Remembering World War I at the Delaware Historical Society

Just over one hundred years ago, at the end of July in 1914, a catastrophe that was to engulf the world began in the city of Sarajevo. World War I, “The Great War”, was triggered by the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, by a 19 year old Serbian terrorist named Gavrilo Princip. The Great War was a sudden, violent conflagration resulting from radical nationalism in the Balkans. The calamity to follow the summer of 1914 would end the lives of 10 million soldiers worldwide. The United States managed to stay neutral until early April of 1917. Nevertheless, although the war ended eighteen months later, approximately 110,000 Americans lost their lives. The profound breakdown of international harmony which The Great War embodied created an immense cultural shockwave. The almost desperate frivolity of the Roaring 20’s, the Dada movement in art, the great novels of Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Aldous Huxley, the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and the advent of Hollywood as a form of art and escape all formed in the wake of a world at war.

The Delaware Historical Society owns a rich collection of WWI Delaware soldier records as well as original newspapers from 1914-1918, papers which were in circulation on the streets at the time.

Please join us each week on the blog Remembering World War I as we highlight specific soldiers from Delaware, as well as newspaper accounts of the Great War as it unfolded.  Local Delaware news and odd or funny announcements will also be shared in order to provide a more textured view of the life and times of Delawareans during WWI.

Catching up to speed:   We see in the Sunday Star newspaper this week of Feb. 6th, 1915 the sky reigning British bombs on the ocean and Germany preempting negative blowback from the U.S. by saying a spat of falsely shown neutral flags on ships might lead to ‘unpleasant’ violations of the U.S.’s neutrality.

In honor of Black History Month, our first soldier highlighted is Private Harry Howard Johnson, a farmer in civilian life. He worked as a barber in the armed forces. His photo appears below. Our two additional soldiers this week are Corporal John R. Sheen who worked as a Lineman in civilian life, and Corporal Alton Samuel Boswell, an accountant.

Photo of Private Harry H. Johnson
Photo of Private Harry H. Johnson
Photo of Corporal John Sheen, firearm at the ready.
Photo of Corporal John Sheen, firearm at the ready.

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