Montana Historical Society

Big Sky ~ Big History

Museum and research center closed for renovations. For more info, call (406) 444-2694.

About the Project

World War I came at the height of the Progressive era, a time of intense ideological disagreement in America. What was the appropriate role of government in the economy? Were immigrants a threat to American culture? What was the proper relationship between individual freedom and the common good? Given the debate over fundamental values, it is no wonder that, according to historian David Kennedy, “Americans went to war in 1917 not only against Germans in the fields of France but against each other at home.”

No where was this more true than in Montana. It is hard to overstate the significance of the U.S.'s entry into World War I--to the men who served (17 percent of Montana men ages 18 to 44), to their families, to Montana's German immigrant farmers, to Socialist Finnish and Irish nationalist miners, to syndicalist loggers, and to everyone living in Montana during the war and to all of those who came after.

The centennial of the United States' entry into World War I, on April 6, 2017, provided the impetus to look back at this complicated past and to create this web-based project: Montana and the Great War. Look in these pages to find links to pertinent articles, primarily from the Montana Historical Society's award-winning magazine, Montana The Magazine of Western History; information on archival collections in the Montana Historical Society Archives; clips from oral histories; and lesson plans.

The ArcGIS Story Map features 70 stories from across Montana that reflect the various ways the war changed the lives of Montanans both at home and while serving overseas--as well as ways the war's impact continued into the 1920s. Explore the map to learn about how the war affected Montanans of every type: war supporters and war opponents, Red Cross workers and German parishioners, miners and loggers, pacifists and soldiers, farmers and stockmen, nurses and railroad workers, politicians and gold star mothers.

Project Staff

Project Manager: Martha Kohl

Project Assistant and Voices Editor: Alex Kurki

StoryMap Authors: Rich Aarstad, Ellen Baumler, Kayla Blackman, Martha Kohl, and Alex Kurki

StoryMap Designers: Michelle Phair and Damon Murdo

Lesson Plan Consultant: Phil Leonardi

Website Design: Alex Kurki and Rennan Rieke

Editorial Assistance: Kirby Lambert, Maggie Ordon, and Ann Seifert