Commemorating the Armistice

November 11, 2018

One hundred years ago, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, fighting in the war to end all wars came to an end.

One section of the Andrew Laurie Stangel Collection in the Department of Special Collections reveals much about the history of World War I through the somewhat surprising medium of picture postcards. Many of those postcards have been digitized and are available in UW Digital Collections in “Greetings from the Fatherland: German Picture Postcards.”

“Peace” [Friede!]. Andrew Laurie Stangel Collection. Department of Special Collections. Memorial Library. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As Dr. Stangel has described this particular card, “Peace was declared with the signing of the Armistice on November 11th, 1918. The war which Germans expected to be over by Christmas 1914, had dragged on for more than four years.” Dr. Stangel further noted the irony of depicting “victory palms” in the image of “The war’s end.”

We called attention to another card in the Stangel Collection in connection with the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. Items from the Stangel Collection were then much in evidence in our exhibit 1914: Then Came Armageddon (2014). For more about Dr. Stangel and our 2014 exhibit, see a UW-Madison Libraries press release. Most titles in the Stangel Collection concern German history in the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th: individual titles have been cataloged with call numbers beginning CA 17439.

Apropos of Americans and the Armistice, for example, you are invited to see such titles as A diary of Armistice days, from October 20, 1918, to December 21, 1918 , a memoir by James Montgomery Beck, solicitor general of the United States, privately printed in 1923 for distribution to his friends (call number: CA 17439 no. 115), in which he observed that it was his “privilege to see the rising of the curtain on that stupendous tragedy in 1914, and also its fall in 1918” (p. 5). In a different register, sheet music for the Irving Berlin song “Good-bye France: You’ll never be forgotten by the U.S.A.” (call number: CA 17439 no. 246 oversize) featured a chorus that began “Good-bye France: we’d love to linger longer but we must go home.”

To explore more about the First World War, see the finding aid describing the World War I Collection in Special Collections (some fifty linear feet of books, pamphlets, newspapers and other periodicals, printed ephemera, and manuscripts), as well as selected digitized text and images available in UW Digital Collections.

— Robin Rider