This black felt O.A.C. pennant, with hand stitched orange felt letters, dates from c. 1918, at a time when America and Oregon Agricultural College (then OAC – now OSU) were in the last year of our country’s first great war, World War I.
Helping date this pennant, it came with five small pinbacks from WWI affixed to it. The pins include a “Third Liberty Loan” pin, a Salvation Army War Service Fund pin, and three small Red Cross pins.
These pins were probably collected by a student at OAC during the War (1914-1918), when Oregon State University was a thriving training grounds for countless men and women who would go on to serve our country in one capacity or another.
During 1917, OAC was the center of military life for the entire state of Oregon. 66 faculty left to aid in the war effort. The US War Service called an additional 105 staff members to active service in 1918, and nearly 2,000 students, alumni, and faculty members were enlisted. In addition, more than 2,000 men were in training at OAC in the Students’ Army Training Corps and other military and naval training units. Sadly, 51 OAC students, faculty, and alumni lost their lives during the War. Below are two pictures of campus during 1918. The first shows OAC’s President Kerr addressing the Student Army Training Corps, and the second shows Army students doing radio training. For the early part of OSU’s history every physically fit male was required to take the first two years of ROTC instruction.
Today, OSU Army ROTC continues the tradition of “The West Point of the West,” the nickname earned during World War II when the OSU Corps produced more officers than any other non-military academy in the nation.
The “Third Liberty Loan” pin refers to part of the larger effort by the U.S. government to sell war bonds (also known as Liberty Bonds) during WWI, to defray the expense of war. They were primarily sold by the boy and girl scouts, and the Third Liberty Loan Act was enacted in April of 1918, giving the best evidence of the age of this pin and pennant.
The Salvation Army War Service Fund was a fund raising effort to help provide assistance to the troops during the war. And the Red Cross, which started the war as a small organization, by war’s end had nearly one-third of the U.S. population who were either Red Cross donors or serving as a volunteer. In all, 20 million adults and 11 million youth claimed membership in the American Red Cross during the war and more than 8 million adults were volunteer workers.
Undoubtedly, many of these organizations were found on the campus of OSU during this time, and this pennant and accompanying pins provide a unique snapshot into a student’s life during that time in the school’s history… nearly 100 years ago!