April 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into the First World War. In commemoration of this pivotal event in world history, Rosenberg Library has unveiled a new exhibit. Galveston & the Great War will feature original World War I-era artifacts, documents, and photographs from the library’s outstanding historical collections.
Galveston’s Fort Crockett during World War I
(image courtesy of Rosenberg Library’s Galveston and Texas History Center)
Galveston & the Great War will include military gear, war souvenirs, and propaganda posters. Wartime correspondence and even a local soldier’s diary will be on display, as well as 6 of the original 77 World War I memorial markers which were once placed at the bases of oak trees on the Broadway esplanade in honor of fallen Galveston soldiers.
US Entry into WWI
Though WWI began in Europe in 1914, the United States maintained a position of neutrality until 1917. Growing unrest surrounding wartime atrocities coupled with Germany’s unrestricted submarine warfare led to America’s entry into the war. Men between the ages of 21 and 30 were required to register for military service, and over 4 million Americans ultimately served during the First World War. Millions more — many of them women and children — organized locally to support the war effort by raising relief funds and producing food and other supplies for troops overseas.
Galveston’s Role in the War
Locally, Fort Crockett served as a U.S. Army training center where troops received artillery training before being deployed to France to fight the Germans. Besides preparing troops for the European front, military officials at Fort Crockett monitored the Gulf of Mexico for potential threats from German submarines. Substantial gun batteries stood ready to defend Galveston’s coastline.
from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission to the museum galleries is always free.
When the library opened in 1904, it included a lecture auditorium on the third floor. An excerpt from the book Henry Rosenberg, 1824 - 1893: to Commemorate the Gifts of Henry Rosenberg to Galveston describes the intent and usage of the auditorium.
"It is intended that [...] free lectures shall embrace a wide range of subjects of general interest, and be of such a high order of merit as to attract and interest the thoughtful and the studious. Our lectures are intended to be instructive, real food for the intellectual life, and are not to be regarded as entertainments; yet they are intended to be interesting and popular in the best sense. It is regarded as of special importance that a lecturer should first of all have something to say that is worth while, and also important that he should, in addition, know how to say it in an interesting and reasonably acceptable manner.
"The lectures (now some twenty-five or thirty a year) are given during the winter season, in the library lecture hall, seating seven hundred people, generally in the evening at eight o'clock. Some of the afternoon lectures have been given for children. That these lectures are highly valued is abundantly shown by the well-sustained interest and large attendance during all these fourteen years. […]The Library has had during the fourteen years about 125 different lecturers, and about 310 lectures have been given, with a total attendance of over 145,000, averaging more than 450 at each lecture."
In 1952, the third floor was remodeled by Raymond Rapp, Jr, and according to the Galveston Daily News of September 11, 1968, the auditorium was removed to provide "space for use of audio-visual materials and archival materials." In 1967, the Fox Rare Book Room and the Marion Lee "Sandy" Kempner Memorial Room were installed. Lectures and events were moved to the newly built Moody Wing which opened in 1971 on the lower floor in what was named the Wortham Auditorium until Hurricane Ike flooded the entire first floor of the library in September 2008.
After the hurricane, the area that was once occupied by the original auditorium, reduced by the area of the Fox and Morgan rooms and "Sandy's Room," was transformed by Rosenberg Library Museum's Collections Manager at the time, Nikkie Ferre, into another beautiful gallery, with special lighting to enhance the space.
Exhibits are rotated on a periodic basis.
Lalique Glass Collection in the Hallway Gallery