Tag your shovel day

Jan 30, 2018

During the Great War, many items were needed for the troops fighting halfway across the world. This put a strain on items back on the home front – so limits and strictures were placed on items such as foods, metal, and fuel. In a program to encourage conservation, on this date in 1918, North Dakota observed "tag your shovel day" in cooperation with the US Fuel Administration. Community youth were enlisted to "tag" coal shovels throughout the state with a note inscribed: "Save that Shovelful of Coal a Day for Uncle Sam." The back also listed some hints for saving coal.

This was supposed to be different from other drives because the youth did not ask for donations, but instead they asked "that householders save money...for food, for war savings stamps, for liberty bonds, and at the same time add to the government's coal pile."

Captain I.P. Baker was federal fuel administrator for North Dakota, and he noted that this tag should "work like a string around your finger or a knot in your handkerchief – it will be a constant reminder of something not to be forgotten."

North Dakota received a quarter of a million tags to attach to shovels, distributed to every school in the state, with school children making it their solemn duty to distribute the notes with diligence and speed to everyone. A. W. Lucas, president of the Bismarck City Commission, found a tag on his shovel, but never saw who placed it. Col. C. B. Little was given his tag by the son of L. L. Folsom, who was a well-known jeweler in Bismarck.

Governor Frazier's shovel was one of the first to be tagged. His twin daughters, Unie and Versie, who were in the eighth grade at Bismarck Junior High School, tagged his shovel themselves, early in the morning. The Bismarck Tribune reported, "Every time that Governor Frazier or the janitor or such other person as may have occasion to stoke the gubernatorial furnace in the North Dakota executive mansion seizes the trusty coal shovel which has played its share in making it hot for a number of Flickertail chief executives, he is confronted with ... Save that Shovelful of Coal for Uncle Sam."

Throughout the state, two hundred thousand school children were "enlisted in the service of Uncle Sam, to 'save and win the war.'"

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


January 30, 1918, p. 4 Bismarck evening Tribune

January 4, 1918, p3, Bismarck Tribune

January 28, 1918, p1, Bismarck Tribune

January 31, 1918, p8, Courier Democrat

January 10, 1918, p7, The Weekly Times-Record

January 22, 1918, p1, The Bismarck Tribune

February 4, 1918, p8, The Bismarck Tribune