“The Shock and Loss and Bitterness and Blood of it” Images of the First World War

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“The Shock and Loss and Bitterness and Blood of it” Images of the First World War

Between 1914 and 1918, much of the world squandered life and industry in a 500-mile trench gouged from Belgium’s North Sea coast to the Franco-Swiss border. The visual record of this conflict ranges widely, from patriotic propaganda to aerial photographs.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania holds several collections containing striking visual material from this global conflict, from the illustrations of American Expeditionary Forces “combat artist” George Harding and the papers of pilot Stephen Noyes, to enlistment posters of Philadelphia-area recruiting offices and the scrapbooks of war widow Harriet Pierson.

These collections differ dramatically in medium, subject, and purpose. Taken together, however, they compose a unique portrait of what Niall Ferguson terms the “pity of war.”

Case 1: Artist in Uniform: George Harding

Case 2: "Eyes in the Sky": Stephen Noyes

Case 3: Government-Sponsored Art

Case 4: Returning Home, For Some