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WWI Exhibit Showcases 100-Year-Old Portraits Of Cincinnatians At War

The Cincinnati Museum Center is marking the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I with an exposition featuring images not displayed since 1919.

Until We Meet Again: Cincinnati Portraits from World War I features photographs of servicemen and women, uniforms and flags that were part of a December 1918 Allied Governments War Exposition at Music Hall.

The Expo ran for nine days and drew 164,000 people, says Jim DaMico, curator of audio visual collections at the museum center.

Credit Courtesy of Cincinnati Museum Center

"One of the components of the Exposition was a local call to family members to lend photographs of their loved ones in service, so there were approximately 6,000 photographs on display. You can tell on a lot of the photographs because there's still the pinholes from that time. The last time they were displayed was in 1919," DaMico explains.

Afterward, organizers asked families to donate the images to the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio - which would later become the Cincinnati History Library & Archives - and 2,625 photographs were sent.

"It's probably the most complete picture - pun intended - of World War I service members, and it's men and women, in Cincinnati and the surrounding area."

The backs of the photographs contain handwritten addresses, information and notes to or from family members. Some are displayed in a glass case to allow viewers to see both sides.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Four members of the Sims family from the West End served in World War I. Their pictures are on display for the first time in 100 years.

One section of the exhibit features family members who served. "There's four Sims brothers and they were all from the West End, and then we have the Cunningham family who was from Northside ... a lot of times brothers - and sisters as well - were serving; they took the call to service and they joined up. Sometimes there were brothers that were in the same unit."

Though the families of some of those highlighted in the exhibit have been lost to time, others are still known. For example, an image of Private William J. Seitz depicts a young man who was sent to France in August 1918, then was transferred to the Office of Chief Surgeon, Tours, France, following the Armistice. Private Seitz's grandson is best known as Rep. Bill Seitz, serving the west side of Hamilton County in Ohio's 30th House district.

Credit Tana Weingartner / WVXU
Private William J. Seitz

DaMico says the exhibit aims to tell the stories of the people. "It's really about telling the stories of the individuals and as a whole community how people responded to the call to go to war."

He says he hopes visitors will feel the power of the stories and appreciate the variety of the photography and types of images.

"It's also a recognition of World War I, which hasn't been so recognized."

The free exhibit opens Friday, June 28 - the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles - and runs through September 29, 2019, in the Ruthven Gallery of Cincinnati Museum Center.

To see more images from this exhibit, click the photo at top.