One hundred years ago this month, President Woodrow Wilson plunged the United States into World War One.

Wilson’s choice to push for war still baffles scholars and historians.  U.S. interests were not at risk, and the country still felt a strong aversion to dealings with other countries. Influential citizens like Henry Ford and feminist Jane Addams were vocally opposed to American participation. The war had been raging in Europe for three years already, at a terrific cost in human lives.

The atrocities of the war and the German torpedo attack on the Lusitania created an opening with the public. So Wilson, the scholar from Columbia, South Carolina, thrust America into the war at the eleventh hour.

The duration of the war, post-American entry, was 18 months. A year and a half is not a long time, in terms of world history. But it was obvious from the start that Wilson’s decision to urge Congress to declare war was momentous. 53,402 soldiers were killed. Americans were shocked when 63,000 soldiers returned home, with limbs missing, suffering the after-effects of mustard gas, and trembling from shell shock. Even those who managed to survive the war were not exactly the same when they returned home from the Western Front.

Library of Congress

Worldwide, over 17 million people died in the conflict. And as the war was ending, the Spanish flu pandemic was taking hold. The casualties inflicted by the Influenza Pandemic dwarfed those of the Great War. Estimates are broad, but between 25 million – 40 million people died of influenza between 1918 – 1919.

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At the turn of the century, hats were quite the fashion statement.

Al Capone, with fedora
Al Capone, with fedora

Men often wore fedoras, which could be year-round attire. These hats, which came into fashion in the late 19th century and never went back out of style, have been a favorite of gangsters, Orthodox Jews, and Prince Edward.  In later years, women wore fedoras too – quite possibly this trend began with Ingrid Bergman’s glamorous appearance in Casablanca.

Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart
Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart

In 1900, it was not unusual to see top hats, particularly amidst the more well-to-do. These days, top hats are mostly associated with Abraham Lincoln and Uncle Sam, but they were frequently worn as formal wear well into the 20th century.  Top hats were also known as stovepipe hats.

Top hat and bow tie, rescued from the Titanic wreckage Photo from telegraph.co.uk
Top hat and bow tie, rescued from the Titanic wreckage
Photo from telegraph.co.uk

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On Valentine’s Day, 1907, Miss Lillian Moore of St. Louis received this rather salacious unsigned Valentine from a suitor.

At least, it seems salacious for a young Edwardian lady to receive. Wouldn’t the neighbors gossip?

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I wonder if Miss Lillian Moore even knew who sent this Valentine? After all, there’s no message or signature. Perhaps she was the routine recipient of bold postcards.

(Oh, if I could transport myself back to 1907, I’m afraid I would still be behind the times!)

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Separately, this 110-year-old Valentine has held up very well. I was delighted to find the glitter still in place! I hope that Lillian Moore did not toy with this young fellow’s heart. Few things are as romantic as a sparkly Valentine!