World War I in Lawrence: Drivers urged to donate old tags

Editor’s note: Local writer Sarah St. John compiles reports of what it was like to be in Lawrence during World War I.

In July of 1918, Lawrence drivers had made their annual tax visit to the courthouse and were now waiting for their new license plates to be mailed from Topeka. The first tags, which began appearing on the street on July 1, were “handsomer than usual … white with dark green lettering.” But what to do with the old tags? The local Red Cross had a solution, according to the Lawrence Journal-World on July 25: “A use for old motor car license plates has been found by the Red Cross. They are made of galvanized iron, and will be accepted as very useful contributions to the Red Cross salvage box, contributions of all sorts of old metal being solicited. Boxes will be placed on the curb in several parts of town to receive the old tags, which may be dropped in without stopping the car. Nearly every one of the two thousand motor car owners in Douglas county has purchased a new tag within the last month, and if every old one were donated to the Red Cross, a neat little sum would be realized from a source which meant profit to no one before.”

In other local wartime news, Lawrence residents, who were accustomed to ordering groceries for home delivery on an as-needed basis, were expected to adjust to new cost-saving measures. At a July meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, local merchants decided that grocers and butchers would make only one delivery a day, beginning August 5. Plans were in the works for dividing up the city into districts, each of which would receive its delivery at a scheduled time. The change had been hurried into practice as a result of a recommendation from the War Industries Board.


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