Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New WWI Exhibit Opening 9/16/10

The following will be featured in the upcoming edition of the Henrico Historical Society’s Newsletter and details the exhibit that I referenced in the opening post. Enjoy!

The exhibit Ready To Do My Part: Henrico County & World War I explores the events and historical legacies of how American participation in the First World War directly affected the citizens of Henrico County.

When an assassins’ bullet claimed the life of Austrian Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, no one could have foreseen that in three short years 2 million American soldiers would be shipped overseas – or that over 116,000 American soldiers would die in the conflict.

That 675,000 Americans of all walks of life would be killed by the influenza pandemic that broke out as a result of the war was unfathomable. As we approach the 94th anniversary of American involvement in World War I, it is only fitting to look back and reflect upon the trying times of 1917-1918.

The idea for the exhibit came from the immense collection of letters, photographs, and artifacts that were left to the County from Sheppard Crump. Many in Henrico today know Crump as the man who donated Meadow Farm to the county. Fewer citizens know that Crump served in the military for over fifty years and that he was sent over to France as part of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) during World War I. Crump served as an officer with the 29th Division and was instrumental in the formation of the American Legion in 1919. The items that he left behind to the County and the story of his service in France served as the springboard for the exhibit.

However, Sheppard Crump represented only a small portion of the larger story of a county – and a nation – at war. Research in the files of the Virginia War History Commission at the Library of Virginia soon revealed other soldiers and citizens of Henrico whose stories had lingered in obscurity for nearly 100 years. Henricoans living in Sandston may be surprised to know that they are living on ground that was once a thriving munitions plant during World War I. Graduates of the Medical College of Virginia will be interested to know the story of Base Hospital 45 – a group of nurses and doctors from MCV who went overseas and treated wounded soldiers close to the front lines.

In addition to the stories that are told in the exhibit, visitors will also get a chance to see dozens of artifacts from the conflict. Many of the items that Crump had with him in 1918-1919 will be on display in addition to rare artifacts on loan from the Virginia Historical Society, The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, and private collectors.

The exhibit will open at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 16th with a special reception at the Meadow Farm Orientation Center. It will remain on display through the end of the year.

For those who want to dig deeper into the story of Henrico and World War I, HCTV Channel 17 will be airing a 31-minute documentary entitled The Great War Remembered: Henrico’s Story of Service and Support starting on August 23rd.

Finally, a symposium will take place on Saturday, October 23rd at Henrico Theater featuring some of the leading scholars in the field of World War I studies. Dr. Edward G. Lengel of the University of Virginia, Dr. Mitchell A. Yockelson of the National Archives, and Brig. Gen. (Ret.) John W. Mountcastle will discuss different aspects of American involvement in World War I and participate in a question and answer segment open to all attendees. This event will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and will cost only $20 per person. Registration is required.

For any questions regarding the upcoming exhibit and symposium, please contact the exhibit curator, Jimmy Price, at 652-3411 or

It is hoped that Ready To Do My Part will serve as a fitting reminder of the high price that was paid by those who lived through the tumultuous events of 93 years ago.


  1. Did you develop anything to do with the home-front? That's another area of the war that intrigues me, and appears to have been forgotten. We hear about the rationing and so forth during the Second World War, but I think any sacrifices at home are rather obscured from WWI.

  2. Hi Robert,

    Half of the exhibit is actually dedicated to the home front. I divided it into 2 sections called Over There and Over Here. Henrico had a huge munitions plant that was run by DuPont & staffed mainly by women. That and the influenza pandemic make up most of the content in this section. I also tried to touch on anti-German sentiment and the struggles of African-Americans. I found a lot of fascinating stuff and you're right - nobody remembers the sacrifices of those left behind to keep the home fires burning.