Celebrate Archives Month: WWI and the Union League Club's War Committee

07 Oct 2014 2:44 PM | Gretchen Neidhardt

Submitted by Anita Melcher, Union League Club of Chicago:

On October 1, 2014, the Archives Subcommittee of the Union League Club of Chicago marked the centenary of the outbreak of World War I with an event that included a presentation and lecture on the Club’s involvement in World War I. We had musical accompaniment by the ULC Brass Ensemble, playing music from that time period. We were honored to welcome Mr. Herbert Quelle, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany to our presentation.

This event was the culmination of six months of research by myself and two ULC members. We utilized the Club’s archival collections, Club histories, local newspaper reports, and posters.  Bruce Grant’s Fight for a City - The Story of the Union League Club of Chicago and its Times (published for the Club’s 75th anniversary in 1955) was a particularly valuable resource for accounts of the Club’s activities during this period.

What the Club did in the Spanish-American War, although different in scale and scope, served as a template for actions in the First and Second World Wars including the establishment of a War Committee that would: coordinate Club support of the national government in its war aims; support members of the armed services; and facilitate enlistments. 

During our research, it began to become very clear to us the poor condition of the WWI War Committee’s scrapbook from which we pulled many images and the binder that housed the War Committee meeting minutes.

We treated surfaces that were showing displays of red rot with “Cellugel” and I rehoused the 100-page scrapbook of the War Committee. The scrapbook pages were extremely brittle and acidic paper. Over the course of about 30 hours, I removed as much of the acidic paper as possible, replacing it with acid-free paper, and enveloped the items in archival polypropylene page protectors.

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