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100 years ago in Spokane: World War I draft registration much lower than expected

Spokane’s World War I draft registration was lower than expected, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on June 6, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)
Spokane’s World War I draft registration was lower than expected, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on June 6, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

Spokane’s draft registration came in “far below estimate,” said a Spokane Daily Chronicle headline.

The city’s total number of men registered came in at 7,943, not even close to the 22,000 predicted by the Census Bureau figures.

Also, many of those men claimed exemption, leaving only 2,685 who did not claim any exemption.

However, registration officials said they saw no evidence of any “general evasion of the draft.” They said they had predicted that the census estimates were far too high.

Even if the estimates were cut in half, however, Spokane still seemed to have plenty of defaulters. Authorities went into immediate action to “clean up on defaulters.”

“Secret agents promptly at 9 p.m. went out and called upon a dozen suspects,” who had talked loosely about evading the draft. Yet all of these men were able to produce their draft cards.

Some of the most enthusiastic registrants seemed to be the foreign-born, especially the Europeans working in the region’s mines.

“The crowd was strongly pro-ally,” said one of the registrars. “Several of those who registered, although not even having first (citizenship) papers, are ready to enlist to fight the kaiser, who seems to have few friends in this precinct. One Bulgarian got mad today when we started to list him as an enemy alien. He said that he was no enemy of the United States, but rather its friend, and that he did not approve or uphold the war being conducted by Bulgaria. We did not enter him in the enemy class.”

However, in Butte, opposition to the draft was intense. A crowd of 600 marched in protest in downtown Butte. The procession was led by men carrying a red flag with the words, “Down With War.” A mini-riot ensued, although no one was hurt.


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