Saginaw’s WWI history on display

Chris Ehrmann
The Saginaw News

Saginaw – World War I ended 100 years ago, but Saginaw County’s connection to the Great War lives on.

“On the Home Front” is the latest exhibit at the Castle Museum in downtown Saginaw, and it is meant to show how the war affected the county a century ago.

“November 11 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I,” Tom Trombley, vice president and chief historian of the museum, said in a news release. “This exhibit offers visitors a window in Saginaw County’s contribution and the impact of the war on the community.”

The exhibit features photographs, newspaper clippings, an American Red Cross bed, a Marine uniform and other artifacts.

Trombley said one of the first connections to the war was the Saginaw Shipbuilding Co., in Carrollton Township, as well as the Frankenmuth Woolen Mill Co.

Both of those companies had major roles in manufacturing materials for the war in Saginaw.

He said the shipbuilding company helped send off 18 ocean vessels that were constructed during the war.

The wool company, which still exists in Frankenmuth, helped keep soldiers warm during the colder winter months by making roughly 66,000 pairs of socks.

The exhibit features many photos from that time frame, and one aspect of it is hospital workers who helped fight the worst influenza epidemic Michigan has ever seen.

That’s not all.

“Another component of the exhibit is how Saginaw had a strong number of German ancestors that emigrated from Germany,” Trombley said. “One of the few things that happened on the street where the museum is, before 1917, it was known as Germania (or German) … and that was changed during World War I.”

The name of the street was changed to Federal Avenue after the war.

The exhibit runs until mid-January and Trombley hopes people will learn something about the area that they might not have known before.

“People look at the nature of the events and see how the world was transformed, (but) the local community, it really did happen and have a profound impact,” he said.

Admission to the exhibit is $1 per person, 50 cents for children and free for members of the museum.

Visit the museum’s website to learn more or purchase tickets.