OLD FORT – A traveling exhibition commemorating the centennial of the U.S. entry into World War I opens at Mountain Gateway Museum Monday, March 27. Mountain Gateway Museum will present the free exhibit of 10 informational panels and related artifacts through May 17. It’s a great way to show appreciation for “The war to end all wars.” The centennial exhibit will travel statewide in 2017.
WWI began with the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife July 28, 1914. The U.S. was reluctant to enter the conflict as the casualties to European armies approached one million by 1916. Although the U.S. was initially a neutral state, continuing German atrocities and attacks on American vessels led President Woodrow Wilson to declare war on Germany in April 1917.
Four artifacts connected to William Waldo Dodge, a premier silversmith of the 20th century, will be in the exhibit. They are loaned by the N.C. History Museum, the administrative head of Mountain Gateway Museum.
Dodge had been a student of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before serving in World War I, where he was exposed to gas poisoning. He spent months recovering at the veterans’ hospital in Oteen, near Asheville. He learned silversmithing from an occupational therapist there, whom he married. Two tools along with two pieces of silver crafted by Dodge will be in the exhibit.
“We are honored to be a part of the recognition of the service and sacrifice of our soldiers and others during World War I,” said Museum Administrator RoAnn Bishop. “North Carolina and all the nation felt the effects of ‘the Great War.’”
Agriculture was the linchpin of the state’s economy in 1917, and North Carolina farmers fed their fellow citizens and provided crops for the insatiable textile mills and tobacco factories. Women joined the Red Cross, YMCA and Salvation Army to serve as nurses in military hospitals at home and in France. Children grew thrift gardens to earn money to buy war bonds. Industry and individuals united to support the war effort.
North Carolinians served in the major battles of the Western Front in 1918, including with the British Army in intense combat in Belgium and France. The U.S. suffered more than 275,000 casualties and more than 50,000 deaths in five months of action in 1918.
In addition to Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort, the exhibit will travel to Bath State Historic Site, Edenton State Historic Site, Bennett Place State Historic Site, Charlotte Public Library, Museum of the Cape Fear, Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum and other venues. .