The Great War

Explore World War I and some of the Museum’s collection through this virtual exhibit and the links on this page.

To Honor, to Remember, to Learn

“It is with deepest sorrow that I have to inform you that you have given ... the Supreme Sacrifice — your son.”
Letter to Augusta Spaedtke, August 24, 1918

Otto Spaedtke was a fun-loving teenager who had enlisted in the National Guard at age 17 and was assigned to the 42nd “Rainbow” Division. On leave in New York City before heading to France in 1917, he joked to friends back in Oshkosh that he had been dating the daughters of John Jacob Astor and John D. Rockefeller, two of America’s wealthiest men.

Otto served in the 150th Machine Gun Battalion and went into action in February 1918. On July 30, 1918, in one of the most punishing battles of the war, a German bullet took Otto’s life.

Why should we remember Otto Spaedtke? Why recall a war that took place more than 100 years ago? Remembrance is an ultimate form of honor, and thus we pay tribute to Otto’s life and service.

A core purpose of the Oshkosh Public Museum and the central part of its mission is to ensure the memories like this are carried forward generation after generation. Be sure to read Professor Rebecca Matzke’s article on the war’s importance. Discover more about the community and its people by becoming a Museum Member.

If you have World War I items you wish to donate to the Oshkosh Public Museum, please contact us.

For Artifacts:
Curator of Collections, Anna Cannizzo

For Photographs and Paper Materials:
Archivist, Scott Cross

WWI Songs:

"Over There"


"It's a long, long way to Tipperary"

Special Programs:

"Let us never forget"
To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the Oshkosh World War I Commemoration committee is asking all churches to participate in "Bells of Peace: A World War I Remembrance" by ringing your bells for five minutes at 11am on November 11. This national bell tolling event honors the centennial of the armistice and is a great act of patriotism and respect for the 4.5 million Americans who answered the call, and prevailed against the forces of tyranny a century ago.

Saturdays, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm, Morgan House
"In Their Own Words: German Americans in the World War I Era"
The Winnebago County Historical and Archaeological Society presents this touring exhibit on display in the Morgan House at 234 Church Street in downtown Oshkosh. Drawing on the resources of the Max Kade Institute Library & Archives, this exhibit showcases German-language documents published in the U.S. during the WWI era. It offers a glimpse into German-Americans' view of the world, as well as their position in American society. Admission is free.