Category: new york

Wall Street on November 7, 1918. New Yorkers a…

Wall Street on November 7, 1918. New Yorkers are celebrating after hearing a rumor that an armistice has been proclaimed.

A crowd in Times Square hold up extras saying …

A crowd in Times Square hold up extras saying that Germany has surrendered, on November 7, 1918. The rumors of an armistice were untrue.

Two doughboys of the 77th “Statue of Liberty” …

Two doughboys of the 77th “Statue of Liberty” Division, which was composed of draftees from New York City.

Vigilante Draft Raids in New York

A group of “slackers” rounded up by the American Protective League, pictured on September 4.

September 3 1918, New York–The institution of the draft in the United States was not resisted on any large, organized scale; the first Registration Day in June 1917 largely went off without a hitch.  However, silently, nearly 3 million men of draft age simply failed to register, while over 300,000 who registered and were called up failed to report (or quickly deserted)–a higher rate of draft-dodging than during the Vietnam War.  The Justice Department did not have the resources to track down these “slackers,” and accepted the services of the volunteer American Protective League.  The APL’s largest and most controversial operation started in New York on September 3.  

Along with police and off-duty military, the APL stopped nearly half a million men over the course of three days.  During intermission of the hit play “Yip, Yip, Yaphank” (composed by Irving Berlin while in training at Camp Upton in Yaphank, Long Island), twenty-five sailors entered the orchestra and announced that every man between the ages of 21 and 31 must stand up and show their draft card.  Eventually, the sailors were convinced to wait until the end of the performance, when they stopped every man exiting the theater and detained a few who did not have their cards on their person.

The press was largely supportive of the campaign; The New York Times was apparently cheerful that 40,000 “slackers” had been rounded up by the APL.  Ultimately, however, just 199 of the detainees were found to have deliberately evaded the draft; the vast majority had just neglected to carry their draft cards that day.  Wilson was pleased at the results, telling a member of his cabinet that it had “put of the fear of God in others.” It provoked an outrage in the Senate, however; progressive Hiram Johnson of California calling it a “Reign of Terror.”  The APL soon lost the official sanction of the Justice Department and was dissolved.

Today in 1917: Germans Take Riga

Today in 1916: British Take Guillemont
Today in 1915: Czech Leaders Beneš and Masaryk Meet in Geneva
Today in 1914:  Lanrezac Sacked, Replaced by Franchet D’Esperey in Command of Fifth Army

Sources include: Michael Kazin, War against War.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Armorers Aid US Arm…

The Sentinel’s Helmet, designed for limited use by soldiers in forward positions; it shows clear inspiration from late medieval pieces.  It saw some limited field tests in France; it proved to be very protective, but was simply too heavy.

August 4 1918, New York–Among the more unlikely contributions to the American war effort was that of the arms and armor staff at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Trench warfare and modern artillery meant that armor once again had use on the battlefield (beginning with steel helmets in 1915), and their expertise in this formerly-obsolete craft was prized once again beyond the art world.  After the United States entered the war, the Met’s curator of arms and armor, Bashford Dean, was made head of the newly-formed “Armor Unit,” and charged with designing helmets and other pieces of armor for American soldiers.  The museum’s work with the Army was made public on August 4, 1918.

A helmet needed to be adequately protective, cheap to manufacture, lightweight, and also visually distinctive from the British, French, and German helmets already in use; the helmets had become one of the major ways to distinguish friend from foe on the battlefield.  One of Dean’s favored designs was his Helmet Model No. 5, pictured below:

Ultimately, despite its other excellent qualities, the design was rejected by American field commanders because it looked too similar to both the German and the British designs.  His next model (No. 8) went into mass production in November 1918, too late to see use in the war.

Dean’s group also designed armor for other parts of the body, though no more than a few examples before the end of the war.  Press coverage in August 1918 stressed the leg and arm armor being developed, noting the high incidence of wounds to such areas being seen in field hospitals.  To the modern reader, this seems like it may be an example of survivorship bias; those with wounds to more vital areas may not have made it to a hospital to begin with.

Sources include: The New York Times; The Metropolitan Museum of Art (includes image credit).



“I have always hoped and expected that the
Marines would do their share and when the French
say that we fight like our ‘Canadian Cousins’ it is praise of the highest sort.
In other words a Marine is ace-high around here!”

June 1918, a US Marine writing to his mom about this experience in the Belleau Wood Battle. Dear Folks At Home

Photo: A US soldier meets a Canadian Hightlander. Note: The Canadian Highlander regiments were in the United States in July of 1917 for
“British Recruiting Week” which encouraged enlistment in WW1. See photo of Canadian Highlanders in NYC @ the

Centennial Commission’s Instagram and on YouTube.

New York Prepares For Air Raids

June 5 1918, New York–The sudden opening of the U-boat campaign off the New Jersey coast caused something of a panic in New York.  The harbor was shut down to shipping briefly, and on the night of June 4/5, New York introduced its first light ordinance, designed to hamper a possible German submarine-launched air raid.  Advertising and display lights were to be shut off, and shades should be drawn in buildings where possible.  On June 5, after a test flight by army aviators to test the effectiveness of the new regulations saw Broadway, Fifth Avenue, and other major thoroughfares clearly, certain (but not all) streetlights were dimmed as well.

The possibility that the Germans would attack New York with a plane launched from a submarine was extremely remote, as American officials acknowledged–the Germans had neither the capability nor the inclination to do so.  However, later in the summer, the Germans did consider a raid on New York with a long-range Zeppelin, similar to the one sent to Africa, though the proposal was quickly rejected.  The lighting restrictions on the shoreline also, perhaps inadvertently, could have served to hinder U-boat operations.  Although U-151 and her sisters mainly operated on the surface during daytime, at night lights on the shoreline allowed passing ships to be easily detected by their silhouettes; this would prove to be a major problem during the next war.

Today in 1917: Draft Registration Day in the United States

Today in 1916: Lord Kitchener Drowns
Today in 1915: Italians Finally Cross the Isonzo

Boston Symphony Orchestra Plays Carnegie Hall …

Karl Muck (1859-1940); photo taken in Boston before the war.

March 14 1918, New York–After the declaration of war on Germany, the American press quickly turned on those in the country with strong German ties.  One of the more prominent in cultured circles was Karl Muck, head of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1912.  For the previous twenty years, he had worked in Berlin and knew the Kaiser personally.  He had been born in Bavaria, but he was a naturalized Swiss citizen as his family moved there when he was eight.  

In October 1917, Muck drew sharp criticism from the Providence Journal and other newspapers for not playing the National Anthem before concerts, and for playing programs with mostly German music.  Muck quickly began opening concerts with the National Anthem, but the criticism stuck.  When the Boston Symphony Orchestra played Carnegie Hall (to a sold-out crowd) on March 14, he felt compelled to show his full certificate of Swiss citizenship to the press, and the NYPD provided armed guards to the building to prevent a disturbance from any overly-patriotic individuals.

Muck’s efforts to establish his Swiss and American bonafides were ultimately unsuccessful, however.  A few days after returning to Boston, he was arrested by federal agents, who had the power to indefinitely detain any alien born within Germany’s pre-war borders.  He was interned in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia with a few thousand other Germans.  Some of his fellow internees were other high-profile Germans who had been suspected of aiding the Central Powers in some fashion; but most others’ only crime was participating in labor activity while German.

Today in 1917: Petrograd Soviet Issues Order No. 1

Today in 1916: Punitive Expedition Against Pancho Villa
Today in 1915: SMS Dresden Cornered and Scuttled


                                                         Emergency Call!

1918, NYC – Standing on a mountain
of already donated volumes, a librarian in uniform, calls for still more
books from passers-by outside
the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue.

During WWI, the American Library Association collected
books to ship to soldiers overseas. In 1918, they congregated outside the New York Public Library, urging
citizens to do their part for the war effort and donate books to the cause.

Sources: 2 blog
posts – Library War Service Photo with rarely seen photos from the American
Library in Paris. Books in the War:
The Romance of Library War Service
. More photos of this NYC awesome book drive. Photo1   Photo2  Photo3

Fear of “German Fungus” in New York

February 7 1918, New York–Wartime brought heightened security measures for travelers to the United States, even when such precautions seemed unnecessary.  The Holland-America liner Nieuw Amsterdam arrived in New York from the neutral Netherlands on February 7, and American officials were highly concerned that German agents or weapons, meant to strike at the United States, might be aboard.  Rumor in the New York press had it that the Germans intended to bring into the country a fungal agent that would destroy America’s wheat crop in retaliation for the Allied blockade.  Arriving passengers on the Nieuw Amsterdam (with the exception of the Dutch ambassador), in addition to an already extremely thorough inspection of their baggage and papers, had all liquids and powders seized by customs officials.  Such fears were, of course, overblown (the Germans were not even willing to conduct U-boat operations off the American coast, let alone a project of this magnitude), but the measures increased resentment towards the United States in a neutral power whose rights the Americans were attempting to defend, and who was dealing with a very real food crisis at the same time.

Today in 1917: Americans (Including Ambassador) Held Hostage in Germany

Today in 1916: Skilled Labor Leaders Arrested in Glasgow
Today in 1915: Winter Battle in Masuria