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Accession Number: 1916.15.1

Physical Description: Rectangular, embroidered, front portion of a flour sack. Flour sack is sewn to slightly larger silk backing. Embroidery is done in red, black, yellow, and orange satin floss thread. Border of red, black and yellow with geometric pattern in corners. At the top appear the flags of Belgium, United States, and France. A shield and banner appear below the flags and contain the message of thanks and name of orphanage.

History of Object: "The Commission for Relief in Belgium was established during the World War I under the chairmanship of Herbert Hoover, for the purpose of providing food relief to war torn Belgium. The CRB operated entirely with voluntary efforts and was able to feed 11,000,000 Belgians between 1914 and 1919 by raising the necessary money, obtaining voluntary contributions of food, shipping the food past the German submarine blockades and army occupied areas, and controlling the food distribution in Belgium.The CRB shipped 697,116,000 pounds of flour to Belgium and evidence indicates that sugar and grains were also sent. The flour was packaged in cotton bags by American mills. The movement of these bags throughout Belgium was carefully controlled by the CRB since cotton was in great demand for the manufacture of German ammunition and also because the CRB feared that the flour sacks would be taken out of Belgium, refilled with inferior flour, and resold as relief flour. As a result, the empty flour sacks were carefully accounted for and distributed to professional schools, sewing workrooms, convents, and individual artists.Separate from the trade schools of Belgium, the professional schools specialized in training girls to sew, embroider, and make lace, and the sewing workrooms were large centers established in the major Belgian cities during the war to provide work for the thousands of unemployed. Girls and women made famous Belgian lace, embroidered textiles and repaired and remade clothing in these workrooms.The flour sacks were used by these various Belgian groups to make new clothing, accessories, pillows, bags, and other functional items. Many women chose to embroider over the mill logo and the brand name of flour, but entirely original designs were sometimes created on the sacks and then embroidered, painted, or stenciled on the fabric. Frequent additions to the flour sacks were Belgian messages of gratitude to the Americans; embellishments of lace; the Belgian and American flags; the Belgian lion; the Gallic cock; the American eagle; symbols of peace, strength, and courage; the Belgian colors of red, yellow, and black; and the American colors of red, white, and blue. Artists, in particular, used the flour sacks as the canvas background for creating original oil paintings.Differences appear in the designs and messages of the embroidered and painted flour sacks, due to the fact that Belgium is composed of two distinct groups of people: the Walloons or French speaking people in the south and the Flemish or Dutch speaking population in the north.The completed flour sacks were carefully controlled and distributed to shops and organizations in Belgium, England, and the United States for the purpose of raising funds for food relief and to aid the prisoners of war. Many were also given as gifts to the member of the Commission for Relief in Belgium out of gratitude for the aid given the Belgian people." (http://hoover.archives.gov/exhibits/collections/featureditem/featureditem.html.) This flour sack was originally filled and sent to Belgium on the relief ship, Hannah. It was embroidered and returned to the Kansas Belgian Relief Fund in gratitude. It was displayed briefly in the window of Pelletier Stores Company before being donated to the Kansas State Historical Society.

Date: Between 1915 and 1916

Dimensions (in cm): 66.00 (H) 36.40 (W)

Marks/Inscriptions: [embroidered at top] 1915 / Dieu bÚnisse nos Bienfaiceurs [God Blesses Our Benefactors] / Orphelinat St Joseph [ St. Joseph Orphanage] / DES RELIGIEUSES / DE LA / PROVIDENCE [Nuns of Providence] / HOESSELT / EXCELSIOR / WATER MILL / VICTOR / PATENT / D. GERSTER, / BURLINGTON, KS. / BEMIS KANSAS CITY ||

Index Terms

Associations and Subjects

    Event: World War, 1914-1918
    Business / Organization: Commission for Relief in Belgium
    Individual: Eastman, Phil
    Origin, Place of: Hoesselt (Belgium)
    Business / Organization: Kansas Belgian Relief Fund
    Origin, Place of: Coffey County (Kan.)
    Activity / Occupation: Agriculture
    Origin, Place of: Belgium
    Origin, Place of: Burlington (Kan.)
    Theme/topic: Hannah (relief ship)
    Theme/topic: War relief

Creators and Contributors

    Gielen, Carolina
    Excelsior Water Mill
    D. Gerster

Status: Cataloged

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