World War I in Lawrence: Draft begins, but Douglas County not immediately affected

The first national draft began at 9:49 a.m., July 20, in Washington, D.C.’s Senate building. Under the watchful eye of the press, blindfolded war department officials and several Senators and Representatives drew numbers from a large glass bowl. The numbers, which were then written on a large blackboard and wired to news services nationwide, corresponded to men who had participated in the compulsory registration earlier this summer.

Douglas County, along with eight other Kansas counties, was not immediately affected by this lottery. The state of Kansas had been required to produce 17,000 men for military duty, with Douglas County’s share determined to be 256. However, 434 county men had already volunteered for service, so the enlistment forms and other preparations were not needed this month. However, the Journal-World reported, “the preparations for the draft this time will not be in vain, for the second call is expected in ninety days and Douglas county will doubtless figure in it.”

In another article, the Journal-World stated that “although no men will be taken from Lawrence on the first draft, the bulletin board of the Journal-World has all the popularity it enjoys during a world’s series, today. When the Associated Press began sending out the numbers chosen at Washington today, a crowd collected at the bulletin board and remained there throughout the day. The only interest the numbers have for Douglas county lies in the fact that they establish the order in which the men will be called for service in the event of a second draft.”

At the University of Kansas, Dean Kelly, director of the summer session, assured any students whose number had been drawn that “there will be ample time for everyone to finish the four weeks’ term before being called into service.”