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Remembering America in World War I: A New Special Collections Exhibit

This year is the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, a war that would end up being one of the deadliest wars the world has ever seen. Many European countries had been fighting in the War since 1914, but the United States had maintained its neutrality. But this neutrality was not to last. In February 1915, Germany declared they would be using unrestricted submarine warfare against any ships in British waters. This declaration came true when a German U-Boat sunk a passenger ship, the RMS Lusitania. On board were American passengers, over one hundred of which were killed. The other large development in America’s involvement in the War was the Zimmerman Telegram. In 1917, British cryptographers intercepted and decoded a telegram from the German Foreign Minister, Arthur Zimmerman, to the German minister in Mexico. It offered Mexico the territories that they had lost from the United States if they joined up with the Germans. All of these acts were enough for the United States to declare war on Germany and its allies on April 6, 1917. The war would last another year and a half before the Armistice would put a halt to the fighting.

Millions of Americans fought in this war, many never returning home.  In Special Collections here at the library, we have many large collections of World War I memorabilia, like letters, uniforms, and medals. Some of these artifacts will be on display this month on the 1st floor of the library in a small exhibit curated by summer Special Collections interns Gabby Genta and Jewell Smith. Stop by our reference desk in June to view this exhibit!

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