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Safeguarding Industry Poster, Council of National Defense, World War I, c. 1917

Safeguarding Industry: A Wartime Necessity

New York State Archives, NYSA_A4234-78_B2_F14_IndustrialPractices
 
Document Description
Poster from the Council of National Defense advocating for safe industrial practices during World War I, c. 1917.
 
Questions
Why was industry essential to the war effort?
Were all workers eligible to be drafted into the military?  Why or why not?
Why was care taken to promote safe industrial practices?
 
Historical Challenges
Research a business or industry that was or could have been involved in the war effort during World War I. What did this industry contribute to the war effort? What safety measures might the industry need to observe?
 
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: A city has 32 equally productive steel plants that can produce 680 tons of finished, workable steel each month. If 4 of the steel plants are destroyed by a fire, how much steel can be produces each month by the remaining plants? What percentage of the original productive capacity is lost?
Technology: Learn about a new tool or piece of equipment in the shop. Learn what it is used for, how to operate it, and what safety precautions you need to take when using it.
 
Resources
Woollacott, Angela. On Her Their Lives Depend: Munitions Workers in the Great War. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994.
 

 

About this Activity

 

Lesson Topic:

 
Historical Context
Although the United States had aided the Allied powers before formally entering the war in 1917, it did so in a limited role.  However, when America officially sided with the Allies in the fight against the Central Powers, the country’s industrial might could be fully mobilized to effectively combat the enemy.  With national pride piqued, the United States was ready to fight a war.

By the early 1900s, many major urban centers of the United States were highly industrialized.  Nonetheless, factories and heavy industry establishments were not the cleanest or safest places to work.  Although the efforts of progressive presidents like Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, and Woodrow Wilson had been successful in reforming business and labor practices, the fact remained that industrial work still posed considerable risks to personal and public safety.

The issue of safe industrial practices was further compounded by the fact that some workers had gone off to war.  While some workers were exempted from military service and were able to stay at their jobs, other positions were filled by people with varying or no on-the-job experience.  This poster asks people to take care to prevent fires that could have easily destroyed both the industries and raw materials that the United States required to wage war.
 
 
Essential Question
How does war impact industry and technology?
 
Check for Understanding
Identify the overal message of the poster and explain the connection between industry and the war effort.