The National World War I Museum and Memorial holds the most diverse collection of Great War objects and documents in the world. Below, you can learn about some of the recent additions to this world-renowned collection. By clicking on each image, you can view a larger version of each item. You can also view yearly reports of the Museum’s accession records.
More than 97 percent of the items in the collection were acquired through donations. Learn how you can support the Museum with a donation.
Ottoman Empire Souvenir Snake
From the service of Cyril H. Gaudreau (also spelled Goodrow), U.S. Naval Reserve, Seaman 2nd Class; U.S. S.C. #128 (Sub Chaser) and U.S. Naval Base #25,
A souvenir beaded “snake,” from the Ottoman Empire with black beads spelling out: TURKISH PRISONERS 1918 and under the chin, the letter A. The piece was made by the beaded crochet method or weaving on small looms. Crochet beaded snakes were the most popular of the beaded souvenirs created in the prisoner of war camps. Snakes were a symbol of good luck in parts of Southeast Europe, so the prisoner of war snakes could have had a symbolic importance for their makers. Prisoners who made the items might have been from the far-flung Ottoman Empire: Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Greek, or Eastern European. According to recollections of Seaman Gaudreau, he was given the 74-inch long snake by Turkish P.O.W.’s to thank him for teaching them how to play baseball.
Bulgaria Prisoner of War Camp Scrapbook
“The officers were well treated, many given them a generous amount of liberty, but the other ranks were not treated well. Conditions at Philippopolis were dreadful for them, being neglected and brutalized. The food parcels sent to them stolen. I was delighted to see the other day the announcement of Mr. Balfour [Arthur Balfour the British foreign secretary] that the Bulgarian commandant of the camp would be brought up for trial.” - Salonica Side-Show by V.J. Seligman
Bulgaria entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers on Oct. 12, 1915, having attacked Serbia, one of the Allied nations, on Oct. 5 in order to acquire part of its territory. In response, Great Britain declared war on Bulgaria on Oct. 15 and was joined by France and Italy during the next two days. Working with a Greek government divided in its support between the Allied and Central Powers, the British and French sent an expeditionary force of 150,000, which landed at Salonica, to support Serbia.
The Museum recently acquired a scrapbook (view the content) that helps to tell the story of the Bulgarian prisoner of war camp in Central Bulgaria at Philippopolis [Plovdiv in Bulgarian] that held approximately 5,000 Allied prisoners. The camp was comprised of eight barracks situated around a square, one inhabited by French prisoners, two by British, and five by Serbians. The prisoners worked as laborers in canal and road construction in the area.
The scrapbook was previously in the possession of a French officer named Alexandre Orlowski (who used the aristocratic title “count”) who served as a second lieutenant in the 8th Regiment of the Chasseurs d’Afrique on the Salonica Front. He was captured by the Bulgarians in mid-July 1916 and was eventually transferred to Philippopolis in July 1918.
The album contains nearly 100 photographs including studio portraits of Allied officers, groups of prisoners of various nationalities, camp buildings, Bulgarian civilians and prison guards. The photos feature intriguing depictions of camp life such as prisoners dressed in costumes (some as women), clowns and exotic figures with musical instruments. The album also contains 16 pen and ink and watercolor illustrations that are portrait studies of prisoners. The works include a French Chasseur Alpin with a blue beret; a black African French soldier with a red kepi, several individuals in civilian clothes and several striking images of human heads on animal bodies. Also included is an illustrated sheet with the French title “In the Philippopolis Camp May 1918.”
Kenneth Steuer, PhD, adjunct professor of history at Western Michigan University who specializes in the World War I period notes: “Allied officers often took advantage of their time in captivity to draw and paint and they received art supplies from the YMCA. It was not unusual for POWs to show their art work in exhibitions, often with the hope of selling some material to earn money to purchase food.”
Having enough to eat was a central issue for the prisoners and their guards by the end of the war due to Bulgaria facing severe food shortages.
This acquisition was made possible by a philanthropic gift from Richard D. Rees in memory of Janet Lee Rees. For more information about this scrapbook please contact Jonathan Casey, Archivist and Edward Jones Research Center Manager, at 816.888.8121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The morning dawned on Nov. 1, 1921 with great expectations in the air. The site for the future Liberty Memorial was to be dedicated. Much pomp and circumstance was planned and one activity, while it might seem very quaint and innocent in present day, was very moving and as described was to help “Kansas City keep faith with the fallen.”
The Kansas City Journal reported on the plans the day before: “With the lighting of the Flame of Inspiration by President R.A. Long of the Liberty Memorial Association, ten girls, robed in white and wearing Liberty caps, and bearing wreaths representing equality, justice, wisdom, freedom, truth, patriotism, sacrifice, victory, liberty and peace, will proceed from the bridge connecting the altar with the exedra [seating platform for dignitaries] and deposit the wreaths about the altar.
Simultaneous with the depositing of the [laurel] wreaths at the base of the altar, a girl similarly attired will ascend to the tribune and release a white dove of peace.” A change in their headwear occurred on Nov. 1 and the Liberty caps were not worn.
The Kansas City Star reported the next day that “’the Vestal Virgins,’ in snowy robes peaked by shining raven and golden strands of waving hair, started their procession to the altar.”
In ancient Rome, a virgin consecrated to Vesta and vowed to chastity, sharing the charge of maintaining the sacred fire burning on the goddess's altar. Such high demands were not placed on the young women from Kansas City who took part in the site dedication ceremony, but the solemn meaning was the same.
One of those young women was Bernice Rutherford and her “snowy robe” was recently donated to the National World War I Museum and Memorial by her daughter, Karen Van Voorst Turner.
The other Vestal Virgins were: Delores Dreyfoos, Hester Niswonger, Mary Agnes Patterson, Edith Landis, Beatrice Clark, Edna Helm, Helen Jacobs, Ruth Bird and Riva Cluff. The girl who released the Dove of Peace was Elizabeth Burton. The young ladies were excused from their schools on that auspicious day. They were chosen, the Star reported for “their strength, physical endurance and poise.” Bernice Rutherford (Van Voorst Hanback) went on to support many public activities in Kansas City throughout her life.
The Site Dedication in 1921 brought together for the first time in history five main Allied military leaders of the World War: General Jacques of Belgium, General Diaz of Italy, Admiral Lord Beatty of Great Britain, General John J. Pershing of the United States and Marshal Foch of France. General Diaz took special notice of the Vestal Virgins and passed down the aisle between them grasping the hand of each one and giving them warm greetings. The warmth was needed for they stood in their cloth gowns, wearing sandals and with no head coverings for hours.
The Vestal Virgins are also featured in the Site Dedication mural by Daniel MacMorris in Memory Hall at the Museum. Bernice’s daughter, Karen, wore the outfit as a model for MacMorris’ mural. He used the photograph of Bernice’s face to complete the image.
Carruthers Field Air Service Memento
Carruthers Field was located at Benbrook, Texas, about 10 miles southwest of Ft. Worth. Originally named Taliaferro Field No. 3, it was renamed in honor of Flying Cadet W. K. Carruthers, who was killed in an aviation accident June 18, 1917. Construction on the air field started on Sept. 18, 1917 and flight training began in November.
Flight instruction included a Primary Flying School 8-week course that accommodated up to 300 students and a Pursuit School.
This unusual object measuring 25.5 inches by 30 inches is airplane fabric, covered with drawings of planes, patriotic symbols including eagles in flight and two female attractions.
Penned on every square inch of the canvas are more than 200 names and home towns of service personnel stationed at Carruthers Field. One signatory is Claude C. Lowe of Diana, Tenn., who also included the text “Found a home in Texas” alongside his name.
In the lower left is an “Honor Roll” of four names with home towns and dates, of flyers killed in service. Two are for the same date: Jan. 13, 1919.
The fabric also includes Clare R. Messenger from Saginaw, Mich., the grandfather of the object’s donor, Steve Messenger. Clare’s name is on the wings of a bi-plane in flight, near the top of the piece. Clare was stationed at Carruthers Field from 1917-19.
Australian Infantry Uniform and Equipment
When the Australian Imperial Force was formed soon after the beginning of World War I in August 1914, a mobilization not only of men and women to serve on the war front and the home front had to occur, but also that of uniform, equipment and arms manufacturers. When the first Australian soldiers reached Egypt in late 1914, they were outfitted much like a recent acquisition to the Museum illustrates.
The Australian service dress jacket was made of Australian wool and its loose fit, in contrast to the British service, gave the wearer more allowance for movement. The four large pockets were very useful. A unique feature designed for comfort was the pleated back, which provided a double thickness of cloth down the back that the pack rubbed against. Breeches were corduroy worn with wool wrap puttees. The khaki felt slouch hat or early service cap is probably the most distinctive part of the uniform. The “Rising Sun” insignia on the collar and the fold of the slouch hat was distinctive to the Australians.
Regulation or standard uniforms were often adapted to fit environmental or weather conditions or totally abandoned. This was true among the British Commonwealth troops at Gallipoli, especially among the ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps).
The equipment pack was known as the Pattern 1915 Australian leather equipment which included the ammunition pouches, belt, haversack, back pack, canteen, mess kit, entrenching tool and carrier and even the soldier’s drinking cup. Much of the equipment is marked C.G.H.F. for the Commonwealth Government Harness Factory.
This acquisition greatly expands the Australian material culture within the National World War I Museum's collection.
Under Two Flags at War
It is always exciting when the Museum receives a donation with an incredible story. While the objects in the donation might seem familiar, it is the history which accompanies this recent acquisition that makes it compelling.
According to primary records, an article in the Waterbury, Conn., Sunday Republican magazine on March 29, 1970, notes that Christian Celius Nicolaisen was born of Danish parents in German occupied territory in Skoolburg (Skodberg), Slesvig. He went to German schools and was under compulsory German military service when he came of age.
When World War I started, Christian was assigned to the Imperial German Army’s 86th Regiment of Fusiliers, 18th Division, also known as the Queen Augusta Victoria Regiment. He stated later that he hated everything about his service in the German Army. He learned of his brother Soren’s death on the Eastern Front in 1915 and soon Nicolaisen decided to desert to Denmark. Nicolaisen later said, “I managed to get a three-day pass in the fall of 1915 and decided to catch a train north from Hamburg. I couldn’t confide in anyone and had to go in full uniform.”
A relative in Denmark gave him civilian clothes and, after several weeks, he wrote his other brother Jens in Bridgeport, Conn., and decided to go to the United States. Maneuvering through Danish check points and bureaucracy, he finally sailed aboard the Scandinavian-American liner Frederick VIII. Fourteen days later, he went through Ellis Island and soon traveled to Bridgeport. The U.S. entered the war in April, 1917 and by October, Nicolaisen had been drafted and was sent to Co. B, 504th Engineers. He returned to Europe as a private in the American Expeditionary Forces and served as a mechanic until returning to the U.S. in June 1919.
While it cannot be completely verified at this time, Nicolaisen was certainly one of a few, if not the only man to serve in the German Army followed by the American Army in World War I.
The donation from his great-nephew, Donald R. Hurd, of Billings, Mont., features Nicolaisen’s Imperial German tunic with shoulder straps for the 86th Fusiliers, his feldmutz (soft cap), his GeW 98 rifle dated 1906, and other accoutrements hidden in Denmark for many years. The accession also includes his U.S. service coat with Advance Section Service of Supply shoulder sleeve insignia, collar disc insignia for the National Army 504th Engineers and his mechanic insignia on the right sleeve.
This donation and incredible story of one man’s unique war-time experiences illustrates again the importance of the collections and the exhibitions of the National World War I Museum.
Wills's Cigarettes Cards
A new donation to the Museum’s archives collection brings to life the fighting spirit of the armed forces and people of the British Empire. The Museum acquired 19 color illustrated cardboard cigarette cards originally from packages of the Wills’s Cigarettes brand. The cards depict various branches of the British armed forces, such as the Royal Artillery, Royal Marines and the Royal Flying Corps and other patriotic, war-related subjects issued by the Imperial Tobacco Company of Great Britain and Ireland. The 19 cards in the donation were part of a series of 24 issued in March and April 1917.
Besides depicting those fighting on land or at sea, the cards include the support services, Transport and Engineers and a support organization, the Red Cross as well as the civilian munitions workers, men and women who provided the war material for the fighting. As a call to arms for men and women throughout the Empire, there is a tribute to India, Canada, South Africa and servicemen from Australia and New Zealand. The role of quickly developing and new military technologies is acknowledged with depictions of warplanes, submarines and tanks.
Wills’s was not the only British cigarette company to include military cards with its product. In the immediate pre-WWI years, Player & Sons, also a brand of the Imperial Tobacco Company, issued a set of cards depicting British regiments from 1650-1914, emphasizing the evolution and diversity of the English later British soldier’s uniform and equipment.
German Soldier Medals
Karl Gottlob Männer was born on Nov. 2, 1879 in Adelberg, Germany. He enlisted at the age of 19 and served as Acting Officer, machine gun company, Württemberg King Karl Grenadier Regiment 123, 27th Division.
The 123rd Grenadier Regiment, as part of the 27th Division, began the war at the Battle of Longwy, Aug. 22, 1914. By the end of August, it was between the Meuse and the Argonne. The Division remained in the Argonne until the end of 1915, primarily engaged in mine warfare. In January, 1916 the Division moved into line southeast of Ypres, Belgium. The 123rd Grenadier Regiment lost heavily in the captured British trenches of Bluff (north of the Ypres-Comines Canal) on March 2. Acting Officer Männer was killed near Ypres on April 6, 1916 just after he was granted a leave.
The donation to the Museum from his military service includes:
The Württemberg ribbon medal for Military Merit of yellow with black side stripes and the Long Service Medal ribbon of red with stripes; the bronze Württemberg Long Service Medal instituted by King Wilhelm of Württemberg in July 1913 for 15 years of service; the Cross of Honor for the Great War for Widows and Parents of the Fallen instituted by German President Hindenburg on July 13, 1934; and the German Iron Cross Second Class instituted in 1914.
Belgian Automatic Pistol
The pistol used by Gavrilo Princip on June 28, 1914 was a Model 1910 Belgian Automatic Pistol. It fired a 9mm Browning short cartridge (also known as caliber .380 ACP or Automatic Colt Pistol cartridge: a rimless, straight-walled pistol cartridge developed by American firearms designer John Browning). The pistol was manufactured in Belgium starting in 1912 from the original design and 1908 patent by Browning.
Four Model 1910 pistols were purchased in an arms store in a Belgrade, Serbia and then delivered by Milan Ciganović, a 26 year old Bosnian Serb, to the assassination conspirators. None had fired a pistol before. The general consensus of reference sources list four serial numbers of the pistols: 19074, 19126, 19075 and 19120.
A recent acquisition of the Museum is a same Model 1910 pistol, made at the same arsenal, Fabrique Nationale D’Armes de Guerre, Herstal, Belgium. It is marked with Belgian military acceptance marks. The difference is that this pistol is the 7.65mm/.32ACP caliber. Until the actual assassination pistol was re-discovered in the early 2000s and placed in the Austrian Military Museum in Vienna, a 7.65mm/.32ACP caliber Browning Model 1910 pistol was thought to have been used.
This pistol was donated to the museum by long-time supporter, Richard Keogh, whose father’s British Army uniform is on exhibit in the main museum exhibition space.
Blue Star Mothers Painting
As patriotic gestures, families hung flags with blue stars in their windows during World War I to show that they had family members in the armed forces. These flags appeared in every city and town across the United States, expressing national unity and resolve.
During the war, Blue Star flags hung in the windows of homes, silently telling passersby that a family member from that house was in wartime service.
In 1918, the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense claimed that “the basic idea of the service flag is that there shall be a blue star used to represent each person, man or woman, in the military and naval service of the United States or [serving with] the allies. For a person killed in action, a gold star shall be placed over the blue star, entirely covering it.”
A recent donation to the Museum is a painting done in 1969 by Daniel MacMorris in preparation for creating his mural in Memory Hall on the Blue Star Mothers.
From the Philippines to Siberia
Fighting still raged on the Western Front of Europe in August 1918 when General William S. Graves was ordered to create a force to be sent to Siberia. The U.S. 27th and 31st Infantry Regiments, Field Hospital 4, Ambulance Company 4, Company D of the 53rd Telegraph Battalion and other smaller units were to be equipped “for winter service,” many of them coming from the balmy Philippines to the frozen lands of Siberia. One of the soldiers of the 31st Infantry was Corporal George Andrew Jensen, Company M.
With Japanese, Chinese, British Empire and Czech troops, American forces began arriving in Vladivostok after Sept. 1, 1918. Their initial duties included guarding the railways from Bolshevik attacks. President Wilson had established a policy of non-aggression and the Americans in Siberia followed that policy closely, only fighting when provoked. Small-scale but fierce actions resulted in 170 American dead and 50 wounded. American forces were not officially withdrawn until January 1920 with the last detail departing Vladivostok on April 1, 1920.
Corporal George Andrew Jensen went into service from Hastings, Neb., on Oct. 13, 1917. He arrived in the Philippines less than a month later and went to Siberia with the 31st Infantry Regiment in 1918. He was wounded in action at Novitskaya on June 22, 1919. He was discharged from the army in November 1919.
The recent donation of his service materials from Jensen’s relatives contains a wide variety of materials: his Model 1917 Service coat with the S-AEF shoulder sleeve insignia (Siberia-American Expeditionary Forces) and the red discharge chevron, a trapunto (a decorative quilted design in high relief) souvenir plaque of his service in the Philippines, photographs, postcards, a color illustration on paper of a U.S. soldier in Siberia, leave passes, and 31st Regiment camp newspapers.
Panthéon de la Guerre Fragments Reunited
A reunion at the National World War I Museum recently occurred with a donation of fragments from a heroic piece of artwork, the Panthéon de la Guerre. The donation consists of a British section depicting high-ranking army officers and a furled Union Jack flag.
The Panthéon was created in France during World War I and was the largest painting in the world, measuring 402-feet long and 45-feet tall. The Panthéon was created as a cyclorama and involved hundreds of artists who collectively painted thousands of military and civilian personages from France and the Allied nations.
The Museum possesses most of the existing portions of the Panthéon, which toured the U.S. after the war. Through a meandering process, the Panthéon eventually was donated in the Liberty Memorial Museum in 1957. Kansas City artist and World War I veteran Daniel MacMorris was commissioned to reconfigure the massive artwork and create a mural that would reside on the north wall of Memory Hall at the Museum. During this process, most of the original canvas was cut and various pieces were given to friends and assistants of MacMorris.
One of these assistants was Joe Gillespie, a Kansas City Art Institute student, whom MacMorris employed to assist with the Site Dedication mural on the West wall of Memory Hall. Gillespie helped MacMorris reconfigure the Panthéon and kept this fragment as a souvenir.
In the 1980s, Gillespie donated the fragment to the Vanburen-Spaeth Library & Museum in Lathrop, Mo. The Lathrop Antique Car, Tractor & Engine Association began oversight of the museum in 2009 and graciously donated the pieces to the National World War I Museum.
French Bomber Tail Assembly
Bergman acquired an insignia-decorated section from a tail assembly fin of a French Breguet XVI B2 bomber and donated the object to the Museum. The bomber was originally part of the 131st Escadrille, Bomber Group 4, flown by an American “loaned” to the French unit.
The pilot was Lieutenant Paul Edson Green, a Buffalo, N.Y., native who was an architect before the war. Lieutenant Green was forced to crash land his bomber on Sept. 23, 1918 and he had the fabric section with battle damage removed as a souvenir.
The insignia chosen by the 131st’s commander Lieutenant Beaute is a chimera (a mythological being) copied from a sculptured piece on the Cathedral Notre Dame of Paris. The aggressive looking creature is holding an English-made bomb and the insignia is actually a decal which was applied to the airplane fabric. An archival collection on the service of Paul Edson Green was included with the fabric and it holds his flight logs for all 29 missions, a unit-published history, photographs and other materials.
Soon, the French bomber fabric will be exhibited in the air war case on the west side of the main exhibition space near the Ford ambulance.