Then, peach pits. Today, cookies.

I look forward with anticipation each year for the knock at the door (one of very, very few I will respond to if it’s a solicitor) from cute little girl scouts selling cookies. I could make myself ill on Samoas.

But the cookies are a fairly modern innovation. In earlier days, the young ladies did their part in other ways.

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Here we see three young girl scouts collecting peach pits for the war effort (World War I, so the photo would have been dated around 1917-1918.)

I first saw this image posted at reddit (/r/historyporn) posted by /u/texanwill. The Corbis Images shot can be found here.

CaptionGirl Scouts collecting peach seeds during WWI. The oil from the seed was used for war industries. Undated Photo, Ca 1917-1918

Redditor /u/davidhaslhof posted this interesting quote which explains why peach pits were of value:

The three WWI gas masks in our collection tell the tale of the first widespread use of chemical warfare in modern day history. Tear gas (xylyl bromide) was previously seen in other confrontations but it was the quick escalation to deadly gases like chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gas that caused panic among troops on all sides. Though the gas masks of different armies varied slightly, the concept was the same, charcoal and anti-gas chemicals were combined in the filter found in the mouthpiece. In the US, peach pits were collected as they could be harvested for charcoal. The Girl Scouts pictured here are doing their part by appealing to the nation, “You save peach seeds – they will save soldiers lives.

Everyone pitched in during the two World Wars, including girl scouts and boy scouts.

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During World War I, Scouts sold more than $355 million worth of Liberty Loan bonds and war savings stamps. Photo:  Boy Scouts of America.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Chaplin in the air

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Charlie Chaplin in New York,  appearing with Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. during WWI. They were promoting war bonds for Third Liberty Loan. Photo taken in April, 1918 in front of the Sub-treasury building.

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Another view.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR I/PATRIOTISM

Fairbanks addresses the crowd.

Some comments over at reddit are worth noting:

  • The respect. No policemen, no crowd control, everyone keeping a respectful distance.
  • The hats. Almost everyone was wearing hats. The wearing of hats was largely abandoned in the 1960s; some have hypothesized that the explosion of the automobile made wearing hats for protection from the elements less necessary.
  • The crowd is overwhelmingly men. Women just did not go out as much at the beginning of the 2oth Century. It was truly a man’s world.
  • The crowd is overwhelmingly white. That was our country in 1918.

An intriguing glimpse of a tiny slice of history that I had never seen before.

The Old Wolf has spoken.