Please enjoy this four minute video which explains our intentions for 2018!
Dutchess County’s Part in the World War 1917-1919: Stories remain to be told
In 1919, New York State passed one law directing the State Historian to publish a detailed record of the recent “World War.” They passed a second law requiring every municipal leader in the state to create and fill the office of local historian so the information for the books could be gathered, a staffing requirement that remains to this day.
While very earnestly begun, the book volumes were never published.
NYS Historian James Sullivan explained in 1920, "The Legislature at its session of 1919 directed this Division to prepare several volumes on 'New York’s Part in the World War.' For the purpose of getting a full account of what each town, incorporated village and city did in the way of contributing men, subscriptions to loans etc. The executive officers of those political units we’re authorized by an act of the same year to appoint local historians (with remuneration if the local board saw fit) to gather the necessary information and forward it here to Albany."
Important leaders in the county like Major Joel Spingarn of Amenia called for the volumes to go beyond a list of men in service overseas to include women and activities at home such as bond drives, Red Cross activities, and programs like the Farm Cadet program that enlisted high school boys and girls in farming to free up able men to go overseas. He called on the recently-formed Dutchess County Historical Society to be active in supporting the effort.
We don’t know why the book was never published. Perhaps it was due to the sheer size of the task or the unevenness of responses. Sullivan died in 1931 and of course the economic depression and WWII came along. But all of Sullivan’s early correspondence survives.
Today, Dutchess County municipal historians and historical societies at a county and local level are working with us to “publish the book” to some degree, but in a more contemporary way than printed volumes. In November 2017, under a joint declaration between the County government and County Historical Society, the program "2018: The Year of the Veteran" in Dutchess County was officially launched which involves both a gathering and sharing the stories of these men, women and children.
We are Developing Three Types of Public Exhibitions
County Office Building Courtesy County Clerk
Traveling exhibition of powerful photographs. A display of powerful photographs with related headlines from local newspapers will be featured on portable panels first at the FDR Presidential Museum & Library’s Wallace Center in May 2018. Also at the Dutchess County Fair in late August. And are available to travel town to town outside of those times. They feature photographs taken largely between 1917 and 1919 by local professional photographer Ruben Van Vlack, who served in WWI. There is a never-before-published photograph of then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Roosevelt leading a brisk march down Main Street two years before he contracted polio. The Van Vlack photographs were donated to DCHS in 1981 by C Fred Close, a WWI Purple Heart veteran and County Sheriff for 25 years.
Objects and three-dimensional memorabilia will be set up on display on the first floor of the Dutchess County Office Building courtesy of the County Clerk.
A permanent online exhibition of photographs, letters, documents, newspaper clippings from the cities, towns, and villages of Dutchess County relating to "World War" will be maintained bon theDCHS with the option of local organizations to equally exhibit on their online properties.
Local Memorials. An important feature of the online exhibition will involve documenting all WWI-related memorials in the county which range from "living memorials" that remain gardens to this day, to more traditional plaques and statues.
Oral Histories. The Oral History program is a significant, active component of the online exhibition. Veterans who wish to share their memories and stories are invited to participate. We are expanding on work initiated by Bard College's Gretta Tritch Roman and Historic Red Hook in their work with students in the development of a Mobil History Van. And building on foundational frameworks begun by Marist College, Hudson River Valley Institute and the Library of Congress.
Please check back for updates.