New SCUA Exhibit: “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: The Great War in New Jersey

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From the western front to the home front, the experiences of New Jerseyans will be on display at Special Collections and University Archives through one-of-a-kind documents, photographs, and artifacts. The exhibit, curated by Flora Boros, opens March 9 with a reception and a Bishop Lecture by Dr. Virginia A. Dilkes on her father’s combat experiences. Everyone is invited to attend, but please RSVP to

About the exhibit:

New Jersey played an important role in World War I. Not only did the Garden State make significant financial, industrial, military, and psychological contributions from the outset of the bloody conflict, but it would ultimately provide 72,946 recruits and 46,960 volunteers, with an additional over 20,000 serving by the War’s end. In total, 3,836 New Jerseyans were lost to combat, accident, or disease.

“Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!”: The Great War in New Jersey (on display March 9 – September 2017, Alexander Library, 169 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ) focuses on the individual experiences of these Jersey doughboys and servicewomen who bravely went “Over There,” and the families and neighbors who remained behind, “Over Here.”

The exhibit takes its name from Commander in Chief John J. Pershing who—predicting a swift resolution to the deadlocked western front—promised his men that they would be home by Christmas of 1917. His patented promise of “Heaven, Hell, or Hoboken!” became a national rallying cry for the nearly 1.8 million Americans that passed through Hoboken on their way to the European battlefront.

Split into two parts, the exhibit begins with “Over There,” featuring rare watercolors by Swiss artist Gustave A. Wendt, artist Lute Pease’s political cartoons for the Newark Evening News, soldiers’ frontline diaries, letters from the Rutgers College War Service Bureau, trench newspapers, albums and scrapbooks from servicemen and servicewomen, and a complete French gas mask kit. Continuing with “Over Here,” the exhibit features a homemade service flag hung in a Branchburg family’s window, volunteer armbands, the John A. Roebling’s Sons’ patented torpedo nets, memorabilia from Camp Merritt, and posters from our Liberty Bond Poster Collection.

The exhibit includes loans of 29th “Blue and Gray” Division artifacts and souvenirs from the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey, wartime medical supplies from the Johnson & Johnson Archives, and postcards from the Special Collections of the George F. Smith Library of the Health Sciences at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

On March 9, Special Collections and University Archives will open the exhibit with a reception and lecture by Dr. Virginia A. Dilkes who will present “Through the Eyes of a WWI Combat Engineer,” based on her father’s experiences during the war. This event is open to the public and begins at 6:00 p.m. at Alexander Library (169 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ).

This exhibit is part of a series of events around New Jersey to commemorate this anniversary. For a complete list, check here. Additional events will take place at the Libraries throughout the year including a WWI poetry reading during National Poetry month on April 18 and an additional exhibit in Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers University–Camden.

Jessica Pellien