World War I Records Online

April 6, 2017, marked the 100th anniversary of America’s entrance into the Great War. After remaining neutral for three years, the United States reluctantly entered what was supposed to be “The War to End All Wars.” By declaring war, President Woodrow Wilson committed the nation to join the other Allied countries in their efforts to defeat the German-led Central Powers.

As the largest repository of American World War I records, the National Archives invites you to browse the wealth of records and information documenting the U.S. experience in this conflict, including photographs, documents, audiovisual recordings, educational resources, articles, blog posts, lectures, and events from its new World War I Centennial portal. This portal links to selected digitized records.

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War Labor Policies Board, 1918-1919

It seemed fitting to start the “Anti-Obscurant” series at the beginning….

Record Group 1, Records of the War Labor Policies Board, 1918-19, is about as obscure as one can get. This temporary World War I agency has the distinction of being Record Group 1 because its records were the first records received by the National Archives in the mid-1930s. The records measure a mere 12 cubic feet, and there are only 7 record series.

The Board was established by the Secretary of Labor on 13 May 1918. It was composed of representatives of the Labor, War, Navy, and Agriculture Departments; the War Industries Board; the U.S. Shipping Board; the Emergency Fleet Corporation; the Railroad, Food, and Fuel Administrations; and the Committee on Public Information. It was abolished in March 1919.

The Board formulated uniform policies for war labor administration, and promoted better housing conditions for war workers. After the Armistice, it considered proposals for canceling government contracts and for demobilization, and made studies of domestic and foreign wartime labor conditions and of labor policies relating to immediate postwar conditions in the United States.

After reading through the descriptions of the agency’s record series, it’s fairly clear that the Board’s records would most interest labor historians, World War I historians, and persons researching Chairman Felix Frankfurter, Executive Secretary George L. Bell, business adviser Herbert F. Perkins, economic expert Walton H. Hamilton, and staff member Helen Bary, who created two of the series.

Record Group 1 is clearly not a useful record group for genealogists—unless your ancestor was involved with the Board, in which case you may learn more than you wanted about the Board’s concerns during its 10-month existence.

This link will take you to description of the records in NARA’s online catalog.