As we get closer to the beginning of Lexington's WWI centennial commemorative activities this fall, I've been combing through all of the Society's WWI related materials - photos, textiles, documents, etc. Lexington resident Stanley Hill, who died after the second Battle of the Marne, has become the poster boy for this fall's program. In the first week of October, Lexington residents will see his image on street banners, posters, flyers, and rack cards around town.
We are lucky to have a recent donation of photos, medals, and other items from Stanley's niece, Shirley Stolz. One of the photos we have of him is this one, taken at Camp de Chalons Barracks at Mourmelon le Grande in July 1917. At the time, Stanley was in the AEF (American Expeditionary Force) and attached to the French army.
Two things struck me about this photo. First, Stanley is holding a poster of a drowning woman from the Lusitania, which was sent to him from the United States. This poster was drawn by Fred Spear and produced by the Boston Committee of Public Safety in June 1915, after the sinking of the British Passenger Liner, Lusitania. Stanley is holding the poster just over two years after the tragic event and he, along with other young men who joined the fight, has heeded that appeal.
Secondly, as our collections record blandly states, "George Allison is shaving in the background." Who is George Allison? His name is not on the list of Lexington men who fought in the war, so it's possible that he was in the First Dartmouth Unit, to which Stanley belonged at that time. Whoever he is, I like how he is going about his daily ablutions, seemingly heedless of the posed photo going on outside the window.
It's century-old images like this one that help put a face to the war, help us understand the daily lives of soldiers, and hopefully comprehend a little better the sacrifices that were made. Starting next Monday, October 1, look for a new exhibit in the CVS Pharmacy windows on Massachusetts Avenue in Lexington. The exhibit features images and biographies of the eight men that Lexington lost in the Great War, including Stanley Hill.
More about the Enlist poster:
More about daily hygiene for WWI soldiers:
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager