'Stark County in the Great War' recognizes centennial of WWI.

The names and faces of area residents who served in World War I are commemorated in an exhibition that will be on display through the summer at Massillon Museum.

"Stark County in the Great War" is displayed in recognition of the 100th anniversary of the international conflict. The centennial exhibit occupies both the main first-floor gallery and display space on the second floor.

Opening text makes reference to the presence and importance of local individuals in the conflict.

"'The Stark County Honor Roll of Ohio' 1917-1918 asked, 'Where in all history, sacred or secular, and where in all this wide land is there any evidence of greater patriotism than was shown by Stark County, Ohio,' " says the text, noting that the exhibition explores the involvement of a number of Stark County communities, including Massillon and Canton.

"This project functions as a means by which patrons and citizens can share their stories and voices with future generations to recognize the wartime involvement of men, women and families of Stark County, and provides an overview of Stark County's involvement, both at home and overseas, in the global conflict."

In the trenches

One of the Massillon-area men whose World War I service is documented by the exhibit is Cpl. Binger Show.

"Imagine you are standing in the trenches with the mud, the roaring noise of gunfire, the officers shouting commands, and soldiers falling into line," says text accompanying the exhibition. "You are now standing next to the wool service jacket of Corporal Binger Show, who served in the trenches with Company C, Third Infantry Division, Fourth Regiment."

The khaki green service jacket "hits at the waist," the text notes. Two patches are attached to a sleeve, one identifying his division and another recognizing his discharge. Chevrons denote his rank. The jacket is on loan from the collection of Norm Woods, the museum identifies, providing a photograph of Cpl. Show sitting in a chair, wearing the jacket that is displayed.

Portrait of Pifer

A black-and-white photograph of Franklin Pifer, also of Massillon, similarly is displayed in the exhibition, showing Pifer wearing his uniform, "likely taken soon after his enlistment," says museum text. Pifer's "Ditty Bag" also is displayed, on loan from Denny and Debbie Bachtel.

"Red Cross volunteers likely sewed this 'ditty bag,'" the text notes. "The bag contained items like soap, razors, and other toiletries."

Pifer's name is hand-sewn on the ditty bag, to keep his personal items from being mistaken for those of other men in his unit.

The reality of the isolation and hardship of fighting overseas in World War I is brought home by remembering that one's entire personal life was carried in a purse-sized sack that is far less expansive than a carry-on bag for a one-day business flight.

Keeping a journal

The World War I words of Daniel Irvin Wanner, also of Stark County, capture the daily details of his service in the medical detachment of the 332nd Infantry Regiment in Italy.

The journal he kept while in Europe is displayed with his picture as part of "Stark County in the Great War."

"Wanner's personal diary describes his days in the service and his time overseas in Italy," explains exhibit text. "He details experiences in Italy, his health, and the back of the diary contains an address book listing individuals."

Wanner obviously planned to keep in touch with those to whom he became close during the conflict, men who either were fellow medical workers or wound victims.

Other artifacts

Additional artifacts displayed in "Stark County in the Great War" photographs and infantry gear.

Artifacts such as propaganda posters provide an interactive element to the exhibition.

"During World War I, American propagandist George Creel oversaw the Committee on Public Information (CPI)," notes exhibition text. "In just 26 months, the CPI mass-produced millions of posters, banners and pamphlets. Creel hired well-known illustrators like James Montgomery Flagg and Charles Dana Gibson to create more than 1,400 visual designs for posters and pamphlets."

Several that made their way to Massillon during the war, and later into the museum's collection, are displayed in the exhibition. Visitors to the exhibit are encouraged to use a laminated flip-book to interpret each displayed poster's wartime message.

"Buy Government Bonds," one poster urges. "Don't Waste Food," another orders. "Sew Seeds of Victory" says a poster encouraging area residents to plant "Victory Gardens."

"The goal of World War I propaganda was to invest every American in some way," exhibition text explains. "Men who could fight were to enlist in the military. Men who could not enlist were expected to help fund the war by purchasing bonds. Women who were not permitted to serve in the military could save food or make socks and bandages for the soldiers."

World Of Change

The participation of Stark County residents in World War I helped form the course of history, the exhibit shows. But, the conflict also changed the way that people in the Canton and Massillon communities lived.

"World War I eventually pulled an isolationist America into heavy military involvement," notes exhibit text. "But, before that turning point, the country's primary contribution came from manufacturing might. From 1910 to 1920, the boom of industrial expansion and development drew newcomers to Stark County's major cities — Canton, Alliance and Massillon. Many manufacturers focused on steel and aluminum to support (war) construction."

That heavy industry replaced the production of glass and farm equipmewnt in the Stark County area, the exhibit notes. In short, Stark County gave birth to manufacturing that would dominate the region for most of the rest of the century.

In that sense, Stark County did not become a fertile ground for the growth of factories despite World War I, but, at least in part, because of it.