“Fröbelen” with a Mons’ diptych

In Mons in the Belgian province of Hainaut, the Mons Memorial Museum (MMM) has a collection of nine decorated WWI flour sacks. The curator, Corentin Rousman, sent me the photo of a special diptych of decorated flour sacks in the museum’s depot.

Diptych of decorated flour sacks: “Portland, The Jobes Milling Co., St. Johns, Oregon” and “Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone County, Idaho” at the Mons Memorial Museum. Collection MMM

The decorated flour sacks in the Mons’ diptych are:
Left: “PORTLAND, The Jobes Milling Co., St. Johns, Portland, Oregon”;
Right: “Belgium Relief donated by Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County, Idaho, U.S.A.

The diptych was due for restoration and according to information from the museum (autumn 2019) it would be restored in the restoration studio of TAMAT in Tournai.

View of St. Johns across the Willamette River. The Jobes Milling Co. is the lighter building on the left front of the river. Photo: Pdx.History.com website

The left panel of the Mons’ diptych: “Portland, The Jobes Milling Co.” 

Diptych, left panel. Decorated flour sack “PORTLAND, The Jobes Milling Co., St. Johns, Portland, Oregon”, embroidered. Coll. MMM

The flour sack from St. Johns, a place located next to the port city of Portland, Oregon, bears a powerful image of a steamship surrounded by knotted ship rope. The printing is carefully embroidered. The patriotic element in the embroidery is the color combination red, yellow, black.

Grain Vessels from all parts of the world in Portland Harbor, circa 1910. Photo: City of Portland Archives Image 002.2042 from George Kramer’s report, p. 15

Portland was known as an important port in the western US, from where grain was shipped to destinations around the world. The Panama Canal, which opened in August 1914, shortened the distance to Europe by 8,000 nautical miles. The history of the significance of grain for this port city is described in the report ‘Grain, Flour and Ships. The Wheat Trade in Portland, Oregon’ by George Kramer,  April 2019.

The “The Jobes Milling Co.” mill in St. Johns, Portland, Ore. Photo: Pdx.History.com website

The Jobes Milling Co. was founded in 1904 by William Van Zant Jobes, he died in 1907, after which two sons continued the company. Allan R. Jobes was the owner in the period 1914-1918, he must have been the one to have contributed to food aid for Belgium. The mill’s building was demolished in 1930.

Jersey Street in St. Johns, early 1900. Photo: website Pdx.History.com

The right panel of the Mons’ diptych: “Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County”

Diptych panel on the right. Decorated flour sack “Belgium Relief donated by Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County, Idaho, U.S.A.”, embroidered. Coll. MMM

Shoshone County, located in Wallace, was the governing body of the mining district “Coeur d” Alene” in the state of Idaho. The area had a modest start as a goldmining district in the early 1880s. However, it was not long before the enormous potential of silver mines was discovered; the district quickly developed into “Silver Valley”.

Miners of the silver mine in Kellogg, Shoshone County, Idaho. Photo: Idaho Mines, website miningartifacts.org

In 1914, a collection effort for Belgian Relief took place, after which flour in sacks with this printing was sent to Belgium.

Crowned Belgian lion in cross stitches embroidered on the flour sack “Coeur d’Alene Mining District”. Coll. MMM

The crowned Belgian lion in cross stitches
The flour sack “Coeur d’Alene” has its lettered print emphasized by decorative embroidery. The embroiderer has added two designs of her own: the year 1917 decorated with ribbon and the patriotic addition of the Belgian lion.

The Belgian lion wears a golden yellow crown, the embroidery is executed in cross stitches. This is remarkable and refers to a young embroiderer who made the embroidery at school.

Decorated flour sack “American Commission”, embroidered: “Thanks Anderlecht Brussels”. Coll. HHPLM

Similar crowned Belgian lions in cross stitches are found on embroidered flour sacks in other collections with reference to embroiderers and schools. Marcus Eckhardt, curator of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, drew my attention to this phenomenon.

Three fine examples of embroidered flour sacks in their collection are:

Decorated flour sack “American Commission”, embroidered: “Hommage et remerciements d’ Anderlecht 14-15”. Coll. HHPLM. Photo: A. Bollaert

American Commission” with the embroidery “Thanks Anderlecht Brussel“;

“American Commission” with the embroidery “Hommage et remerciements d’Anderlecht” with a coat of arms bearing the years 14-15, flanked by two Belgian lions [1];

Decorated flour sack “American Commission”, embroidered with Belgian coat of arms. Signature S. Dufour. Coll. HHPLM

American Commission” with the embroidery of the Belgian coat of arms, black with yellow, crowned Belgian lion, signed “S. Dufour, Ecole moyenne de St. Gilles, Brussels”.



A private collection in Belgium contains the cardboard embroidery book of “Maria Louis”, she was a student at the Ecole Normale de la Ville de Liège in the ‘Cours normal Fröbel 2e année pour le diplôme d’institutrice gardienne’.

Cross stitched embroidery on cardboard in the album of Maria Louis, “Cours normal Fröbel”, second year, teacher training for pre-school education in Liège, 1920

Apparently one of the exercises in the book was a cross stitched pattern of the Belgian lion. Thanks to Frieda Sorber, former curator of MoMu-Fashion Museum Antwerp, who sent me the photo. She saw this educational embroidery on cardboard in an album, created during the teacher training for pre-school education in Liège, 1920.

Cours normal Fröbel” was a title that required further investigation. Until now, I only knew the Dutch expression “fröbelen” or “froebelen” as a verb in the sense of “non-committal work, taking part in silliness“. I have considered my interest and working on “sacks”, especially in the early days, as a passion in “froebelen“, in this somewhat derogatory meaning.

Friedrich Froebel. Photo: Friedrich-Froebel-Museum website

But here’s what the Liège embroidery in the cardboard book has taught me: Friedrich Froebel (1782-1853) was a German pedagogue of Romanticism, famous as a nursery teacher, theoretician behind “playful learning” [2]. Parents and educators were extremely enthusiastic about the braiding, folding, modeling, cutting, singing and weaving. In 1925, for example, the city of Amsterdam already had fifteen Froebel schools!

Playful learning. “Fröbelen” with a Mons diptych. Again, this blog was created in the spirit of Friedrich Froebel!


[1] The decorated flour sacks from Anderlecht, Brussels, come from the ‘Ecole Libre des Sœurs de Notre Dame Anderlecht’, still an educational institute.

[2] According to Bakker, Noordman et al., “Vijf eeuwen opvoeden in Nederland. Idee en praktijk 1500-2000. (Five centuries of parenting in the Netherlands. Idea and practice 1500-2000)“. Assen, Van Gorcum, 2010.
See also “Fröbelen“, meaning and definition (in Dutch) by Ewoud Sanders, language historian and journalist.

The Friedrich-Froebel-Museum is located in Bad Blankenburg, Germany.


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


Fröbelen met een Bergen’s tweeluik

In Bergen (Mons) heeft het Mons Memorial Museum (MMM) een collectie van negen versierde WWI-meelzakken. De conservator, Corentin Rousman, zond me de foto van een bijzonder tweeluik van een versierde meelzak in het depot van het museum.

Tweeluik van versierde meelzak: ‘Portland, The Jobes Milling Co., St. Johns, Oregon’ (‘recto’) en ‘Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone County, Idaho’ (‘verso’) in het Mons Memorial Museum. Collectie MMM

De oorspronkelijke meelzak*) is op de naden losgetornd en opengevouwen, zodat het bewerkt kon worden tot een tweeluik:
Links:  ‘PORTLAND, The Jobes Milling Co., St. Johns, Portland, Oregon’ (‘recto’)
Rechts: ‘Belgium Relief donated by Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County, Idaho, U.S.A.’. (‘verso’)

Het tweeluik was aan restauratie toe en volgens informatie van het museum (najaar 2019) zou het hersteld worden in het restauratie-atelier van TAMAT in Doornik (Tournai).

Zicht op St. Johns over de Willamette River. The Jobes Milling Co. is het lichte gebouw linksvoor aan de rivier. Foto: website Pdx.History.com

Het linkerpaneel van het Bergen’s tweeluik: ‘Portland’, The Jobes Milling Co.

Tweeluik, linker paneel. Versierde meelzak ‘PORTLAND, The Jobes Milling Co.,/Coeur d’ Alene, Shoshoune County; geborduurd. Coll. MMM

Op de meelzak uit St. Johns, een plaats gelegen naast de havenstad Portland in de staat Oregon staat een krachtig beeldmerk van een stoomschip omringd met geknoopt scheepstouw. De bedrukking is nauwkeurig overgeborduurd. In het borduurwerk is het patriottisch element, de kleurencombinatie rood, geel, zwart.

Graanschepen van alle delen van de wereld in de haven van Portland, rond 1910. Foto: City of Portland Archives Image 002.2042 uit rapport George Kramer, p.15

Portland stond bekend als een belangrijke haven in het westen van de VS, waaruit graan werd vervoerd naar bestemmingen over de hele wereld. Het Panamakanaal, dat in augustus 1914 was geopend, bekortte de afstand naar Europa met 8000 zeemijlen. De historie van de betekenis van graan voor deze havenstad staat beschreven in het rapport ‘Grain, Flour and Ships. The Wheat Trade in Portland, Oregon’ van George Kramer, april 2019.

De maalderij ‘The Jobes Milling Co.’ in St.Johns, Portland, Ore. Foto: website Pdx.History.com

The Jobes Milling Co. was in 1904 door William Van Zant Jobes opgericht, hij overleed in 1907, waarna twee zoons het bedrijf voortzetten. In de periode 1914-1918 was Allan R. Jobes de eigenaar, hij zal hebben bijgedragen aan de voedselhulp voor België. In 1930 is het gebouw van de maalderij gesloopt.

Jersey Street in St. Johns, begin 1900. Foto: website Pdx.History.com

Het rechterpaneel van het Bergen’s tweeluik: Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County

Tweeluik paneel rechts. Versierde meelzak ‘PORTLAND, The Jobes Milling Co.,/Coeur d’ Alene, Shoshoune County’; geborduurd. Coll. MMM

Shoshone County, gevestigd in de plaats Wallace, was het bestuursorgaan van het mijndistrict ‘Coeur d’ Alene’, in de staat Idaho. Het gebied kende begin 1880 een bescheiden start als gouddistrict. Het duurde echter niet lang of het enorme potentieel van zilvermijnen werd ontdekt en het district ontwikkelde zich snel tot ‘Silver Valley’.

Mijnwerkers van de zilvermijn in Kellogg, Shoshone County, Idaho. Foto: Idaho Mines, website miningartifacts.org

In 1914 zal een geldinzameling hebben plaatsgevonden voor Belgian Relief, met welk geld in Portland bij St. Job’s Milling Co. meel is gekocht, die het heeft verpakt in zakken met een extra bedrukking, waarna de lading naar België is verscheept.

Gekroonde Belgische leeuw in kruissteken geborduurd op de meelzak ‘Coeur d’Alene Mining District’. Collectie MMM

De gekroonde Belgische leeuw
Op de zijde ‘Coeur d’Alene’ is de print van de letters met sierborduurwerk benadrukt. De borduurster heeft twee eigen ontwerpen toegevoegd: het jaartal 1917 in kader met lint versierd én de patriottische toevoeging van de Belgische leeuw.

De Belgische leeuw draagt een goudgele kroon, het geheel is in kruissteek uitgevoerd. Dat is opmerkelijk en verwijst naar een jonge borduurster die op school het borduurwerk zal hebben gemaakt.

Versierde meelzak ‘American Commission’, geborduurd: ‘Thanks Anderlecht Brussel’. Coll. HHPLM

Gelijksoortige gekroonde Belgische leeuwen in kruissteken komen namelijk voor op geborduurde meelzakken in andere collecties met verwijzing naar borduursters en scholen.

Marcus Eckhardt, conservator van het Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, maakte me hierop attent.
Drie fraaie voorbeelden van geborduurde meelzakken in hun collectie zijn:

Versierde meelzak ‘American Commission’, geborduurd: ‘Hommage et remerciements d’ Anderlecht 14-15′. Coll. HHPLM. Foto: A. Bollaert

‘American Commission’ met het borduurwerk ‘Thanks Anderlecht Brussel’;

‘American Commission’ met het borduurwerk ‘Hommage et remerciements d’Anderlecht’ met een wapenschild voorzien van de jaartallen 14-15, geflankeerd door twee Belgische leeuwen[1];

Versierde meelzak ‘American Commission’, geborduurd met Belgisch wapen. Signering S. Dufour. Coll. HHPLM

‘American Commission’ met het borduurwerk van het wapen van België, zwart met gele, gekroonde, Belgische leeuw, gesigneerd S. Dufour, Ecole moyenne de St. Gilles, Bruxelles.



In een particuliere collectie in België bevindt zich het kartonnen borduurboek van ‘Maria Louis’, zij volgde onderwijs op de Ecole Normale de la Ville de Liège in de ‘Cours normal Fröbel 2e année pour le diplôme d’institutrice gardienne’.

Borduurwerk op karton in het album van Maria Louis, ‘Cours normal Fröbel’, tweede jaar, lerarenopleiding voor kleuteronderwijs in Luik, 1920

Een van de oefeningen in het boek was klaarblijkelijk een in kruissteken geborduurde, Belgische leeuw. Dank aan Frieda Sorber, oud-conservator van MoMu Antwerpen, die me de foto toestuurde. Zij zag dit leerzame borduurwerk op karton in een album, gemaakt in de lerarenopleiding voor kleuteronderwijs in Luik, 1920.

‘Cours normal Fröbel’ was een benaming die om nader onderzoek vroeg. Ik kende het begrip  ‘fröbelen’ of ‘froebelen’ tot op heden alleen als werkwoord in de betekenis van ‘vrijblijvend bezig zijn, zich met onnozelheden bezighouden‘. Mijn interesse en werken aan ‘zakken’ heb ik, zeker in de begintijd, beschouwd als passie in ‘fröbelen’, in deze wat besmuikte betekenis.

Friedrich Fröbel. Foto: website Friedrich-Froebel-Museum

Maar ziehier wat het Luikse borduurwerk in het boek van karton mij leert: Friedrich Fröbel (1782-1853) was een Duits pedagoog van de Romantiek, beroemd geworden als kleuterpedagoog, theoreticus achter het spelend leren. [2] Ouders en opvoedkundigen waren buitengewoon enthousiast over het vlechten, vouwen, boetseren, knippen, zingen en weven. In 1925 telde de stad Amsterdam bijvoorbeeld al vijftien Fröbelinrichtingen!

Spelend leren. Fröbelen met een Bergen’s tweeluik. Ook dit blog kwam wederom tot stand in de geest van Friedrich Fröbel!


*) Een identieke, onbewerkte meelzak bevindt zich in de collectie van Musée de la Vie wallonne, Luik

[1] De versierde meelzakken uit Anderlecht, Brussel, zijn afkomstig van de ‘Ecole Libre des Sœurs de Notre Dame Anderlecht’, een instituut dat nog altijd onderwijs verzorgt.

[2] Volgens Bakker, Noordman e.a., ‘Vijf eeuwen opvoeden in Nederland. Idee en praktijk 1500-2000’. Assen, Van Gorcum, 2010.
Zie ook ‘Fröbelen’, betekenis en definitie door Ewoud Sanders, taalhistoricus en journalist.
Het Friedrich-Fröbel-Museum is gevestigd in Bad Blankenburg, Duitsland.

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

Belgian embroiderers in Mons

My search for one specific image: women who are actually embroidering flour sacks has been successful! This is the photo: two Belgian embroiderers holding embroidery needles and the flour sacks they were working on.

Decorated flour sacks from WWI: Belgian embroiderers in Mons

The ladies were posing for the photographer with a series of original printed, unprocessed flour sacks in the background, probably in 1915. The location was Mons, the capital of the province of Hainaut. The women were committed to the charity work for prisoners of war, the “Mallette du Prisonnier”.

May 4, 2020, Monday afternoon, the long-sought photo ended up in my mailbox, sent spontaneously by Rob Troubleyn. What a gift! Rob Troubleyn is a specialist in the history of the Belgian Army during WWI at the In Flanders Fields’ Knowledge Center in Ypres. Rob is one of the leaders of the “100 years of the First World War” project of VRT NWS, the news service of the Flemish Radio and Television broadcaster. During my research in the Knowledge Center, June 2019, we had met and exchanged contact details. It resulted in this great surprise.

This book contains the photo on p. 109

The photo is printed in the book “La Wallonie dans la Grande Guerre 1914-1918” by Mélanie Bost & Alain Colignon (CEGESOMA), published in the series “Ville en Guerre” at Renaissance du Livre in 2016.
The photo itself is solidly archived in the Musée de la Vie Wallonne in Liège, so it was not hidden in a dusty archive or stored in a box in the attic!

“Mallette du Prisonnier”
In Mons, the prisoners of war relief had been organized by the “Committee de la Mallette du Soldat Belge Prisonnier en Allemagne“, abbreviated <mallette du prisonnier> (literally translated “prisoner’s suitcase”). Several local newspaper reports referred to this in the fall of 1915.

The atmosphere of a game of bounce (jeu de balle) in Charleroi. Photo: Catawiki, Postcards 1900-1940

Sports competitions were organized, such as football, cycling, athletics and bounce (“jeu de balle”), the proceeds of which were for this good cause. [1]

Selling unprocessed and decorated flour sacks would also have been part of the money collection as is shown in the photo.

The photo with caption on p. 109 in the book “La Wallonie dans la Grande Guerre 14-18”

The caption to the photo reads: “Jeunes femmes au service de l’œuvre <La mallette du prisonnier> composant des caisses de vivres à destination des prisonniers de guerre, Mons, 1915. La <mallette du prisonnier> est une émanation de l’ Agence belge de renseignement.
(Young women employed in the work <La mallette du prisonnier> assemble crates of food intended for prisoners of war, Mons, 1915. “La mallette du prisonnier” is part of the Belgian “Information Agency”).

The “Work of the Prisoners of War” was organized locally throughout Belgium. The aim was to raise money and donations in kind to help Belgian prisoners of war in Germany. It took care of shipments of clothing and food. The organization consisted of a group of dedicated (young) ladies and gentlemen who came together to compile and send packages. Thousands of packages of clothing and foodstuffs were shipped to Germany every year. All towns and villages took care of the prisoners from their own community. (See my blog “Een geborduurde Paaszak in Gent: hulp aan krijgsgevangenen“)


Belgian embroiderers in Mons. Photo: La Wallonie dans la Grande Guerre 14-18

The caption of the photo doesn’t properly describe what is actually visible in the photo, namely four young women, two of whom have flour sack embroidery in hand, decorated with empty, unprocessed flour sacks. On the table is a box, “the suitcase”, which the standing woman is filling. The seated woman, on the right, is holding a book, probably the notebook in which orders were written. At the “Caisse de Vivres” the benefactors could buy or donate their packages weighing two kilograms for three francs and five kilos for six francs, it says on the “Mallette du Prisonnier” placard.

Four small flags, of which I recognize the Belgian and American, confirm the patriotic background of the activity.

Photo collage of flour sacks identical to the ones on the photo of “Belgian embroiderers in Mons”

The flour sack prints are very recognizable. Processed and unprocessed flour sacks with these prints can be found in public and private collections, both in Belgium and the US. [2]

On the left, the lady on the chair has a backrest, a “Sperry Mills American Indian” flour sack, very popular amongst collectors, as much in 1915 as now in 2020. A sack “Aux Héroiques Belges de la part de leurs Amis Vancouver Canada, Hard Wheat Flour British Columbia Patent 98 LBS” is hanging from the table. On the left wall are two flour sacks “CASCADIA Portland Roller Mills, Portland, Oregon” and “American Consul The Rockefeller Foundation Belgium Relief War Relief Donation FLOUR 49 LBS net“. In the center above the table we see the flour sack “Contributed by the People of Kentucky and Southern Indiana USA through The Louisville Herald“. To the right of that I distinguish the flour sack “Contributed by the People of Indiana USA“, collected by the Indianapolis Star newspaper for the Belgian Relief Fund. On the top right wall a flour sack “Hanford Roller Mills, HG Lacey Company, Hanford, California” has been hung. Underneath is a flour sack “Donated by Belgian Food Relief Committee, Chicago, U.S.A.” Finally, I see behind the standing young woman a “Chicago’s Flour Gift” sack, collected by the “Chicago Evening Post“.

The two flour sacks in the hands of the embroiderers are currently not identifiable to me.

Exhibition “Sacs américains brodés”: decorated flour sacks
In early 1916, embroidered flour sacks were exhibited in Mons in a shop window.

Le Quotidien, January 8, 1916

In Mons. The “prisoner exhibition”. – Since a few days we can admire a shiny decor of fine woodwork and scarlet fabrics in the Mali windows in the Rue de la Chaussée in Mons, in which artworks are presented, paintings, watercolors, photography, pyrography, tin, brass and relief leather, embroidered flour sacks, various kinds of lace, embroidery, etc. All this together is the ‘Exhibition of the Mons prisoner’; everyone contributed to the constitution. Men and women, children and old people, rich and poor, they all turned out to be artists!” [3]

Mons Memorial Museum
The Mons Memorial Museum has a collection of nine decorated WWI flour sacks. Curator Corentin Rousman previously sent me an overview photo of the museum’s permanent exhibition, which contains some WWI flour sacks.

Permanent display in Mons Memorial Museum. On the right side of the wall some decorated flour sacks in WWI. Mons Memorial Museum collection

Now that I take a closer look at this photo, I am delighted to see two flour sacks that are the same as the ones in the photo of the embroiderers: “Sperry Mills” and “Rockefeller Foundation“!

Coincidence or not, the decorated flour sacks in WWI continue to fascinate me!

My sincere thanks to Rob Troubleyn for sending the pictures!


[1] Le Bruxellois: August 13 and December 6, 1915; La Belgique: journal publié pendant l’occupation sous la censure ennemie: September 9 and 16; October 14 and 20; November 5; December 5, 1915; January 25, 1916

[2] The photo collage contains eight flour sacks from the following collections:
CASCADIA Portland Roller Mills, Portland, Oregon: St. Edward’s University, Austin, Tx
Chicago’s Flour Gift, Chicago Evening Post, Illinois: Coll. Frankie van Rossem
Hanford Roller Mills, H. G. Lacey Company, Hanford, California: HHPLM
American Consul The Rockefeller Foundation: MRAH, Brussels
Contributed by the People of Kentucky and Southern Indiana: HHPLM
Sperry Mills American Indian, California: IFFM, Ypres
Aux Héroiques Belges de la part de leurs Amis Vancouver Canada: MRAH, Brussels
Contributed by the People of Indiana: WHI, Brussels

[3] Le Quotidien, January 8, 1916