Manufacturing Victory: The Arsenal of Democracy

October 1, 2022 through December 30, 2022

From the National WWII Museum:

During the war, a sense of civic duty and responsibility united the nation and fueled America’s war effort like nothing before or since. American citizens stepped forward to fulfill the jobs demanded of them, and they excelled beyond all expectations. But the US mobilization on the Home Front actually began before the country was officially involved in the conflict.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation on December 29, 1940 – a year before Pearl Harbor – declaring, “We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us, this is an emergency as serious as war itself. We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice as we would show we were at war.

Roosevelt gave the arsenal concept a democratic meaning that saw every man and woman as a vital partner in the war effort regardless of where they worked. United by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans in factories, farms and businesses ceaselessly worked with ingenuity and spirit to create an unprecedented arsenal of military resources to overwhelm our enemies.

Iconic companies contributed to victory from the factory floor to war in the air, on land and across the seas, producing at a staggering rate and with unparalleled excellence. In the process, the arsenal of democracy opened new opportunities to individual Americans and planted seeds that changed the social fabric of America, crushed the Axis war machine and vindicated the President’s democratic and strategic vision.

The Oshkosh Public Museum is pleased to host Manufacturing Victory. Though the exhibit tells a national story, there are many Oshkosh connections to explore. The exhibition will include a local history section from our collections to share our community’s contributions to FDR’s arsenal of democracy.

Drawing from OPM’s archives and object collections, this local section will highlight Oshkosh businesses that earned government contracts for war materials and how residents organized war activities. Local businesses like Oshkosh B’Gosh, Dunphy Boat Company, Mondl, Bell Machine Company, and Oshkosh Truck manufactured war goods including uniforms pieces, weapons, and vehicles that were used by the Army, Navy, and Marines. Some of these companies even received the prestigious Army-Navy “E” for Excellence Award for their work. Residents not only worked in these factories, but contributed to scrap drives, joined the Red Cross, participated in Civil Defense training, purchased war bonds, trained as pilots at the Oshkosh Normal School, and other activities. Oshkosh had a well-organized and documented home front war effort, and we are eager to share this history within the national context of Manufacturing Victory.


Courtesy from the National Archives via The National WWII Museum

Special thanks to our local sponsors for bringing this national story to the Oshkosh Public Museum: 

The JEK Foundation ǀ Sadoff Iron & Metal ǀ Donald Hansen Fund at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation ǀ Wisconsin Public Radio ǀ Fox Valley Technical College ǀ City of Oshkosh