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Archives & Special Collections: World War I at Union


During World War I, most of Union's students and faculty joined the army.  When war was declared, Union's President Richmond invited the US government to utilize Union's campus in any way they saw fit to help with the war effort.  Nobody could have predicted the effect it would have on the campus.  For almost a year, Union was controlled by the army and students could not do or say anything that the army did not like. As a result all campus activities, including publishing the Concordiensis slowed and then stopped.

Many previous activities on campus slowed and faded away. However, the Army encouraged sports, but teams had limited practice time since many of the students were also servicemen who could be transferred at a moments notice. The emphasis on sports did not make for an academically centered campus and it personally hurt President Charles Richmond who valued scholarship over everything. In 1919, the college's enrollment of permanent students was 572, and 361 of the students were freshmen.  Many students came to Union to join the Student Army Training Corps. Those students who did not pass the Corps physical exam often transferred out of Union.

The government convinced Union to build a mess hall for soldiers, located between the Chemistry and Physics Labs and then delayed repaying Union for years and by end of the war, the campus culture included a distaste for big government.  By the time WWII started, however, President Fox avoided former President Richmond's naivety toward the government and successsfully managed Union's relationship with the government.

Materials from this period include minutes from an emergency meeting of the Trustees, letters to and from President Richmond, Army instruction concerning recruitment, telegraphs and general correspondence.  

Primary Sources

The Alumni Magazine, Feb. 1917 - early 1919 (Most of the Feb. 1917 edition covers Union College during WWI).

Concordiensis, Feb 17, 1917 to Nov. 1917 (Most of the articles in this edition cover WWI and Union College. 

Concordiensis, Jan. 27, 1919---discussion of how the campus returned to 'normal.' 

Concordiensis. Feb. 10, 1919--important discussion of how the campus returned to 'normal.'  

Kolbe, Parke Rexford. The Colleges in War Time and After: A Contemporary Account of the Effect of the War upon Higher Education in America. New York: D. Appleton, 1919. Print. 

Secondary Sources

Rosen, Walter Tower. The Handling of the War Debts: Remarks at the Memorial Chapel. Schenectady: Union College, 1933.  

Gruber, Carol S. Mars and Minerva: World War I and the Uses of Higher Learning in AmericaBaton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1957. 

March, Peton Conway. The Nation at WarDoubleday, Doran & Company, 1932. 

Parsons, William Barclay. The American Engineers in France. D. Appleton, 1920.

Schaffer, Ronald. America in the Great War: The Rise of the War Welfare State. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Thwing, Charles Franklin. The American Colleges and Universities in the Great War, 1914-19191: A HistoryNew York: Macmillan Company, 1920.

Wynn, Neil. From Progressivism to Prosperity: World War I and American SocietyNew York: Holmes and Meier, 1986.