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World War I Memorial, February 1, 1926

CFM 1985.017.0001
Gift of John S. Armfield

Object Description:

This 4 inch by 6 inch black and white photograph has a typewritten label on the that back erroneously identifies the images as “Confederate Monument, Thirteenth & Market Street, Wilmington, N.C., Feb. 1st, 1926, taken by Capt. E.D. Williams.”

Object history:

This photograph was given to the Museum in 1985, by the Reverend John S. Armfield (1915-2002). Reverend Armfield told the Museum he received the image from a relative.  The photographer was  steamboat captain and harbormaster Edgar D. Williams (1849-1928).

General History:

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1922, a World War I monument was unveiled in front of New Hanover High School, at Market & South Thirteenth Streets. The monument was made in Baltimore, Maryland. Joseph Maxwell Miller sculpted the bronze bas relief tablet.

Although initially the organizers planned to raise $25,000 to pay for the memorial, by the time it was erected, the Wilmington Dispatch declared “The monument is the gift of the entire populace of the city and will cost when unveiled only $6,000. No efforts to secure large contributions were made, the desire being that all people should participate in its erection.”

The memorial was placed near New Hanover High School (at the time the only public high school for white children in the county). This location seems to have been chosen with its proximity to the school in mind. When it was dedicated, the chair of the memorial committee, E.T. Taylor reportedly said “May 30th has been set aside by the American Legion as a day sacred to the memory of their deceased brothers in arms, who lost their lives in our behalf in the world war. It is fitting therefore, that on this day we gather to pay our respects to the memory of the dead and to inspire by our example veneration for these heroes in the lives of the children today and of future generations.”

By the time this picture was taken less than four years later, the memorial had had to undergo a significant repair. In January 1923, the monument was “hurled from its base” when it was hit by a car belonging to Colonel Walker Taylor. The damage was very substantial – it took months to repair because, according to the Wilmington Morning Star of April 1923, the “main upright stone, which was broken almost in half by the impact of the skidding automobile, has been replaced with a new one. Little damage was done any other part of the monument.”

814 Market Street • Wilmington, NC 28401 • Phone 910-798-4370 • Fax 910-798-4382