The Downtown Central Library is commemorating the 100 year anniversary of World War 1 with a new major exhibition called Buffalo Never Fails: The Queen City and World War I. The exhibit is comprised of original artifacts from the Library’s Special Collections, as well as artifacts from local families, collectors and Veteran organizations. They call it “The Great War” for a reason. Or, “The War to End All Wars”. Unfortunately, WWI did not end wars, and today we are still under constant threat of war.
The reason that WWI was considered “The War to End All Wars” was the massive scale of mobilization throughout the world – 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans. The war lasted just under four years, contributing to the deaths of nine million combatants and seven million civilians.
One would think that the world would have learned from the sheer amount of death and destruction caused by WWI? At the time of the war, the push was on to electrify the ‘pride synapses’ of a country. The US was bubbling with patriotism, partially thanks to the government issued military posters that are currently on display. The posters are part of the 2,200 World War I propaganda posters that were donated nearly a century ago by Buffalonian Edward Michael.
Sadly, more than 1,000 soldiers from our region were casualties of WWI including Adam Plewacki, a private in the 23rd Infantry, the first Buffalonian to die on the fields of France and Corporal Jesse Clipper, the first African American to die overseas. Their legacy is remembered through paintings, diary pages, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia.
“Our city was very different from what we know of it today, and several featured Buffalo stories capture the sacrifice, honor, glory and grief of local soldier families through photos and diaries. Upon entering the second floor Gallery, the eye is drawn to a brightly colored, full wall image of a sinking passenger ship – the RMS Lusitania. In 1915, the British ship was torpedoed by Germany and – was one of the leading factors for the U.S.to later join the international war efforts. On a local note, East Aurora Roycroft Community artisan and founder Elbert Hubbard and his wife were casualties of the ship’s sinking and artifacts including a letter Hubbard penned to his son before the ship went down are prominently displayed in the Library.” – The Central Library
The war effort was heavily dependent on citizens rallying behind the effort. And in order to get the citizens to support the effort, including purchasing Liberty Bonds to help finance the war, “patriotic and guilt-inducing posters” were printed in mass quantities. A few of the slogans on these posters read “Together We Win,” “For Home and Country” and “Buffalo Never Fails”. Along with the posters, the library is also displaying family photos, original hand-written diaries, uniforms, video footage, interactives, and other WWI related artifacts.
Buffalo Never Fails: The Queen City and World War I is free and open to the public during all regular Central Library hours. Click for details: www.buffalolib.org.
The Library is located at 1 Lafayette Square. Free guided tours are available on Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. Groups and classrooms interested in tours should call the Library at 716-858-8900. An audio QR-coded tour has been recorded and can be followed on one’s cell phone or other device. Free programming will take place over the next two years and can be found on the Library’s WWI website – along with hundreds of featured exhibit images www.BuffaloLib.org.