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“Home Before the Leaves Fall: The Great War 1914-1918,” a collaborative commemoration of World War I by heritage and educational institutions through the City of Philadelphia, kicked off at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania on June 26. Peter John Williams, author of a pictorial history, Philadelphia The War Years delivered a talk that highlighted Philadelphia’s importance as the third largest city in the United States at the start of World War I and as a manufacturing powerhouse known as the “workshop of the world.” Nearly 60, 000 Philadelphia men and 2,000 Philadelphia women served in World War I and thousands more worked in factories and shipyards supporting the war effort. A large naval yard, munitions manufacturing, and an aviation training facility transformed Philadelphia during the years of the Great War into fully mobilized war time economy more commonly associated with the World War II home front.
At the time no one knew to call it World War One. In the mid-1910s it was widely termed the ‘Great War’ and later the ‘War To End All Wars,’ an especially ironic name given the role contemporary historians have argued WWI played in precipitating WWII. In fact the History Channel recently aired a three-part series treating the period from the mid-1910s through the mid-1940s as single era of warfare. This way of remembering World War I, as but a small part of a larger history, is common throughout the United States, although in sharp contrast to much of the rest of the English-speaking world.
I passed a wonderful late June week traveling the Hudson River Valley from the Vanderbilt estate in Hyde Park, New York, south along alternating banks of the Hudson to the Edward Hopper house and museum in Nyack. In addition to the 3rd generation Vanderbilts with their (inherited) railroad fortune, my husband and I explored the architectural and material legacy of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, financial speculator Jay Gould, West Point, the Loyalist and slaveholding Philips family, 3 generations of Rockefellers, artist/inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, the writer Washington Irving, and artists Edward and Josephine N. Hopper.
In a recent post for Public History Commons, Lara Kelland highlighted “the potential for the democratization of historical knowledge made possible by digital tools and the role of public historians in this process.” Like Kelland, I find the marriage of…
Summertime tourists have been flocking to Cape May to beat the heat for nearly 250 years. Back then most visitors came by boat. Some travelled down the Delaware River from Wilmington, Philadelphia, and points North, while from across Chesapeake Bay came Baltimoreans, residents of Washington DC, and all points South (as well as their slaves). Today many visitors come down the Garden State Parkway (certainly the most direct way for the tourists traveling from New York, New England, and French Canada) but for those starting from Philadelphia or via the Delaware Memorial Bridge there is a better route that offers the opportunity to visit any of several public humanities sites along the way.
“Please, tell me whether you think the world has changed at all since 1966,” asked Ned Kaufman at the June 5 New Jersey History and Historic Preservation conference in Monmouth County. Chuckles and giggles flowed from the audience. Agreed then that much has changed, he responded, why hasn’t our thinking in preservation also changed? Why are we still pursuing the same goals, working with the same tools, and recruiting the same supporters as we were in 1966?