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Gas-mask

Gas Masks

With the onset of World War II many world leaders were concerned about chemical warfare becoming a factor in in the war. This fear led to massive manufacturing and distribution of various types of gas masks. The anxiety of chemical warfare came from World War I when tens of thousands of tons of deadly chemicals were used to gain an edge in the fighting. An estimated 1.4 million people were killed by these deadly attacks, many of them being civilians.

British Civilians during World War II

British Civilians during World War II

Once World War II had begun, many countries handed out gas masks to civilians. Every British civilian was issued a gas mask for fear that Germany would perpetrate a chemical attack. Many civilians in countries like France, Australia, and the United States were issued gas masks as well. The gas mask in the picture below was a standard issue civilian gas mask in the United States; many other countries used this model to protect their citizens against chemical attacks, as well.

A MIA2-1-1 Civilian Gas Mask

A MIA2-1-1 Civilian Gas Mask

There is one major problem in gas masks from this time period; many use a filtration system that has asbestos in it. Asbestos is a material that is known to cause mesothelioma and is a very dangerous substance. Ten percent of workers in gas mask facilities during World War II would eventually succumb to mesothelioma. A tragic irony of history, the gas masks designed to save lives could actually take them away.

Examples of the Nancy Ann Dolls at the Museum.  Note the "sleep eyes" on the plastic Native American doll to the left and the original, gold "Nancy Ann" tag on Cinderella's right arm.

Courage, Creativity, and Imagination: A Doll Story

 

Examples of the Nancy Ann Dolls at the Museum.  Note the "sleep eyes" on the plastic Native American doll to the left and the original, gold "Nancy Ann" tag on Cinderella's right arm.

Examples of the Nancy Ann Dolls at the Fort Missoula Museum. Note the “sleep eyes” on the plastic Native American doll to the left and the original, gold “Nancy Ann” tag on Cinderella’s right arm.

A couple weeks ago, I watched an episode of Museum Secrets while riding an old exercise bike in front of the TV on a rainy day. This particular episode explored the Imperial War Museum in London: the technological development of illusory army fatigues, for instance, or how physicists developed a way to locate German artillery during WWI using sound alone. The stories were somewhat confusing—most revolved around complicated science that the show tried to make accessible to the layman. They lacked character, an emotional tug, someone to root for. I almost changed the channel, until the camera focused on two handmade cloth dolls in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at the museum, a gallery devoted to medals and awards for bravery. Dolls, I thought. Yes, here is a story. Dolls are curiosities, rather than necessities of war or scientific tools, right? I was compelled by the very idea: dolls and war; childhood innocence and the complete despair of wartime prisoners; home life and the front.

And indeed, there was a fascinating story:  In 1939, Odette Sansom was living with her three young daughters in Somerset, her husband already serving in the British army, when she responded to a call for photographs and old postcards exhibiting the French coastline for intelligence-gathering purposes. In her note, Odette wrote that she was French by birth and familiar with Boulogne, where she had lived for several years. Shortly thereafter, she was recruited by the War Office as an undercover agent and began intensive training to prepare for her fieldwork in Occupied France. She landed in the French Riviera in early November of 1942, immediately contacting Peter Churchill, who headed the SOE in the area (Britain’s Special Operations Executive).

Odette Marie-Celine Sansom

Odette Marie-Celine Sansom

On November 11, just days after her arrival, the Germans invaded Vichy France and the Gestapo became more aggressive in its hunt to eradicate British spies in the region. Odette and Churchill moved their operation to the Alps, where, in mid-April 1943, they were both arrested by Sergeant Hugo Bleicher. The two were sent to Fresnes prison in Paris and Odette, condemned to death, was tortured by the Gestapo for information regarding her fellow spies. She brilliantly said that she was married to Peter Churchill, and that he was a relative of the British Prime Minister—making them both very valuable prisoners (Two small, but valuable, white lies. Eventually, years later, Odette would divorce her husband and marry in Peter Churchill in reality.).

According to Museum Secrets, Odette and the other women confined to Fresnes prison were forced to sew German army uniforms. Odette joined the sewing group, but refused to contribute to the German war effort. Instead, she made these dolls—which she gave as a gift to the German chaplain at the prison, a man who was kind to her and helped her by transmitting messages to Peter Churchill.

One of the dolls made by Odette Sansom in Fresnes Prison, Paris (courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

One of the dolls made by Odette Sansom in Fresnes Prison, Paris (courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

In May 1944, Odette was moved from the prison to a series of German concentration camps, where many of her fellow female spies were executed. She was placed in solitary confinement and starved, but when the Allies began winning the war, the commander of her camp decided to use her—a very important prisoner—for leverage. In exchange for her life, he wanted his own sentence mitigated. He did indeed give her up to the Allies, but was eventually sentenced to death because of evidence presented by Odette at the Nuremberg Trials. Odette, for her part, survived the war and was the first woman awarded the George Cross. She was famously depicted in Herbert Wilcox’s film, Odette, and her dolls are displayed as a testament to her bravery.

My curiosity piqued, I came back to the Museum at Fort Missoula to do some exploring! We don’t have dolls made by WWII spies, as far as I know, but we certainly have a substantial collection of 20th century dolls, dollhouses and doll clothes, and each of them, undoubtedly, has a story of some kind. There’s a cloth doll of Teddy Roosevelt dressed up in hunting gear, paper dolls modeled after Grace Kelley, early Barbie’s and drawings done on felt of Kewpie dolls. Some of the dolls, like Odette’s, were made by hand. Take this cornhusk doll made by Irene Paeth circa 1940—just a few years older than Odette’s dolls! Irene donated the doll to the museum in 2007, shortly before her death in February of 2008. According to her obituary, Irene, a long-time resident of both the Chicago area and Sparta, Wisconsin, also donated two life-size dolls to the Monroe County Historical Society in Sparta. What a curious web! I love the link that Irene’s donations creates between two otherwise unrelated historical societies.

Cornhusk Doll, made ca. 1940 by Irene Paeth

Cornhusk Doll, made ca. 1940 by Irene Paeth

Irene’s doll is beautiful and fragile. She wears a faded purple dress cinched at the waist and has brown hair composed of corn silk. In fact, she’s inspired me, already, to google “How to make a cornhusk doll” and I intend to try it out as soon as the four ears of corn in my garden are ready to eat!

Another recent doll donation consists of a collection of Nancy Ann dolls—not entirely handmade, per se, but historically interesting nonetheless. These highly collectible dolls are small, measuring between 3¾” and 7”. Some are bisque, meaning that they are older and generally more valuable (depending on condition) while others are plastic with “sleep eyes,” meaning that they’re newer. Each doll represents a different character—maybe Cinderella, from the Fairytale line; maybe a Russian peasant, from the International line; maybe a nun. Nancy Ann Abbott began designing dolls in 1936, just before the start of WWII. The first series, the Hush-a-Bye babies, were produced in Japan, although by 1939 production moved to California, where artists painted the facial features on each doll by hand. As the Nancy Ann website describes it, as the war got underway, “the government felt the dolls were necessary for morale and demand for the dolls was high.  Many were sent by convoy to Hawaii where soldiers were able to buy the dolls and send them home to their loved ones. By the late 1940s, the company was producing the largest doll volume in the nation.” Yet another fascinating intersection of dolls and war!

A Bisque Nancy Doll

A Bisque Nancy Doll at Fort Missoula

I’ll sign off with a quote from Madame Alexander, whose historical and literary dolls I collected as a child (My favorite? Eliza Doolittle.): “Dolls should contribute to a child’s understanding of people, other times and other places.” What better time, then, to safeguard the production of dolls than during war, when the world so desperately needs to cultivate empathy in both children and adults?

Sources:

http://nigelperrin.com/odette-hallowes.htm#.U-5kb6gpe4w

http://royalsignalsmuseum.co.uk/Blog/?p=141

http://www.museumsecrets.tv/dossier.php?o=136

www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30093318

http://www.nancyanndolls.com/History.html

P.S. If you want to hear yet another intriguing story about a brilliant doll maker (and an early female entrepreneur), check out Marjorie Ingall’s article on Madame Alexander. What a powerhouse! http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/131508/the-woman-behind-the-dolls

P.P.S. Tune in next week to see what the WWII detainees at Fort Missoula were creating during the war years.

That’s a Mouthful.. or 500…

Sometimes “serves 4” isn’t enough. Take the recipes in these two cookbooks, for instance.

The Cook's Recipe Manual for Navy, ARmy, Air Force, etc.; 2012.012.003 Collection of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula; 1943.

The Cook’s Recipe Manual for Navy, Army, Air Force, etc.; 2012.012.003 Collection of Historical Museum at Fort Missoula; 1943.

The Cook’s Recipe Manual for Navy, Army, Air Force, Munitions Plants, Camps, and Schools specializes in recipes for large groups – think cafeteria large. It was published during the war, when camps were cropping up as men and women joined the military, and the publishers assumed that some of these camp canteens would not necessarily be run by those experienced with meal preparation on such a vast scale. The book includes all sorts of helpful tips on making the most of every ingredient and how to vary the menu so soldiers or workers wouldn’t be eating canned peaches and oatmeal every single morning. Here, the book informs how many pounds of meat you can pull from each side of beef:

From The Cook's Recipe Manual, 2012.012.003. Collection of HSWM.

From The Cook’s Recipe Manual, 2012.012.003. Collection of HMFM.

You can understand how a commercial kitchen might need to serve 100 people, but imagine the kind of party where you’d need to serve 2,000, and imagine cooking it all in huge kettles outdoors. Here’s how The Southern Cookbook: 322 Old Dixie Recipes suggests you make the traditional Kentucky stew “burgoo”:

Collection HMFM - 2011.056.011AB

Collection HMFM – 2011.056.011AB

Who’s the lucky guy who gets to peel those two tons of potatoes?!

We’re always tickled to see these recipes for unimaginable quantities of food. Why not publish a recipe that serves fewer, and assume your readers will scale up if they need 1,200 gallons? We can only guess that no self-respecting host would bother with a burgoo unless he was hosting the whole town. Bon Appetit!

Leisure at the Fort during WWII

While many of us know about the American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were forced into detention centers during World War II, most people don’t know about the other “prisoners of war” held in U.S. wartime prisons. In April and May 1941, several hundred Italian nationals arrived by train at Fort Missoula. Others arrived as the year progressed (mostly merchant seamen, plus workers from the New York World Fair and the crew of an Italian luxury liner), eventually bringing the population of Italians at the Fort to around 1,200. They remained there until early 1944, when most of Italy had been liberated by the Allies, sharing the grounds with a small number of Japanese resident aliens who were not transferred to another internment center.

During the three years these men were detained at the Fort, they tried to make a life for themselves. Many of them worked (as pickers in the beat fields, or cutting roads with the Forest Services). They were allowed to go into town periodically, shopping or out to the movies. But most of their time was spent in camp, and coming up with ways to pass the time was a huge part of life as a prisoner.

The men played games, like bocce, checkers, and cards, as well as soccer and golf. They pursued the dramatic arts, staging plays and orchestral performances. Fishing was popular with both Italian and Japanese-American internees.

Though land-locked in the Northern Rockies, for some of the merchant marines, the sea was clearly on their minds. Several took up wood carving, and their subjects focused on the ocean – sailboats and ships. Despite their difficult surroundings, these men carved works of remarkable beauty. We are lucky that two examples survive in the collection of the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, as well as several photographs.

Ship built by Fort Missoula internee. Kenneth, Douglas, and Katharine Pope Collection. HSFM 2001.029

Ship built by Fort Missoula internee. Kenneth, Douglas, and Katharine Pope Collection. HSFM 2001.029

Wooden boat art made by Fort Missoula internee. Kenneth, Douglas, and Katharine Pope Collection. HSFM 2011.029.1

Wooden boat art made by Fort Missoula internee. Kenneth, Douglas, and Katharine Pope Collection. HSFM 2011.029.1

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.152

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.152

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.153.

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.153.

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.154.

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.154.

Men work on boat carvings. Collection of HMFM.

Men work on boat carvings. Note the carvings hanging on the wall in the background. Collection of HMFM.

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.155.

Peter Fortune Memorial Collection. HSFM 2001.048.155.