One hundred years ago … it was such a significant year, as 1917 opened the year with major rumblings of war throughout the European countries, until the United States finally joined World War I on April 6, 1917. If you search for significant events for that year, by this date in 1917 the escalating issues dominate the historical records. But other key events were somewhat lost in the fray of world events, including the purchase of the Danish West Indies by the United States, the new Mexican Constitution was adopted and Puerto Ricans were granted United States citizenship.
By the end of May, the music world changed as the Original Dixieland Jazz Band recorded “Livery Stable Blues” with “Dixie Band Jazz One Step,” which became the first commercially released jazz recordings. In addition the great fire in Atlanta, Ga., destroyed 300 acres (73 city blocks), the Selective Service was initiated and John F. Kennedy was born in Massachusetts, just after our own Frances Bartlett was born here in Story City.
As we honor the memory and events of this year, we have set up a display at the Bertha Bartlett Public Library to remember the stories of World War I. Inside our display case we have a World War I Army jacket and spats, and a photo of the man who owned them in service, in addition to a newspaper summarizing the events that came about during World War I. Sheet music of the period is in the upper part of the display, which includes pristine copies of “Over There” by George M. Cohan, “Somewhere in France is Daddy” by Great Howard and “Camp Cody Blues” by Harry Barsden of the 2nd Iowa Infantry Band, who was from Fort Dodge.
Books above the display case on this infamous period that can be checked out include non-fiction titles: “The First World War” by John Keegan, “Mimi and Toutou’s Big Adventure” by Giles Fodden, and “The Great War: 1914-1918” by Spencer C. Tucker. Fiction titles include “Goodbye Piccadilly” by Cynthia Harrod-Eagle and “The Given Day” by Dennis LeHane.
World War I gets overshadowed by the stories from World War II … much more is on the shelf about that epic war from the 1940s, but the first war set the stage on world involvement in other countries. Learning more about this critical time period in our history is valuable not only to military and history buffs, but to all of us in each generation who hope we can avoid a third world war. And we don’t want to lose the important events that didn’t involve war from this time … the flu epidemic in the United States was continuing and the first Pulitzer prizes were awarded. Epic events and inventions that have changed our lives were coming together during this pivotal time period.
So whether you are into history or war, look back at the sacrifices and changes made 100 years ago, the significant births and the key decisions that have moved us forward in this country and in establishing relationships with the world around us.