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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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What Happened to all those WWI Registration Cards?

State Chairwoman Caroline Bartlett Crane recommended that the "registration cards be housed in steel filing cabinets in local libraries, as they were in Detroit and Grand Rapids." An article in the Grand Haven newspaper indicates that they did just that; but there is no record of the cards now. Searches of online library and archive records around the country have so far turned up only one other collection of registration cards.

Registration cards from Flint, Michigan were housed with the Genesee County county clerk as part of the War Preparedness Board materials. The approximately 12,000 cards were deposited with the state archives in Lansing in 1981 and can been viewed there. It would be easy to miss their entry in the online catalog as it reads, “a survey of women’s skills (1917-1918) conducted by the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense.” See the entry for the State Archives under Websites. In June of 2008 it was learned from Toni Benson, Local History, Van Buren Co. Library that there are approximately 150 cards for Mattawan in their collection and photocopies of the cards in the Van Buren District Library in Decatur.

No one knows what happened to all the cards, but some speculation is possible: The cards contained information that would be out of date in a few years; people move; their lives and responsibilities change, and so do community needs.

The cards take up quite a bit of space so possibly organizations housing them saw no reason to give space to outdated information and disposed of them.

Perhaps the local caretakers of cards could not appreciate their historic value either because they were too new in time or because they were about women and, consequently, failed to preserve them.

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