100 Years Ago News from the Bloomington, Evening World Tuesday, August 14, 1917

100 Years Ago News from the Bloomington, Evening World Tuesday, August 14, 1917

Ready For War–

“Although it is the operators’ capital that is operating the mines, the supply of coal is a public commodity and, fundamentally, belongs to the public.”

Not a declaration from Eugene V. Debbs (Indiana’s socialist radical of the era) but rather a quote from a statement from the office of Indiana Governor Goodrich in which it was announced that the shocking rise in coal prices since war had been declared would be dealt with decisively – the federal government would set the production costs for the mines and the state legislatures would regulate the middlemen. Goodrich’s office also announced that a special session of the state legislature would be called to deal with the issue and accused the coal industry of hampering the war effort and endangering the lives and businesses of Indiana’s citizens.

As shocking as this seems it was not the main headline on August 14, 1917. Instead the banner headline was “Battery F May Go To France.” A somewhat underwhelming statement when you think about it. If they weren’t possibly going to France, then what were they training for? Indeed the accompanying article does not announce a date for deployment but merely that It had been announced that the second deployment to France would be composed of the national guardsmen of 26 states of which Indiana was one. It was important though, to personalize the war news with the mention of the “hometown” unit. In related news another article described the conditions at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Battery F’s next stop for training after Fort Benjamin Harrison. It was declared “to be best in south” and special care was taken in describing the hospital, quartermasters and other facilities and the general welfare committee. With the Civil War still clinging to living memory, maybe some Indiana parents required reassurance about their sons being sent to the Deep South.

Two further short notices give an even more personal view on the war. Carl Corman of Ellettsville, who was very careful to give both his middle name (Martin) and his draft number (246) wrote in to the paper to make a correction that he did not claim an exemption in the draft, as was previously reported. This confirms in my mind that the main reason for publishing all the names of the men who were called up along with their status was public shaming. (I would like to note here that starting on the previous day, August 13, the paper stopped reporting about men being called up and the number of those passed, rejected and claiming exemptions and started reporting only the number of previously claimed exemptions granted: 45 on August 13 and 25 on August 14. Presumably this round of the draft had been completed.) In another short notice regarding the war, Roy Singleton announced that having been “drawn on the draft and filed not claim for exemption” he had left his employment at the Showers Factory and was visiting relatives in Martinsville while “awaiting his call to the colors” (a turn of phrase which to me also recalls the Civil War.)


The featured photo is from this edition of the Evening World, but it is from a national article about the training of soldiers, so neither Battery F not their training grounds are show.

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