In the summer of 1914, nationalist fervor drove European nations into war. Although the United States did not engage until the spring of 1917, the conflict later known as World War I had an enormous impact on Hoboken, N.J., a small city with large immigrant communities and a busy port.
As early as July 1916, the war intruded on Hudson County with the explosion of a munitions depot on Black Tom Island, just off the coast of Jersey City. The explosion obliterated the island, shattering glass for miles around, yet the incident was initially downplayed, to avoid ramping up public support for America’s entry into World War I.
When America formally entered the war on April 6, 1917, Hoboken’s waterfront became central to the war effort as the government seized the German ships docked there and commandeered the piers, which became the Army’s port of embarkation for American troops. Some 2 million soldiers passed through Hoboken on their way to or from Europe. Near the end of the war, General John Pershing rallied the troops for a swift conclusion to the war with the rallying cry, “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken.”
The public is invited to learn more about the “war to end all wars” and its legacy a hundred years later through a series of 10 lectures by visiting authors, scholars and professors, mostly on Sundays at 4 pm, through May 7, 2017. Admission is free. See below for the full schedule.
- August 21, 2016, 4 pm: “The 100th Anniversary of the Black Tom Explosion,” by Chad Millman, author of The Detonators: The Secret Plot to Destroy America and an Epic Hunt for Justice (Little, Brown & Co., 2006)
- September 11, 4 pm: “The First Attack on the Homeland,” by Howard Blum, author of Dark Invasion, 1915: Germany’s Secret War and the Hunt for the First Terrorist Cell in America (HarperCollins, 2014)
- October 16, 4 pm: “Illusions and Realities of World War I,” by Thomas Fleming, Jersey City native and author of The Illusion of Victory: America in World War I (Basic Books, 2004)
- November 6, 4 pm: “Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: From Hoboken to the Rhine and Back,” by Jeffrey Sammons, PhD, Professor of History at NYU and co-author of Harlem’s Rattlers and the Great War: The Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality (University Press of Kansas, 2014)
- November 20, 1 pm: “A City on the Eve of War, Hoboken in 1916-1917: Some Recent Research,” by Christina Ziegler-McPherson, PhD, author of Immigrants in Hoboken: One-Way Ticket to America, 1845-1985 (History Press, 2011)
- December 11, 4 pm: “Woodrow Wilson’s Failure of Wartime Leadership,” by Richard Striner, PhD, Professor of History, Washington College, and author ofWoodrow Wilson and World War I: A Burden Too Great to Bear (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
- February 12, 2017, 4 pm: “The Women of Peace and Preparedness: The Use of Motherhood and Maternalism in World War I,” by Lisa Mastrangelo, PhD, Assistant Professor of English, Centenary College, and author of forthcoming paper, The Rhetoric of Maternalism: The Use of Motherhood as a Trope in World War I
- March 12, 4 pm: “Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen,” by Christopher Capozzola, PhD, Associate Professor of History at MIT, and author of Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen (Oxford University Press, 2008)
- April 23, 4 pm: “A Seaport at War with Itself: Germans, Irish, Jews, Italians and African Americans in Wartime Greater New York,” by Steven H. Jaffe, author of New York at War: Four Centuries of Combat, Fear, and Intrigue in Gotham (Basic Books, 2012)
- May 7, 4 pm: “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken: The U.S. Army Port of Embarkation in Hoboken During World War I,” by Mark Van Ellis, PhD, Professor of History, Queensborough Community College, and author of America and World War I: A Traveler’s Guide (Interlink Books, 2014)
The series is supported by a Special Project Grant from the New Jersey Historical Commission, and the Hudson County Office of Cultural & Heritage Affairs, Thomas A. DeGise County Executive and the Board of Chosen Freeholders, along with the Tom Kennedy American Legion Post #107, Hoboken, NJ. Additional support comes from “World War I and America,” a two-year national initiative of Library of America presented in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and other organizations, with generous support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.
About the Hoboken Historical Museum
Founded 1986, the Museum’s mission is to educate the public about Hoboken’s history, diverse culture, architecture and historic landmarks. In 2001, the Museum moved into one of the oldest buildings on the waterfront, in the former Bethlehem Steel shipyard, at 1301 Hudson St., Hoboken, where it maintains a series of rotating exhibits. The Museum is open six days a week, 2 – 7 pm on Tues. – Thurs., 1 – 5 pm on Fridays, and noon – 5 pm on weekends. Admission is jut $4. The Littleman Parking-Independence Garage (Shipyard Lane, at 12th St.) offers 3 hours of free parking with Museum validation (subject to special event or holiday blackout periods).
The Museum offers special exhibits, tours, events and lectures, as well as educational programs for adults and children on a weekly basis. An updated schedule of events and an online catalog of many items in its collections are available at www.hobokenmuseum.org. The Museum is a nonprofit tax-exempt 501(c)3 entity.