Editor’s Note – This story and the accompanying photographs were provided by Christopher Duckworth, who was raised in Columbus, but has ties to Hillsboro and Greenfield, where his father was born. He is currently the executive editor and director of publications for the Columbus Museum of Art.
As we approach Veteran’s Day, it is appropriate to remember that this is not just a day off from work for some, but instead is a time to remember and memorialize.
Originally called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, the day was set aside to recall the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month – Nov. 11, 1918 – when the guns in Europe fell silent and World War I ended. In total, between the war’s beginning in August 1914 and its end in 1918, the war claimed some 15 to 18 million military and resulted in another 20 million-plus wounded. The United States, which entered the war late – in April 1917 — was more fortunate than most: “only” about 117,000 Americans died in the war with another 200,000 wounded.
In many respects, this was the first “modern” war, replete with trench warfare, aviation, tanks, gas and chemical warfare, machine guns, and so many more of the killing paraphernalia that today we associate with war. In the U.S., it also marked the introduction of modern advertising and mass media in support of government policy as President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, a former investigative journalist and Denver Police commissioner, was charged with drumming up support for what had been an unpopular war.
In doing his job, Creel enlisted the support of artists, motion-picture starts, sports heroes, and other notables to rally the public. Using various techniques, including a huge poster campaign, he was able to do just that. All things German became anathema: dachshunds were symbols of Germany and now were called “liberty hounds;” sauerkraut transformed into “liberty cabbage,” and so forth.
One of the striking posters of this anti-German campaign was this image of an ominous German soldier with bloody bayonet. Frederick Strothmann (1879–1958) was the artist. Born in Philadelphia, he became an artist and illustrator of Mark Twain books and of numerous magazines. Interestingly, Strothmann had studied art in Berlin.
In his poster, Strothmann called upon Americans to buy Liberty Bonds, first issued in April 1917, which were used to finance the war and soon became a symbol of patriotism. While sales ran a bit hot and cold, in all the Liberty Bonds raised some $21.5 billion as stars such as Al Jolson, Mary Pickford, and Charlie Chaplin pushed sales.
Highland County was by no means exempt from the war. The C. S. Bell Company built and donated a model tank, which sat in front of the courthouse and encouraged residents to buy bonds. The effort was successful. On May 31, 1919, a plaque was unveiled on the Highland County Courthouse in Hillsboro (it’s still there) to commemorate Highland County meeting its quota of Liberty Bonds in 1919.
And, many of the boys from Highland County volunteered to go “over there.” Among them were two of my great-uncles: Harold and Clarence Laymon. Both returned from overseas, although Harold had been a victim of a gas attack and, like so many others, never really recovered. He died in the Chillicothe Veterans Administration Hospital in 1929.
Not so with Uncle Clarence, who used to tell me tales of his exploits in France. He also had a pictorial unit history that, he would proudly point out, featured a photograph of himself being de-loused upon arriving back in the States.
A photograph accompanying this story shows a jaunty Uncle Clarence, cigar in hand, standing in front what was then the W.R. Smith Drug Company at 114 E. Main St. He had yet to convert back to “civvies.”
Unlike during the days of my youth, World War I veterans no longer populate the courthouse squares and revel the kids with the stories of their experiences — always leaving out the horrors that they had seen and experienced.
In 1954, Armistice Day became Veterans Day; we had experienced two wars since the Doughboys came home in 1919. Pause for a moment and recall what these young men and women gave; perhaps even don a remembrance poppy, once the symbol of Armistice Day.