Cincinnati Art Museum

Exploring the Art Academy of Cincinnati's connection to WW1 through The Mary R. Schiff Library and Archives

On April 6, 1917 – 100 years ago this month - the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered World War I.   The war had begun in Europe back in July 1914, with Germany and its allies fighting against Russia, France and Great Britain. The United States was officially neutral in the conflict, although in cities, like Cincinnati, with a significant population of German heritage, many citizens supported their Germanic brethren. However, when German submarines began to sink American merchant ships, the US was left with no option but to declare war on Germany. The first American troops landed in France in June 1917. Before the end of the war in November 1918, the American “doughboys” would suffer 116,500 deaths (including about 400 from Greater Cincinnati) and 204,000 wounded.  
Among those who served were a number of students from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, who put their artistic skills to practical use for the war effort, drawing maps or designing military camouflage. For many, their love of art was a morale-boosting reminder of happier times, whilst for others it actually provided a motivation to fight. For instance, student John E. Weis wrote to Academy and Museum Director Joseph Henry Gest of his fear that, in the event of a German victory, an institution like the Academy wouldn’t survive, but “it’s things of this sort that I’m going to fight for”. See for yourself in the image to the right!

Giant landscapes like this were painted by Art Academy students serving in World War 1 for range-finding training. Click on the small image to left to zoom in and out.

Former students often sent letters and photographs back to friends at the Academy whilst undergoing their training and once posted overseas. Now preserved in the Art Museum’s archives, some of those letters and photographs are shown here, in commemoration of the centenary of the United States’ entry into World War I.

Read more of John E. Weis's letters to Joseph Henry Gest! Click on the image to the left to zoom in and out on each letter.

Credits: Story

Content Provided By: Geoff Edwards, Archivist/Records Manager, The Mary R. Schiff Library and Archives

Content Uploaded By: Drew Yakscoe, Administrative Assistant for Learning and Interpretation, Cincinnati Art Museum

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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