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Photograph of Cooperstown Boys Knitting for the Front, 1918

Cooperstown Boys Knitting for the Front

New York State Archives, NYSA_A0412-78_B33_F11_ManlyBoys_photo
Document Description
The "manly boys" of Cooperstown High School worked on behalf of the Atlantic Division of the American Red Cross. They knitted garments for World War I soldiers, 1918.
What items do you think these boys were knitting?
These boys all have different expressions on their faces. Based on these expressions, how do you think they felt about their task and why do you think these boys were willing to become knitters?
What other vital services did children perform during World War I?
How do you think this photograph affected public opinion about the war?
Where does your country currently have troops involved in conflicts? How could you help with these efforts?
Historical Challenges
Find evidence of another time in American history when children contributed to a war effort. What services did these children provide? How do you think these services helped the war effort?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If each of these boys knitted two items per week, how many items could the entire group knit for soldiers in one year?
English Language Arts: Write a letter to a soldier to accompany one of the pieces that a boy is knitting.
Art: Knitting demonstration followed by a knitting lesson for students to observe the level of difficulty and the effort put forth by these children
Macdonald, Anne. No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting. Ballantine, 1990. ISBN: 0345362535
Monaghan, M.V. Uncle Sam’s Shelf IN Primary Education: A Monthly Journal for Primary Teachers. Vol. XXVI No. 1, p. 17, January 1918.
Rutt, Richard. A History of Hand Knitting. Interweave Press, 2003. ISBN: 1931499373
Strawn, Susan. Knitting America: a glorious heritage from warm socks to high art. Voyageur Press, 2007. ISBN: 0760326215


Historical Context
The United State declared war on Germany in April of 1917. Germany surrendered in November of 1918. During this time of American involvement, many organizations were founded to help with the war effort at home.

The national Junior Red Cross was founded in 1917 to help support the troops in World War I. Teachers and the American Red Cross developed a cooperative relationship to get children involved in the war effort. President Wilson issued a challenge for America’s school children, “Is not this perhaps the chance for which you have been looking to give your time and efforts in some measure to meet our national needs…?”

 Children paid 25-cents for an annual membership to the Junior Red Cross. Members were encouraged to perform services vital to the war effort. A major contribution of American school children were thousands of knitted wool socks, scarves, hats, and sweaters which were sent to American soldiers on the war front. Junior members also helped to produce medical supplies and furniture. The students put together school supplies and other necessities in “Friendship Boxes” to send to children in the countries where the war was being fought. The Red Cross estimates that the Junior Red Cross members produced ten percent of all the organization’s contributions during the war, totaling over 3.5 million dollars.
The boys in the photograph above knitted items for the war effort and may have been featured in the local Cooperstown paper.
Essential Question
How do children exercise their civic participation and show support for their country?
Check for Understanding
Describe the civic participation of these boys based on the evidence in the photograph.