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December 6: Splendid Hospitality

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On April 4, 1917 the United States Senate voted to declare war against Germany. Two days later the House of Representatives endorsed the declaration, and the United States entered World War I.

Just as they had done only twenty years before in the Spanish American War, North Dakotans stepped up and enlisted for military service. Spanish American War veterans like Frank Anders and John Kinne set aside their careers and chose to reenlist. The veterans and new recruits found themselves off to foreign lands. Their first stop came late in the year — Camp Mills on Long Island, far from home as the holiday season approached.

Their families back in North Dakota were naturally concerned. As they sent cards and packages, there was a great sadness about “the boys” so far from family and friends. And worse yet, they were right on the doorstep of New York City, described by one North Dakota newspaper as “the most lonesome burg in the world for the boy who’s broke or friendless.”

On this date in 1917, North Dakotans learned much to their surprise that the Big Apple did, indeed, have a heart. The Weekly Times Herald of Valley City reported that “Little Old New York from Hempstead to Brooklyn and the Bronx to Oyster Bay” pulled out all the stops to make sure that Uncle Sam’s boys did not miss out on a thing for Thanksgiving. The newspaper reported that every home “from the most luxurious to the lowly” opened their doors for the young soldiers. Some of the hosts paid for transportation from the camp to their homes. Others picked up their guests in their personal cars. The newspaper observed, “to be seated once more at a holiday feast with all its bravery of table setting and good cheer, came as a wonderful boon to each boy.”

The soldiers felt a great deal of nostalgia as they thought of the vacant chair sitting by the dining table back in North Dakota. They felt uncertainty about how soon they would be shipping out, knowing they faced a cold winter in the fields of France. However, the folks back home could take comfort in knowing that their boys had been able to partake of all the good food and good cheer of Thanksgiving.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


  • The Weekly Times Herald. “North Dakota Soldiers Feted in Metropolis on Thanksgiving Day.” Valley City ND. 12/6/1917. Page 1.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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