July 25, 1917: Busy day in Duluth on the war effort front

On this day in Duluth in 1917, local news was dominated by events concerning the effort to recruit and support soldiers to fight in Europe in what would become known as World War I. July 25 marked another successful day of the “Flag Parade,” a week-long fund-raising event that featured prominent citizens carrying a very large American flag down Superior street—holding the banner parallel to the roadway—as onlookers tossed coins into the flag. That day the parade raised $513, roughly $9,750 in today’s dollars. The effort wrapped up on Friday the 27th with 15,000 people gathering in Lake Shore Park. While the newspaper did not say how much money was raised, it did quip that “Duluth soldiers are going to France as millionaires.” Those soldiers would include 760 freshly recruited troops—800 had signed up, the paper said, forty had been rejected “because of physical disability.” Meanwhile twelve local men were convicted  for being “slackers”—refusing to register for the draft. All were recent immigrants from Finland or Austria; nine plead guilty and three were found guilty by a jury while two others were freed because they proved they were more than thirty years old. That brought the local total of cases disposed to 30, with 28 convictions. Each man was sentenced to thirty days in the Ramsey County Jail. Federal officials told the newspaper that the “Finns may be given a more severe penalty than the Austrians because they refused to register…after the law had been explained to them in their own language.” The Finns had demanded a written agreement “that they will not be forced to be soldiers before they would register.” [One Duluthian from Finland, Olli Kinkkonen, would later be accused of being a slacker; he was abducted, tarred and feathered, and hung from a tree in Lester Park.] Finally, soldiers mustered at the temporary “Camp McGonagle” in the shadows of Duluth’s ore docks hung an effigy of German military leader Paul von Hindenburg.

Newly drafted Duluthians parade in Duluth, 1918. (Image: University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library Archives and Special Collections)