A Spirit of Sacrifice

New York State in the First World War

By Aaron Noble, Keith Swaney, and Vicki Weiss

Subjects: New York/regional, History
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438467788, 378 pages, December 2017

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Table of contents

Foreword, Libby H. O’connell
Message from the New York State Board of Regents Chancellor and the New York State Education Commissioner
1. The Empire State at War

2. Poster Art in World War I

3. The War in Europe (1914–1917)

4. Prelude to U. S. Involvement

5. “Follow the Flag”: American Entry into the War

6. “On the Job for Victory”: New York’s Contributions on the Home Front

7. New York Divided: The War at Home

8. “Somewhere in France”: New Yorkers in the American Expeditionary Force

9. The Welcome Home

10. “I have done my part over here”: Postwar New York

11. Legacy


Focuses on the posters of World War I as a medium to interpret the tremendous role played by New York State and its citizens in the war effort.


"New York's pride is the pride of things done. Her leadership is no more due to her great wealth or her large population than to the patriotism of her citizens and the uses to which her wealth is put. In every war in which this country has engaged, she has shown a spirit of sacrifice that has made her preeminent among the States. "

It was with these words that New York State Governor Charles S. Whitman urged his fellow New Yorkers to purchase Liberty Bonds in support of the war effort on April 6, 1918. He reminded New Yorkers and the nation that the Empire State once again led all others in the numbers of men, the amount of money, and the tonnage of material supplied to American forces during World War I.

A companion catalog to the New York State Museum exhibition of the same name, A Spirit of Sacrifice documents the statewide story of New York in World War I through the collections of the State's Office of Cultural Education comprised of the New York State Museum, Library, and Archives. Within these world-class collections are the nearly 3,600 posters of the Benjamin W. Arnold World War I Poster Collection at the New York State Library. By interweaving the story of New York in the Great War and utilizing the tremendous artifacts within the pictorial history revealed by the posters of the era and primary source documentation, this exhibition catalog serves as both a display of poster art and a more comprehensive examination of the primacy of the state's contributions to America's foray into World War I. Posters and objects from museums, libraries, and historical societies from across New York State as well as iconic artifacts and images are all included here. Brought together they tell the story of New York State's essential role in the First World War.

Aaron Noble is a Senior Historian and Curator at the New York State Museum and the coauthor (with Robert Weible and Jennifer A. Lemak) of An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War, also published by SUNY Press. Keith Swaney is an Archives and Records Management Specialist at the New York State Archives. Vicki Weiss is a librarian in the manuscripts and special collections unit of the New York State Library and the coauthor (with Paul Mercer) of The New York State Capitol and the Great Fire of 1911.


"…this is a meticulously produced, well-researched, holistic, and sensitive account of New York's crucial role in World War I and the influence of that war on life in the Empire State. It is beautifully illustrated and insightfully narrated, and is a must-have for any school or public library in the state. " — Hudson River Valley Review

"…with an excellent blend of text and illustrations, A Spirit of Sacrifice presents virtually all aspects of New York's response to the Great War. All those readers interested in that conflict will definitely want to purchase this volume. " — Journal of America's Military Past

"A Spirit of Sacrifice, both as an exhibit and as a stand-alone publication, is a wonderful resource for those studying New York's history. The book, with clarity and an array of superb photos from the exhibit, delves fully into the story of New Yorkers and the Great War and firmly establishes New York as the engine that drove the U. S. war effort. World War I was a geopolitical and sociological event of such magnitude that we are still struggling with its ramifications one-hundred years later. A Spirit of Sacrifice is a testimony to this world-changing event and its effects on the Empire State. " — Devin R. Lander, New York State Historian