World War 1: A Centennial

World War 1: A Centennial

August 2017 – By Mae Kellert

Soldiers at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, New Jersey, 1919  It was one of New Jersey’s most important contributions to World War I. Now known as Fort Dix, Camp Dix served as one of the key training grounds for American soldiers. It also received troops when they returned from France. Located near Wrightstown, Burlington County, the camp was named for the Civil War general John Adams Dix. This photo was taken after the Armistice, when Camp Dix served as a muster-out location for soldiers returning from war. Collection of the National Archives

Soldiers at Camp Dix, Wrightstown, NJ, 1919 Collection of the National Archives

2017 marks 100 years since the United States entered World War I, and New Jersey’s arts communities are honoring the centennial in events across the state.

In a premiere episode airing 9/24, State of the Arts will be featuring a reading at Fort Dix of the Cape May East Lynne Theater Company’s A Year in the Trenches, based off of texts including a memoir by the New Jersey native soldier Charles Edward Dilkes. Written by James Rana and directed by Gayle Stahlhuth, the play explores the stories of several Americans – all from New Jersey – in wartime Europe one hundred years ago, including Sgt. Dilkes, pilot Kenneth Russell Unger, and notable writer Joyce Kilmer, as well as two women –  Amabel Scharff Roberts, the first nurse to die in the war, and Grace Banker, who led the Hello Girls, a group of women telephone operators serving the US Army. Fort Dix was a particularly poignant setting for this reading, as the space served as a training camp for units in World War I, and the Fort, situated near our state’s capital, is still an active military post today. You can see this play performed on select dates from September 20 – October 14 in Cape May. See here for schedules, information, and tickets.

Americans All  1919 Howard Chandler Christy (1872-1952) Offset Lithograph In her right hand, Lady Liberty clutches an American flag. With her left, she hangs a laurel wreath above a list of names. The wreath is a classical symbol of victory. The gold star tells us that the soldiers on the Honor Roll are no longer alive. They have given the last full measure of devotion. Casualties of war. Only one of the fourteen names suggests Anglo-Saxon origin. Then, as now, the United States was a nation of immigrants. This poster acknowledges the immigrant contribution to the war effort. Seven million copies were distributed through the nation’s foreign-language press.  Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Price FA1975.51.52

Americans All 1919 Howard Chandler Christy (1872-1952) Offset Lithograph – This poster acknowledges the immigrant contribution to the war effort. Seven million copies were distributed through the nation’s foreign-language press. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Price FA1975.51.52

Also in September, Embattled Emblems, an exhibition of rarely-seen posters and flags used to instill patriotism and raise funds for the war effort, opens 9/16 at the State Museum in Trenton. In seeing this exhibition, viewers can discover firsthand how art and design has historically played a role in the public’s perception of politics and current events.

The State Museum will host another exhibition to highlight this historical anniversary. Shifting Views: Artists who experienced World War I opens 10/4 and collects works by artists from either side of the war. German, Austrian, British, and American artists will be represented in the show, offering a well-rounded look at how every nation is affected by conflict as well as a direct comparison of how these artists’ experiences played roles in their art-making.

You can find more information and events listed at the WWI Centennial Commission, whose New Jersey partners include the NJ Historical Commission, the NJ Historic Preservation Office, the State Museum, the State Archives, Rutgers University, and the NJ National Guard Militia Museum. Look for “Over Here: Newark in World War I, 1917-1918″ at the Newark Public Library, and “Songs the Rallied the Homefront” at the Hoboken Historical Museum among other events! 

World War I was an intense part of our history, and New Jersey’s arts organizations are making sure to honor and respect those who experienced the war in the most pivotal possible way: by bringing those memories and lessons to current generations.

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