With hindsight, it was always going to be a logical step for Allied countries to say “au revoir” to Madame Guérin and her poppies, made by the widows and orphans in the devastated regions of France. All the countries recognised the benefit of the Poppy Days and Drives and how the collections helped swell the coffers of their respective Veterans’ organisations. One by one, each country put itself and its own returned veterans before France – they did not want to share the proceeds from poppy sales any longer. But Poppy Lady Madame Guérin needed to carry on because Northern France was still devastated.
The May 1921 Memorial Day and nationwide Poppy Days/Drives conducted by Madame Guérin’s American-Franco Children’s League were over but the fight for the poppy in the USA was not. The American “au revoir” was the most complicated farewell of all the Allies.
On 09 June 1921, a tragic twist of fate occurred … Anna Guérin’s ally, American Legion National Commander Colonel Frederick W. Galbraith Jr. (of Cincinnati), was killed in a car crash at Indianapolis. Anna’s Synopsis described that time [sic]:
“(Colonel Galbraith had been killed in an automobile accident by now) Colonel Bolles and all my friends gathered around me to ask what was to be done . This [daisy] resolution had been passed so swiftly that they had realised that it meant too late . I said That WE WERE TO FOLLOW THE IDEA OF COLONEL GALBRAITH : CARRY THE FLANDERS POPPIES TO ALL THE ALLIED COUNTRIES , organise for them , for the benefit of their Veterans organisations and in MEMORIAM of their Heroes , a National POPPY DAY each year on Armistice Day (as the other countries had no DECORATION DAY , and continue them in the U. S.”
Colonel Galbraith’s body laid in state in the Great rotunda of the Cincinnati Music Hall on Saturday, 11 June – from 10 a. m. until the funeral service began there at 2 p. m. The casket was guarded by regular soldiers from Fort Thomas, Kentucky.
South Bend News-Times of Indianapolis, on 12 June 1921, described the day: “Thousands of people from all walks of life this afternoon paid their last solemn tribute to the memory of Col. Frederick W. Galbraith … … while there was an endless procession of mourning men, women and children passing the body of Col. Galbraith which lay in state in the rotunda of the great building, every one of the four thousand seats in the auditorium were taken.”
Theodore Roosevelt (the assistant secretary of the navy), attended on behalf of the federal government. He was one of several VIP’s present and one of those giving an eulogy. His tribute to Colonel Galbraith was a moving one: “In his address Mr. Roosevelt said “In the great civic movements that have strengthened our cities, through the toil of every day life, on the shell torn battlefields of France – wherever service could be rendered, there you found Col. Galbraith, at the forefront of the battle, gallantly fighting for the right.
Pays High Tribute. “We mourn his death, but we are proud of his life. We shall miss him in the troubled days that lie before us, but our faith in our country is strengthened in that it can breed such men. Good citizen, tender husband and father, valiant soldier, splendid idealist – his death has left us poorer, but his life has left us richer. His pilgrimage is gloriously finished.”
The funeral cortège left the hall at approximately 3 p. m. and the service at the cemetery was reported as “brief”. “Taps” were sounded by a corps of buglers and a salute was fired by a squad from Fort Thomas.
Amidst her 1921 campaign in Canada, Anna Guérin made a ‘flying visit’ to the USA. She had left Canada after meeting women of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (I.O.D.E.) and the Great War Veterans’ Association (G.W.V.A.) Women’s Auxiliary on the 26th October in Winnipeg, to make her way to Missouri – to attend the 3rd American Legion convention.
In her 1941 Synopsis Anna Guérin wrote this about that Convention [sic]: “I went to the National Convention of the American Legion , in Kansas , where I had been invited as Marechal Foch was to be there . In Kansas City THE AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY was formed and while the American Legion Auxiliary was adopting the Flanders ’ Poppy as Symbol , at the Convention of the American Legion they had repudiated it to take the DAISY .” This was the resolution referred to earlier, when Anna wrote about Colonel Frederick W. Galbraith’s death.
The convention was held in Kansas City, Missouri from 31 October to 02 November 1921, and many “world famous heroes” were guests of honour there: Marshall Foch (France); Earl Beatty (GB); General Diaz (Italy); General Jacques (Belgium); and Gen. J. J. Pershing (USA). Moina Michael may also have attended this convention or, at least, she seems to have been in Kansas City at the same time (?) – because Anna wrote a letter to Moina Michael (08 Feb. 1922), explaining she had tried Moina’s room “very often” but to no avail.
At the convention, Anna fought for the poppy again but the American Legion “repudiated its action of 1920 in choosing the Shirley poppy as its official flower and substituted the daisy.” In that same letter to Moina, Anna wrote about this decision: “I was very worried because I knew it was very important to have the National Convention of the women … adopt the Flanders Field Poppy as their Memorial Flower, even if I did not know that the Daisy would be brought out. …”
“… The American Legion auxiliary did adopt the Poppy as Their Memorial Flower. So I asked to speak to their executive Committee to present to them the proposition as it had been adopted already by many Allied nations: “To help a little longer the poor women of the Northern part of France buy the poppies they will make 4 cents each and let us make next decoration Day a National Poppy Day with the help of all other patriotic organizations, each town keeping for their own relief work every theing [sic] they make above the cost price. And as this year the Poppies from France will be sold less than 10 cents, which will be a great profit to every local Charity Committee.
And I said to them that their headquarters could sell the poppies throughout the country 4 cents 1/2 so they would have an annual source of resources for their Headquarters, quite legitimate, and which would allow them to carry on better their great work.
I told them that this Idea was worked in this Principle in Canada, in England, in Australia, in New Zealand, for Armistice Day which was the Memorial Day chosen by the British Empire. That in all those countries they were expecting this year, which was the first year of trial, great results.
At that, in Kansas City, the Executive Committee of the new women organization duly call, “American Legion Auxiliary” said they would decide that at their Annual Meeting on the 20th of January, would I wait until them. I said Yes, sure they would see the good of the Idea. Mr. Bolles, the National Adjutant of the American Legion, was quite enthousiatica about it, and He said to all the ladies that the Daisy being the official Flower for the American Legion that had nothing to do with the Poppy being the Memorial Flower anyway.
I left Kansas City full of hope and went to see how the National Poppy Days were succeeding in my other countries. It would be too long to give you all the details, my dear Miss Michael, but may I tell you that they have been a great success throughout the British Empire for all the organizations of ex-soldiers to whom I have brought the Idea and sold the poppies. …”
On 08 November 1921, Moїna Michael wrote to Commandant MacNider of The American Legion – in relation to the Legion’s repudiation of the poppy as its memorial flower. Adjutant Lemuel Bolles replied in a letter dated 23 November: “My dear Miss Michael: I am acknowledging receipt of your letter of November 8th addressed to Commander MacNider, and concerning the adoption of the daisy as the official memorial flower of The American Legion for the reason that Mr. MacNider is with the Foch party on its western trip, and I do not know if he has had time to make you a personal reply.
We are very much interested in your letter and the clippings which you have enclosed. While I am personally delighted with the sentiments expressed in your letter, yet the action of our Convention cannot be changed at this time. For your information, I am quoting the recommendation of the Ceremonials Committee as it was adopted by the Convention:
“Your Committee has received numerous communications complaining of the poppy as The American Legion flower on the grounds that it is not an American flower; that it is not available for use except in artificial flower. Very many of these complaints have suggested the American daisy instead of the poppy. Your Committee recommends the substitution of the daisy for the poppy as the official flower of the American Legion for use in ceremonials.”
I am very glad to know of the services you rendered during the War and of the work you are doing now, and I hope to have the pleasure of writing you a more cheerful letter at a later date. Sincerely yours, Lemuel Bolles [signed] LEMUEL BOLLES National Adjutant”
On 15 January 1922, the Nashville Tennessean newspaper mentioned the American Legion’s Woman’s Auxiliary National Executive Committee meeting in Indianapolis, Ind., 10-22 January and the forthcoming decision to be made about the Poppy Day. A letter had been sent out to attending delegates and a portion of that communication read: “… If possible, please make a survey of your department in regard to the American Legion Auxiliary taking over the French poppy for our memorial flower and the number of poppies your department can dispose of. We wish to decide this question at the meeting; and if the majority vote to do so, we will take this as a national work, Madame Guerin is waiting for our decision. …”
Probably now, for the first time in all her fundraising years, Anna Guérin now experienced unresponsive women – she wrote in the February 1922 letter “… My deception was great on the 23rd January to hear that the American Legion Auxiliary had not taken the Idea to sponsor for themselves, the National Poppy Day of the U.S. So I am just going to ask to another ex-soldiers organization to do it. All the country will be for us and with us anyway.”
It has been found reported that Madame Guérin’s American-Franco Children’s League was dissolved “early in 1922”. However, this may be inaccurate because one of the League officers in France, Madame Lebon, has been found still communicating in her role, in November 1923. If the League did cease, Anna’s enthusiasm to encourage the Allied countries to continue with their poppy campaigns did not and she still wanted to make a difference. She would not have been daunted when the American Legion held a daisy drive in the State of Massachusetts – in February 1922.
The above edited photograph is dated 24 February 1922. It is believed to have been taken somewhere in the State of Massachusetts. Massachusetts is the only state found having a Daisy Day on 24 February 1922. The American Legion, and its Women’s Auxiliary, held state-wide Daisy Days there on 24 and 25 February. The Fitchburg Sentinel (of Fitchburg, Massachusetts) reported on both days:
24 February 1922: “Today and tomorrow, Feb. 24 and 25, are Daisy days. Members of the American Legion and Women’s auxiliary will sell daisies throughout the town. Sixty per cent of the proceeds will go to the local post, and the rest turned over to the state pension for the unemployed and disabled of the World War. … … This is a state-wide drive and artificial daisies, the Legion flower, will be sold throughout the town and a house-to-house canvass will he made. … …”
25 February 1922: “ENTIRE STOCK OF DAISIES SOLD IN DRIVE (By Associated Press.)
So hearty has been the response of the public to the Daisy drive under the auspices of the American Legion for the benefit of the disabled veterans of the World war since it was started Friday noon that hundreds of people may be out of luck for their boutonnieres today. The big box of posies which arrived Friday is almost empty and the workers in charge have tried in vain to replenish their stock.
The novelty of the idea of daisies as a digression from the time-worn tags met with instant endorsement. Workers devoted the most of their time Friday afternoon to a canvass of the stores, and offices and the renegers were few. High school girls are on the streets today with their bunches of daisies and their contribution boxes and they are presenting a determined and almost impenetrable line of resistance. Plans are being made also for a house-to-house canvass so that everyone’s button-hole will be decorated. It is expected that a stock of daisies will be obtained when Legion headquarters in Boston is able to acquire them. In the meantime, the contributions have netted a good sum and it is expected that the monetary results will be the best of any drive for the veterans yet held.”
After the American Legion disappointments, Anna Guérin still maintained her commitment to the widows and orphans in the devastated areas of France. She went to the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States’ organisation instead.
Recorded in Anna’s Synopsis [sic]: “… as at the Headquarters of the American Legion they had not yet been able to straighten between the Poppy and the Daisy. I carried the Idea and the POPPIES to the VETERANS OF FOREIGN WAR ‘S ORGANIZATION in New York . A very small and poor organization at that time, and the National Poppy’ Day of 1922 was a great success for the Veterans of Foreign Wars , such a success that their Officers went to Paris with me to deposit a wreath of large Poppies on the Unknown Soldier’s grave under the ARC de TRIOMPHE . A banquet was given to them and they received the Legion of Honor, at my table , as the banquet was given by me.”
Ever faithful Isabelle Mack has been found described “regional director and organizer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars” during that 1922 poppy campaign. It is not known whether Isabelle had a connection with the V.F.W. before the campaign.
A short piece in an article in the Nashville Tennessean (on 7 March 1922) brought up the Poppy Day issue again, when it reported on the American Legion Auxiliary’s first convention in Nashville on 6 March. It referred to something said by Mrs. L. Hobart, National American Legion Auxiliary President: “She also brought out the fact that the national organization is not sponsoring a national poppy day, although poppy sales have been held by individual auxiliaries. Mrs. Hobart advised that in the case of any auxiliary cooperating with other bodies in the sale of poppies, the auxiliary communicate first with the national organization. …”
Presumably, the “other bodies” referred to were the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American War Mothers and, to give one example, some American Legion Auxiliary members did support these “other bodies” – in the Phoenix Poppy Drive. On 07 May 1922, the Arizona Republican newspaper (Phoenix) printed this article in the lead up to Memorial Day (29 May) [sic]:
“V.F.W. WILL HAVE CHARGE OF POPPY SALE IN AMERICA. The beautiful red poppy, seen in such abundance by thousands of American soldiers in the summer of 1918 along the road sides and in the fields of France, will be seen in equal abundance on Memorial day adorning the coats of men, women and children in America, if plans now being formulated by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States for the sale of the flower materialize.
Interallied Poppy day is now being observed in all of the allied countries, the idea having originated with Madame Guerin, who is known as the “poppy lady of France,” and has for its object the sale of the poppy as a means of raising funds for the assistance of disabled veterans of the war and the care of homeless children of France.
The selection of the Veterans of Foreign Wars to handle the sale of the poppy in this country is in accordance with the custom of those in charge to name a similar organization in the allied countries for this work each year. As a result, local members of the V.F.W. are now making arrangements for the distribution of the flower in Phoenix and other cities in the state. They are being assisted by the Memorial auxiliary if the post together with the auxiliary of the American legion, which will have direct charge of the sales in the city on May 29.
There is little doubt that the sale of the popular red flower, which has become the symbol of American sacrifice on the battle fields of France, will be greater than it has been in past years.”
On 09 May 1922, the Pittston Gazette ran a short piece headed “WEAR FLANDERS POPPIES FOR HEROES OF ALL WARS. Buy and wear a poppy on Memorial Day, thus honouring our soldier dead by helping the living, in other words, help the boys who helped you. Such is the patriotic and practical purpose the Veterans of Foreign Wars have in view in arranging for the sale of the Flanders poppy to be worn on Memorial Day, not only memory of the soldier dead from the late world war, but also from all the wars in which our country has participated.
The Flanders poppies are available in the country through the co-operation of Mme. Guerin, whose title “The Poppy Lady of France”, has been copyrighted and under which copyright the V.F.W. will operate.”
On 11 May 1922, Anna’s friend Blanche Berneron addressed the Annual State Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Richmond, Indiana. The next day, Indiana’s South Bend News-Times reproduced the speech Blanche had given: “It is as President Harding says in his letter “an appropriate way of testifying every remembrance and recognition, of the great obligation of the nation, to those who gave everything in the service, during the great war.
“It also is such a beautiful sentiment. It is like a message coming from Flanders Fields, where 36,000 boys are still sleeping and warning us ‘not to forget’. They are the dead, but from their falling hands they have thrown us the torch. We shall hold it high. If we break faith with those who died, they could not sleep though poppies grow in Flanders Field.
“Those poppies of red silk, replica of the real flower, are made by children, mostly orphans, crippled, disabled soldiers and particularly by all the needy on account of the war – they are made at the very places where the boys fought and won and where yet so many sleep.
“The cost price of each poppy goes to France for the making and expenses of shipping and all the proceeds derived from Poppy Day are to remain here in America to help all relief funds of ex-servicemen. We shall in wearing the poppy honor the dead by helping the living.
“The wearing of the Inter-Allied Poppy will link closer together the affection of the two countries – France and America, who were both ready to give until the last one for the same cause.
“Let us establish the inter-allied poppy day for years to come. It is the nation’s opportunity to show its gratitude to the men who brought glory to their flag. Anything we can do, we shall always be in debt to those sleeping in Flanders Field.”
The American Legion held Daisy Days during May. For example, Nebraska’s Alliance Herald (Box Butte County 23 May 1922) reported: “The Ellen Dodge legion Auxiliary will call May 27 and 29 Daisy Day this year. On these days the ladies will sell daisies at ten cents each. The proceeds from this sale will be used to buy the local post of the American Legion a flag.
Daisy Day was called Poppy Day last year and red silk poppies in remembrance of Flanders’ Field poppies were sold. This year the Legion’s flower has been changed to the daisy for various reasons. It was discovered that several firms were commercializing the poppy for money reasons, and it was also discovered that the poppy spread so rapidly when planted that it was feared it might soon become an obnoxious weed instead of a rare and lovely flower full of memories for all who had relatives in the great world war.
Mrs. E .R. Harris of the local post has charge of the Daisy Day and it is planned to have various women on the streets with these little flowers on the two days mentioned. The daisies are supposed to be worn Decoration Day in honor of the dead heroes.”
In Anna Guérin’s February letter (aforementioned), she wrote: “… as quickly the Campaign’ s plans are in the hands of an organization I shall leave for France to push the making of the poppies as I am afraid we shall not have enough, this year, they are to be so pretty !” Anna’s sister Juliette was to “be left in charge at the Headquarters of the organization to help them.”
On 20 May 1922, it appears that Madame Guérin left New York, on board the White Star Line ship ‘S.S. Majestic’ – bound for Cherbourg, France: accompanied by high-ranking members of the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’. They were heading for Paris, to attend the Memorial/Decoration Day ceremony.
Various US newspapers enlightened their readers about that aforementioned visit to Paris at the end of May 1922. They all printed a photograph of the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Adjutant General Reuel W, Elton and Robert S. Cain (aide de camp to V.F.W. Commander-in-Chief Robert G. Woodside), as they stood on deck, before sailing. Apparently, V.F.W. Commander-in-Chief Woodside was also on board.
The article transcribed below accompanied the above image in The New Castle Herald newspaper (Pennsylvania) – it demonstrates the eminent position held by the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’ organisation:
“AMERICAN VETERANS TO HONOR UNKNOWN POILU’S GRAVE.
Adjutant General Reuel W. Elton, of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States and Robert S. Cain, aide de camp to Robert G. Woodside, the Commander-in-Chief of the organization, sailed May 20th on the new giant liner, Majestic, to represent the United States Veteran bodies at a unique ceremony in Paris on Memorial Day,– the laying of a wreath of scarlet poppies as the tribute of America at the tomb of the Unknown “Poilu” at the Arc de Triomphe.
The V.F.W. post in Paris, Benjamin Franklin Post, has charge of the Paris ceremonies, at which Marshal Foch, Ambassador Herrick, and representatives of the French and British military organizations will be present.
Adjutant General Elton and his aide took with them the four-foot wreath of silken poppies which is to adorn the Unknown Poilu’s grave. The wreath is an exact replica of the wreaths which the Veterans of Foreign Wars will place at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the National Cemetery at Arlington and at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Riverside Drive.
Scores of similar wreaths will be used by local posts of the V.F.W. at the Memorial Day services throughout the country.
The V.F.W. delegation sails at the special invitation of the French veterans’ organizations, L’Union Nationale des Combattants, which will join in the Memorial Day service at Paris. Representatives of the French Legion, British Legion, American Legion, American Women’s Club, and Franco-American Children’s League will also attend the ceremony, a feature of which will be the insignia of the V.F.W. upon the Unknown Poilu and its acceptance by Marshal Foch on behalf of the French Government.
The picture shows the two American soldiers with the wreath which they exhibited at the ship’s rail as the final good-byes were said from the pier. The Veterans of Foreign Wars are actively promoting the “Poppy Week” phase in connection with the observance of Memorial Day in 44 states throughout the country, all the proceeds of the movement to be used for the relief of disabled ex-service men.”
On 21 May 1922, the Sacramento Union newspaper ran this very informative article ahead of the 1922 Poppy campaign [sic]: “V.F.W. NEWS: FLANDERS POPPY WEEK TO BE OBSERVED. Robert W. Service, “the Kipling of the North,” in his “Rhymes of a Red Cross Man” made light of the idea that a soldier might care for flowers. Perhaps he was right; yet the entire sentiment that was four years ago—has been crystalized into a single flower, the Flanders poppy. Those who put a shoulder to the wheel when the German military machine was rolled back across the devastated areas of France and Belgium will never forget the crimson battle token.
Wherever veterans gather there will be talk of the old days and, before the group separates, someone is sure to say, “And remember the poppies! Funny how these things would grow there, sometimes right in the shell holes. They were kinda pretty too. The kids used to put em on the graves.”
“Yeah,” interrupts another, “back in the rest areas the women used to make wreaths out of ’em on the cross arms on Sundays. Used to look kinda solemn like to see those red flowers hanging- there.”
Solemn is the word. Plain, unornamented crosses and on the arm a wreath of red flowers seeming to symbolize the blood the grave occupant had shed for humanity. That is why the men of the American Expeditionary Forces will always love the poppy. It was used as a floral tribute to their fallen comrades and, when the barrage ceased and the ragged line moved out, those who composed that line, invariably advanced through a field dotted with the frail flowers.
Poppies, poppies everywhere, seeming to warn the soldier that death in all his grim, hideousness walked very near. Because of the sacrifices and glory which the flower represents in fighting men’s eyes it has been adopted as an inter-allied memorial flower and Poppy Day campaigns have been conducted throughout the allied nations. The campaign in America will be conducted by the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, an organization composed of men who have seen battle service In the United States army, navy, marine corps in foreign lands and on foreign waters.
The campaign is well under way. The American War Mothers are cooperating with the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the work.
Of particular Interest is the announcement from national headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Now York that the poppies to be used will come direct from France.
They are perfect reproductions of the flower that decorates the American graves in Romange and are fashioned of silk by the women of the devasted area in France. The money paid for them by the Veterans of Foreign Wars is used in assiting the women who make them to rehabilitate themselves.
The profit derived by the local posts of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will be used in veteran relief work. Very few realize the tremendous task thrust upon the veteran organization of America. They are attempting to care for those who have been wounded or otherwise incapacitated because of the war and the financial outlay necessary to maintain this service is almost unbelievable.
Ever since the organization of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, 22 years ago, direct liaison with government pension bureaus, claims courts and the military departments has always been maintained and thousands of cases have been righted. That the government appreciates this service is proven by the praise of Colonel Forbes, director of the United States Veteran’s bureau.
It is the most worthy work Imaginable but to be carried on funds must be obtained. Hence the Poppy Campaign. For a week prior to Memorial Day the Veterans of Foreign Wars will endeavor to sell poppies so that every man, woman and child will be wearing one of the Flanders hero symbols on Decoration Day.
Plans for a Poppy Sunday will he made and every clergyman will be asked to devote at least three minutes of his sermonizing time to the poppy and the idea which made it an international memorial flower. The school children will be asked to aid as will every military, patriotic and civic organization. The funds realized are not to be used for a club house, or a new post flag or a piano, they will be expended in the Interests of disabled or needy former fighting men than which is no worthier cause.
President Harding has given most hearty endorsement to the project and urges every American to wear a Flanders poppy on May 30. His letter to Captain Reuel W. Elton, adjutant general of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, is as follows;
“I find myself heartly in sympathy with the purpose of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American War Mothers, in their request that the people at large shall wear on Memorial Day, a poppy, the inter-allied memorial flower. It is a moat appropriate mode of testifying our remembrance and recognition of the great obligation of the nation to those who gave everything In the service during the World War.
“I trust that the suggestion you j have presented will be generally adopted throughout the nation.”
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. John H. Williams, city treasurer and commander of department of Connecticut, V. F. W., is planning to have every person in Connecticut wear a poppy on Memorial Day. For a week prior to May 30 the V. F. W. will conduct a poppy campaign, the funds derived therefrom to be used In maintaining service bureaus for the use of former fighting men. Commander Williams’ department is one of the most active in this work. He has already arranged for a Poppy Sunday and will ask the school children to assist in the sale of the silk flowers which are made In France by the women of the devastated areas.
BOSTON, Mass.—State commander John Mac Donald of the Department of Massachusetts, Veterans of Foreign Wars is personally directing the V. P. W. poppy campaign in his state. Commander Mac Donald Is very anxious to have every person in the state wear one of the battle tokens on Memorial Day. Poppy committees have already been formed in many cities and towns throughout Masschusetts.
NEW YORK, N. Y.—National headquarters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will open the poppy campaign to be conducted by the organizatlon with a “bombing flight” over Broadway. A plane driven by Major. C. Alexander Wright of the New York police department flying section will fly as low as possible over the White Way while Captain Reuel W. Elton, adjutant general of the Veterans of Foreign Wars will drop literature explaining the poppy campaign. President Harding has given the campaign hearty endorsement and urges every American to do his share.”
Together with the ‘American War Mothers’, the ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’ held their first Poppy Week 22 and 30 May inclusive – 30 May being Memorial Day. Ahead of that ‘drive’, newspapers such as Connecticut’s ‘Norwich Bulletin’ (May 19, 1922) reported that the 28 May was designated the “national Poppy day” and the “founder of Poppy day is Madame E. Guerin, known as “the poppy lady of France.” The money raised from the sale of poppies will go to the widows and orphans of devastated France.” However, it was reported in the Atlanta Constitution (28 May 1922) “… Funds raised from the sale of the poppies will be used to help alleviate distress among deserving disabled veterans of the world war … a permanent committee of prominent Atlantans will investigate all applications from ex-service men …”
The ‘Veterans of Foreign Wars’ was the first American veterans’ organisation to hold a National Poppy Drive in the United States. This was the second nationwide Drive in the USA, the first having been held/organised by the ‘American-Franco Children’s League’ on 28 May 1921. The V.F.W. decided to adopt the poppy as its own official memorial flower.
The American Legion’s association with the daisy caused much confusion among members of the public and it was noticed. On 24 August 1922, The Red Cloud Chief (Nebraska) reported on the confusion circulating after the American Legion made the daisy decision: “THE FLOWERS OF THE LEGION. American Daisy and French Poppy Official Posies of Both Branches of the Organization. There has been some confusion in the minds of Americans in general as to the status of the daisy and the poppy in connection with the American Legion and the American Legion Auxiliary.
The daisy is the Legion’s official flower; the poppy is the Auxiliary’s memorial flower. The misunderstanding arose in the first place, because in its early days the Legion did adopt the poppy of France as its flower. But at its Kansas City convention the American Legion adopted the daisy as its official flower on the grounds that the daisy is an American flower and the poppy of Flanders is available for use only in artificial form.
The Legion Auxiliary has taken advantage of the very fact that the poppy is not available as a real flower to buy artificial flowers made by disabled soldiers in hospitals. The Massachusetts Legion and Auxiliary netted something over $46,000 from the sale of artificial poppies last winter. This money was used to better the conditions of sick and needy veterans of the World war.
The Legion is making every effort to interest the children of America in the cultivation of flowers by appealing to their patriotism and to their natural affection for such a flower as the American Legion’s American daisy.”
The American Legion made a U-turn and adopted the poppy as its official flower again at its convention in October 1922 – in line with its Auxiliary.
Anna wrote the following in her Synopsis [sic]: “In fact of this success of the VETERANS OF THE FOREIGN WARS at the next Convention of the American Legion the Flanders ‘ field’S Poppy was readopted and the American Legion asked to me to have 2 millions of silk Poppies made in France for them . What I did , I brought them in March 1923 , but already the Flanders ‘ Poppies had been commercialised [in the U.S.A.) and it is why the NATIONAL POPPIES ‘ DAYS have never had the tremendous success that they have had in the ENGLISH EMPIRE.”
Leading up to the 1923 poppy drive, there were problems obtaining French-made poppies. Iowa’s Mason City Globe-Gazette (01 November 1944) explained: “due to the difficulty and delay in getting poppies from France, the V.F.W. made use of a surplus of French poppies that were on hand and the balance was provided by a firm of artificial flower manufacturers in New York City. It was during the 1923 campaign that the V.F.W. evolved the idea which resulted in the V.F.W. Buddy Poppy – fashioned by disabled and needy veterans who were paid for their work as a practical means of providing assistance for these comrades.”
The Independent Record paper (Helena, Montana) enlightened its readers on 13 May 1951, with the following extract from a full page of articles about the “Buddy Poppies”: “Veterans of Foreign Wars Adopt Flowers as Symbols of Aid, Relief and Comfort for Needy by George Remington. … In 1922, Madame Guerin of France, inspired by the symbolic beauty of the poppies of Flanders, sought the co-operation of the VFW in selling poppies made in France to aid disabled and needy war veterans. The symbolism of the Buddy Poppy as sponsored by the VFW was promptly accepted by the American people. In 1923, Gen. Frank T. Hines, director of the United States Veterans’ bureau, officially endorsed the plan. The VFW established a workshop in Pittsburgh which was staffed by disabled veterans. These men assembled the materials from which the flowers were fashioned and conceived the idea of calling them “Buddy Poppies.” …”
In February 1924, the Veterans of Foreign Wars registered the name “Buddy Poppy” with the U. S. Patent Office and it is their Buddy Poppies which are distributed throughout the U.S.A. today. The days of the French-made poppies were over.
The photograph below depicts two American ‘Veteran of Foreign Wars’ ex-servicemen, who were probably involved in discussions/decisions about the ground-rules for the VFW “Buddy Poppy” – which took place at the VFW National Convention on 08 September 1924. A Pennyslvanian newspaper article (transcribed below) described the men as “prominent in the affairs of the Veterans of Foreign wars”. They have been identified as Sergt. Bill Kahler and John W. Brown.
Hand written on the photo’s back is: “Adjutant Alex Berger Sergeant Bill Kahler” “Liason Atlantic City Los Angeles” “To national convention Veterans of Foreign Wars”. Based on the uniform and stripes, it is believed that Adjutant Sergt. Kahler is the veteran standing on the left and Junior Vice-Commander Pvt. John W. Brown is on the right.
The articles transcribed below give an insight into the background of the photograph:
‘The Scranton Republican’, Scranton, Pennyslvania, on 16 August 1924, page 3 [sic]:-
“CALIFORNIA V.F.W. MEN HERE ON VISIT.
Two ex-service men, who are prominent in the affairs of the Veterans of Foreign wars, arrived in this city yesterday from Binghamton on the last lap of their motor trip to Atlantic City where they will attend the national V. F. W. convention next month. The veterans, John W. Brown, junior vice-commander of Alex Berger post, No. 1013, and William Kahler, adjutant of the same post, both of Los Angles. Cal., are the guests of the local V. F. W. post.
Whilst in Scranton Kahler and Brown will initiate Robert Chase, Bet Blesecker, Leon Fetterolk, Paul Kruger and Ellis Polak, into the Muddy Order of Turtles, a new V. F. W. degree. They will also attend the V. F. W. clambake and concert at Helbing’s grove tomorrow. The two travellers expect to return to California during the latter part of next month.”
‘The Reading Times’ of Reading, Pennsylvania, on 28 August 1924 [sic]:
“FOREIGN WAR VET HIKERS OFF AGAIN. Sergeant S. R. Kahler and Private J. W. Brown, of the Berger Post No.113, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Los Angeles, who are hiking cross country from San Francisco to arouse interest in the national encampment of the vets at Atlantic City next week left yesterday after spending three days in this city. While here they initiated 55 members in the Muddy Order of the Turtle a side order of the V.F.W.”
Given all the information gleaned, it is believed that The Scranton Republican bears the most accurate facts.
The photograph was either taken in Los Angeles, before they left, or on their arrival in Atlantic City.
VFW Post 1013 was formed in early 1923. A Post cannot be named after a living person and, it is believed, this Post was originally named in honour of US Marine Private Alexander Tindolph Berger, who had been killed in France on 19 July 1918. Information on Messrs. Berger, Brown and Kahler will be shared here at a future date.
In 2015, Post 1013 changed its name from to that of ‘Cpl Guy Gabaldon Post’. With the shifting sands of time, Post 1013 has honoured a more recent veteran – Corporal Guy Gabaldon (1926-2006). Guy Gabaldon was a US Marine – a local lad decorated for his service during the Second World War battles for the Saipan and Tinian islands in 1944. His war-time actions inspired the film ‘Hell to Eternity’.
This has been another digression from the story of Poppy Lady Madame Guérin but it is considered worth while sharing.
So … to return to the subject in hand …
American veterans had begun making poppies but, certainly in those early days, they could not meet the demand. Take the American Legion … it still had to call upon their Auxiliary women to volunteer to make extra poppies. Additionally, the Legion had to out-source: “… Unfortunately, not all of the poppies sold in the United States are made by disabled veterans. Last year over 3,000,000 poppies were made by disabled veterans for the Auxiliary’s National Poppy Committee. But over 3,000,000 poppies were made in factories — “commercial poppies” they call them, in contrast with the poppies the veterans make. Poppy-making and poppy-selling make up an endless chain of help for the disabled men in hospitals. The profits from Auxiliary poppy sales finance new purchases from the men who make the poppies at their bedside. …” (American Legion Weekly, Vol. 8, No. 14, 02 April 1926).
After the birth of the “Buddy Poppy”, the Veterans of Foreign Wars continued to keep faith with Madame Guérin – they continued to remember the Remembrance Poppy’s roots, while others forgot.
To give one example: on 13 May 1951, The Independent Record newspaper (Helena, Montana) ran a whole page full of articles about the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its ‘Buddy Poppies’. Following, are the first few paragraphs of one article that appeared on that page: “Veterans of Foreign Wars Adopt Flowers as Symbols of Aid, Relief and Comfort for Needy by George Remington. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row. . . .”
Those famed poppies of Flanders fields inspired John McCrae to write a poem known to every American school child. Those same poppies in that renowned Belgian cemetery* for American Doughboys who fell in World war I also serves as inspiration for one of America’s best known and most worthwhile drives – the Veterans of Foreign Wars Buddy Poppy sale. [*The Flanders Field American Cemetery in Waregem?]
In 1922, Madame Guerin of France, inspired by the symbolic beauty of the poppies of Flanders, sought the co-operation of the VFW in selling poppies made in France to aid disabled and needy war veterans. …”
To their credit, the Veterans of Foreign Wars continue to keep faith with Madame Guérin to this day – remembering the Remembrance Poppy’s roots … http://www.vfwpost4103.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/HISTORY-OF-THE-BUDDY-POPPY.pdf
The State of Pennsylvania’s American Legion (and its Auxiliary) produced a particular type of tagged Remembrance Poppy, shown below, during the years 1927 and 1934. If the design did not change during that period, this particular poppy could have been produced during any one of those eight years.
The Pennsylvanian American Legion tags read: “IN MEMORIAM. Made by Disabled Veterans In Hospitals”, on one side; and “OFFICIAL PENNSYLVANIA POPPY THE AMERICAN LEGION AND AMERICAN LEGION AUXILIARY”, on the other.
This American Legion’s poppy design and construction is reminiscent of the Poppy Lady Madame Guérin’s French-made poppy that graced the streets of Great Britain in 1921. It is deduced (without evidence to the contrary) that poppies supplied to the U.S.A. by Madame Guérin, at some point (perhaps every year she supplied them?), were in this style and the Pennsylvanian American Legion used Madame Guérin’s poppy as a template for their emblem.
The two poppy styles are identical in size and shape, but the American-made poppy has two layers of fabric against the Guérin version; the American poppy has more stamens; and both have a tag. Interestingly, a 1921 Guérin poppy held by the British poppy charity ‘Poppyscotland’ is pink just like the American Legion one. The colour is the same on both sides of the fabric, which suggests a scientific reason for the dye colour deterioration of the once-red vintage poppies – rather than sun-light.
Returning to Pennsylvania … the Shamokin News Dispatch edition of 21 May 1927 wrote about the American Legion Poppy Day plans [sic]:
“LEGION AUXILIARY MAKING PLANS FOR ANNUAL POPPY SALE. Memorial Flowers to be Offered This Year Have Been Made by Invalided Soldiers in Hospitals.
The American Legion Auxiliary has completed all plans to launch its annual poppy sale during the coming week.
The ladies have left nothing undone to make this the most successful sale ever held by the local unit.
The American Legion and Auxiliary have inaugurated a new industry in the veterans’ hospitals in Pennsylvania this year.
Our men in this state assisted by the Auxiliary of the American Legion department of Pennsylvania, have made all the poppies to be sold in this state.
The annual opportunity to the public to wear a memorial flower for the beloved service men who gave their lives in the World war and provide a means to add to funds spent for welfare work among the needy veterans of today, will have an added appeal this year, as the poppies are Pennsylvania’s own product.
The bulk of the poppies have been made at hospital No. 49 and the Marine hospitals in Philadephia and Pittsburgh assisted by the auxiliary units throughout the state.
The local unit has made about one half of the poppies to be placed on sale in Shamokin.
The management of the Victoria and Capitol theatres have very generously consented to show the auxiliary poppy film showing the ex-service man at work on the poppies and the ladies will be on hand in the lobbies of the theatres and on the streets, with the finished product, and appeal to the public to co-operate in this worthy cause.
“BUY ME” I stand for service. I enabled one cent to be earned by a disheartened service man in the hospital who needed it, and all you pay for men goes 100 per cent for service for those for whom the war is not yet over. “Buy me.”
“WEAR ME” I represent the sacrificial blood of the men who fell in flanders fields. I am a memorial to all thoses who died in service “for God and Country.” In reverence and understanding “Wear Me.”
Another article, on 28 May 1928, was accompanied by a very poor photograph that depicts a dozen veterans sitting around three sides of a table (on the left), decked with poppies. Edwin E. Hollenback (American Legion State Commander) and Mrs. Frederick P. Moore (American Legion Auxiliary State President) stand to the right of this table; with just the edge of another table and seated veterans to their rear. A row of standing veterans can be seen at the back of the room. Mrs. Moore may be holding a poppy wreath. The article appeared in the Pennsylvanian Gettysburg Times [sic]:
“VETERANS MAKING POPPIES FOR NATIONWIDE SALE.
The above shows Edwin E. Hollenback, State Commander of The American Legion, Department of Pennsylvania, and Mrs. Frederick P. Moore, State President of The American Legion Auxiliary, inspecting poppies made by disabled veterans in a Veterans’ hospital in Pennsylvania.
It was announced today by State Headquarters in Philadelphia that the posts and units in Pennsylvania have made application for 1,350,000 poppies.
State Commander Hollenback said today that poppies are made by men not receiving compensation from the Government and that the profits made my the posts and units would be used for Child Welfare and the care of the disabled and their families.
He also stated that poppy labels are marked “Official Pennsylvania Poppy. The American Legion and The American Legion Auxiliary—MADE BY DISABLED VETERANS IN HOSPITALS”. Other poppies sold have not been approved by the State DepartmAent.”
AIDING THE POPPY SALE, 06 April 1931
For both the United States of America and Great Britain, it appears that it became the custom to send some of their respective Remembrance Poppies to be sold in France. With regard to the U.S.A., if this photograph is anything to go by, American poppies were sold in the lead up to Memorial Day in May. A label on the back of the following photograph reads: “AIDING THE POPPY SALE. IN FRANCE WITH THE CONTINGENT OF VISITING AMERICAN MAYORS, JUDGE FRANK M. PADDEN OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS PURCHASES A POPPY FROM A PRETTY AMERICAN VENDER, IN PARIS, FRANCE.”© Disclosure: Text is stamped on the back of the photograph shown above – it reads “PHOTOS. ACME NEWS PICTURES. 220 East 42ND ST., NEW YORK. PLEASE CREDIT “ACME – P & P”. THIS PICTURE IS SOLD TO YOU FOR PUBLICATION ONLY AND MUST NOT BE FOR DUPLICATION OR USED FOR ADVERTISEMENTS WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION.”
Research by the author unearthed the facts that ‘Acme News Pictures’ no longer exists; its archives were purchased by ‘Corbis Images’; ‘Corbis Images’ was sold to the ‘Visual China Group’; and VCG has granted ‘Getty Images’ a licence for the images. A search, at the author’s instigation, has not located this photograph within archives and, as owner of this particular photographic print, I am displaying it. Heather Anne Johnson.
Canada let Madame Anna Guérin down more simply than the USA. Ahead of the 1922 Armistice Day, the Toronto Globe (12 February 1922) reported “a small portion of the poppies to be used next Armistice Day will be made by children in the French orphanages, but the bulk of the poppies will be the product of returned men out of work, it being the desire of [sic] Mlle. Guerin, who is in charge of arrangements, to alleviate the unemployment situation as far as possible.”
With reference to the aforementioned February 1922 letter, written from Montreal, Canada, Anna recalled the 1921 poppy campaign in Canada: “… here in Canada, the Great war Veterans have had with 1,000,000 small poppies and 200,000 large ones $90,000 clear profit for their relief work in their different branches, and the French side will have about 80,000 dollars. I am just arrived here to settle this part. On the $80,000 the French Poppies will be paid, the expenses of the Campaign also and the balances, clear profit will go to the poor children of the battle fields; I am proud to say that my delegates, two of them, left here to do the work with the Veterans while I was in England, have done splendidly, having run this campaign for the Veterans with their help, of course, with less than 6% expenses. …”
The 1922 Poppy Day commemoration was the last one Anna Guérin was involved in. Canada was saying “Au revoir Madame Guérin” too. In 1923, Lillian Bilsky Freiman’s Vetcraft Shops took over the entire poppy making for Canada. Lillian became a member of the National Poppy Advisory Committee and chaired Ottawa’s annual poppy campaign nearly every year until her death.
On 06 October 1923, The Winnipeg Tribune enlightened its readers about the new Canadian ‘Artcraft’ poppies, to be sold in Vetcraft Shops that year – continuing Poppy Lady Madame Guérin’s legacy:
“POPPIES MADE AT ONE SOURCE.
In a statement issued by the Great War veterans’ association, attention is called to the coming sale of poppies on Armistice Day. The association points out that there is only one source of manufacture from which poppies can be secured that will give full effect to the purposed for which Poppy Day was instituted and that is the Vetcraft Shops, where the flowers are made by disabled veterans. The Dominion command of the G.W.V.A. has the sole authority for the distribution of Artcraft poppies.
It may be well, the statement points out, to remind ex-service men and women and the public generally of the three great objects attained by the distribution of poppies on Armistice Day.
First the wearing, of a poppy emblematic of Flanders Fields, provides an appropriate means of demonstrating that the great sacrifice of Canadian manhood and womanhood during the Great War is not readily forgotten.
Second, it provides a means of re-establishment for seriously disabled men whose disabilities prevent them from engaging in any work other than poppy manufacture.
Third, it creates funds for the assistance of disabled and otherwise handicapped ex-service man, as well as the dependents of the fallen.
This ensures that every cent derived from the sale of poppies on Armistice Day is retained in Canada and devoted to bettering the conditions of disabled soldiers and dependents. Commercial manufacture and distribution means a large proportion of the proceeds go to private profit and possibly to foreign countries.
In June 1925, Canada hosted a conference of the ‘British Empire Services League’ in Ottawa where it was decided that the poppy would be adopted as the Empire’s universal emblem of remembrance. The ‘British Empire Services League’ is now known by the title of the ‘Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League’.
In 1931, after pressure from the Canadian Legion, the Canadian parliament amended the Armistice Act – to set aside the eleventh November to pay tribute to those “who gave their lives that freedom might prevail.”
The above is a Canadian “Currie Button” Remembrance Poppy dating from 1934 or 1935, commemorating Ontario-born General Sir Arthur William Currie G.C.M.G., K.C.B. Currie had been an officer in the Canadian Army during the First World War. It dates to Armistice Day 1934/35 – the first and second Remembrance Days in Canada after Arthur died (30 November 1933).
There is another version of the Currie poppy – a plainer one without stamens and with a paper centre, rather than the metal embossed one shown above. The paper centre depicts a head/shoulders image of the General, along with the words “CURRIE” above “REMEMBRANCE DAY”.
The “Currie Button” replaced the Canadian Legion crest. They were “made by disabled returned men in Red Cross workshops”. The following article in The Ottawa Journal on 15 March 1934 explains the concept:
“Currie Button To Be Featured on Small Poppy. Veterans Plan to Honor Sir Arthur’s Memory and Stop Cheap Foreign Imports.
As a tribute to General Sir Arthur Currie, later Grand President of the Canadian Legion and to further perpetuate his memory, the Canadian Legion in session to-day unanimously decided to change the design of the small poppy and replace it with a Currie Button. It was pointed out that Lady Currie had already consented to the carrying out of the tribute.
The tribute to the late Canadian, was first suggested by Lieut. Col. L. R. La-Fleche, D.S.O., A.D.C, and his report formed the basis of a number of changes adopted with regard to making the poppies and poppy wreaths more attractive. These were embodied in report presented by E. Ralph Adye, Whitby, Ontario, who urged all members of the Legion to have as their yearly objective the sale of 5,000.000 poppies. He claimed that in the United Kingdom, with population of 45,000,000, a total of 43,000,000 poppies were sold.
Some From Germany.
The fact that on Remembrance Day “bootleg” poppies, made in Japan and even In Germany, were sold in Canada, was scored by delegates from British Columbia. Poppies could be imported from the Orient at $4.50 a thousand, it was said, and the sale of these should be stopped. The convention felt that this situation would be corrected by the adoption of the “Currie button.”
Wreaths should be made more attractive and the practice of depositing other than Vetcraft wreaths at official memorial services discouraged, the convention agreed.
In his comprehensive report on the Canadian Legion National Poppy Advisory Committee, Lieut-Col. La-Fleche as chairman, expressed his thanks to his associates Mrs. A. J. Freiman, O.B.E., J. C. Campbell, and J. R. Bowler. He also expressed appreciation of the splendid co-operation extended by Government officials, Provincial Command and branches of the Legion, and Ladies Auxiliaries for their cooperation, kindness and practical assistance.”
Once the order for French-made poppies was made in September 1921, the British Legion said “Goodbye” to Madame Anna Guérin – business was concluded. Had there been enough time to manufacture British-made poppies instead, that farewell would have happened much earlier. From that point onwards, the poppies that have been distributed within Great Britain have been made by British veterans, under the auspices of the Royal British Legion.
In the aforementioned February letter, Anna also recalled the 1921 poppy campaign in England, Australia and New Zealand: “… In England the success was even greater, the success has been also very good in Australia. The New-Zealand Veterans have chosen as Memorial Day, Anzac Day, beginning of April. But every thing shows that it will be also a success. And the British People have taken that in the right spirit, it will go on now, every year, nationally in Memoriam, “Lest we forget”. The Prince of Wales, Field Marshall Haig, are at the head in England, the Governor Generals here and in Australia. The motto is: “Honor the dead in helping the living; buy and wear a Flander Field Poppy on Memorial Day.”
On 28 July 1923, Madame Guérin was remembered by an article in the ‘Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald’ – it reminded readers of the reality it knew, still within its memory:
“THE FLANDERS POPPY. BEING MADE BY DISABLED EX-SERVICE MEN
For the next Flanders Poppy Day all the small poppies required will be supplied by the factory at St. James’s-road, Old Kent-road, where over sixty disabled ex-Service men are making these dainty emblems
When the idea of Poppy Day was first suggested to the British Legion in 1921 by Mme Guerin of Paris, there were only six weeks in which to organise the scheme throughout the country. The Legion purchased the small “poppies” for 3d. in France, where they were manufactured by the women and children in the devastated areas. These poppies cost £15, 510. The first orders for the 1s. poppies were given to London manufacturers, but the demand was so great that it was impossible to get enough to London, and they had to send to France, Coventry and many parts of the country, and were even then unable to meet all demands. The success of the 1921 Poppy Day far exceeded anticipations, realising £105, 842.
It was decided that the 1922 scheme should be for the sole benefit of British ex-Service men; the Disabled Society, under the management of Major Howson, undertook to manufacture poppies and for this purpose took the factory at St. James’-road, commencing with a staff of about twenty badly disabled ex-Service men. They manufactured 5,000,000 poppies last year, and the balance was suppplied by manufacturers.
Most of the employees have lost a leg. The factory is now working full time, and by the middle of September upwards of 14,000,000 small poppies and 250,000 large size, and 300 wreaths will have been manufactured. The men have a canteen on the premises, thus not having to go out for meals; a friend has given a piano, and they are a very happy company.
It is very difficult for the society to keep its prices low as that at which the poppies could be purchased in the open market, for although paying the full Trade Union rate of wage, 1s. 2d. an hour, they are at the same time competing with women and child labour, which is very much cheaper. Besides manufacturing 180,000 cornflowers for the Ypres League for Ypres Day, the factory has executed other order for similar institutions, and the work only requires to be more widely known to be used for still more orders of a similar nature.
Poppies this year will cost the British Legion barely ½p. each, but should the output in the future be greater the cost will be correspondingly lower. Many parts of the Empire have been supplied, including Gibraltar, Malta, British Army in the East, India, and South Africa, and it is hoped that by the universal adoption of Poppy Day throughout the Empire all poppies will eventually be supplied from the British Legion Disabled Factory. The factory has now been taken over by the British Legion, but although controlled by that organisation it is still managed and worked by the Disabled Society.
Major George Arthur Howson was the founding chairman of the Disabled Society in 1920. The Disabled Society merged with the British Legion in 1925.”
In March 1926, the Lady Haig Poppy Factory was opened in Edinburgh. When Lady Haig visited Dundee in the November of that year, the Dundee Evening Telegraph (03.11.1926) noted that there was “Great difficulty was experienced in getting collectors” and Lady Haig “appealed for more workers”.
Reference was made to the poppy factory in Edinburgh: “There were at present 30 men employed and there was a waiting list of many hundreds. People should be careful that they were buying the genuine Haig poppy. Each one had a black button in the centre which bore the words “Haig’s Fund.”…”
It appears that it became the custom, for both Great Britain and the United States of America, to send some of their respective Remembrance Poppies to be sold in France. With regard to the Great Britain, British poppies were sold on Armistice Day, 11 November.
In 1936, however, yellow poppies were sold in aid of the British Haig’s Fund, instead of the scarlet red ones – a decision which was politically led. A short article in The Dundee Evening Telegraph enlightened its readers on 06 November 1936:
“YELLOW POPPIES FOR ARMISTICE. Paris.
The Flanders poppies which will be sold in France on Armistice Day in aid of Lord Haig’s Fund will be yellow this year instead of red.
The change is due to a suggestion that those who wear a red flower may be taken for Communists.—Times.”
Other newspapers reported on this same situation. There was a more informative article in the Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette on Armistice Day, 1936 [sic]:
“YELLOW POPPIES IN FRANCE. LEGION EFFORT TO AVOID POLITICAL CLASH.
In France political differences were forgotten in a joint tribute of remembrance. Both the Front Populaire and the French People’s Party postponed meetings due to-day in order to avoid a possible clash.
But it has been thought tactful for the British Legion in Paris this year to substitute a yellow poppy for the red one, now the red variety has been adopted as a badge by the Communists.
The change was made at the urgent request of Legion branches in the South of France, where political feeling is running higher than in the north.
The Red poppy was retained for the wreath placed below the tablet in Notre Dame commemorating the British Empire’s million dead.
For the first time children took part in the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, filing past the President of the Republic in the same way as troops of the Paris garrison.
Even more moving than the ceremonies in Paris were the battlefield commemorations.
All through the night watch was kept at Notre Dame de Lorette, the chapel dominating the great Flanders cemetery where thousands of French, British, and Germans lie buried side by side.
Torches lit at the graves of the Unknown Soldiers in Paris and Brussels were borne from one capital to the other across the battlefields. The two symbolic flames, borne by ex-soldiers, crossed at Cambrai.
Just before the Silence, King Leopold “decorated” Belgium’s Unknown Soldier with the Croix de Feu. The medal was pinned by the King on a cushion held by a soldier. The cushion was then laid on the Unknown Soldier’s tomb, while trumpeters sounded a salute.
The Dominions and Colonies shared with Britain in thoughts of those who laid down their lives in the Great War.
The principal ceremony in India was held at Delhi, where 1,200 ex-Service officers and men, British and Indian, marched past the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, at the Memorial Arch.
The Silence was observed and a fire kindled on the summit of the Arch.”
In Chapter 7d, THE EMPIRE : GREAT BRITAIN : POPPY, a 1942 article in the Gloucester Journal (7 Nov) was transcribed which enlightened its readers about the true origin of ‘Poppy Day’. That article was found a while ago but, with more newspapers coming on-line all the time, another from the same period has now been discovered: dated 23 October 1942. Part of this earlier article, in the Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, gave identical facts e.g. enlightening its readers about Madame Guérin and her poppies but the remainder of the October article updated readers about the work of the Poppy Factory. Thus, it is deemed interesting enough to transcribe the October article here [sic]:
“BRITISH LEGION NOTES.
Last week, I referred to the Poppy Day appeal, and this week I will give the story of how the idea came to the Legion, somewhat mysteriously. There were grave doubts at first as to whether it would “take on.” The story is narrated by Lt.-Colonel E. C. Heath, first General Secretary of the Legion:–
In the later summer of 1921, Colonel Crosfield asked me it I would meet a Madame Guerin. This little French lady came to Headquarters to show us some small artificial poppies of a type then being made by certain French-women and sold for the benefit of the children in the devastated areas of France. Would the British Legion care to adopt this emblem as a means of raising money for its own purposes?
There were two firms in France who were ready to supply the material, etc. She would want a certain percentage for her own organisation in France. The Finance Committee of the National Executive Council, was concerned with the raising of funds, which were sorely needed if benevolent work on, and reasonable scale was to be undertaken.
The project was put to them. Poppies! Who wants poppies? Madame Guerin, who is she? What are her credentials? Do the two French firms exist?
It was August. The sale and collection, if it was to be made, was due for November 11th. There was no time to make suitable arrangements on this side of the Channel. If we were to do anything with the idea we must use the French organisation. But did anybody want poppies—why poppies?
The Legion had taken over, as part of the amalgamation arrangements, the Appeals Department of the Officers’ Association, of which Sir Herbert Brown was the head. He was sent for, consulted and asked to go over to Paris. We shall always be grateful to that good lady, Madame Guerin, for her part in the scheme). He reported to the next meeting of the Finance Committee that all appeared to be in order, The firms did exist; they were ready to supply the material to the organisation for making the poppies; the women in the devastated areas of France would make them.
Sir Herbert was asked to go back to Paris and order 1½ million poppies. I said to him before he left Eccleston Square: “For goodness sake order three million, whatever else you do.”
What he finally did I know not but I do know that a very large number (for those days) of poppies were sold on that November 11th; also, that not a vestige of pink blotting paper remained in the neighbourhood of Eccleston Square!
By whatever means it was done, that first Poppy Day of 1921, under a scheme rushed through between August and November, achieved a total of £106,000. The total to date is nine millions.
Originating in France, the poppy-making industry was transplanted to England in 1922. The late Major Geo. Howson, chairman of the Disabled Society, founded the poppy factory in that year with a grant from the Unity Relief Fund, later the Legion Relief Committee. The chairman of that fund was Major Paget Hett, who, on Major Howson’s death in November, 1935, succeeded him as chairman of the Poppy Factory, a position he holds today.
The first home of the factory was a workroom placed at its disposal by a collar manufacturer, a Mr. Mitchell, in St. Jame’s-road, Bermondsey, off the Old Kent Road. A start was made with only five employees. Four of them are still making poppies and one is factory foreman.
By 1923, when Mr. C. Howe, present secretary-manager, joined the staff, the employees numbered 50; and in March, 1926, when Earl Haig handed over the deeds of the present factory at Richmond, there were 150 workers, all disabled in the Great War.
From the beginning Major Howson had no intention of relying on sweated labour in slum attics for the supply of Legion poppies. In 1929 additional premises were acquired; in 1932 the Princess Royal opened the main factory; and in 1936 further premises for extension were taken. Major Howson made the Richmond factory spacious and well ventilated, a show-place which has been visited and admired by thousands all over the world.
The scope of the factory’s work was widened to include the manufacture of metal “Haig Fund” centres, cardboard centres, boxes and other component parts of the poppy. The normal full complement of employees is 400 but, at present only 350 are regularly at work, including five men of this war. All are war-disabled. More than half are limbless.
The total number of poppies made since the factory was begun is 497 millions; the total of wreaths 500,000.
The net certified annual profits are transferred to the British Legion Benevolent Fund to be set against the gross cost of poppies.
Up to the end of the last financial year (November, 1941), wages paid from the beginning of the factory amounted to £1,086,030.
The value to the factory of sales of poppies in the same period was £2,240,000.
ALF WOOD, Secretary of the Local Branch, 63 Whalley Road, Clitheroe.”
Australia kept faith with Madame Anna Guérin for longer than the aforementioned Allies and the country continued to be loyal to French-made poppies until 1926, inclusive. Anna never visited Australia but she kept up communication with the veterans of Australia’s Returned Sailor’s & Soldier’s Imperial League. She would have wanted to show appreciation and give thanks but it was also imperative to keep the momentum going. However, eventually, the Australian veterans were given top priority.
In 1922, from the beginning of November, newspapers like Tasmania’s Launceston Examiner (01 November) informed their readers of a letter received from Madame Guérin:
“Poppy Day Appeal. The president of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League has received a letter from Madame Guerin, organiser of the French Children’s League in which she conveys the thanks of that league for the assistance received through the sale of poppies last year. “Until recently,” she wrote, “I thought it would be possible for me to come to Australia this year and to assist you in the success of your second Poppy Day. It is with many regrets that I have been compelled to postpone this pleasure. I know that your people and your organisation would have welcomed the news that I should have brought from those flanders fields which your gallant soldiers so nobly saved. It would have been a great joy to me to have the privilege of speaking in your schools and to the returned soldiers of Australia, but it is necessary for me to go to other European allied nations, lest they should forget that they must have in memoriam their Poppy Day on the anniversary of armistice. I have pleasure in advising you that, as a result of requests received from so many mothers and dependents in Canada, United States and England committees have been formed in all towns, villages. etc., for the purpose of assisting those dependents to have wreaths of poppies placed on the graves of their brave relatives. In connection with this scheme it is suggested that the returned soldiers’ organisations throughout the allied countries should make an appeal to the parents of deceased soldiers buried in France to subscribe to the cost of a wreath of poppies, which would be placed by local committees in accordance with their desire. A certificate, by the Mayor of the town or village near by the cemetery, would be sent to each relative subscribing for a wreath, certifying that same had been placed on the grave. Our idea is that all such wreaths should be placed on the graves during the week of Easter. The poppies are made of waterproof material so that the wreaths shall last a long while.
In connection with the proposal for the placing of wreaths on the graves of the fallen, the league has decided to give this its wholehearted support. The wreaths are about to 10 inches in diameter, and are made of eleven large poppies and two palms. The cost of these wreaths will be £1 each, and relatives or business firms wishing to have a wreath laid on a soldier’s grave are requested to send that amount to the state secretary of the Returned Soldiers’ League, Murray-street, Hobart, or to the secretary of the local branch of the league. It is essential that the name, rank, number, and unit of the dead soldier should be given, together with the name of the place where he is buried. The name and address of the subscriber must also be given, so that the Mayor of the nearest town may send a certificate showing that the wreath has been placed on the grave.”
In addition, The Register (Adelaide, SA.), on 09 November 1922, wrote: “… The little silk poppies that will be sold by the R.S.S.I.L.A. on Poppy Day are the exact replicas in size and colour of the poppy that blooms in Flanders fields, and were made by the war widows and orphans of the devastated area in France. To buy them will be greater than a duty— a service of honour.”
In 1923, the Western Mail (Perth, WA.) reported on 04 January 1923: “POPPY DAY. Melbourne, Jan, 2. Mr. G. J. C. Dyett, Federal president of the Returned Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Imperial League of Australia, has received from Madame E. Guerin, known as the “Poppy Lady” of France, who initiated the Inter-Allied Poppy Day scheme, a communication in which she states that the statement of receipts and expenditure received by her in connection with the Poppy Day held in Australia on the anniversary of Armistice Day, 1921 was the clearest she had received in connection with any campaign. She added that France was grateful for the sentiments expressed in the letter which accompanied statement, and for the genuine interest of the great country of Australia towards France and her poor women and children for whose relief the money was raised.”
The Daily News (Perth, WA. 06 October) reported: “SOLDIERS CONFERENCE CONCLUDED. The seventh annual conference of the Returned Soldiers’ League was concluded to-day. “POPPY DAY. The president drew attention to a flag and bannerette which had been received by the league from Madame Guerin (France) as a token of gratitude for the money raised for the widows and orphans of French soldiers on Poppy (Armistice) Day. It was resolved that a letter of appreciation should be sent to Madame Guerin. Congress decided that in the event of Armistice Day falling on a Sunday (as this year) Poppy Day should be held on Saturday.”
In 1924, an article in the Warwick Daily News (Queensland. 06 Nov.) highlighted the fact that not every town in Australia was participating in Poppy Appeals: “Poppy Appeal in Warwick. In the year 1921, a French lady, Madame Guerin, conceived the happy idea of despatching to Australia thousands of poppies for sale, the proceeds to be devoted to giving attention to the graves of Australian soldiers in France. Since then the appeal has been continued, and on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, next it will be made in Warwick for the first time. The matter has been enthusiastically taken up by the Warwick branch of the R.S.S.I.L.A., principally through its ladies’ committee, while the assistance of the Women’s Club and of the Country Women’s Association has also been procured. Already 200 French poppies have been received. It is notified in this issue that ladies willing to assist in selling poppies, in conjunction with the organ-isations above mentioned, are invited to attend a meeting at the R.S.S.I.L.A. rooms on Friday next at 2.30 p.m. This appeal has a peculiar significance to all in whom memory of the great war has not been overlaid with other matters of daily concern, and we trust the appeal will meet with the success that it certainly deserves.
Remember those lonely graves among the poppies in Flanders. Buy a Poppy.”
In 1925, protestations began being aired in public. Brisbane’s Telegraph (17 Feb) reported: “Returned Soldiers. Busy Day at Conference. The R.S.S.I.L.A. annual conference got through a considerable amount of business at yesterday’s session. … POPPY APPEAL. Resolved that the district conference emphatically protests against the appeal made on November 11, of each year for funds for despatch to France, more particularly in view of the destitution amongst returned soldiers, amply evidenced by the frequent appeals for funds and even left off clothing, through the columns of the metropolitan Press, and that while this appeal is continued for such a purpose, the sub-branches in this district refuse to participate. The resolution was carried with one dissentient. It was pointed out that Madame Guerin had sent out ten thousand poppies which arrived on an already overloaded market.”
In 1926, Perth’s Daily News (09 Nov.) confirms, as other newspapers do, that the country was still using French poppies but also highlights that only a proportion of sales would go to France:
“POPPY DAY. For R.S.L. Funds. Poppies will be sold for the benefit of R.S.L. Amelioration Funds next Thursday by parties of ladies acting for metropolitan sub-branches of the R.S.L. Many country centres have also applied to the League headquarters for poppies for disposal in aid of country sub-branch purposes.
It is expected that all citizens will show their appreciation of the sacrifices made by Australian soldiers in the great war and wear a poppy in remembrance.
The ladies of the West Perth sub-branch R.S.L. will have the assistance of Miss Maud Fane, of the J. C. Williamson Opera Company, and as the poppies were obtained from Madame Guerin, in France, a proportion of sales will benefit French war orphans.
Armistice commemoration services will commence at St. George’s Cathedral and the Wesley Church at 10.45 a.m. Thursday, and the Premier (Mr. Collier) has requested the cessation of all normal business for two minutes, commencing at 11 a.m.”
1927 was the first year that disabled Australian veterans made the poppies that were distributed on the streets of Australia. Newspapers like Victoria’s Shepparton Advertiser (07 November) reported on their local appeal: “Poppy Day. Mrs. H. N. Butt has consented to supervise, the sale of silken poppies on Armistice Day in Shepparton. It is to be hoped that the little silken emblem of remembrance will be freely purchased and worn on November 11. The poppies have been made by disabled Australian soldiers and dependents, and are beautifully got up.”
Finally, Australia had said “Au revoir Madame Guérin”.
N.B. Australians also wear sprigs of rosemary on Anzac and Armistice Days. The herb grows wild on Gallipoli, a peninsula with poignant First World War memories for Australians.
Like Australia, New Zealand remained loyal to Madame Anna Guérin. In actual fact, New Zealand was the most loyal of all the WW1 Allied nations. Like Australia, the country was never graced with Anna’s presence but she kept in touch with the veterans of the Returned and Services’ Association by letter. From a New Zealand gentleman’s recollection, many New Zealand women remained “representatives” of Madame Guérin for years.
In 1923, Wellington’s Evening Post, on 11 April 1923, looked ahead to that year’s Poppy campaign. It quoted “Sniper” (from ‘Quick March’):
“Poppy Day” for 1923 is fast approaching, says “Sniper” in “Quick March,” and may success attend the labours of the noble lady-sellers, for without them last “Poppy Day” would not have been the success it was. This year 250,000 small poppies and 30,000 large ones have been ordered, and each district will receive what it ordered several months ago, instead of a number in proportion to” its population. Born in France, the movement to make the Flanders Poppy the inter-Allied memorial flower has spread in two years to Britain, Canada, U.S.A., Australia, and New Zealand. Thus this humble, scarlet little flower is doing noble world work by bringing the returned soldier organisations of the Allied nations into’ a compact body; which some day may develop into a compact International Congress of ex-fighting men. To all ex-soldiers, and to the vast array of the Relatives of the fallen, the poppy has now become the symbol of proud remembrance. At the end of 1921, the N.Z.R.S.A. decided to adopt the 24th April, the day before Anzac Day, as Poppy Day for New Zealand. Out of £13,166 collected last year, £3694-15s 7d was cabled to France to relieve distress in the battle-areas, and information from Madame Guerin (the founder) disclosed the pleasing fact that New Zealand was highest in her contributions to the widows and orphan children who had helped to make the poppies. £9471 was spent in helping to provide wages for unemployed soldiers, throughout the Dominion, and never in the history of the, N.Z.R.S.A. has it done so much practical good as what tins money, augmented by local subsidy, did iii the winter of 1922. The money was not given as a dole, but was used” in providing wages for useful work done in cities and towns. The married ex-soldiers were helped first, and many a wife must have blessed the successful ‘Poppy Day.”
After the 1923 Poppy Day, ‘Quick March’ (10 May 1923) reported that the demand for poppies in Christchurch was so great that the supply had been exhausted shortly after mid-day. The article acknowledged the “noble service performed by” the New Zealand women:
Poppy Day for 1923 is now a thing of the past, but the N.Z.R.S.A. cannot allow the event to pass by without thanking the ladies throughout New Zealand for the great part they have again displayed in making the day a success. The results of course are not available, but Auckland’s total is in the vicinity of £1600; the ladies of Wellington netted about £1000 whilst Christchurch raised £853. So great was the demand for poppies in the last place that the supply had been sold shortly after mid-day. The day has evidently been another success; it is difficult to see how it could be otherwise, when the objects to which the money is devoted are reflected upon by the public.
The history of the Great War as far as it effected New Zealand can never be complete without some acknowledgement of the noble services performed by our New Zealand women.
No country in the world can claim the same contributions per head that our collectors have obtained from the public since 1915 – the date of our first “Street Days.”
In spite of rain and snow, and in spite of refusal or black looks, our ladies have never deserted the cause of our soldier boys; the same street corners saw the same collectors doing the same noble work many times a year.
Zealandia’s ex-soldiers will never forget the practical patriotism and kindness meted out by our women-folk.
About £9500 was gathered last year to help in procuring work; this was supplemented by subsidies granted by local bodies.
It is to be hoped that the local bodies throughout New Zealand will do their utmost to increase their levies this year, as the employment of ex-soldiers on special work makes employment for the civilian out of work much easier. The present winter points to being long, and many men are already in search of employment, therefore the bigger the subsidies granted the longer will the ex-soldiers be employed and consequently his equally unfortunate civilian brother.”
On 21 November 1923, Christchurch’s ‘Press’ newspaper reported that the Canterbury District Executive had received a French flag from Madame Guérin “Poppy Lady” of France, for presentation to the Returned Services’ Association selling the most poppies prior to Anzac Day. The District Executive had decided that this flag should be presented to the Christchurch R.S.A.
In 1924, Christchurch’s ‘Press’ newspaper rallied its readers on 11 April: “POPPY DAY. WOMEN’S COMMITTEE. A meeting was called by Mrs H. T. J Thacker for the purpose of making arrangements for the sale of poppies on April 23rd. … … A meeting was called by Mrs H. T. J. Thacker for the purpose of making arrangements for the sale of poppies on April 23rd. … … An offer was received from the members of the W.C.T.U. to assist. Last year Christchurch was responsible for the largest sum collected in the Dominion on Poppy Day, and was the recipient of a beautiful, flag presented by Madame Guerin, the “Poppy Lady of France.” Members of the committee are hoping to keep the flag this year. It was decided to solicit the aid of the large schools and colleges, several of which had been very helpful last year.”
On 23 April 1924, The Press enlightened its readers thus: “GENERAL NEWS. “The Press” will not be published on Friday, Anzac Day. … … Complete arrangements have been made for the sale of poppies in the streets to-day. There will be stands at all the vantage points in the city, and the committee has appointed various ladies and institutions to control the stands. Last year Christchurch headed the list in the Dominion on Poppy Day, and received the flag presented by Madame Guerin, the “Poppy Lady of France.” This year it is hoped that Christchurch will maintain its position, and no effort will be spared to this end.”
In 1925, the ‘Press’ (21 April) printed: “POPPY DAY. ASSISTANCE FOR UNEMPLOYED SOLDIERS. Arrangements for Poppy Day, to be observed to-morrow, have been completed, and as a large number of ladies have undertaken to assist in the sale of poppies in aid of the Returned Soldiers’ Association’s Unemployment Fund it is fully anticipated that the results this year will eclipse those of last year.
Zest will be imparted into the efforts of the ladies as they are anxious to recover the flag, presented by Guerin, the “poppy lady of France” which is held by the Centre in the Dominion that tops the list of contributions received on Poppy Day. In 1923 the Christchurch ladies had the honour of winning the coveted flag, and this year they hope to regain it from last year’s winners. …”
In the New Zealand Herald (on 13 May): “RETURNED SOLDIERS. WORKERS ON POPPY DAY. The executive committee of the Auckland Returned Soldiers’ Association met last evening, Mr. S. A. Carr presiding. A resolution of appreciation was passed to Lady Gunson and her helpers for their valuable services on Poppy Day, and also for suggestions and recommendations for future Poppy Days. Various subcommittees to act during the year were set up.”
In the New Zealand Herald (30 April 1925): “ONLY A THREEPENCE. MAN AND A POPPY. Collectors for charitable purposes meet some strange experiences. One lady, who was selling poppies at Napier last week, met a resident who received a poppy and then flatly declined to give more, than 3d. The embarrassed vendor argued and urged in vain, and at length gave the man his 3d back. A spasm of generosity then stirred his frame, for he pocketed the 3d and proffered 6d.”
In 1926, the New Zealand Herald (22 April) told of how Poppy Day funds would be shared:
“POPPY DAY CAMPAIGN. LOCAL APPEAL TO-MORROW. Poppy Day will be held in Auckland tomorrow. The executive of the Auckland Returned Soldiers’ Association has decided to allocate the net proceeds of this year’s sales as follows:—Fifty per cent, to the Veterans’ Home. 30 per cent, to disabled soldiers and 20 per cent, toward the relief of necessitous cases among fit men.”
In Christchurch’s ‘Press’ two days later, an article carried news received via Press Association Telegrams: “POPPY DAY. SUCCESSFUL APPEAL. There were few people in the streets of the City yesterday who did not carry in the lapels of their coats a scarlet poppy for remembrance. The annual “Poppy Day” appeal is for funds for the relief of unemployment among returned soldiers, and it always meets with a generous response. Yesterday the energetic collectors were stationed at all the main corners in the City, and the work they did ensured a good collection. The final result of the collection was £650, with several amounts to come in. DUNEDIN, April 23. Poppy Day here was a great success, and last year’s excellent total was exceeded by almost £I00, with country boxes yet to come. To-day’s total was £630. The Exhibition proved a good hunting ground for the sellers of the flowery. …”
In 1927, the Auckland Star (11 February) printed this article: “Poppy Day. Poppy Day will be held in Auckland on April 22 next, and arrangements for the street collection to take place on that date will be put in hand by the Auckland Returned Soldiers’ Association almost immediately. The association had an abundance of red poppies to sell, and it has not been necessary to get a new supply from France this year. Last night it was decided to approach the City Council and ask for official sanction for a street collection on the date selected.”
In 1928, French-made poppies were still sent to New Zealand: “… This year in addition to purchasing poppies from France the organisers have bought some from the workers of the British Legion, associated with the scheme of the Prince of Wales and the late Earl Haig. They are of the small variety, and well finished. In addition, the local executive has had some large poppies made in Auckland. These, too, are of attractive appearance. …” (Auckland Star, 19 April 1928)
1929 was the first year that New Zealand’s poppies were not made by the widows and orphans of the devastated areas of France: “… Last year £1400 was realised from this source. Ever since the war the poppies have been supplied by France, but this year a departure has been made, and they are being purchased from the British Legion of Disabled Soldiers, in London. Thus, by buying them next month, citizens will have the added satisfaction of assisting Imperial soldiers as well as soldiers in their own country. Auckland Star (12 March).
In 1930, the New Zealand poppy supply came from the British Legion. A very long article in Christchurch’s ‘Press’ (4 April) illustrated just how quickly the truth about Madame Guérin had been lost:
“30,000 POPPIES. HUGE CONSIGNMENT FOR CHRISTCHURCH. PREPARING FOR APPEAL. “Buy a poppy for remembrance and wear it on Anzac Day.”
This is the slogan used by the Christchurch Returned Soldiers’ Association and it is hoped that on April 24th—the day before Anzac Day—every man, woman, and child will spend shilling on a poppy, and thus be instrumental in finding employment for returned soldiers who are in distress.
Cases containing 30,000 poppies arrived at the R.S.A. rooms yesterday morning from the poppy factory in Surrey, England, and on April 24th they will be sold throughout the City, suburbs, and country districts. The Association is making a particularly strong appeal this year, and large numbers of people have banded themselves into committees to attend to the distribution of the tokens.
People often ask, “How did Poppy Day start?” In 1921 a woman, having lost her son at the war, and who was visiting the battlefields of France, noticed large numbers of peasants manufacturing artificial poppies and selling them to tourists. She was struck with the idea that the poppies could be manufactured in England, to the great benefit of disabled soldiers, who could be assisted by the proceeds of sales organised on a large scale. Putting her thoughts into action she placed the scheme before the British Empire Service League, in London, and the League fell in immediately with her negotiations.
Later a poppy factory was started in Surrey, England, and now 275 disabled soldiers are employed there, manufacturing the emblems and supplying them to the whole of the British Empire. In 1921 £100,000 worth of poppies were sold on Armistice Day.
New Zealand differs in its sale day from other parts of the Empire as the poppies are sold on Poppy Day, which is generally just prior to Anzac Day. Since 1921 the sales have increased tremendously and now the Surrey factory is very fully occupied. The proceeds of poppy sales are used for two purposes: (1) The relief of unemployment among returned men by subsidies to local bodies, which in return gives preference to soldiers; (2) the relief of distress among needy returned soldiers and their dependents. …”
No word was been found in the National Library of New Zealand’s ‘Paperspast’ newspapers of “Madame Guérin” or the “Poppy Lady of France” in the handful of years beyond 1925. Not until 1930 was the Guérin name found again, in one article. In that American sourced article, within Wellington’s Evening Post (07 July 1930), it is not surprising that Anna is mentioned second to Moina Michael:
“POPPY DAY. EMBLEM’S ORIGIN INSPIRED BY POEM (From “The Post’s” Representative.) NEW YORK, 11th June. Who conceived the idea of adopting the poppy as a symbol of tho sacrifices paid by the soldiers of the world war? The claim is made that Miss Moina Michael, a Southern woman, got this inspiration when, in the last weeks of the war, she read Colonel John McRae’s poem, “In Flanders Field”:
To you from falling hands we throw, The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break with us who die, We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders Field.
Miss Michael wrote an answer in verse, which ended thus: And now the torch and poppy red. We’ll wear in honour of our dead. Tear not that you have died for naught; We’ll teach the lessons that you wrought In Flanders Field.
Through the Y.M.C.A., with which she was connected, Miss Michael promulgated her plan that poppies should be worn for remembrance. She wrote to the War Department, educational institutions, women’s clubs, and other organisations, urging adoption of the poppy as a memorial tribute. The American Legion of Georgia agreed.
The idea spread to other lands. Mme. Guerin, of Paris, organised, the American and French Children’s League and sold poppies for the benefit of orphans in France.
In England the poppy programme was adopted in 1921 by Earl Haig’s British Legion, and since that time more than £2,000,000 has been collected for ex-service men. In 1925, the British sales reached £600,000.
Instead of the poppy becoming a national emblem, it became international. In Europe, nineteen countries wear it. Poppies are worn in Japan, China, and Mexico. Over £180,000 was raised in the 1928 sales in United States; 39 hospitals and workshops were used to make them, employing 2348 persons.
Miss Michael is a teacher, but for the whole of her adult life she has been doing social service.”
1931 was the first year that disabled veterans in New Zealand made the poppies that were distributed on the streets of New Zealand.
Although the women who had been New Zealand’s original “poppy girls” and the Returned Soldiers’ Association veterans who had met Colonel Moffat knew the truth, it was the beginning of New Zealand forgetting about Madame Guérin and her Remembrance Poppy Day idea.
New Zealand had said “Au revoir Madame Guérin”.
Please find, above and below, images of two early New Zealand cloth Remembrance Poppies. They are exhibits within the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust Collection, Ruawharo Tā-ū-rangi, 1 Tennyson Street, Napier 4110, New Zealand. It is the author’s opinion that: the “In Memoriam” tagged poppy may be a British ‘Poppy Factory’ poppy dating to 1929 or 1930 (1928 was the last year for Madame Guérin’s French-made poppies); and the ‘Returned Soldiers Association’ poppy will not be earlier than 1931, the first year that New Zealand veterans made their country’s Remembrance Poppies. [N.B. correction welcome]
FRANCE, BELGIUM & ITALY
On 07 November 1922, the New Zealand newspaper ‘Northern Advocate’ printed an article relating to a letter the ‘Returned Soldiers’ Association’ had received from Madame Guérin – the letter made mention of France and Belgium:
“For this second year everyone is hoping great results. England and Scotland are hoping to sell fifteen million poppies, France a good portion of it, little Belgium also, and to make by this simple and magnificent way to honour the dead enough money to help during the coming winter all those ex-soldiers who are still in distress.
Writing within her quickly-written 1941 Synopsis, Madame Anna Guérin documented much. In it, we are enlightened for the first time that she went “to Belgium , to Italy and had also their Poppies made for their first year . In these 2 countries they have discontinued their National Poppy’s Day some years ago.”
To date, it is not known when Anna Guérin would have visited Belgium or Italy and little is known about just how long France, Belgium and Italy (during the 1920’s era) wore the poppy as a remembrance emblem.