BAR HARBOR — “World War I and America,” a series of eight programs about the First World War and its effects on America and Mount Desert Island, will be hosted by the Jesup Memorial Library, Acadia Senior College and the George Edwin Kirk American Legion Post 25 at the library in early 2018. Also, from January through March, the Jesup will have artifacts and documents on display pertaining to World War I and other wars, donated by the American Legion Post and members of the MDI community.
The series begins on Monday, Jan. 8, at 9:30 a.m. with a facilitated discussion with Libby Bischof. Bischof, an associate professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Political Science at the University of Southern Maine, will moderate an in-depth discussion, springboarding from assigned readings about World War I. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To register and receive the readings, contact Melinda Rice at [email protected] or at 288-4245.
On Saturday, Jan. 13, at 1 p.m., in a program called “George Kirk and Bar Harbor in World War I,” members of the George Edwin Kirk American Legion Post 25 will share the story of Kirk, his life and World War I service and how he came to be the namesake of the American Legion Post. Kirk was from MDI and a graduate of the Bar Harbor High School in 1912. There also will be some World War I-era documents and artifacts on display.
Then on Thursday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m., the film “War Horse” will be screened. This Academy Award-nominated film directed by Steven Spielberg is set during World War I. In the film, a British teen named “Albert” raises and trains a horse, Joey, but at the outbreak of World War I, Albert’s father sells Joey to the British cavalry. Against, the backdrop of the Great War, Joey begins an odyssey full of danger, joy and sorrow, and he transforms everyone he meets along the way. Meanwhile Albert, unable to forget his equine friend, searches the battlefields of France to find Joey and bring him home.
Then on Saturday, Feb. 12, and Saturday, March 10, at 1 p.m., the American Legion Post will lead panel discussions featuring speakers who served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam and subsequent wars. February’s program will focus on World War II, and March’s program will focus on the experiences of those in Korea, Vietnam and other wars since then.
Donald Zillman will lead two different programs on Monday, March 12. First, at 9:30 a.m., he will lead a facilitated discussion about the American experience on the home front during WWI, based on his book “Living the World War: A Weekly Exploration of the American Experience in World War I.” At 7 p.m., Zillman will give a talk and sign books.
“Living the World War” uses the Congressional Record and the New York Times to delve into the experiences of American citizens during the war, who, before mass communication, did not know what was happening overseas in real time. The book also explores how the experience of war and emerging national issues profoundly shaped America in the 21st century.
Zillman is the Edward Godfrey Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law. In his career, he served as an Army judge advocate and a professor of law at Arizona State University and the University of Utah before coming to Maine as the dean of the University of Maine Law School. He also served as the president of the University of Maine at Presque Isle and as a visiting professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom. Both of these programs are free and open to the public, but registration is required for the program at 9:30 a.m. To register, contact Rice at [email protected] or at 288-4245.
Finally, Maine State Historian Earle G. Shettleworth Jr. will give an illustrated talk about the role played by Maine men and women in World War I, especially here at home. Thirty-five thousand men and women across the state joined the military in 1917 and 1918 to fight in a “war to end all wars” that promised to “make the world safe for democracy.”
Maine civilians supported the war by purchasing $118.4 million in government bonds and $8.4 million in war savings stamps. Private sector relief programs operated by the American Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA and the Salvation Army also received generous contributions from the public. By the end of the war, each man, woman and child in the state had donated an average of $147 to the war effort. Newly unearthed historic photographs, many of them real photo postcards of the period, tell the story of recruitment, troop departures, parades, bond drives, shipbuilding, war-related industries and knitting socks for the soldiers. This chapter in Maine’s past comes alive in these century-old pictures.
These programs and the display are supported by a grant for “World War I and America,” a two-year national initiative of the Library of America presented in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National World War I Museum and Memorial and other organizations with support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.