Live from Roanoke, November 11th 1918

One of the coolest stories in Roanoke history dates back to the first World War. In 1918, the Spanish Influenza was spreading across Virginia. It had originally started in Camp Lee near Petersburg and had already claimed numerous lives by the time it moved on. Virginia became a bleak place, the war was raging and now the flu was claiming life after life. At first the Roanoke Department of Health claimed there was nothing to be worried about. The surrounding communities’ infected number gradually rose and doctors were in high demand. By October the number of people with the flu in Virginia was reported to be around 60,000 but estimates claim that the actual number was closer to 200,000. Roanoke wasn’t faring very well, a large number of the city doctors were off at war, making treatment extremely difficult. Schools had been closed, most people didn’t venture out of their homes. It was a very rough time. During the six week epidemic, in Roanoke alone there were more than four thousand reported cases and 86 deaths. Over eleven thousand Virginians were killed in the tragedy.

redcrossvolunteers

Catalog Number 1982.22.4
Object Name Print, Photographic
Title Red Cross Volunteers
Description A black and white photograph of Red Cross workers taken circa 1919.
The following narrative was taken from http://www.newrivernotes.com/va/roanww1.htm:
The Roanoke chapter was organized in July 1916. The chapter secured headquarters in the Hammond Building on South Jefferson Street, and opened them, equipped for work, and organized on February 22, 1917. It was the first chapter in the State to open headquarters for work.
The headquarters were in a large new building, conveniently and centrally located. The use of this building was given the Roanoke Red Cross free of charge for the entire period of the war and until the spring of 1919, by the Hammond Printing & Lithograph Works. The electricity for lighting and for the electric motors and tile cutting machines was furnished without cost by the Roanoke Railway & Electric Company.
Prior to securing the Hammond Building as headquarters for the Red Cross work, the home of Mrs. T. S. Davant was given over to the use of a committee of fifteen women who came daily to sew, and who, with the aid of five sewing machines, made numbers of articles.
Place Roanoke, Virginia
Date circa 1919
Copyright All rights belong to the History Museum of Western Virginia without restriction.

However, the flu eventually left, leaving Roanoke ready to get back to normal. On November 11th it was finally time for students to go back to school for the first time since the Spanish Flu. At 8 a.m., when student had just gotten to school or were headed towards their desk, a shrill whistle let out from the N.W. shops. This wasn’t the ordinary train whistle, oh no! On the same day that Roanoke celebrated freedom from illness, it also now got to celebrate the end of the war! Church bells started chiming, whistles went off all over town, men and women grabbed pots and pans and wandered into the street, the noise was deafening! Shops closed and workers got to go home early, but instead of going back to the comfort of their own living rooms, they too took to the streets. A gigantic parade of people marched towards downtown Roanoke, singing and cheering at the top of their lungs. The war was over!

parade truck

Catalog Number 1990.69.761
Object Name Print, Photographic
Title Liberty Bonds Parade Truck, 1917/1918
Description A black and white photograph of a truck decorated for a parade and promoting the sale of Liberty Bonds in the summer of 1917/1918 in Roanoke, Virginia. None of the individuals in the photograph are identified. There are twelve Red Cross nurses sitting in the bed of the truck.
Place Roanoke, Virginia
Date circa 1917
Year Range from 1917
Year Range to 1918
Copyright All rights belong to the History Museum of Western Virginia without restriction.

In just two hours the streets were so jam packed that no cars could go through. The celebration went on all day long, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., and since prohibition had just passed, it was all good clean fun. Nothing of this scale has ever reoccurred in Roanoke and it is doubtful it will. This pure expression of joy is one of the most amazing moments from the extensive history of Roanoke.

If you want to know more about November 11th, including more specific numbers and dates, this story and tons others like it can all be found in Clare White’s book Roanoke 1740-1982. Delve into the past and learn all of the fascinating tidbits that make up Roanoke’s illustrious beginnings. You can find the book in our gift shop next time you visit The History Museum of Western Virginia’s exhibits or buy it online by just clicking on the image below.

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Random Picture Breadcrumbs

hanselandgretel

The story of Hansel and Gretel was first published by the Grimm brothers in 1812 and tells the tale of two children that leave breadcrumbs as they explore the woods. Sometimes history plays the part of these kids, dropping a crusty piece of bread and encouraging you to follow the story deeper. During the latest random picture search, the first photo I found encouraged me to follow the trail to the next and then a third one. This photograph depicts somewhat grim faced women greeting soldiers at a train station.

Red Cross 1

Catalog Number 1982.22.5
Object Name Print, Photographic
Title Red Cross Canteen Workers
Description A black and white photograph of Red Cross Canteen workers serving refreshments to military personnel at the train station in Roanoke, Virginia, as a troop train stops during World War I. This photograph is very similar to Object ID 1982.22.3.
Place Roanoke, Virginia
Date circa 1919
Year Range from 1914
Year Range to 1920
Copyright All rights belong to the History Museum of Western Virginia without restriction.

From the description and date we can see that it was from the first World War and that the ladies are Red Cross Canteen workers. The Red Cross was founded around 1916 and the Red Cross Canteen service was organized in 1917 in order to provide for troop trains. It was during WWI that the Red Cross would flourish into a national humanitarian organization. This picture, however, lead to another similar one that captures the same moment.

Red Cross 2

Catalog Number 1982.22.5
Object Name Print, Photographic
Title Red Cross Canteen Workers
Description A black and white photograph of Red Cross Canteen workers serving refreshments to military personnel at the train station in Roanoke, Virginia, as a troop train stops during World War I. This photograph is very similar to Object ID 1982.22.3.
Place Roanoke, Virginia
Date circa 1919
Year Range from 1914
Year Range to 1920
Copyright All rights belong to the History Museum of Western Virginia without restriction.

WWI was a conflict on a global scale as the Central Powers of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire fought against the Allied forces of Great Britain, the United States, France, and Russia. It was a gruesome and filthy firefight that last only a single year. WWI ended in November 1918, which means that these photos are likely from either early 1918 or late 1917.The result of the war was more than 9 million soldiers killed during the year long battle. This paints a grim outlook on the next breadcrumb.

fortmonrow

Catalog Number 1990.69.800
Object Name Print, Photographic
Title U.S. Soldiers in Uniform
Description Fifty or so uniformed soldiers seated or standing on or around a very large cannon at Battery Church, Fort Monroe, on Old Point Comfort, Virginia. Soldiers appear to be World War I soldiers. There are two officers in the photo’s lower left – a lieutenant and a captain. There appears to be a large wall in the background. Some soldiers are seated on circular stairs below the cannon. The soldiers are part of the 1st Company of the Virginia Coast Guard Artillery, which mustered into the Federal Division on April 15, 1917 and became part of the Rainbow Division. There are two Roanokers in the photograph: Dr. Hugh Hagan standing on the second row down with his arms folded and Roger M. Winborne, Sr. seated in the front row, third from the right.
Battery Church was a reinforced concrete, Endicott Period 10-inch coastal gun battery on Fort Monroe. The battery was named after 1st Lt. Albert E. Church, who, when 1st Lt. of the 3rd U.S. Artillery, was appointed a professor of mathematics at the Military Academy at West Point. Battery construction started on 1 Dec 1897, was completed in December 1900. It was transferred to the Coastal Artillery for use 3 Jan 1901 at a cost of $ 90,473.33. It was deactivated in 1942.
Fort Monroe (also known as Fortress Monroe) is a Hampton, Virginia, military installation located in Old Point Comfort, which is on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula. It guarded approach by sea of the navigational shipping channel between the Chesapeake Bay and the entrance to the harbor of Hampton Roads.
Photographer Winborne, Roger M., Jr.
Place Hampton, Virginia
Date circa 1917
Year Range from 1916
Year Range to 1917
Copyright All rights belong to the History Museum of Western Virginia without restriction.

This photo, from Fort Monroe, has a plethora of details included in its description. These tidbits fill in more information about Virginia’s part in the war effort. The history of Battery Church is provided and includes even specific names of officers included in the photograph.

 

This peek into WWI exemplifies how photographs can capture an entire story, a world wide war even, and leave a trail to follow through time. The museum has a wide range of photographs just like this waiting to be explored and uncovered here:

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