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:

Tues, May 8, 6:30 pm, Oshkosh Public Library, Lower Level meeting room
It Was All the Hell Any Body Wanted
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.  Hear their story.

Mon, May 21, 6:30 pm, Oshkosh Public Library, Under the Dome
Beyond the Trenches – Wisconsin in WWI
Wisconsin Veterans Museum Archivist Russell Horton explores the American experience in the Great War, focusing on the stories of individual Wisconsin men and women who served.

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