World War I and America: Fall Program Series

World War I & America Logo








The Scotch Plains Public Library is one of only four New Jersey institutions to have received a World War I and America grant.  This grant, along with a generous gift from the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Service League, enables us to offer original programming to commemorate the centennial of American involvement in World War One, and to explore the ongoing experience of veterans who have served in our lifetimes.

 Presented by The Library of America, World War I and America is a two-year initiative 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.

The aim of World War I and America is to bring veterans and their families together with the general public to explore the continuing relevance of the war by reading, discussing, and sharing insights into the writings of Americans who experienced it firsthand.

We gratefully acknowledge the active involvement of New Jersey City University and the Union County Office of Veterans Affairs, with special thanks to the Veteran Liaisons for World War I and America:   Richard Thompson and Janna Williams, Union County Office of Veterans’ Affairs, and Ella Rue-Eyet, 52 Reasons to Love a Vet, and New Jersey City University.

Plainfield schoolchildren knitting for the Juior Red Cross, ca. 1917
Plainfield schoolchildren knitting for the Junior Red Cross, ca. 1917
American Library Association poster - books for soldiers program
American Library Association poster, ca. 1918


A chronological list of events is presented below, and all events can be viewed on our monthly calendar.   You can also download a printable flyer of all events.


52 Reasons to Love a Vet



Please be sure to visit this powerful exhibit  from the 52 Reasons to Love a Vet fund, for which world-renowned artists have illustrated their thoughts on either war or veterans.  Contributors include Dennis Dittrich and Victor Juhasz (who will speak here on September 25) and Milton Glaser.  The exhibit will be located on the lower level of the Library.

A closing reception will be held on November 9.  Ella Rue, military mom and  the founder of 52 Reasons, will speak about the organization.

'King of Diamonds' painting by Paul Jennis
‘King of Diamonds’ painting by Paul Jennis


“The name is derived from 52 playing cards in a deck that will show original artwork created by world-renowned illustrators specifically for this cause.”



Prelude to War: The Events that Drew the U.S. into World War I


Tim White, Associate Professor of History, New Jersey City University


Professor White’s lecture will orient the audience to the period of time (April 1917 through November 1918) that will be covered in the subsequent lectures, readings, discussions and films.  The focus will be on the major events of the war up to the time of U.S. entry, and the developments that led up to U.S. involvement in the war.

       No registration is needed.

Sinking of the Lusitania, 1915
The Sinking of the Lusitania


War Illustration: A Straight Unbroken Line


  • Dennis Dittrich: Propaganda Posters of  World War I

  • Victor Juhasz: Observations from an illustrator embedded with warriors in training and on the front lines


Navy Recruiting Poster

Dennis Dittrich will speak about the work of illustrators during World War I. Dittrich served as Society of Illustrators President from 2008 to 2014.  He is an active member of the Society’s Air Force Art Program with work in the USAF art collection. Currently an Associate Professor at NJCU, Dittrich also teaches ‘The History of American Illustration’ at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.




Victor Juhasz illustrationVictor Juhasz has been active in Troops First Foundation tours, drawing soldiers and Marines. Victor is a member of the USAF Art Program in conjunction with the Society of Illustrators, and his work is part of the permanent collection of the USAF in the Pentagon. His assignments have included documenting, through drawings and the training of Special OPs Combat and ParaRescue Jumper units.  He has collaborated with The Joe Bonham Project, drawing and painting wounded soldiers as part of an artist documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In August of 2011, Victor embeded as a combat artist with the 1-52nd Arctic Dustoff, an Army helicopter MEDEVAC unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan for two weeks accompanying the medic teams on missions recovering the wounded. In an article titled, “An American Artist in the Combat Zone” the illustrations, along with his writing, were featured in a GQ app for iPad and later for GQ online in July, 2012.


Our work with the U.S. Air Force Art program is part of the Society of Illustrators Government Service committee, which was established to aid the war effort in the early days of the 20th century. The connection is a straight, unbroken line and we are always happy to talk about it.”  

-Dennis Dittrich on his and Victor Juhasz’ participation in the U.S. Air Force Art program.


No registration required.


Combat Paper and Frontline Arts



Veterans who have created written word and visual art pieces through this project will share their work and their stories with attendees.

“Our specialty is the transformative process of making handmade paper from military uniforms – Combat Paper. Through public workshops, this handmade paper creates a platform for veterans and non-veterans to come together and share stories, providing a “new language,” and much needed discourse between veterans and society.”

Work from Combat Paper project
View an online exhibit of works

No registration required.



The Experience of War


Naim Shaw and Janna Williams


Naim Shaw, actor, and Janna Williams, USAF veteran and Coordinator of the Union County Office of the Veteran Success Center, will read selections from World War I and America, and introduce the evening’s film.

The readings will be followed by a screening of the documentary film Thank You for Your Service (I hour, 28 minutes).

No registration is needed.


All Quiet on the Western Front


Mike Spatoro, U.S.M.C, Ret.


All Quiet on the Western Front Movie Poster
By Universal Pictures – site, Public Domain


We will show movies about World War I each Friday in October.  Our first film will be All Quiet on the Western Front.  USMC veteran Michael Spatoro will lead a discussion immediately following the screening.

No registration required.





Race and World War One


This discussion will be led by Linda Caldwell Epps, Ph.D.

Dr. Epps is a historian as well as President and CEO of 1804 Consultants, an organization dedicated to the advancement of educational and cultural organizations.

The readings for this facilitated discussion should be read in advance and interested attendees must register.


War Horse



War Horse movie poster


We will show movies about World War I each Friday in October. Our second film will be War Horse (PG-13, 147 min) – Albert Narracott enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry.

Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo.

No registration required.




Home Front New Jersey and World War I: Civil Liberties and the War within the War


Mark Lender, retired Chair, History Department, Kean University


'Must Liberty's Light Go Out?' Print
‘Must Liberty’s light go out?’ by Winsor McCay
About the Espionage Act of 1917



Most New Jersey residents went willingly to war in 1917–but some did not. This talk explores the home-front experience of the state, with a special focus on the tension between the civil liberties of those who opposed American participation in the conflict and the military needs of a country at war.

No registration is required.






In Love and War



In Love and War movie posterWe will show movies about World War I each Friday in October.

Our third film will be In Love and War (PG-13, 115 min) – the epic love story about Ernest Hemingway and the romance which inspired him to write his masterpiece A Farewell To Arms. A story of desperate love and imminent danger, it chronicles the relationship between the 18-year old Hemingway and Agnes von Kurowsky, the medical aide who nursed him back to health after a devastating battlefield injury.

No registration is required.



An Unintentional Consequence of WWI: American Religious Pluralism and the Jewish Experience


Jessica Cooperman, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies Department/ Director, Jewish Studies Program, Muhlenbuerg College


The American government entered World War I confident in the knowledge that the United States was a predominately Protestant country, albeit one which extended religious tolerance to other faiths. By the end of the war, however, the U.S. military and War Department increasingly depicted Judaism and Catholicism as equal partners to Protestantism in the “three faiths of American democracy.”

World War I marked a period of critical, although not always intentional, transformations in the ways that American religion was defined and supported by the policies and practices of the government. This talk will explore how these changes came about: who advocated for them? And how was it that Americans gradually began to think of themselves as part of a “Judeo-Christian” country that included Protestants, Catholics, and Jews?

No registration required.

Young Irving Berlin in his World War I uniform


The Home Front



This discussion will be led by Christopher C. Gibbs, author of The Great Silent Majority: Missouri’s Resistance to World War I, as well as six crime novels set in the aftermath of the war. He served with the military police in Viet Nam, and has taught history at Rutgers, Middlesex County College, and Union County College. He lives with his wife in Fanwood, New Jersey.

Please review the readings for this discussion in advance, and register here.





Flyboys movie poster

We will show movies about World War I each Friday in October.

Our fourth film will be Flyboys (PG-13, 140 min) – Inspired by true events, Flyboys tells the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of American men who volunteered to fight for the French before the U.S. entered World War I and became the country’s first fighter pilots.

No registration required.




Claims Clinic

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30 from 10AM to 2PM


Representatives of the VA and our series veterans’ liaison Richard P. Thompson, Bureau Chief, Office of Veterans Affairs, Union County will provide assistance with benefits paperwork.

A phone number to schedule appointments will be provided soon.


At Home:The Toll of War



This discussion will be led by Ryan Harty, Active Duty with the New Jersey Army National Guard.  He is currently serving as the Operations Officer for the 1st Squadron, 102d Cavalry Regiment stationed in Westfield, and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2008-2009.

Please read these selections in advance, and register here.


Reception for Veterans                                          52 Reasons to Love a Vet with Ella Rue



'Queen of Spades' by Bri Hermanson ©
‘Queen of Spades’ by Bri Hermanson ©


“All too often veterans return home and are unable to find or are simply denied services. As a society, we should be compelled to rectify this situation.  The 52 Reasons to Love a Vet restricted fund aims to do just that.  This fund solely benefits veterans by financially assisting them in furthering their education and/or assisting with medical, dental or mental health resources.

52 Reasons founder and military mom Ella Rue will speak about the organization.




“The name is derived from 52 playing cards in a deck that will show original artwork created by world-renowned illustrators specifically for this cause.”


Related Resources


Local History


The New Jersey State Archives maintains a database of descriptive cards, photographs, and correspondence of World War One casualties from New Jersey, searchable by name and town of residence.

Scotch Plains resident Lacy Tuck, a WWI casualty












Song Hits of World War I album cover


Scotch Plains cardholders can listen to popular songs of WWI on the Library’s digital music service Freegal.




Research at Scotch Plains Public Library


Photo of U.S. Marines leaving for Europe in 1917
U.S. Marines Leave for France in 1917


Scotch Plains cardholders who would like to learn more about this time period can connect to History Research Center.   This database offers background information, primary sources, images, videos, maps, timelines and more.

View our catalog for books on World War I and America.

Please feel free to contact a librarian for help with finding additional resources!


Veterans Writing and Art Groups


  • Veterans Writing Project – “At the Veterans Writing Project we believe that every veteran has a story. But we know that some of us need a little help telling that story. So we provide no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and their adult family members. We’re also building an archive of writing by members of the military community. We publish a quarterly literary review and an ongoing scroll of writing by our friends on our sister site, O-Dark-Thirty.
  • Veterans Writing Workshop – “The Veterans Writing Workshop helps veterans tell their stories by providing professional-level writing workshops in the NYC-metro area free of charge to U.S. veterans.”
  • Warrior Writers – – Warrior Writers is a national non-profit. Our mission is to create a culture that articulates veterans’ experiences, build a collaborative community for artistic expression, and bear witness to war and the full range of military experiences.” See Events for information on the Warrior Writers New Jersey Workshop
  • Veteran Artist Program -“VAP takes artists who are also veterans, and propels their works and careers into the mainstream creative arts community…We are based in New York City but are currently creating programming across the country to expand the network and visibility of veteran artists. VAP focuses on: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Writing/Literature, Film/Video, and New/Interactive Media.”