Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wake Up, America! Natick in the First World War

November 6, 2014 - June 5, 2015
Morse Institute Library, 1st Floor

Artist James Montgomery Flagg, 1917. Image courtesy of the
 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 
One hundred years ago this November, the longest and bloodiest conflict in history began in Europe. World War I, also known as "the war to end all wars," claimed the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians world wide and left dozens of European cities in ruin. When the U.S. decided to join in the fight against Germany in April of 1917, hundreds of Natick citizens were among the thousands of Americans sent overseas to fight.

Natick Historical Society and the Morse Institute Library commemorate the 100th anniversary of this global conflict with a new exhibition: Wake Up, America! Natick in the First World War located on the 1st floor of the Morse Institute Library.  Wake Up, America! explores the local stories of this conflict through photographs and documents, trench art, a uniform worn in battle, and an American flag that survived two world wars. The exhibition runs from November 6, 2014-June 5, 2015.

The title of the exhibition is derived from a 1917 U.S. Government propaganda poster (image left) created to raise troops, money, and support for the war effort. This poster is one of dozens created during World War I. A collection of these posters is held at the Library of Congress and can be viewed online at .

The War to End All Wars

As noted above, World War I is often referred to as "the war to end all wars" but where did that phrase come from? The phrase was a result of a book titled The War That Will End War written by famed British science fiction novelist and social commentator H.G. Wells. The book is a collection of articles written by Wells about World War I. The phrase is often associated with President Woodrow Wilson who famously used the phrase "the war to end all wars" in a speech soon after declaring war on Germany.

The Yankee Division

Natick's 9th Regiment, Company L was mobilized after the declaration of war and merged with other regiments from New England to form the famed 26th “Yankee Division.” At a September 1917 press conference of Boston newspaper reporters, Frank Sibley of The Boston Globe suggested to call the newly formed 26th Division, including Natick’s own Company L, “the ‘Yankee Division’ as all New Englanders are Yankees.” The Yankee Division was thus adopted as the nickname of the 26th Division with a “YD” monogram as its insignia.

The Natick Bulletin 

Our local newspaper, the Natick Bulletin, ran advertisements related to national and local war efforts throughout 1917 and 1918. Below are just two examples of the many advertisements a reader could find on any given day. (All images courtesy of the Morse Institute Library)