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Historical Society’s Summer Exhibit

“Norfolk in the Great War” opens May 27


This rare poster by Frances Adams Halsted shows the symbolic figure of Columbia, a female personification of our country. The U.S. Department of War purchased 500,000 copies of the poster, and Halsted pledged the proceeds to the establishment of a home for the orphaned children of American soldiers and sailors.

On April 6, 1917, the United States entered the Great War, and life in Norfolk changed quickly. The Eldridge Gymnasium (now Town Hall) became an armory and the setting for outdoor drills with a rifle range set up on the rocky ledge behind Fox Hill, home of the Bridgman family on Litchfield Road. Dr. Dennis offered the use of his hilltop bungalow as an observation station, and four acres of his land for the cultivation of crops.

Throughout the war, Norfolk was active on the home front with women sewing surgical dressings, knitting hospital garments and canning for food conservation. Fundraising drives, rummage sales and benefit entertainments became monthly events. A total of 79 young men and one woman from Norfolk served in the military. Eight lost their lives.

The exhibition, “Norfolk in the Great War,” opens at the Norfolk Historical Museum on Saturday, May 27, and can be viewed every Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. until Columbus Day. A collection of stunning original World War I posters will be featured in the exhibition.

“Norfolk in the Great War” documents activities on the home front, as well as the thoughts and experiences of Norfolk servicemen and women through diaries, letters written home from the front lines and military service questionnaires completed by war veterans. There are also stories about Norfolk men who played a pivotal role during the war, like Frederick Walcott who traveled to Poland in 1916 as a member of the United States Commission and wrote about the devastation and decimation of the Polish people. And there is the unique story of the Norfolk man who was impersonated by a German spy.


Photo courtesy of the Norfolk Historical Society.

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