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Arts and Crafts: 1919

Arts and Crafts: 1919

Washington, D.C., circa 1919. "Soldiers at Walter Reed." Displaying their handiwork. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.


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Invisible Wounds

Gramps was drafted into the 36th Division (Texas and Oklahoma National Guard), 131st Machine gun Battalion, a kid fresh off an Oklahoma farm, and straight to France after training at Camp Bowie. He was in the the thick of it too, at St. Mihiel and the Argonne. Mom said that in the 30's he would get up and stand guard late at night, almost shooting his wife once, and would have severe nightmares. He ended up going to a hospital for a couple of years, but came back a much better person for it. The wounds from this war were not always as obvious as the above picture portrays.


There is a great British, Canadian & American WWI cemetery in Archangelsk, Russia. Big British stone cross stands there and whole place looks like it's not in Russia. Russian graves look absoluteluy different. Soldiers, seamen, marines lie there in Russian ground since 1919 and also since polar convoys of 1940s. Unfortunately I've got no pics of that place since I live now at another town.

"Shell-shocked, gas-poisoned, disease-ridden"

That's how the Toronto Star described the thousands of returned soldiers who passed through the city during and after WWI. Some were American soldiers who managed to hitch a ride on a Canadian ship and then stayed for a time owing to city's hospital facilities.

Toronto was typical of many Canadian communities during the conflict. It gave 65,000 men for service overseas from a population of about 547,000 (or 12 percent, which didn't include the many women who also served in various capacities). Approximately 5,000 Toronto men were killed and over 25,000 suffered casualties like these men convalescing at Walter Reed.

Quick observations

War: hell
Amputations: tragic
Treadle jigsaw: sweet!

Seen and Sawed

Cool to see those peg-knitter boards in use by these men, and the treadle scroll saw. I have both of those things in my own studio, though my saw's electrified. Peg-knitters haven't changed though.


These Walter Reed pictures and those from the Civil War are some of the strongest and most compelling photos that you post. They all remind us of what sacrifices these fellows have made and how grateful we should always be.
"Lest we forget."


These men seem to have mostly physical injuries, but back in the WW1 period recovery would have been a longer process than now. Even in WW2 my father was in hospital for over a year following a head wound at Dunkirk.

Magazines published after the war often carried ads for various arts and crafts for servicemen to use for supporting themselves, and these men seem to be doing physiotherapy and training. And I doubt it was gangrene took the guy's foot - more likely a shell.


Of the four guys in the front that we can see well enough, only the one using the treadle powered saw has both his legs. The others all appear to be below the knee amputations. (On the guy with his legs crossed you can see what I'm pretty sure is the tip of his stump poking out from his robe.) I wouldn't bet against the guy in uniform also being an amputee as well - you can see that he's using crutches - probably far enough along in his rehabilitation that he can walk around the grounds or even go to town from time to time. If this is an amputees ward, I wonder if the man at the saw has been fitted with a prosthesis, and learning to use the saw with it is part of his therapy.

At Peace

Sleep well, fellas.

Chemical warfare

Any of these guys could also be suffering the effects of mustard gas -- pulmonary scarring, chemical burns, etc. Not to mention gunshot wounds and such.


I would assume the hats were used to identify patients on the basis of treatment or condition. Perhaps with all the various injuries it was easier to keep track of patients this way.

As for the comment on "And for what"... I would recommend picking up a history book for the answer. Sometimes war is inevitable, it is always tragic. However, that does not mean war is not sometimes without justification.

I would think the Civil War or WWII would be considered as necessary wars. No?

And for what?

Photos of young men shattered like this are almost unbearably sad. God damn those who sent them into war.

[Idiotic comment of the day. - Dave]

What's with the hats?

I'm wondering if these guys were "shell shocked." I know that they also have amputations, but they look like there are some mental issues as well. I heard a great deal when I was a child about the extraordinarily traumatic nature of WWl. Trench warfare with artillery pounding overhead not just for days, but for months. Machine guns that could take down an entire platoon.

Soldier's sampler

I can read "STROPE, NICHOLS, NY" in the handiwork of the second from left. Wonder if the striped caps have any significance.

Those Eyes

The guy on the right's eyes are so mysterious. They seem like they're burning straight through you, with a story that needs to be told. Kinda like that very famous National Geographic photo of the Afghan girl.


Another scene from the VA porch, at first I focused on the faces and crafts, then I took in the whole picture and at first it seemed like things are missing. I could just imagine the gangrene that took that foot.

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