Mobile Exhibit - The JAMES

“McHenry County Enlists - The Great War: 1914-18

Through summer 2018

Theme: America enters World War I

World War I was a global war centered in Europe that began on July 28, 1914, and lasted until November 11, 1918. War broke out in Europe one month after the assassination of  Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

At the outbreak of the war, the United States pursued a policy of avoiding conflict while it attempted to broker a peace. Tensions heighted when Germany sank the British liner RMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915. With 128 Americans among the dead, President Woodrow Wilson demanded an end to attacks on passenger ships.

Germany complied for a time. But in January 1917, Germany resumed unrestricted submarine warfare. After the publication of the Zimmermann telegram, in which Germany invited Mexico to join the war as its ally, President Wilson called for war. The U.S. Congress complied on April 6, 1917.

On June 26, the first 14,000 American infantry troops landed in France to begin training for combat. After four years of bloody stalemate along the western front, the entrance of America’s well-supplied forces into the conflict marked a major turning point in the war and helped the Allies to victory. When the war finally ended, more than 2 million soldiers from this county had served on the battlefields of Western Europe.

Despite, the large concentration of German residents, McHenry County overwhelmingly supported the war effort. All told, the county supplied volunteers, National Guardsmen and draftees totaling about 1,475 men. Of those, 57 lost their lives.

On the home front, citizens were active in raising money for the war effort and terms such as liberty loans, victory drives and war bonds became commonplace. About a year after the armistice was signed in November of 1918, McHenry County welcomed home her soldiers with a huge public welcome in Woodstock and later in towns like Harvard, Marengo and Algonquin.
Featured Objects
Photographs and stories of McHenry County WW I soldiers
Photographs of Woodstock Homecoming Event
WW I military uniform
Collection of WW I military helmets & garrison caps
Red Cross memorabilia
McHenry County home-front memorabilia
Poison gas rattle alarm
Gas mask
WW I French souvenirs


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Donate for the James

As the cost of fuel, repairs, insurance and licensing has increased for our mobile museum the McHenry County Historical Society began to scrutinize our approach toward dealing with prospective venues. Our popular history bus, which is free to visitors, generated very few donations last season. Those who viewed the display at a dozen destinations contributed just $60. We anticipate at least a $2,000 shortfall in that account by the time our fiscal year ends June 30.

Therefore, we are requesting tax-deductible donations of at least $100 by for-profit entities, taxing bodies and businesses that book The James, and a minimum $75 donation per occurrence from nonprofit organizations which wish to bring The James out to their events. The request, in line with what many organizations already give, will not make the program self-sufficient. But it will help.

No such expectations will be placed on governmental/organizational members of the McHenry County Historical Society. That is a benefit of being a sustaining member. However, as always, your financial support is needed and very much appreciated.

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