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Over There...1917-1918:
an exhibition of posters from World War I

curated by William J. Dane

Second & Third Floor Galleries
June 15th - Labor Day, 1998


The Newark Public Library announces the installation and opening of an exhibition "Over There...1917-1918" to salute the 80th Anniversary of the ending of World War I and the American participation in Europe. The exhibition in the Library's galleries at 5 Washington Street in downtown Newark features 60 historic and now rare posters from the time of the War and vintage black and white photographs, many of which were issued by various governmental agencies after April, 1917 when Americans entered the War until November 11th, 1918, the celebrated day when the War ended with the signing of an Armistice. This timely display honors the American Expeditionary Forces as well as those who contributed to the ultimate victory in factories, in training camps, in the Red Cross and in various other organized groups on "the home front."

The scores of vintage posters are now of great interest to collectors and historians. They were gathered together by The Library eighty years ago and are truly notable today for their striking images, the expert use of letters and the dramatic urgency of the patriotic messages to save civilization and to advance American democracy and traditional lasting values of personal freedom. In 1917, The Newark Public Library organized exhibits of war posters at the request of various officials in Washington, the nation's capitol. Some of the most noted artists of that era came forward and volunteered to create striking posters of national interest and among these were James Montgomery Flagg, Willy Pogany, Kenyon Cox, Howard Chandler Christy, Jessie Wilcox Smith, Edward Penfield, Joseph Pennell, and Joseph C. Leyendecker. The Library organized two traveling exhibitions during the War and these were proudly displayed in institutions all across the United States. They record the momentous era from an American perspective when those events witnessed a titanic struggle during which countless people suffered and died and which changed the course of American and World history forever.

Many of the vintage photographs concentrate on "our boys" in France, in the front lines and in the trench warfare which was devastating to enemy as well as to Allied forces. Vital topics covering the home front relate to the sale of victory bonds, recruiting for the Army, the Navy and the Marines, the increasing role of women in the struggle, the efforts of the Red Cross to help at home and in France, the conservation of food and of coal as well as the encouragement-of gardening of vegetables by citizens of all ages, plus the popular songs of the period which were sung with great enthusiasm by the troops as well as by those at home.

Special attention is given to the career of General John Joseph Pershing whom President Wilson named as commander of the A.E.F. Within eighteen days of the declaration of war, Pershing and his staff sailed for Europe where they were greeted like heroes. On July 4th, 1917 General Pershing laid a wreath at Lafayette's tomb. By November, 1918, two million American troops were involved in the European conflict and after fresh American troops won the battle at the St.-Mihiel salient, ultimate victory for the Allied forces was assured. Particular emphasis in the exhibit is placed on the Cathedral of Rheims in France. It was severely damaged by German shelling. The rose window, the Angel spire and exterior walls as well as part of the roof were destroyed on the site where the Kings of France were consecrated from 1180 A.D. to 1830 A.D. However, the American financier and philanthropist, John D. Rockefeller, gave one million dollars so that the famed building could be rebuilt and consecrated in July of 1938.

Overall, there are over 250 visual items, which honor American participation, and sacrifice, which eventually resulted in victory. They are from The Library's Special Collections and were selected, described and organized by William J. Dane, Keeper of Prints and Posters at The Library. The exhibition is free and open to the public from June 15th to Labor Day 1998 during regular Library hours.

For additional information and commentary, please call William J. Dane at (973) 733-7745.

 

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