kind and generous friend who helped me to send off the first lot of bags filled with flour to Belgium, the country that needed bread most at the time. It was his idea to choose linen of which the bags were made in such fine quality that when washed and bleached it could be used for men’s shirts or for little frocks or overalls for children.’

Over het stempelen van de naam Madame Vandervelde op de meelzakken: ‘My name was stamped on each one of the sacks, and I remember my anguish when, shortly after they had been shipped, the news came that the Germans would not allow any object marked with a name to enter a country they were occupying. I spent a sleepless night wondering what would happen to the flour that was wanted so badly. Much to my relief, the German Embassy in Washington, to whom my kind friend had wired, answered that permission would be given for the sacks to be landed.

Versierde meelzak Madame Vandervelde Fund, borduurwerk en open naaiwerk. Collectie Hoover Institution Archives. Image taken by HILA Staff. Foto: E. McMillan

Over de geborduurde meelzakken die ze later terug ziet: ‘Later I had the great joy to see some of them again. They were sent to me by school children who had embroidered the letters of my name on them surrounded by pretty designs of their own making.’

In tegenstelling tot de indruk die ontstaat uit deze alinea’s over de bijdragen aan voedselhulp, zou Madame Vandervelde zelf het geld dat ze inzamelde vooral hebben willen bestemmen voor de echte helden: de Belgische soldaten, die in de loopgraven vochten op het kleine stukje Belgische grond dat nog door hen werd bezet. Echter, dit was onmogelijk. Door de neutraliteit van Amerika was alleen inzameling van geld voor hulp aan de burgerbevolking van de oorlogslanden toegestaan. Toch slaagde ze erin, in privé-gesprekken, enkele donaties te verwerven voor de hulp aan militairen. Daarvan kocht en verzond zij de volgende goederen naar de soldaten: 10.284 paar sokken, 2.160 sets ondergoed en 400 dekens.

Manhattan, New York, 1914. Foto: online Flickr album van Wolfgang Wiggers

Ondanks het succes van haar missie ervoer Lalla haar verblijf van zes maanden in de VS als een grote belasting van haar zenuwen. Ze wist niet hoe het was om zo lang ongelukkig te zijn, geen moment kon ze de afschuwelijke oorlog vergeten, ze was moe en gedeprimeerd. ‘The mere fact of being so very far away from my own people, from my compatriots and friends, on another continent, in another world, where, however kindly received, the whole point of view, the whole outlook on life, was different, seemed more than I could bear sometimes. Almost every time I opened a European paper I saw news of the death of a friend, and I used to leave my letters from Europe unopened for days, so terrified was I of finding bad news.

Bad news from home, continual speaking in public, equally important private engagements, when I tried to enlist the sympathies of influential individuals for the cause of the Allies, long railway journeys by night, at the end of which there were always crowds of reporters anxious to interview me before I even had a bath or breakfast; such conditions were not destined to improve an already uncertain nervous system.”

Op Yale College in New Haven sprak ze als eerste vrouw tot de studenten: “they attended my meeting en masse”. Ook bezocht ze Harvard. Daarna ging ze naar Canada waar ze in Ottawa sprak in het bijzijn van de Hertog en Hertogin van Connaught en prinses Patricia. Bij het afscheid drukte de Hertog haar een cheque van 600 dollar in handen.

Manhattan, New York, 1914. Foto: online Flickr album van Wolfgang Wiggers

Terug in New York in december 1914 probeerde ze haar zin voor kunst aan bod te laten komen, ze woonde enkele concerten bij en ging naar musea en galeries om schilderijen te bekijken. Tijdens haar bezoeken aan miljonairs kreeg ze meestal de gelegenheid de privé kunstcollecties van deze mensen te zien.

Amerikaanse lof
Half maart 1915 was Lalla Vandervelde in Carnegie Hall, New York, waar ze de laatste toespraak tijdens haar missie hield.
Mr. Choate, een van de voornaamste advocaten van de VS, sprak haar lovend toe. De toespraak staat integraal afgedrukt in haar boek.

De geïllustreerde zondageditie van The New York Times plaatste op 11 april 1915 deze foto van Lalla Vandervelde na haar vertrek uit Amerika naar Europa. Foto: ‘Photo by Mathilde Weil, from Paul Thompson’

“TO MADAME LALLA VANDERVELDE:
On the eve of your departure for your home in Belgium it seems fitting that there should be some expression, inadequate though it must be, of the great regard in which you are held by hosts of men and women in this country.
During the five months since you came to us, shortly after the outbreak of the War, you have presented all over the United States the dire need of your unhappy countrymen. More than any other person you have made us realize the urgency of this need, its appaling extent and its heartrending appeal. You have been inspired by an eloquence born of your noble mission and you have won the response which could not fail to come.
There are forms of patriotic service which demand courage of a higher order even than that of the soldier in battle, a courage which has not the spur of excitement or impulse, a courage in the face of suspense, of heart-sickness far from home, family and friends, of utter weariness of body and spirit. Such courage, dear lady, since first you came to these shores to this present moment, has been yours.
We honor you as a brave souled woman; we thank you for making so clear our privilege of such human helpfulness as we can give, and we bid you farewell with feelings of deepest sympathy and the most earnest hope that brighter days will soon return to the country you love so truly and serve so devotedly.
New York, March 17, 1915”

De Lusitania van de Britse Cunard Line. Foto: internet

Lusitania
Op 3 april 1915 vertrok ze naar Europa op het schip de ‘Lusitania’van de Britse Cunard Line. Het schip maakte in Lalla’s woorden ‘her last journey to Europe before the ever memorable one, de een na laatste reis voordat het getorpedeerd zou worden door een Duitse duikboot en zou vergaan. Ook deze reis van het passagiersschip was vol spanning voor de passagiers, er dreigde gevaar tijdens de overtocht.
De New York Evening World kopte: ‘Lusitania sails to-day with 838 pale passengers – Fear of German Submarines Makes All on Board Nervous – Some Cancel Passage. – Fast Trip is Planned- Liner’s Speed Expected to Protect Greatest Number to Sail Since War Began.’ De veiligheidsmaatregelen waren streng, alle passagiers werden nauwkeurig onderzocht en hun bagage gecontroleerd.

Manhattan, New York, 1914. Foto: online Flickr album van Wolfgang Wiggers

Op het laatste moment kwam een bode nog een pakket met $ 500 voor Madame Vandervelde aan boord brengen. Drie oorlogs-correspondenten, waaronder meneer E. Alexander Powell van de ‘New York World’, waren eveneens aan boord.[2] 
Lalla vermeldde dit allemaal niet in haar biografie. Wel vertelde ze over een luxeprobleem. Haar hut op het schip lag boordevol kado’s van Amerikaanse vrienden en sympathisanten, ze deelde ze zoveel mogelijk met personeel en medepassagiers. Het fruit bewaarde ze voor haar familie in Engeland.

Versierde meelzak Madame Vandervelde Fund, borduurwerk en applicaties. Courtesy Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum. Foto: E. McMillan
The Sun, 3 oktober 1914

Terug in Europa
Lalla had zich in New York voorbereid op de mogelijke achterdocht van mensen in Europa over haar werk. Ze had de financiën en administratie van het Madame Vandervelde Fund, punctueel bijgehouden door haar secretaresse Miss Conklin, laten verifiëren door een vooraanstaand accountantskantoor. Ze kreeg na terugkeer in Engeland een journalist op bezoek die haar vroeg welke steden ze had bezocht op haar missie. De Amerikaanse plaatsnamen waren hem zo onbekend, dat zij deze voor hem moest spellen. Daarna vroeg hij hoeveel geld ze had ingezameld. Haar antwoord “ongeveer $300.000, gelijk aan 60.000 Engelse ponden of anderhalf miljoen francs” leidde tot zijn reactie “That is quite impossible for a woman”. Waarop de accountantsverklaring tevoorschijn kwam en ze hem dringend verzocht in zijn artikel de gedetailleerde verantwoording van de gelden te publiceren.

Belgische kranten hebben in april berichten opgenomen over de resultaten van de missie van Mevrouw Vandervelde:
Met het gedacht den Belgischen vluchtelingen ter hulp te komen, heeft Mevrouw Vandervelde, vrouw van de staatsminister, zich naar Amerika begeven om daar eene reeks voordrachten over België en over den Duitschen inval in ons land te geven. Deze voordrachten brachten een anderhalf millioen frank op.[3]

De Legerbode, 2 september 1915

Vijf maanden later verscheen nogmaals een artikel in De Legerbode[4], waaruit de bestemming bleek van de gelden die waren opgehaald in Amerika:
‘De moedige reizigster doorliep de Vereenigde Staten van den 18 September 1914 tot 2 April 1915. Zij slaagde er in de flinke som van 1.437.135 fr. 75 in te zamelen, welke werd besteed als volgt:
Voor terugkeer naar ’t vaderland                                    388.479 fr. 45;
Voor aankoop van levensmiddelen voor België:     995.426 fr. 30;
Voor het bijzonder fonds:                                                      53.230 frank.’
Mevrouw Vandervelde heeft haar apostolaat in Engeland voortgezet, waar hare schitterende voordrachten de som van 30.000 frank opbrachten. Ziedaar eene krachtdadige vrouw, en eene dappere propagandiste der edele gedachten, die de algemeene dankbaarheid verdient.’

Verder onderzoek
In de afgelopen drie blogs heb ik een poging gewaagd een deel van het levensverhaal van Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer te vertellen. Ze was een markante, ja, legendarische vrouw. Zeker als ik haar rol voor de versierde meelzakken in WO I in beschouwing neem.
Toch is er weinig over haar geschreven. Waar ze is genoemd zijn soms blatante onjuistheden gedebiteerd. Nadat ze gescheiden was van Emile Vandervelde en weer in Engeland woonde, is ze ogenschijnlijk uit de publiciteit verdwenen.  Op 95-jarige leeftijd is zij overleden in Putney.
Twintig jaar lang waren Lalla Speyer en Emile Vandervelde partners met grote wederzijdse invloed op elkaars werk en leven. Ze speelden een rol op het wereldtoneel in de turbulente tijd van 1900-1920.
Verder onderzoek naar het leven van Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer wil ik van harte aanbevelen.

 

Dank aan Evelyn McMillan, Stanford University. Zij stuurde mij foto’s van versierde meelzakken in de collecties van de Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum en de Hoover Institution Archives.

‘Zakken zijn vol herinneringen. Iedere zak koestert een kostbaar en kwetsbaar verhaal.’

 

[1] Vandervelde, Lalla, Monarchs and Millionaires. London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1925

[2] New York Evening World, 3 april 1915

[3] De Legerbode, 24 april 1915; zie ook De Gentenaar. De landwacht. De kleine patriot, 28 april 1915

[4] De Legerbode, 2 september 1915

Madame Vandervelde Fund 2: 300,000 dollar donations (ENG)

To me, the WWI decorated flour sacks of the Madame Vandervelde Fund stand out. It makes me happy to know that there was a woman who came to the rescue of the Belgian people with conviction. That woman was Lalla Vandervelde-Speyer (Camberwell, England, April 4, 1870 – Putney, England, November 8, 1965). She is one of the many women who worked determinedly towards her goal: care for destitute Belgian compatriots. Her decorated flour sacks also tell the story of charity, gratitude and food aid.
This is part 2 of a series of three blogs.
(See my blogs: Madame Vandervelde Fund 1 and Madame Vandervelde Fund 3)

In her biography “Monarchs and Millionaires”, published in 1925, Lalla Vandervelde gave her personal impressions of her six-month stay in America in four chapters, totaling 60 pages. I provide an anthology of stories from the book.[1]

The “Madame Vandervelde Fund” stamp on the unprocessed flour sack “Gold Dust”, Thornton & Chester, Buffalo, NY. (see also photos below) Collection RAHM Tx 2630

To America
In Antwerp, fleeing from the advancing German army, Lalla stayed with her husband at Hotel St. Antoine and experienced an air raid of German Zeppelins for the first time in her life. She was terrified by the sound of falling and detonating bombs.

The following evening she stood in the hotel hallway and met with Mr. E. Alexander Powell, correspondent of the American newspaper “New York World”, who said to her “Why don’t you go over to the States and enlist the sympathy of American women and children for the poor Belgians? ” The suggestion opened her eyes to what she could do, and she immediately took action to realize it. She did not want to embark on the adventure without the consent of the Belgian government, or at least that of Prime Minister Baron de Broqueville, so she visited him and presented her plan. His response was negative: “he liked the idea, but did not approve of a woman going alone on such a hazardous expedition, and so on and so forth”. Disillusioned, she left him, but met King Albert’s private secretary and told him about her plan.

The letter from the lady-in-waiting to Madame Vandervelde on behalf of Queen Elizabeth. From: “Monarchs and Millionaires”. Coll. International Institute of Social History

He promised to discuss it with the King and a few hours later he said that King Albert fully agreed with the plan: “He knew what influence women have in America, and sent 4,000 francs towards my traveling expenses.”

Queen Elizabeth in turn instructed a lady-in-waiting to send Madame Vandervelde a letter approving the project, wishing her the best of luck and indicating that she could take the letter with her to read it out in America.

The Belgian Mission: Messrs De Sadeleer, Vandervelde, Henri Carton de Wiart and Hymans. The Sun, September 12, 1914

The Belgian Mission appointed by King Albert, including her husband Emile Vandervelde, left on September 3 with the White Star Liner “Celtic” and arrived in New York on September 12. I have read this in American newspapers. In her biography, Lalla has not written a single word about the mission, not even about her husband.

Liverpool harbour in 1914. Image: online

Because Lalla was not allowed to travel on the same ship – “no women ever, or could, in any circumstances, accompany a diplomatic mission” – it was not easy to book a cabin on the next ship. With the help of British former ambassador to Japan, Sir Claude MacDonald, she managed to leave Liverpool for New York on September 8, 1914 on the White Liner “Cretic”.

Port of Liverpool Building, around 1914. Image: online

The war had raged for over four weeks now and 75 percent of the Belgian territory was in the hands of the Germans. During the ten days at sea, there would be no news reports for the passengers. For Lalla, that felt unbearable, and she got a radio operator to promise to inform her in secret should there be any news to report. On September 14th she received a signal and heard that the Germans had been stopped in their advance in France.

On board she prepared her mission: to evoke sympathy from the Americans by telling them as an eyewitness about the horrors that had taken place in Belgium. She hoped to influence the public opinion and appeal to the well-known generosity of Americans to ease the fate of Belgian refugees. At that time, she did not know that within three months the catastrophe would be much greater and the question was how to feed all the Belgians who lived in occupied territory, this number would grow to 7.5 million people…

Lalla Vandervelde, “Monarchs and Millionaires”. title page of her biography. Coll. International Institute of Social History

She spoke to two fellow travelers, Mr. Augustus Gardner, a member of the United States Congress, and Mr. McEnerney, a highly skilled lawyer from San Francisco, and took their valuable advice on how to frame her propaganda. She realized that she should tell her story in simple terms and without emotion. Only then could she count on support from the people of the US, where many pro-German sentiments were present. The evening before arriving in New York, the captain gave her the opportunity to tell her story on board the ship. She raised an initial amount of $ 360.

In New York City
September 18, 1914, upon arriving from the “Cretic” in New York on a sunny, warm day, she dressed in a colorful summer outfit without thinking about her role. The reaction of a fellow traveler made her realize that her choice of clothing should support her message, so she had her wardrobe dyed black in New York.

Once disembarked, reporters and photographers swarmed around her, but she did not give interviews or comments. She first wanted to speak to the Belgian Relief Committee*) to find out what she could and could not say. The Belgian Consul General, Mr. Mali, picked her up at the port and brought her to her place to stay. The next day, she received a secretary, Miss Conklin, who assisted her for six months.

The Evening World, New York, September 18, 1914

On September 18th, in the Evening World, the evening edition of the New York World, correspondent Alexander Powell’s newspaper, an article with photo appeared under the headline “Mme. Vandervelde brings note from Queen Elizabeth. Wife of Belgian Minister of State Here to Appeal to Americans. Woman envoy here to appeal for aid for destitute Belgians.

Manhattan, New York, 1910. Image: online

Travelling in America
Lalla Vandervelde began her adventure, she humorously reports on her visits to millionaires and dignitaries in her book. Her hostesses and hosts have mostly remained anonymous, so she could poke fun at their boredom, their lack of knowledge about culture, their lack of knowledge of international politics, their dependence on staff. In general, she was “full of pity for this poor millionaire”. She also met a young super millionaire who couldn’t give her money. “the money he devoted to charities was managed and distributed by a committee of specialists in economics, in social hygiene or in some other form of benevolence. This struck me as being a logical, if unpleasant, way of distributing riches.”

Another anecdote: “I spoke on that day to a room full of very expensive looking people. The women …, wore the most outrageous clothes. But they were interested, in their own way in the War, and had made it the fashion to knit very brightly-coloured silk scarves to send to the British and French boys at the front. It was maddening to have to speak about the horrors of the War to the clicking of knitting needles…” Then a pug entered the room as it could no longer live without its owner, but it squeaked, barked and ran around, so she had to stop talking until the dog was removed, along with his mistress. Conclusion: “I did not get anything like the money I expected from that rich audience.”

People with small incomes, drivers and servants in restaurants, clothing workers, went out of their way and collected money, which they handed over with a few kind, encouraging words.

Decorated flour sack “Madame Vandervelde Fund”, embroidered. Courtesy Herbert Hoover Presidential Library Museum. Photo: E. McMillan

Lalla was very pleased with the American female and male journalists and had a good working relationship with them. She recalled a New York dinner party with six female journalists as one of the most interesting experiences during her American stay. “They were eager, tired looking women. Most of them had been married young and badly treated by their husbands, whom they had divorced. This meant poverty, and not infrequently one or two children to bring up. They were very naturally proud at having made a success of life and told me details of the terrible struggles they had gone through. Most of them hated men with an extraordinary active and vital hatred. Only one of them said she was still in love with her husband, but as he was exploiting her, she felt she ought to leave him. She spoke as if she were ashamed of her love and reluctance to be free.

I had never met so many women in the same circumstances. They were not soured or embittered, but proud and happy, especially when they spoke about their children, who were mostly grown up and prepared, through their mothers’ struggles for the battle of life”.

With Lalla’s interest in the role of women, she portrayed American society in late 1914, early 1915: “There is no stigma attached to certain kinds of work, as there was in Europe before the War, and a woman’s scope is infinitely wider than at home.”

Le XXsiecle: journal d’union et d’action catholique, January 16, 1915

Messages in Belgian newspapers
After three months, some Belgian newspapers reported on Madame Vandervelde’s mission. [2]

“In America – The charitable movement in favor of suffering Belgium is growing daily. This is how Mrs. Lalla Vandervelde, returning to New York from a three-month trip through the United States, brought in donations in kind and in cash for the sum of $ 213,000. She continues her fruitful journey.”

The Mill Thornton & Chester in Buffalo, NY. Image: online

Another article featured the news of a large donation of Buffalo sacks of flour, saying that the sacks were intended for reuse: “Madame Vandervelde, the wife of the Secretary of State, has been in the United States for more than three months. There she gave and gives a series of lectures about Belgium and the horrors of which the country has fallen victim, that have been overwhelmingly successful and in which Belgium and the Belgians have been praised. … After these meetings, donations for families of Belgian victims pour in. Madame Vandervelde has already collected almost 1,400,000 francs!

Unprocessed flour sack “Gold Dust” from Thornton & Chester, Buffalo, NY. The back of the flour sack is stamped with “Madame Vandervelde Fund”. (see photo above) Coll. RAHM Tx 2630

In Buffalo, industrialists have loaded her with a ship with 10,000 sacks of flour – sacks made of fine cloth and fine fabric, so that they can then be used and transformed into clothes and towels for the Belgians.
Madame Vandervelde was in Boston last week where her lectures were attended by 5,000 people.[3]]

 

 

 

Madame Vandervelde Fund
I became aware of the fund thanks to the WWI decorated flour sacks in museum collections in Belgium and the US, decorated with her name. I therefore asked myself: how large was the organization, who formed the board?

Decorated flour sack “Gold Dust”, Thornton & Chester, Buffalo, NY, embroidered. The back of this flour sack may have been stamped “Madame Vandervelde Fund”. The flour sack is exhibited in the permanent display of the Royal Military Museum, Brussels. Coll. War Heritage Institute

According to Lalla Vandervelde’s biography, she founded the Madame Vandervelde Fund to house the large amounts of collected dollars. However, the structure of the fund was very simple: it consisted of the two-woman organization of Madame herself and her secretary Miss Conklin! Lalla Vandervelde: “I have always been proud to think that we two women, without any committee to back us, organized my campaign, which produced in material things alone 300,000 dollars or, what was at that time, a million and a half francs.”

To be continued.
Read here my blog Madame Vandervelde Fund 3

*) The Belgian Relief Committee: Jeffrey B. Miller mentioned Madame Vandervelde in relation to the Belgian Relief Committee in his first book “Behind the Lines“, Millbrown Press, 2014, at p. 226 en 227:

“The Belgian Relief Committee had been founded in the late summer by a “few modest Belgians and their sympathizers,” according to one magazine article. At its head was Rev. J. F. Stillemans, a Catholic priest of Belgian birth …
Stillemans got involved in trying to
help the Belgian refugees and became the president of the Belgian Relief Committee. The chairman of the executive committee, and the real power behind the group, was Robert W. de Forest, the vice president of the American Red Cross. During a vacation in Europe that was interrupted by the start of the war, he had seen the Belgian devastation. When he returned home he started the group outside the confines of the Red Cross.  The Belgian members of de Forest’s organization included the Belgian consul in New York, the Belgian minister to the United States, and a well-to-do patron, Madame Vandervelde. …
She had become a darling of New York City, and the country, when she announced she would not go home until she had collected $1 million to aid her country.”

 

“Sacks are full of memories. Every sack cherishes a precious and vulnerable story.”

My sincere thanks to Dr. Ingrid De Meûter and Ria Cooreman of the Royal Art & History Museum in Brussels. They gave me the opportunity to study the museum’s WWI collection of flour sacks, the so-called “Errera Collection”, which includes two unprocessed flour sacks from the Madame Vandervelde Fund, on February 21, 2020.

[1] Vandervelde, Lalla, Monarchs and Millionaires. London: Thornton Butterworth Limited, 1925

[2] L’écho belge- journal quotidien du matin paraissant à Amsterdam, December 16, 1914

[3] Le XXsiecle: journal d’union et d’action catholique, January 16, 1915; translated from French

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