It’s The Great War, Charlie Brown, or: First World War Images from the Wolfsonian-FIU Library

Today’s blog post comes to you courtesy of Sharf Associate Librarian Rochelle Pienn. Ms. Pienn works exclusively on the extensive collection of rare books, photograph albums, journals, diaries, and other materials donated to The Wolfsonian-FIU library by Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. These primary source materials provide an intimate glimpse into the lives of soldiers and sailors participating in the many colonial expeditions, wars, and conflicts of  the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ms. Pienn’s post today focuses on a rare “picture” book utilizing the photographic rotogravure process to present the public with glimpses of the European war their own American Expeditionary Force troops would be entering in 1917. Here is her report:

Most Americans of my generation grew up watching Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” cartoon characters philosophize their way through the major holidays in animated television specials. As the calendar creeps closer to Halloween, I’m reminded of how Linus waited for the Great Pumpkin overnight, only to be frightened into a faint by Snoopy in his “World War One flying ace” Halloween costume.


Copyright 1966 Charles M. Schulz

I would hazard to say that at five years old, Charlie Brown’s famous dog dressed up as the decimator of the German Red Baron was my initial induction into any kind of history on the subject. While cartoonist Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz provided an adoring public with a legacy of family TV and newspaper comic strips, it is necessary to go back in time to find serious news photographs and commentary contemporary to the First World War. The Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection at The Wolfsonian contains a comprehensive Portfolio of the World War produced by The New York Times in 1917.


The photographic images in this striking portfolio were reproduced using the rotogravure printing method.


The use of airplane aviation on a large military scale premiered during the Great War. When the U.S. became involved in the war, cadets were trained to fly.


 This illustration indicates the imposing nature of the German bombers.


Reporting covered everything from fighting machines, foreign dignitaries, and frontline warfare, to medical care, human interest, and gender roles. These photographs emphasize the official roles of women in the British and American armies.


Manfred von Richthofen (the real Red Baron) perished near the Somme River in France during an attack by Canadian fighters. This image shows Canadian soldiers on the front in good spirits, “despite war’s grim realities.”

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War affected industry and trade throughout the world. Thousands of hungry French troops necessitated a steady supply of food; here, Moroccan hogs are transported across the Mediterranean, presumably to become future bacon rations.

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Nations all over Europe lived in uncertainty. Switzerland struggled to protect its neutrality; its army was not untouched by the immediate threat of the War.


Other new technological dangers of war included German gas attacks. American cavalry, along with their horses, needed protective gear.



The material destruction of war is darkly evident in this capture of a battle’s aftermath.


While “Rosie the Riveter” represented the women factory workers during the Second World War, women clearly took on many similar tasks on assembly lines during the Great War.


War photographers also shot non-combat outtakes of soldiers, such as these comical pictures of men attempting to bathe on the front.


The First World War wrought havoc on many countries. Czar Nicholas II of Russia entered the war with questionable resources along with the growing resentment of the Russian population. Below is one of the last photographs taken of him after his abdication of the throne. A year later, he and his entire family would be assassinated by the Bolsheviks.


This map shows the vast territories affected during the First World War. By land, sea, and air, armies and navies clashed for dominance, territorial rights, and self-determination.


The First World War resulted in new sets of borders, changing leadership, and shifting politics. Peace would be the tenuous shroud of a battle-weary populace. One hundred years ago, it was referred to as the “Great War,” with no premonition of what the future held. To further commemorate the centennial of the First World War, we invite you to visit the Wolfsonian-FIU library and explore our rich archives.

~ by "The Chief" on October 22, 2014.

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