Transitions: Pittsburgh After WWI

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Christmas Day editorial cartoon, 1918, Pittsburgh Post

December 1918. It was the first Christmas after the war.

“After” is a generous descriptor. It wasn’t over, not really.

Certainly the city had rejoiced six weeks earlier when the Armistice declared peace on that fateful eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Mayor E.V. Babcock accordingly declared a Pittsburgh holiday, in dramatic terms:

“….the balance of the day be give up to a general and promiscuous jollification, the blowing of whistles, the ringing of bells, and playing of chimes, and parades, with and without music, that will permit every citizen, young and old, big and little, to participate.

So, yes, there was promiscuous jollification in Pittsburgh.

From Pittsburg’s part in the world war; souvenir book, 1918
And to be sure, throughout December 1918 President Wilson was being wined and dined across Europe. He traveled about, lobbying for a lasting peace via his proposed League of Nations. There was, for some, hope that a world “safe for democracy” might yet prevail.

But for all that, the confetti from parades six weeks earlier had long since been swept into the sewers. Harsh reality dominated: newspapers were still printing daily lists of soldiers killed and wounded in battle. They would do so far into 1919, as news trickled out about the fate of Pittsburghers.

On Christmas Eve 1918, the Daily Post noted in passing — in passing, sandwiched amongst other factoids of the day — that American casualties “lately totaled 73,526, including 13,064 killed in battle.”

Lately.

On Christmas Day 1918, Pittsburgh boys were still dying Over There of battle wounds or disease.

Like other papers across the nation, Pittsburgh prominently honored its sons who had sacrificed so the world could have a “Christmas Day of Peace.”

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