Exhibits will highlight local involvement in ‘Great War’

Cobblestone Museum among the first to commemorate World War I anniversary

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Photo by Tom Rivers
The Cobblestone Museum will show 20 to 25 propaganda posters that promoted American involvement in World War I, whether joining the service or buying war bonds. The posters are on loan from Hoag Library, which discovered about 100 posters while cleaning out the former Swan Library.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2015
GAINES – It may have been “The Great War,” but World War I has been overshadowed by the second World War that followed about two decades later. The service and sacrifice in the first World War isn’t fully appreciated locally or nationally, said Matt Ballard, interim director at the Cobblestone Museum and also the county historian.

The first World War started in Europe on July 28, 1914 and ended Nov. 11, 1918. The United States was reluctant to join the war, with a noninterventionist stance until the United States officially joined the Allies in 1917.

Many museums will likely have commemorative displays and exhibits about World War I in 1917, the 100th anniversary of the U.S. involvement. The Cobblestone Museum is preparing two exhibits this upcoming season about the war.

The museum is one of only 10 in the United States with World War I exhibits planned for this year, Ballard said.

That puts the local museum, a National Historic Landmark, at the forefront of highlighting the local involvement of a community in the war.

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The Cobblestone Museum opens for the season on Mother’s Day and Ballard said 20 to 25 World War I posters, recently discovered while cleaning out the Swan Library, will be on display. Some of the propaganda posters ask, “Are you 100 percent American?”

They were used to encourage Americans to enlist in the military, buy war bonds and support the war cause. There was a stack of about 100 in the former Swan Library. Ballard is looking through the stack and will show a sample of the collection.

He also is preparing photos and biographical sketches of Orleans County residents who served in the war, including James Sheret of Albion. He died in the war. The American Legion post in Albion is named in his honor.

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Photos courtesy of the Cobblestone Museum
These photos show Jack Lucas of Albion, including one of him wearing a gas mask.

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The U.S. Government set up training programs at area universities to train mechanics and engineers during the war. Lucas was a graduate of the first class of recruits trained at RIT in Rochester (then the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute).

Many of the Orleans County residents trained at the Armory in Medina. Ballard will share some of their stories in the exhibit that will open June 1.

“We want the community to take ownership of their history,” Ballard told the Albion Rotary Club last week.

The World War I exhibit will also include newspaper clippings that detail the local service in the war.

“We want to promote the community heritage, pride and accomplishments,” Ballard said. “People can see how local residents were part of larger U.S. history.”

For more information on the Cobblestone Museum, click here.

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