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Connecticut State Council of Defense records

Identifier: RG030

Scope and Content

The record group contains general records as well as records from the following departments: Executive, Americanization, Child Welfare, Food Supply, Fuel Conservation, Health and Recreation, Historical Records, Military and Naval Committee, Publicity, Soldiers' and Sailors' Information Bureau, Transportation, Fund Raising, Woman's Division, and the New London Auxiliary Committee.


  • 1917-1919

Language of Materials

The records are in English.

Restrictions on Access

These records are stored at an off-site facility and therefore may not be available on a same-day basis.

Because of the physical problems involved, special arrangements must be made for the consultation of the lantern slides, and cuts and plates.

See the Rules and Procedures for Researchers Using Archival Records and Secured Collections policy.

Historical Note

The Council of Defense was Connecticut's agency for coordinating its war activities during World War I. Appointed on 26 April 1917 by Gov. Marcus Holcomb under the authority of the emergency act (Chap. 44, Public Acts of 1917), it initially consisted of eleven members representing industry, labor, the professions and the military, with Richard M. Bissell as Chairman.1 The first meeting was held on 8 May 1917 and the agency was discontinued in March 1919.

At first the Council was organized in a series of appointed committees to deal with the various areas of concern, such as food supply, fuel conservation, transportation, military and naval affairs and publicity. A small secretarial and administrative staff was headed by Thomas Hewes. As the work expanded, a number of the committees acquired their own full-time staffs and became "Departments", and a stronger executive control was established through the creation of an Executive Department headed by Joseph M. Alsop, a member of the Council.

Much of the Council's attention was devoted to coordinating, supporting and publicizing the work of other agencies. Leading officials of many other war agencies served also on Council of Defense committees, and in some cases the Council supplied staff assistance and other help to United States agencies in Connecticut or to other Connecticut agencies in the war effort. The Military Census, which was the first Connecticut war agency (Feb.. 7, 1917), was represented on the Council by its director, and the Committee on Food Supply, which preceded the Council by a couple of weeks, became one of its departments. The Council collaborated closely with the United States Food Administration, the United States Fuel Administration, the United States Employment Service, the Committee on Public Information and, of course, the Council of National Defense. Efforts were made to organize town "war bureaux" to coordinate war work on a local scale; these met with varying success and little record of their work survives. Auxiliary committees on the county level also existed; the files of the New London one are here.

Mention must be made of the important Woman's Division. Organized first as a state committee of the Council of National Defense Woman's Committee, it gradually, by the summer of 1918, assumed the status of a department in the Connecticut Council. As that occurred, some of its earlier programs (Americanization, child welfare, "commercial economy", etc.) were taken over by other units of the Council, but the Woman's Division continued to be represented on those committees and to play an important role in all the agency's work.


  1. 1The appointment document is in RG 005:022, Governor Marcus H. Holcomb records, 1917-1918, file 107. Other background material is in the same series, files 104, 105, and 137. The official history, prepared by Henry M. Wriston and others, is Report of the Connecticut State Council of Defense, December 1918 (Hartford, 1919) [CSL call number Conn Doc St291re].


198 cubic feet


The Council of Defense coordinated war activities in Connecticut during World War I. Its various committees dealt with the various areas of concern, such as food supply, fuel conservation, transportation, military and naval affairs and publicity.


Series 1. General

Series 2. Executive Department

Series 3. Americanization department

Series 4. Child Welfare Department

Series 5. Food Supply Department

Series 6. Fuel Conservation Committee

Series 7. Health and Recreation Department

Series 8. Historical Records Department

Series 9. Military and Naval Committee

Series 10. Publicity Department

Series 11. Soldiers' and Sailors' Information Bureau

Series 12. Transportation Department

Series 13. Fund-Raising Activities

Series 14. Woman's Division

Series 15. New London county Auxiliary Committee

Series 16. Exhibit Material

Series 17. Miscellaneous


When the war ended, the Council of Defense wound up its own activities. The committees were disbanded, most of the staff turned to other work, and the records were turned over to the State Library for preservation. The records became the responsibility of the War Records Department of the State Library, which was the successor to the Historical Records Department (headed by George Godard, the State Librarian) of the Council of Defense.

Related Material

RG 005:022, Governor Marcus H. Holcomb records. See particularly, for 1917-1919, files 104, 105, 107, 137, and for 1919-1921, file 66.

RG 012, Connecticut State Library. Records of the War Records Department include much material closely related to records of the Historical Records Department of the Council of Defense. Also see War LIbrary Fund records, 1917.

RG 013, Military Department. Military Emergency Board orders pertaining to the Home Guard and the State Guard.

RG 018, Civil Service Commission. These materials, 1913-1921, were evidently held at one time by the War Records Department; they are related to the Military Census records (recruitment of nurses, etc.) and the Labor Department, Employment Service (placement of returned veterans).

RG 020, Department of Labor. Included are files of the U.S. Employment Service pertaining to the efforts to find jobs for demobilized service people.

RG 029, Military Census. This was in a sense the predecessor of the Council of Defense; its head became a COuncil member and records include material on draft age men, aliens, farms, crops, livestock, automobiles, doctors, nurses, and factories. Council of Defense Industrial Survey records are here.

RG 050, War Council. This was the World War II agency similar to the Council of Defense.

RG 064, Pictorial Collection. Included are a scattering of photographs and posters from the Council of Defense and war-related activities.

RG 069, Manuscript Collections. Some war-related groups include RG 069:001 (Hohenthal papers on draft board and temperance work), RG 069:002 (Crocker photographs of war-time Hartford), RG 069:017 (Lorenz photograph collection of prominent persons).

There are also several small record groups containing records of veterans' organizations.

Among the Classified Archives are personal papers and other materials pertaining to Connecticut in World War I. Most are catalogued under "European War, 1914-1918".

Separated Material

Exhibit and demonstration material.

The following items were transferred to the Museum of Connecticut History. These items were used to attract public attention and support or to explain and illustrate Council of Defense activities and war programs. It has not always been determined just how and where they were used. Most are damaged and extremely dirty. The following is a list of partial captions or descriptions.

1. The proportions of the problem in the United States - in Connecticut (incomplete). 2 panels, each 48 x 72 in.

2. The solution of the problem. 48 x 72 in.

3. True Americanism. 48 x 72 in.

4. Americanization - What it is, 48 x 782 in.

5. Connecticut is making good Governor's pledge to Pres. Wilson...Are you doing your part?. Wood frame. 48 x 108 in.

6. Dates you should remember...hasten the day of victory. Wood frame. 48 x 108 in.

7. War education and information - The Department of Publicity. Wood frame. 48 x 108 in.

8. Over the top (4th Liberty Loan). 48 x 108 in.

9. Millions for defense (4th Liberty Loan). Wood frame. 48 x 120 in.

10-12. Official U.S. Government war photographs. Three panels, each with mounted 8 x 10 in. glossy prints of military scenes, with typed captions. 2 panels, 48 x 96 in.; 1 panel 48 x 84 in.

13. Where Allied armies are smashing Huns. Wood frame. 48 x 108 in.

14. Where armies of democracy are smashing road to victory. Double panel, hinged. Wood frame. Each panel, 48 x 96 in.

15. Rallies carry war message to many thousands. Wood frame. 48 x 84 in.

16. Patriotic press of Connecticut backs up the republic. 42 x 84 in.

17. These Connecticut newspapers are helping win the war (mounted masthead clippings). Wood frame. 42 x 84 in.

18. Map of markets to which Pocahontas and New River coals are limited...1915. 40 x 60 in.

19. Emergency organization for the City of New Haven. Wood frame. 28 x 44 in.

20. Local agencies of the Connecticut State Council of Defense (map with colored buttons). Wood frame.

21. State Highway Department map with unidentified route markings. 26 x 36 in.

22. New England Fuel administration chart. 15 x 28 in.

23. Tell it to Pershing. 30 x 42 in.

24. New consecration is the duty of the living. 28 x 40 in.

25. Stand fast America! 28 x 40 in.

26. Large banner, approximately 8 x 20 feet, containing a representation of governor Holcomb's cable of support to President Wilson on 3(?) or 5 February 1917 has been destroyed. It appears in the photographs in Series 16, Exhibit Material and color photographs are in the Pictorial Collection (RG 064).

27. State of Connecticut Victory Liberty Loan Honor ROll. 48 x 60 in.

28. Some of the Publications issued by the Dept. of Publicity... Wood frame, glass. 32.5 x 40 in.

29. Make a Will (YMCA poster). 22 x 28 in.

30. Invest Wisely (YMCA poster). 22 x 28 in.

Processing Information

After arrival at the State Library, the records were moved about many times and became almost inextricably mixed with other war-related materials (see Related Material section). While some measure of order has been restored, there are large groups of papers that are still unarranged and are described only in general terms such as "Collected" or "Miscellaneous" materials. Despite the remaining difficulties in using them, however, this record group remains an extraordinarily valuable collection of materials on Connecticut history during the critical period of World War I.

RG 030, Council of Defense
Inventory of Records
Finding aid prepared by Connecticut State Library staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Connecticut State Library Repository