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About the Collections

These items have been selected from the Library of Virginia to highlight the centennial of America’s entry into World War I. They are drawn from the Private Papers, State Records, the Virginia Newspaper Project, and the Visual Studies Collection within the Library of Virginia. The government encouraged citizens to conserve food and purchase war bonds through a series of posters, and conducted a survey of WWI veterans. People recorded their experiences of this time in scrapbooks, postcards, photographs, and diaries that can be explored through this site.

Collections will be published on a rolling basis, drawing new connections with events which occurred 100 years ago.

Table of Contents

Transcribe the WWI Questionnaires

On 7 January 1919, Governor Davis created the Virginia War History Commission whose goal was “to complete an accurate and complete history of Virginia’s military, economic and political participation in the World War.” The Commission conducted a survey of World War I veterans in Virginia through the use of a printed questionnaire. Local branches tried a variety of methods and techniques to get soldiers to complete the questionnaire with mixed results. Many soldiers refused to submit a completed questionnaire, fearing that doing so would subject them to future military service.

Each questionnaire has four pages. The first page records information about personal background. The second and third pages record details of the veteran's detailed war record, any injuries, discharge, and occupation after the war. The fourth page contains several questions designed to elicit information about how the war affected the serviceman and how he perceived his experiences during the war. In many cases, the soldier submitted one or two photographs with the questionnaire, one taken before entering the service and another taken afterward, often in uniform, signed and dated.

With your help, we'll be able to capture all of the data in these WWI Questionnaires using the newly developed From the Page feature for form transcription.

German Postcards of Destruction

The Library of Virginia’s Visual Studies Collection has a collection of German postcards depicting non-combat scenes from the Western Front. The postcards were printed from Schaar & Dathe of Trier and show the effects of war through images of ruins, life in the camps, and the clean-up efforts of soldiers and civilians.

Schaar & Dathe of Trier was one of the biggest German postcard printers and used letterpress, lithograph, and collotype processes. During WWI, the company had 15 presses and employed 150 workers. Creating postcards during the war was an easy, affordable way to spread the news visually about the areas most affected by combat.

Read our blog entries for more information on these facets of WWI:

Mules of WWI

Among our most unique holdings, this small and unassuming piece assembled by Dr. J. H. Breazeale (1889–1966), a veterinarian who served in the Army Medical Corps, reflects the striking public-private dichotomies of life in wartime, serving apparently as both a family photo album and work journal. Approximately half of Breazeale’s forty-eight amateur photos endearingly capture his wife and young sons at home, with handwritten captions such as “Branson’s first trousers” and “Calling kitty.” The rest of the images document the grim duties of a wartime veterinarian, with sobering captions such as “These pens contain 1300 Missouri Mules,” “Shot for losing foot,” “Burial at sea,” and “Loading the dead wagon, Newport News, Va.” At the outset of World War I, the mule was indispensable for moving artillery, ammunition, and other supplies. It’s estimated that during the war more than 500,000 horses and mules were processed for use in Europe, with more than 68,000 killed in the course of action.

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Base Hospital No. 45 Photographs

This selected set of photographs is from the Library of Virginia's U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 45, World War I Photograph Collection. The complete collection includes 172 (3 x 5 inch) film negatives and an album containing 134 photographs and 47 postcards.

U.S. Army Base Hospital No. 45 was organized at the Medical College of Virginia and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart McGuire. Base Hospital No. 45 was supposed to be far behind the front lines, but it was actually within a few miles of the front and served not just as a base hospital but as a triage and evacuation hospital. Within two weeks of a major United States offensive in September 1918, 8,000 casualties arrived. The mortality rate was one of the lowest of any of the military hospitals of that time; Dr. McGuire was awarded the French Medal of Honor as well as the Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S. government.

Many of the photographs in the album were taken by Benjamin Alston Stimson when he worked in the x-ray department of Base Hospital 45 at Toul, France, in 1918. The photographs include views of the hospital, doctors, nurses, soldiers, and nearby towns. Some of the images appear in a book about the hospital entitled “History of United States Army Base Hospital No. 45 in the Great War,” published in 1924 by the William Byrd Press in Richmond, Virginia.

Learn more about the World War I Questionnaires and how to use them:

Profiles of Honor

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I and the 75th anniversary of its entry into World War II, the Library of Virginia and the Virginia World War I and World War II Commemoration Commission are partnering to create Profiles of Honor, a statewide online collection of original World War I and World War II manuscripts that remain in private hands and were previously unavailable. The Profiles of Honor Mobile Tour highlights Virginia’s integral role in both wars, and invites visitors to bring their own World War I and II–related items to be scanned for inclusion in the Virginia Profiles of Honor project. This collection, which includes materials from the Library of Virginia’s own World War I and World War II collections, is currently available through Transcribe.

Handwritten note that reads: By the time this reaches you we shall be well on our way across.

Making History: Transcribe is a collaborative online platform that invites the public to type the text of historic documents. Doing so increases the searchability and readability of these documents for future generations. View the original documents from WWI and WWII in the Profiles of Honor Collection, select one that looks interesting, and type all of the text in the document. In a snap, you’re helping us capture and preserve these stories for more powerful searching and future generations.

Stereographs of WWI

A stereograph uses two images, viewed with our binocular vision, to create the illusion of depth from two dimensional images. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, stereographic cards were printed for education and entertainment. They were collected and viewed using a special stereoscope that presented an image to each eye, which the brain combines into a single 3-D image. This popular form of image consumption predates slides and the moving picture, and was largely displaced by the advent of film. Viewfinders, a common toy in the mid-20th century, and current virtual reality displays make use of this same function in human vision to enhance our experience of images.

The Keystone View Company published this set of stereograph cards in 1922. The photographs show scenes from World War I in Germany, England, France, the United States, Belgium, Italy, and Serbia. The album can be viewed on Flickr. The GIFs below use the New York Public Library’s Stereogranimator to animate the two images on each card, mimicking how each would have been seen.

Explore our WWI political cartoons and photographs on Pinterest:

True Sons of Freedom

True Sons of Freedom explores the stories of Virginia's African American soldiers who served during World War I. Reflecting the pride and determination of African American World War I servicemen, the images were submitted with the soldiers' responses to military service questionnaires created by the Virginia War History Commission as part of an effort to capture the scope of Virginians' participation in the Great War.

A physical display of selected portraits will be at the Library of Virginia from January 16 to November 9, 2018. All of Virginia’s African American WWI soldiers who submitted photos with their questionnaires are included on the website. If you are related to or have information about any of these soldiers, we welcome you to submit additional information through the website.

More collections will be added soon...