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World War I America at MOHAI

Sunday, 20 January 2019 23:24
Harlem Hellfighters on return from France at end of World War I Harlem Hellfighters on return from France at end of World War I

TASTE News Service, January 21. 2019 - Empires were destroyed, millions perished, and the world was upended by a war meant to end all others.

Making its West Coast debut at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) through February 10, 2019, WW1 America tells the story of one of history’s most remarkable moments.

The WWI era—1914 through 1919—saw America transformed. It was a time of wrenching extremes that pulled Americans between the poles of fear and hope, between deepening cynicism and broadening optimism. Through original artifacts, images, voices, interactives and multimedia presentations, WW1 America tells the extraordinary stories of Americans—both legendary and unsung—during this turbulent time.

The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 threw the United States, and the world, into a time of danger, uncertainty, and change. Over the span of four years nearly every aspect of life was transformed.

From the home front to the battlefield, Americans faced new dilemmas, unprecedented opportunities, and almost unimaginable challenges. WW1 America brings this dramatic era to life through the touching, powerful, heartbreaking, and inspiring experiences of people from all backgrounds and walks of life as they navigated this turbulent time. Here are a few of their stories:

The Harlem Hellfighters

More than 400,000 African Americans served in the Army during the war, with half of that number eventually serving overseas. Among the first black Americans to serve in Europe, the Harlem Hellfighters operated under French command and were acclaimed for exceptional service at the front. Known unofficially as the “Harlem Hellfighters” or “Harlem Rattlers,” members of the 369th Infantry Regiment are seen here returning as heroes in 1919.

 

Alice OBrien PicmonkeyAlice O'Brien

Alice O’Brien was born into a prominent family in St. Paul, MN, in 1891. As a young woman, she became enamored of cars, driving a “roadster” from California to Minnesota when she was just 19. In 1918, she volunteered to become a “motor repair worker” with American forces in France during the war. She worked for the American Red Cross driving a supply truck, serving in a canteen, and treating wounded soldiers as an auxiliary nurse. She was one of thousands of women to serve overseas during the war.

 

Seattle ShipyardsSeattle Star WWI Over Picmonkey

Like many local industries, the region’s shipyards grew quickly to meet wartime demand and transformed Seattle in the process. Tens of thousands of people moved to the region during the war to work in wartime industries, including more than 35,000 people in the shipyards alone.

 

Draft Bowl

When the US entered the war, there were 130,000 soldiers in the army—far short of the 4 million who would eventually be sent to Europe. To make up the difference, Congress instituted the first nationwide draft.

Young men were registered and assigned draft numbers. When their number was drawn from a bowl, it was time to report for duty. The bowl itself was purchased for $10 at a pet store near the central draft office in Washington D.C. and was later used again during the draft for World War II.

 

Seattle General Strike

Shipyard workers at the Skinner and Eddy plant in Seattle, January 1919 struck to demand better wages in January of 1919. The shipyard strike soon expanded to industries across the city, becoming the first city-wide general strike in American history, with 65,000 laborers participating.

Seattle’s General Strike was part of a nationwide pattern as the abrupt end of wartime need brought long-simmering labor tensions to a head. In 1919, the United States saw 4,000 strikes, involving four million workers. About one in five workers were on strike at some point during the year, seeking better pay and working conditions in the post-war era.

 

Editor’s note: The World War I exhibit is at the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) in Seattle through the 10th of February. For more information visit www.MOHAI.org.

Last modified on Sunday, 20 January 2019 23:52

 

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