WWI Artifacts and Memories: Mother Goose in Wartime

9, November 2015

One of the more unique World War I artifacts in the Missouri Historical Society's collections is a small booklet titled Mother Goose in Wartime. It contains original illustrations by the first female faculty member of the University of Missouri’s art department, Gladys M. Wheat, and University of Missouri art students.

another page from Mother Goose in WartimeOne of the wartime-themed nursery rhymes in Mother Goose in Wartime. Missouri Historical Society Collections.

In the booklet, author George F. Nardin, also of the University of Missouri, took well-known nursery rhymes and gave them a wartime twist. For example, the nursery rhyme "Rub-a-Dub-Dub" was changed to:

Rub-a-dub-dub

Three men in a tub

And who do you think they be?

The slacker, the traitor

The willful food waster,

—Send them to Germany!

Other nursery rhymes, including "Little Miss Muffet," "Little Boy Blue," and "There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe," were also updated with patriotic themes. Some of the illustrations mirrored the wartime posters of Uncle Sam and Liberty, with similar messages about food conservation and war-savings stamps. (These stamps were low-cost versions of war bonds that could be bought for 5, 10, and 25 cents, and therefore were especially targeted at children.)

A cartoon featuring a take on a wartime take on a nursery rhyme"Little Miss Muffet," reimagined for Mother Goose in Wartime. Missouri Historical Society Collections.

The publication was commissioned by the Department of Patriotic Education, Woman’s Committee, National Council of Defense, Missouri Division; released in 1918; and sold in school trade catalogs for 15 cents. All proceeds went toward child welfare work.

The Council of National Defense, Missouri Division, was the primary war-work organizer in the state during World War I. The product of a call by Secretary of War Newton Baker for each state to organize a Council of National Defense, the Missouri Division had more than 11,000 members, from the township level all the way up to the state level.

To see more pages from Mother Goose in Wartime, head to the Library and Research Center.

—Patrick Allie, Military and Arms Curator