“100 Years Since the First World War” Exhibit

An exhibit of items from the WCSU Archives’ collections. In the Haas Library Atrium until the end of the semester.

In conjunction with Veterans’ Day and the World War I Centennial, Western Connecticut State University Archives presents “100 Years Since the First World War” exhibit on view through December 17, 2014. This exhibit features three cases of material from the archives’ collection.  From political cartoons to memorials, the pieces included in this exhibit provide a fascinating glimpse into America during the First World War. See online exhibit.

Woodrow Wilson in August of 1914:

“The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the Nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions on the street… The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict.” *

This battle for the hearts and minds used the printed word, cartoons, illustrations and photographs as the tools to attempt sway public opinion toward militarily and materially supporting the Allies. Roughly 5% of the U.S. population had been born in one of the Central Power countries** and a significant percent more had ties to those countries. It would take until 1917 for the United States commit troops to the trenches in Europe.

These are some examples of printed matter that arose out of attempts to sway public opinion from the collections in the WCSU Archives. It also includes materials that document the war along with letters and personal effects of one of Danbury’s own who died while “over there,” George Bennett Hawley.

Hawley was born on April 27, 1895, in Danbury and was the only child of George M. and Mary Hawley. The young Hawley was a signal man for company B of the 307th Infantry, one of the first AEF units to join the lines of battle in France. He corresponded frequently with his family back in Danbury.

Through these materials, we have a unique glimpse of the period; 100 Years Since the First World War commemorates the efforts of American soldiers and their experiences in war.

* Woodrow Wilson: “Message on Neutrality,” August 19, 1914. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=65382
** According to the 1914 Statistical Abstract of the United States – http://www.census.gov/prod/www/statistical_abstract.html

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