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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

Fritz van der Mensbrugghe letter [in English] to our Benefactors in America. Illustrated letter, ca. 1915. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.00.00)
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Fritz van der Mensbrugghe letter [in English] to our Benefactors in America. Illustrated letter, ca. 1915. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress ( 015.00.01)
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La Nationale Belge Atelier. To the Pupils of Washington; the Children from Seraing (Liége). Photograph, ca. 1919. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (017.00.00)
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Louise Fontaine to "Dear Madam," March 8, 1915. Letter and handmade dolls. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00–015.04.00)
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Louise Fontaine to "Dear Madam," March 8, 1915. Letter and handmade dolls. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00–015.04.00)
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Louise Fontaine to "Dear Madam," March 8, 1915. Letter and handmade dolls. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00–015.04.00)
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Louise Fontaine to "Dear Madam," March 8, 1915. Letter and handmade dolls. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00–015.04.00)
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Louise Fontaine to "Dear Madam," March 8, 1915. Letter and handmade dolls. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00–015.04.00)
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Louise Fontaine to "Dear Madam," March 8, 1915. Letter and handmade dolls. Belgian Children's Letter Collection, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (015.01.00–015.04.00)
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Giving Thanks

In an expression of gratitude for U.S. humanitarian aid, thousands of Belgian schoolchildren and many of their teachers wrote letters of thanks to President Wilson and the American people. Ten-year-old Fritz van der Mensbrugghe lived in the city of Ghent with his parents, eighty-year-old grandmother, and ten brothers and sisters. In neatly written English, the boy's letter expressed his family's appreciation for "the generous American people, who take care of us." He observed that "the war will perhaps ruin us but thanks to the providing America we will not starve." In 1919 Belgian schools sent photographs to students in United States to thank them for their support during the war. These young girls from Seraing, just outside of Liege, had probably lived under Germany occupation most of their lives since the city was taken in the first weeks of the war.

On March 8, 1915, the young teacher Louise Fontaine sent a letter from Brussels on behalf of her pupils. Thanking the American nation for its sympathies and the plentiful relief it had sent, she wrote, “Washington's Birthday has perhaps been more celebrated in the Belgian schools than in any American one.” Many of the letters in this flood of thank-you correspondence were also accompanied by photographs, drawings, or other objects, such as these cornhusk and paper dolls.

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