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:

Wed, Jul 18, 6:00 pm, Oshkosh Public Museum
It Was All the Hell Anybody Wanted: Three Fox Valley National Guard Units in the Great War
When the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917, three National Guard units from Appleton, Fond du Lac, and Oshkosh became the 150th Machine Gun Battalion of the famous 42nd “Rainbow” Division. They saw action in France from February through November 1918. Brad Larson, Museum Director, shares their stories of triumph and sacrifice.

Wed, Aug 15, 6:00 pm, Oshkosh Public Museum
World War I for the Housewife and Family
WWI was unique in that an official rationing did not take place. Instead propaganda in many different forms played on U.S. citizen's patriotic duty to change their daily consumption of items for those overseas. And it worked! Debra Daubert, Curator of Exhibitions, explores the forms of propaganda that was used and the sacrifices that were made. Attendees can even sample altered wartime recipes.

WWI Links:

WWI Virtual Exhibit

Historic Photographs

"The Great War" by Rebecca Matzke, PhD, Associate Professor of History, Ripon College

150th Machine Gun Battalion, 2nd Wisc. Infantry, Companies 1, 2, & 3

Oshkosh WWI Fallen Soldiers