State Historic Site
Keep the Home Fires Burning, lyrics by Lena Gilbert Ford, 1914
(Hoff Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
April 1997 - December 1998
WORLD WAR ONE, known as "The Great War," began in 1914 as a dispute between Serbia and Austria. Because of a complicated maze of treaties, their small conflict soon engulfed most of Europe and Africa in the flames of the most devastating war the world had known to date. The United States didn't enter the war until 1917. Although our own landscape was spared the horrors of battle, hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and sailors went overseas to fight the "vicious Hun," leaving millions of Americans behind to worry and wait.
The U.S. joined the Great War with every intention of winning, but it was a battle requiring more than just military strength. As George Creel noted in his 1920 book, How We Advertised America, "The 'warwill' - the will-to-win - of a democracy depends upon the degree to which each one of all the people of that democracy can concentrate and consecrate body and soul and spirit in the supreme effort of service and sacrifice."
America needed food, clothing, equipment, medical supplies and, perhaps most importantly, moral support. Throughout the country, all citizens - housewives, school children, ranchers, farmers, shopkeepers, tradesmen and industrialists - were asked to help with the war effort. Their principal weapons were to be commitment, cooperation and sacrifice, fueled by a heady mixture of patriotism, propaganda and politics.
1917 and 1918 were also years of social upheaval, both in this country and around the world. Women's suffrage, prohibition and the Russian Revolution were all making headlines, along with baseball, bobbed hair, jazz, airmail, daylight saving time and influenza.
Detail from Red Cross poster, circa 1917 (Private Collection)