World War I Signed Handkerchief

Corporal Walter Tips's memento of the Great War

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by Jenny Cobb, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

This handkerchief was presented to Corporal Walter "Mother" Tips (1897 - 1976) by the members of the Company B, 117th unit during World War I. The exact source of Tips’s nickname is unknown, but his family speculates that it came from either his care for the men in his charge or his love of cooking—perhaps tasting as good as their "Mom" made to the men.

World War I (1914 - 1918), also known as the Great War, was the first man-made catastrophe of the 20th century. Following the assassination of Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian nationalist, the world's powers quickly chose sides in the conflict. The Allies, namely France, Britain, and Russia, were pitted against the Central Powers, Germany, Austro-Hungary, and Turkey. Eventually, the war spread around the world as the Allies turned to other friendly countries for help. This included the United States, which joined the fight in 1917 when President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to "make the world safe for democracy."

Nearly 200,000 Texans served in World War I. Company B of the 117th was formed from a Texas National Guard unit, with a majority of its members from Austin. The 117th support train was drafted into federal service on August 5, 1917 and served in Europe from October 31, 1917 to April 29, 1919 delivering supplies to the front lines where the fighting was the most intense.

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World War I Signed Handkerchief Artifact from Austin, Texas
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