Watkins Museum of History: Professor to share story from WWI-era postcard (Announcement)

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Note: The Lawrence Times is offering some space for area organizations and organizers to express their views, provide updates and attempt to reach other folks who might share their mission. This post is contributed content (i.e., not produced by the Times staff). See more in our Community Voices section, or see how to submit your own piece.

The First World War was the most transformative event of the early 20th Century. This conflict toppled empires, killed millions, and laid seeds for an even worse war a generation later. We are still living with the effects of the First World War more than 100 years later.

Here in Lawrence, the Watkins Museum of History is featuring a special exhibition telling local stories from this global conflict. “On Two Fronts: Kansans Fighting the Great War” uses compelling artifacts, images, and other elements to present the war through the eyes of Lawrencians and other Kansans. “On Two Fronts” is open to the public through Saturday, July 29.

On Tuesday, July 25, the Watkins will partner with the Lawrence Public Library and Professor James J. Heiman, of Metropolitan Community College, Blue River, to present unique insights into the human experience of the Great War. 

Heiman has authored two books about Kansas City’s connections to the war. Now he has embarked on a new project: collecting postcards that soldiers exchanged with family and friends and uncovering the stories therein. 

At this upcoming program, Heiman will share a fascinating account of two Native American men, one of them local to Lawrence, who fought in the war and are connected by a postcard discovered a century later. 

“Here in post cards is the story of a native man, Sam Fairbanks, who was inducted into the army in Lawrence, Kansas, in 1917, and his friend Charley Little Owl, who joined an artillery regiment from Minnesota,” Heiman said. “Both men had attended an Indian Training School. Both men arrived at Camp Mills, New Jersey, ready to embark at the same time, and both men carried with them into a battle for territorial dominance in Europe a history of their own territorial dispossession in America.”

This free public event, “From the Great War: A Postcard Message Sent, Received, and then Retrieved,” will occur from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 25 at the Lawrence Public Library. Attendees will be eligible for tickets to “On Two Fronts” at the Watkins member’s rate of $5.

— Will Haynes is director of engagement and learning for the Watkins Museum of History.

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