Four years ago, I began researching the origin of decorated flour sacks in WWI.
In the Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, the Netherlands, my fascination originated as it allowed me to discover the existence of these sacks. It led to research questions, “Where in Belgium could I view embroidered flour sacks; which museums and public collections preserve WWI flour sacks?”
By now I have tracked down hundreds of decorated flour sacks. I have held many in my hands, I photographed them and processed their details in my “Register of WWI Flour Sacks”. A year and a half ago, in the blog “Belgian Collections in Figures 2020”, I reported on 235 registered flour sacks. Now I count 310 flour sacks in the register, an increase of over 30%.
Time for an update: this blog presents the key figures of the Belgian collections as of January 2022.
Are you interested in a particular section? Then please use the links to my dozens of previous stories on decorated flour sacks for more information.
Belgian public and private collections
17 public and 25 private collections collectively contain 310 WWI flour sacks, with 196 sacks (63%) in the public collections  and 114 sacks (37%) in the private collections.
Original and decorated flour sacks Original/unprocessed flour sacks are emptied flour sacks, which remained as they were, cotton sacks with original printing of colored letters, logos, pictorial marks and stamps.
Decorated flour sacks are the emptied flour sacks that have been transformed in Belgium into cushion covers, wall ornaments, runners, pouches, bags, tea hats, aprons, dresses, jackets, or pants.
In the Belgian collections, 130 (42%) flour sacks are original/unprocessed and 180 (58%) are decorated.
The distribution of original and decorated flour sacks in the public and private collections, respectively, shows considerable differences.
In absolute numbers the distribution is as follows:
Original flour sacks The public collections contain the largest part (87%) of the original/unprocessed flour sacks, while 13% of the original flour sacks are in private hands.
A 100 original flour sacks are kept in three museums: the Royal Art & History Museum (RAHM) in Brussels preserves 54 of these flour sacks, collected during the Great War by textile expert and collector Mrs. Isabella Errera.
The WHI/Royal Army Museum has several dozen original flour sacks in its collection.
Musée de la Vie wallonne (MVW) in Liège preserves the educational series of the Welsch collection: 12 original/unprocessed and 12 decorated flour sacks with the same print in each pair.
Both RAHM and MVW seem to have consciously collected original flour sacks. Material and original printing were the reasons for preservation. Monsieur Welsch defined the printings as embroidery patterns. Madame Errera captured used materials of cotton and jute, printing techniques, colors and logo designs from overseas.
Decorated flour sacks 46% of the decorated flour sacks are in public ownership and 54% in private ownership.
Throughout Belgium, many households have acquired and preserved one or more flour sacks as family heirlooms through grandparents or other family members. Knowledge and awareness of the history of the Belgian WWI flour sacks allows continued and increasing recognition of the country’s national heritage.
Active private collectors visit flee markets, garage sales, thrift and brocante stores, local and online auctions through which several collectors have built up wonderful flour sack collections.
The transfer of decorated flour sacks from private owners to public collections takes place in small steps.
The crafts Painting and embroidery were the main techniques used to decorate the flour sacks: 60 sacks were painted, 145 sacks were embroidered. Several sacks underwent both, they were first painted, then embroidered.
The countries of origin of the flour sacks are the United States and Canada. The original printing on the flour sacks provides this information.
Several decorated flour sacks lack the indication of origin because the original print was cut away in Belgium when flour sacks were transformed into wall hangings, tablecloths and table runners, bags, etc. They are included in the category “Unknown”.
Some (decorated) sacks are mistakenly labeled as “Belgian relief flour sacks”, they are not original “American” flour sacks. This is also the case for some embroideries made by Belgian prisoners of war. This is the category “Belgium”.
83% of the flour sacks have as their origin the USA, 11% are from Canada and of 3% the origin is unknown.
Conclusion Thanks to the cooperation and help of many people, I was able to collect the data of 310 American/ Belgian Relief flour sacks preserved in Belgium.
I expect that hundreds more sacks will have been preserved by Belgian families. They are well hidden in cupboards, attics, cellars, sometimes forgotten…
Sacks are full of memories. Every sack houses a fragile and precious story.
Many thanks to 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”.
Thanks to Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs.
 On my website under “Museums” the numbers of decorated flour sacks in Belgian collections are different for two reasons:
– a few publicly accessible institutions display flour sacks from private collections;
– I discovered the collection of 62 flour sacks of MAS Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp after writing this blog.
Vier jaar geleden startte ik het onderzoek naar de ontstaansgeschiedenis van de versierde meelzakken in WO I.
Het Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, Nederland, ontvouwde voor mij het bestaan van de zakken. Het leidde tot research vragen: “Waar in België zou ik geborduurde meelzakken kunnen bekijken; welke musea en openbare collecties bewaren meelzakken?”
De Vlaamse Topstukkenlijst bevat negen meelzakken, acht in publiek bezit (in collectie In Flanders Fields Museum) en een in privébezit. In 2016 was de motivatie voor het veiligstellen van dit cultureel erfgoed: ‘Het gaat om één van de weinige materiële getuigen van de voedselhulp tijdens Wereldoorlog I daar er weinig dergelijke geborduurde bloemzakken in publieke collecties in ons land te vinden zijn.’
Inmiddels heb ik honderden versierde meelzakken opgespoord. Vele heb ik in handen gehad en gefotografeerd, hun gegevens verwerkt in mijn ‘Register van Meelzakken WO I’. Anderhalf jaar geleden rapporteerde ik in het blog ‘Belgische collecties in cijfers 2020’, over 235 geregistreerde meelzakken. Nu tel ik in het register 310 meelzakken, een toename van ruim 30%.
Tijd voor een update: dit blog presenteert de kerncijfers van de Belgische collecties in januari 2022.
Ben je geïnteresseerd in een bepaald onderdeel? Laat je dan leiden via de links naar mijn tientallen eerdere verhalen over de versierde meelzakken.
Belgische publieke en privécollecties versierde meelzakken WO I
17 publieke en 25 privécollecties bevatten gezamenlijk 310 meelzakken, waarvan 196 zakken (63%) in de publieke collecties  en 114 zakken (37%) in de privécollecties.
Onbewerkte en bewerkte meelzakken Onbewerkte meelzakken zijn geleegde meelzakken, die bleven zoals ze waren,katoenen zakken met originele bedrukking van gekleurde letters, logo’s, beeldmerken en stempels.
Bewerkte meelzakken zijn de geleegde meelzakken die in België zijn getransformeerd tot kussenhoes, wandversiering, loper, etui, tas, theemuts, schort, jurkje, jas, broek.
In de Belgische collecties zijn 130 (42%) meelzakken onbewerkt en 180 (58%) bewerkt.
De verdeling van onbewerkte en bewerkte meelzakken in de publieke, respectievelijk de particuliere collecties, levert aanmerkelijke verschillen op.
In absolute aantallen is de verdeling:
Onbewerkte meelzakken De publieke collecties bevatten met 87% het overgrote deel van de onbewerkte meelzakken, 13% van de onbewerkte meelzakken is in privébezit.
In KMKG/MRAH en Musée de la Vie wallonne is dus sprake van bewuste collectie-vorming van onbewerkte meelzakken. Materiaal en originele bedrukking zijn de redenen geweest voor bewaring. Madame Errera legde gebruikte materialen van katoen en jute, druktechnieken, kleuren en logo ontwerpen van overzee vast. Monsieur Welsch definieerde de bedrukkingen als borduurpatronen.
Bewerkte meelzakken Van de bewerkte meelzakken is 46% in publiek bezit en 54% in privébezit.
Doorheen België zijn in vele huishoudens door overlevering van grootouders/familie een of enkele meelzakken verkregen en bewaard gebleven als familie-erfgoed. Kennis van versierde meelzakken in WO I maakt herkenning van het erfgoed mogelijk.
Actieve verzamelaars bezoeken markten, kringloop- en brocante winkels, lokale en online veilingen en hebben op deze wijze prachtige verzamelingen opgebouwd.
De overdracht van versierde meelzakken door particulieren aan een museum of historische kring vindt druppelsgewijze plaats.
De bewerkingen Schilderen en borduren waren de belangrijkste bewerkingen waarmee de meelzakken zijn versierd: 60 zakken zijn beschilderd, 145 zakken zijn geborduurd. Een aantal zakken heeft beide bewerkingen ondergaan, ze zijn eerst beschilderd, daarna geborduurd.
In privécollecties is 32% van de meelzakken beschilderd (bijvoorbeeld de beschilderde meelzakken in Dendermonde) en 62% geborduurd.
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.
Op een aantal bewerkte meelzakken ontbreekt de herkomstaanduiding, omdat de originele print is weggeknipt bij de transformatie van meelzakken in België tot wandkleed, loper, tasje, etc. Ze zijn opgenomen in de categorie ‘Onbekend’.
De categorie met herkomst ‘België’ zijn zakken die abusievelijk als ‘Amerikaanse meelzakken’ worden bestempeld, maar hun oorsprong niet als meelzak hebben. In de categorie ‘België’ vallen ook enkele borduurwerken die door Belgische krijgsgevangenen zijn gemaakt.
83% van de meelzakken heeft als herkomst de VS, 11% is afkomstig uit Canada en van 3% is de herkomst onbekend.
Conclusie Dankzij de bewustwording en medewerking van velen zijn in vier jaar tijd de gegevens van 310 versierde meelzakken in WO I in België bij elkaar gebracht.
Ik verwacht dat er nóg honderden zakken door Belgische families bewaard zullen zijn. Ze liggen goed opgeborgen in de kast, op zolder, in de kelder, soms misschien vergeten…
Zakken zijn vol herinneringen. Iedere zak koestert een kostbaar en kwetsbaar verhaal.
Mijn grote dank aan 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.
 De pagina ‘Musea’ toont iets andere cijfers van versierde meelzakken in Belgische collecties dan beschreven in dit blog. Het verschil is te verklaren doordat:
– een aantal voor publiek toegankelijke instanties meelzakken tonen uit privé-collecties;
– ik een collectie van 62 meelzakken ontdekte in MAS Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerpen na het samenstellen van dit blog.
American wheat sales rose to unprecedented levels in the fall of 1914 due to the European war. The wheat exchange in Chicago made record sales through purchases from agents of the German and English governments.
Northwestern Elevator and Mill Company, Mount Vernon, Ohio
An Ohion newspaper headlined “Flour Mills busy” in October 1914. Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co.’s two largest mills, in Mount Vernon and Toledo, and National Milling Co. in Toledo, coped well with the large orders. They exported their entire production to Liverpool, Glasgow and Paris.
At the end of November, the mills made the newspapers again because of a humanitarian relief movement intended to help the population of occupied Belgium. The mills contributed to the relief effort of the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement, organized by the Minneapolitan trade journal Northwestern Miller.
Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co. immediately pledged 50 barrels of flour and invited the citizens of Mt. Vernon to contribute to the relief campaign by purchasing at least one sack of flour at cost price:
“The flour is to be shipped in heavy cotton bags containing forty-nine pounds. Anyone wishing to donate, can purchase flour from us at the cost price of $5.00 per barrel. No donations will be accepted for less than one forty-nine pound sack. … We will donate 50 barrels, and trust that enough more will be donated by our generous citizens to make the shipment from Mt. Vernon at least a car load of two hundred barrels.” (The Democratic Banner, 1 december 1914)
The call for aid made by Northwestern Elevator & Mill Co. was a success: a full train car with 820 sacks of flour (205 barrels) left for Philadelphia at the end of December to be delivered to SS South Point. The local organizing committee of Mt. Vernon thanked all donors through a newspaper article:
The Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement’s relief effort was successful throughout Ohio. Dozens of mills contributed for a total of 4,861 barrels of flour (equivalent to over 20 carloads, 19,444 sacks of 49 Lbs, 430 tons of flour). The Relief Report stated the following regarding Ohio’s mills:
Re-use of Ohio flour sacks in Belgium
Using cotton sacks was a necessary stimulus to the American cotton industry. The cotton sacks in which the flour was packed were intended for reuse in Belgium. The Belgian women and girls have gratefully made use of the cotton. After the sacks were emptied at the bakeries, they proceeded to make the sacks into clothes.
An example of a jacket made from a Northwestern Elevator & Mill flour sack is part of the collection of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library-Museum, West-Branch, Iowa (HHPL).
Most flour sacks are embroidered and embellished.
Belgian author Gilles wrote about a flour sack from Springfield, Ohio: Saturday 17 July 1915 The American sacks that contained the wheat flour for the Belgian National Relief and Nutrition Committee (CNSA) are particularly popular among collectors of war memories. The sacks are printed and the more characteristic the printing, the higher the sales price. A sack of 30 francs is printed with blue and red letters, the text reads in English:
From the city of Springfield, Ohio As a testimony of affection Our friends the Belgians To this heroic nation God bless it!
Besides the jacket, I have located four more copies of the flour sacks delivered in Belgium by the Miller’s Belgian Relief Movement.
Two embroidered flour sacks have been preserved:
One flour sack of the Moody & Thomas Milling Co., Peninsula (collection HHPL); the second of The National Milling Co., Toledo (Hoover Institution Archives collection, Stanford University, HIA).
Also, two original flour sacks have been preserved: one from Dewey Bros. Co., Blanchester (collection War Heritage Institute, Brussels (WHI)); the second of The National Milling Co., Toledo (collection HHPL 62.4.120).
OHIO Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers Six weeks later, another appeal was made to Ohioans. The Ohio Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers was founded on January 4, 1915 in Columbus. During a luncheon those present decided to raise supplies and money to help victims of the European war, with the support of State Board of Commerce staff.
President of the committee was E.D. Libbey from Toledo, treasurer E.R. Sharp from Columbus, Secretary O.K. Shimansky from Columbus.
The state of Ohio was home to European emigrants and their descendants from many countries; that is why the Commission made a broad effort to provide assistance to “European War Sufferers”. Priority was given to assistance to the Belgian population; the commission intended to secure a shipload of provisions for the Belgians to be moved early in February 1915.
The Ohio Woman’s Auxiliary: Mrs. Estelle Thompson, née Clark Although men were appointed to the committee, women carried out the work. The existing and well-managed women’s organizations started working centrally and locally. Communication proceeded through letters, calls and advertisements in the newspapers; orally at regular meetings of clubs, churches and schools.
The Ohio Woman’s Auxiliary was headed by Mrs. Estelle Godfrey Thompson, née Clark (Massillon, Stark County 13.02.1862 – Columbus 29.06.1945), wife of President William Oxley Thompson of Ohio State University in Columbus. Mrs. Wm. O. Thompson was a member of The Woman’s Section of The Commission for Relief in Belgium, serving both on the “Executive Co-operating Committee” as chair of the National Federation of College Women as the “State Chairmen” as chair of Ohio.
Estelle Clark Thompson descended from a well-to-do Cleveland family; she worked as a teacher of dramatics at Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. At the age of 32 she married William Thompson; she was his third wife; he was twice widowed and had two daughters from his first and two sons from his second marriage. Estelle Clark Thompson took care of the four young children; she remained childless herself. She played an active role in Ohio women’s organizations and campaigned for women’s rights: “Favors women suffrage”.
Mr. Brand Whitlock and Mrs. Ella Whitlock, née Brainerd During World War I, the diplomat Brand Whitlock (Urbana, Ohio, USA 04.03.1869 – Cannes, France 24.05.1934) was American minister plenipotentiary in Belgium seating in Brussels. He acted as patron of the international “Commission for Relief in Belgium” (CRB) and the Belgian National Relief Committee “Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation” (CNSA), the organizations that coordinated and implemented food relief for the population in occupied Belgium.
He lived in Brussels with his wife, Ella Whitlock, née Brainerd (Springfield, Ill. 25.09.1876 – Brewster, NY 11.07.1942). Ella Brainerd Whitlock worked energetically to help the Belgian population and closely collaborated with the Belgian women’s organizations.
Brand Whitlock felt connected to the state of Ohio. Before becoming a diplomat in 1914, he had been elected mayor of Toledo four times (1906-1914); he had worked there as a lawyer from 1897. Due to his connection with Ohio, he became member of the honorary advisory commission of the Ohio Commission for Relief of European War Sufferers. He successfully appealed to the American people to aid the Belgians with food.
As a result of their work, the Whitlocks received many gifts for their efforts, including decorated flour sacks.
After her husband passed away, Ella Brainerd Whitlock returned to the US. She donated many objects, including their interesting collection of flour sacks to the Champaign County Historical Society in Urbana and Toledo. The Champaign County Historical Society Museum in Urbana (CCHSM) preserves this collection. See also the blog: Flour sack trip from Urbana to Overijse
Flour sacks with portrait of Brand Whitlock Two flour sacks with Brand Whitlock’s portrait stand out.
The origin of flour sack no. 4001 is “American Commission”; the Belgian embroiderer added as texts: “A.S.E.M. Brand Whitlock, M. P. des Etats-Unis à Bruxelles; E Pluribus Unum; La Belgique Reconnaissante 1914-1915”. The portrait looks like a lithography, surrounded by an embroidered green laurel wreath; to the left and right of the portrait are embroideries of the Belgian and American flags; on the lower part of the flour sack the “Great Shield of the United States” is embroidered, along with the eagle with spread wings and the stars representing the thirteen original colonies of the US plus the text: “E Pluribus Unum”.
The other flour sack, no. 4003, bears the original print “Contributed by the People of Kentucky and Southern Indiana” via The Louisville Herald, produced by Louisville Milling Co, Louisville, KY. In Belgium, the sack had been printed with red letters: “A Son Excellence Monsieur Brand Whitlock, Ministre des Etats-Unis à Bruxelles. La Belgique entière acclame les Etats-Unis.” The flags of Belgium and the US are embroidered, as are the letters of the original print. The photo portrait of Brand Whitlock is colorized, signed “L. van Loo”. The photographer may presumably have been Leo Petrus Julius (Leon) van Loo (Sint-Joris-ten Distel 19.08.1841 – Cincinnati 10.01.1907) He was an art photographer born in Belgium, who emigrated to Ohio at the age of 15, following his Ghent teacher Charles Waldack. Waldack was able to emigrate to Cincinnati, because Leon van Loo’s father paid him in exchange for his son’s training as a photographer. Van Loo lived in Cincinnati for the rest of his life. It seems likely that he made a photo portrait of (a younger) Brand Whitlock in the US and that a print of the portrait ended up in his old hometown Ghent, Belgium, where it has been used for the flour sack(s).
State Ship SS Naneric CRB’s New York office contracted the British steamship Naneric as State Ship of Ohio. SS Naneric had made an earlier trip to Calcutta, India, and had to voyage from there to New York to take the cargo on board. On that 65-day voyage from Calcutta to New York, SS Naneric passed through the Suez Canal and was caught up in war. The battle it found itself in was between the Allied army, supported by fire from French and British cruisers, and a Turkish land force, commanded by German officers.
Captain Tulloch of the Naneric reported that his steamer entered the Suez Canal on February 1, 1915 but had not been allowed to proceed because of the battle. After days delay, the vessel was permitted to proceed to Port Said, protected with sandbags. On March 8, SS Naneric docked in Philadelphia.
The Ohio women’s fundraising campaigns were successful; trains brought carloads of flour to New York Harbor.
On March 27, SS Naneric departed from New York as the Ohio State Ship with the relief supplies on board and arrived in Rotterdam around April 20. The relief supplies were transferred to barges for transit to the Belgian villages and towns. By the end of April, the Belgian bakers were able to bake bread from the flour and the local population could taste the good gifts that the people of the state of Ohio had given for a second time.
With the emptied flour sacks, the Belgian women and girls could continue with their charitable work, transforming them into souvenirs.
Nine embroidered sacks, presumably from the State Ship Ohio, have been preserved.
A sack of “Bakoto Flour” from Bako Mills, Canton Feed and M’L’G Co., Canton, is in the Embassy of the United States of America in Belgium in Brussels;
Three preserved “Square Deal” sacks from The Gwinn Milling Co., Columbus are in the Musée de la Vie wallonne in Liège (one embroidered, one original), respectively in Mons Memorial Museum in Mons (one embroidered);
Five flour sacks “The Famous White Loaf Roller Flour” by Sunbury Mills, G.J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, are preserved in both a private collection in Belgium (98 Lbs) and in the United Kingdom (49 Lbs) (both embroidered): at the In Flanders Fields Museum (IFFM), Ypres (98 Lbs, embroidered, panel in folding screen); at the Royal Art & History Museum (RAHM), Brussels (49 Lbs, original sack, Tx 2648); at Hoover Institution Archives, Palo Alto, Ca. (24 1/2 Lbs embroidered).
Sunbury Mills, G. J. Burrer & Sons, Sunbury, Ohio The history of the Sunbury Mills mill is detailed on the website of the Big Walnut Historical Society located at the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury.
Gottleib Jacob (Jakie) Burrer (Germany, 03.01.1848 – Sunbury 18.02.1926) owned Sunbury Mills since 1875. It was a family business. He was married to Amy Ann Gammill; their sons Karl (age in 1914: 35), Paul (28), Rudolph (26) and Gordon (20) worked in the expanding business (including electricity generation and supply), which meant a lot to Sunbury. Sunbury Mills has been the longest operating mill in Sunbury. In 1945 the mill, which had meanwhile merged with the Condit Elevators, was sold to the Farm Bureau.
Charlotte Burrer, née Pagels: American Flour Sack Embroiderer in Ohio The youngest Burrer son, Gordon Jacob (Sunbury 02.02.1894 – Pleasant Ridge, Ohio, 04.07.1960) is a war veteran. He served in World War I, in 1917/18, as a captain in the US Army Infantry.
At the age of 35 he married Charlotte Grace Pagels (1895 – Hamilton, Ohio, July 2, 1991); they married on October 3,1929 at Pleasant Ridge, near Cincinnati. They had three children: Charlotte Amy, Gordon Jacob and Frederick Pagels. Charlotte Pagels Burrer’s grandparents had been German emigrants.
It inspired Charlotte to embroider exactly such a flour sack.
Back home in Ohio, she looked for a flour sack printed with the “White Loaf” brand at Sunbury Mills and got to work. A so-called ‘Replica’ of the flour sacks decorated in Belgium during WW I was born; it is proudly preserved in Sunbury’s Community Library.
Former Sunbury librarian, Mrs. Polly Horn, is now curator of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury. She published a photo of Charlotte’s embroidered flour sack in her “Burrer Mills” blog. Thanks to her I came into possession of a photo of this embroidery by an American flour sack embroiderer: Charlotte Pagels Burrer.
Embroidery of flour sacks in WW I: getting started
The embroidery of flour sacks in times of war and occupation has been a remarkable undertaking by Belgian women and girls in 1915/16. The recognition for their special work is recorded in the American booklet “Out of War. A Legacy of Art”.
The publication came about as a group project from the Red Cedar Questers, Iowa. Belle Walton Hinkhouse took the initiative and Joanne Evans Hemmingway led the project to bring about the release.
Two experienced embroidery teachers, Catherine Robinder and Angeline Hoover Shuh, analyzed the embroidery on the flour sacks.
They concentrated on decorations added by the Belgian women themselves and chose six copies for a reconstruction. The result are six embroidery patterns with detailed descriptions of threads used and embroidery stitches. Embroiderers receive instructions on which cloth to use for the pattern: you could use a sack, but that’s not necessary.
The embroidery patterns are:
Woman and sheep
Anyone who wants to, can get started! Just like Charlotte Grace Pagel’s Burrer did embroidering her Sunbury flour sack.
Decorated flour sacks can inspire even more creative crafts!
– Mrs. Polly Horn, curator of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury, Ohio, for the wealth of information she sent me about the Sunbury Mill and the Burrer family. She is the author of dozens of blogs on the Big Walnut Area Historical Society. Watch my program at YouTube: “Decorated Flour Sacks in WWI. From Aid to Embroidery in Ohio”.
Program of the Big Walnut Area Historical Society, Ohio. Mrs. Polly Horn, director of the Myers Inn Museum in Sunbury invited me to develop this presentation. Enjoy!
– Mrs. Cheryl Ogden, director, and Megan, intern, of the Champaign County Historical Society Museum;
– Hubert Bovens from Wilsele, Belgium, for his research into the biographical data of photographer Leon van Loo. – Georgina Kuipers for her attentive corrections to the English translations of my blogs.
 Edgar, William C., ‘The Millers’ Belgian Relief Movement 1914-15 conducted by The Northwestern Miller. Final Report of its director William C. Edgar, Editor of the Northwestern Miller, MCMXV’. Minneapolis, Minn. USA, 1915
 Gille, Louis, Ooms, Alphonse, Delandsheere, Paul, Cinquante Mois d’Occupation Allemande. Volume I 1914-1915. Brussels: Librairie Albert Dewit, 1919
 The two black and white photographs of Hoover Tower and the embroidered Sunbury Mills flour sack in HIA are from the book: Danielson, Elena S., Hoover Tower at Stanford University. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2018
 Hemingway, Joanne, Hinkhouse, Belle, Out of War. A Legacy of Art. West Branch, Iowa: Iowa State Questors, 1995.
“Out of War. A Legacy of Art” is available for purchase for $9.95 in the Gift Shop of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, Iowa, USA.
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.
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.
The left panel of the Mons’ diptych: “Portland, The Jobes Milling Co.”
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.
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.
The right panel of the Mons’ diptych: “Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County”
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”.
In 1914, a collection effort for Belgian Relief took place, after which flour in sacks with this printing was sent to Belgium.
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.
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:
“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 ;
“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”.
“Froebel” 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’.
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.
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” . 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!
 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.
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.
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).
Het linkerpaneel van het Bergen’s tweeluik: ‘Portland’, The Jobes Milling Co.
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.
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.
Het rechterpaneel van het Bergen’s tweeluik: Coeur d’Alene Mining District, Shoshone County
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’.
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.
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.
Gelijksoortige gekroonde Belgische leeuwen in kruissteken komen namelijk voor op geborduurde meelzakken in andere collecties met verwijzing naar borduursters en scholen.
‘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;
‘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.
Fröbelen 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’.
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.
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.  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
 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.’
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.
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.
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.
Sports competitions were organized, such as football, cycling, athletics and bounce (“jeu de balle”), the proceeds of which were for this good cause. 
Selling unprocessed and decorated flour sacks would also have been part of the money collection as is shown in the photo.
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“)
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.
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. 
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.
“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!” 
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.
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!
 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
 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