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100 years ago in Spokane: Newspapers rush publication of draft lottery results

It was the World War I draft lottery, in which all eligible men were assigned a number, Spokane newspaper reported on July 21, 2017. (Spokesman-Review archives)
It was the World War I draft lottery, in which all eligible men were assigned a number, Spokane newspaper reported on July 21, 2017. (Spokesman-Review archives)

The “most stupendous of all lotteries, in all ages” took place in Washington D.C., affecting the military fate of 10 million young Americans.

It was the World War I draft lottery, in which all eligible men were assigned a number. The 1,370,000 with the lowest numbers would be eligible for the first call-up, and local draft boards would then select 687,000 of those men to be “ordered to colors,” i.e., ordered to report for service. The plan was to immediately create an army of 500,000 men to fight in Europe.

Spokane’s newspapers rushed out “extra” editions in the shortest possible time, and their final editions contained complete lists of all of the numbers drawn and the local men who had been selected. The Chronicle had two full pages of names.

The Spokesman-Review boasted that it amounted to the “most stupendous” telegraph job it had accomplished in 20 years. When the numbers came in from Washington D.C., the paper telegraphed them to its correspondents in outlying cities.

Men who couldn’t stand the suspense stood outside of the newspaper offices and heard the numbers announced as soon as they came in over the wire, and the “names were called as drawn.”


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