Event Title

3B1: ‘Your Duty on Display’: The Allied War Exhibition in Chicago, the State Council of Defense, and the Role of the State in Defining American Identity

Start Date

29-9-2018 1:15 PM

End Date

29-9-2018 2:15 PM

Description

Held in Chicago from September 2-15, 1918; the Allied War Exhibition represented the apogee of public patriotism and state activism on the homefront during the [rst world war. Overseen by the State Council of Defense of Illinois, the event brought together federal, state and local government agencies, private organizations and citizens groups to give Chicagoans a chance not only to see soldiers re-enact battles, but learn the myriad of ways in which they could contribute to the war effort. Founded in Chicago the year before, the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI) provided war films displayed nightly, and curated much of the rhetoric used by speakers at the exhibition. Private donors raised funds to put on the exhibition, which converted Grant Park along Chicago’s lakefront into a midway where visitors could stroll past stalls where organizations like the Commission on Training Camp Activities (CTCA), YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, or the Food Administration had displays including a “demonstration kitchen” that showcased methods of canning and conservation.

Aside from stalls along a midway, visitors to the exhibition saw damaged materials from battlefields in France, and demonstrations in a reconstructed series of trenches from U.S. soldiers out of Camp Grant in Rockford, IL. A family event; the exhibition included a children’s day, a parade of mothers with infants (in strollers), and averaged a daily attendance of just over one hundred thousand. Visitors then entered into a wholly government constructed environment on the lakefront, where an idealized version of how America conducted war and how Americans conducted themselves at war and home existed in each exhibit and speaker.

Since the 1980s, historiography on America in the First World War has moved off the battlefield, examining how homefronts were experienced by many. Allen J. Frantzen’s Bloody Good: Chivalry, Sacrifice, and the Great War (2004) depicts the allies cultures as taken with medieval imagery at the start of the war, assigning Germany a savagery upon the war’s start that reflected the embrace of such constructs of chivalry. Christopher Capozzola’s Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (2008) asserts a proactive American state that defined American identity during the war along race, gender, and class lines—demanding conformity and at times supporting vigilantism. This paper seeks to [ll the gap in the historiography on the homefront during the war in the United States. The State Council of Defense of Illinois and the exhibition reinforced a national conversation that characterized German ‘barbarism,’ and the mock battles sought to (with the sundry propaganda) give visitors a way to construct American efforts as wholly “civilized.”

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Sep 29th, 1:15 PM Sep 29th, 2:15 PM

3B1: ‘Your Duty on Display’: The Allied War Exhibition in Chicago, the State Council of Defense, and the Role of the State in Defining American Identity

Held in Chicago from September 2-15, 1918; the Allied War Exhibition represented the apogee of public patriotism and state activism on the homefront during the [rst world war. Overseen by the State Council of Defense of Illinois, the event brought together federal, state and local government agencies, private organizations and citizens groups to give Chicagoans a chance not only to see soldiers re-enact battles, but learn the myriad of ways in which they could contribute to the war effort. Founded in Chicago the year before, the U.S. Committee on Public Information (CPI) provided war films displayed nightly, and curated much of the rhetoric used by speakers at the exhibition. Private donors raised funds to put on the exhibition, which converted Grant Park along Chicago’s lakefront into a midway where visitors could stroll past stalls where organizations like the Commission on Training Camp Activities (CTCA), YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, or the Food Administration had displays including a “demonstration kitchen” that showcased methods of canning and conservation.

Aside from stalls along a midway, visitors to the exhibition saw damaged materials from battlefields in France, and demonstrations in a reconstructed series of trenches from U.S. soldiers out of Camp Grant in Rockford, IL. A family event; the exhibition included a children’s day, a parade of mothers with infants (in strollers), and averaged a daily attendance of just over one hundred thousand. Visitors then entered into a wholly government constructed environment on the lakefront, where an idealized version of how America conducted war and how Americans conducted themselves at war and home existed in each exhibit and speaker.

Since the 1980s, historiography on America in the First World War has moved off the battlefield, examining how homefronts were experienced by many. Allen J. Frantzen’s Bloody Good: Chivalry, Sacrifice, and the Great War (2004) depicts the allies cultures as taken with medieval imagery at the start of the war, assigning Germany a savagery upon the war’s start that reflected the embrace of such constructs of chivalry. Christopher Capozzola’s Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (2008) asserts a proactive American state that defined American identity during the war along race, gender, and class lines—demanding conformity and at times supporting vigilantism. This paper seeks to [ll the gap in the historiography on the homefront during the war in the United States. The State Council of Defense of Illinois and the exhibition reinforced a national conversation that characterized German ‘barbarism,’ and the mock battles sought to (with the sundry propaganda) give visitors a way to construct American efforts as wholly “civilized.”