Release Date: March 10,2017

Summit County history organizations commemorate centennial of America's entry into World War I

A collaborative initiative, “Summit County and the Great War,” will mark the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, and commemorate Summit County's contributions.

The first in a series of local events will be held at 11:00 a.m., Monday, April 3, 2017 at Summit County’s World War I Memorial, adjacent to Charles Goodyear Park, 174 S High St.

The official ceremony marking America’s entry into the war is sponsored by the Summit County Historical Society and will be held at “The Spirit of the American Doughboy” statue in front of the Summit County Courthouse.

Featured speakers include Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, and State Senator Frank LaRose. The Salvation Army  - a strong partner to Akron troops in WWI - will be represented by the local citadel’s brass choir, which will provide music for the occasion. The event is free, open to the public, and will adjourn at 11:30.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Within the week, Akron joined the nation in mustering its collective will to save Europe. Akron provided more men to the war effort in 1917 than any city in Ohio except Cleveland and Cincinnati - nearly 9,000 “GI’s” (a term coined during WWI.) Akron men were mostly assigned to the 83rd “All Ohio” Division, which trained at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, and were deployed in June 1918 as part of the American Expeditionary Force. In less than two years, over 116,000 Americans would perish in the “The War to End All Wars.”

Summit County Historical Society
An exhibit honoring Akron soldiers in WWI will open April 3 inside the Summit County Courthouse, and remain on display through the end of the year. The exhibit will include the role that members of the Akron Bar played during the war.

A map showing WWI monuments, memorials, cemeteries, exhibits, events and more relating to Summit County’s involvement in the Great War is part of the exhibit, and will be available at the website created by the local coalition, www.SummitWWI.org.  This site  will be active for the duration of the two year project and will list commemorative programs, events, activities and locations around the county from 2017-2018.

On Tuesday, April 18 the Historical Society and Summit Metro Parks will sponsor a downtown walking tour highlighting World War I veterans 11:30am-1pm. Meet in the lobby of the Polsky Building off High Street. Free and open to the public.

The Society will make its Discovery Trunk, “Over There,” available to groups who schedule a speaker. Call 330.535.1120.

Stan Hywet Commemoration
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens commemorates Akron’s role in World War I on Sunday, May 21 from 12 noon to 4 pm with displays, first person interpreters and a special program by the University of Akron’s Dr. Kevin Kern. From April – December 2017, guests to the estate may take a tour of the Manor House, viewing artifacts and articles from F.A. and Gertrude Seiberling’s oldest son, Fred Seiberling, who served in France from 1917 – 1918. A new permanent exhibit, The Seiberling Legacy, highlights the family’s legacy including its contributions to both World Wars.  Visit www.stanhywet.org  for more information.

University Archival Services
In commemoration of the centennial, the University of Akron Archival Services, a division of University Libraries, has preserved and made available to the public the records of Akron’s American Legion Post 209, which includes hundreds of historic documents and photographs relating to Post members who served during World War I. The inventory to the collection can be accessed at http://www.uakron.edu/libraries/archives/. Many of these items have been digitized and made available online. See the University Libraries’ Facebook page at “uakronlibraries”. 

Akron Summit County Public Library Special Collections
“Discovering Your Military Ancestors” is a program open to the public that will be held

Saturday, August 5 at the Main Library, 60 S. High St., 9:30am-4pm. Military historian Eric Johnson and accredited genealogist Michael Strauss will discuss researching the military service of ancestors, including a session dedicated to researching World War I servicemen and women.

On Saturday, Nov. 11 the Main Library will screen “For Love of Liberty: The Story of America's Black Patriots (2010),” time to be announced. Go to www.akronlibrary.org.

The American Doughboy Statue
Summit County’s official World War I memorial has led an interesting life over its 86 years. In 1931, it was to be located on George Washington Boulevard near the new Akron airport. A memorial plaque was affixed to a large boulder, but when the statue arrived in 1934, city officials preferred the Akron Armory downtown (the present site of the Ocasek State Office Building) after an act of vandalism at the airport memorial forced the site to be abandoned.

Smithsonian’s American Art Museum lists 159 locations for the mass produced piece. E.M.  Viquesney’s statue has been seen by more people than any sculpture in the United States. Akron's Doughboy was one of the first of a cast zinc version, and dedicated in 1934.

The soldier’s upward extended right arm holds a grenade. His left arm carries a bayonetted 1903 Springfield rifle. He wears a flat steel helmet, trousers bloused above the knee with puttees (leg wrappings) below the knee. He carries a bedroll backpack, a scabbard, gas mask pouch, cartridge belt, canteen, mess kit, and first aid kit. The hollow statue weighs 200 pounds. An inscription on the base reads: "SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN DOUGHBOY."A plaque on one side of the base reads:

DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN & WOMEN WHO SERVED THEIR COUNTRY

FROM SUMMIT COUNTY DURING THE WORLD WAR

PRESENTED BY THE GOLD STAR MOTHERS OF SUMMIT COUNTY           NOVEMBER 11, 1934

The base also lists the names of 66 Summit Countians who lost their lives in the war. In 1982, the monument was moved from its original location to prepare for construction of the new state office building. In 2013, a refurbishment project was completed by Thomarios Construction, which cleaned the statue, added bronze plate, and sealed the statue.

Members of the “Summit County and the Great War” Coalition

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens: Toivo Motter, Julie Frey; Jennifer McDowell

Summit County Historical Society: Leianne Neff Heppner, Claire Lucas, Dave Lieberth

Akron-Summit County Public Library: Rebecca Larson-Troyer, Mary Plazo

University of Akron Archival Services: Vic Fleischer

Additional Resources

The United States World War One Commission, website www.worldwar1centennial.org.

PBS will air the American Experience film, "The Great War" three nights in April, beginning April 6. See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/great-war/player/