New York City’s centrality to the Great War effort is lost on many today. It should not be surprise anyone, though, that Gotham played an outsized role. The city, with its great ports and access to human and financial capital, is right here on the East Coast. What’s more, there were so many Europeans from the various belligerent nations already living here; the 20+ years prior to the war were the decades of the Great Migration. Immigrant communities often lived in their own enclaves with their own churches, schools, and home-language newspapers, and were tuned in to events overseas. Still it must have be an unusual sight when, on 10 April 1916, passersby in Washington Square came across the dedication and blessing of fifteen Studebaker ambulances soon headed for the Eastern Front. An American physician and West Pointer, Dr. Philip Newton, was to be put in charge of the ambulances on the Eastern Front. He had married a Russian the year before and would eventually be made a general by Czar Nicholas II. Russia of course would not remain in the war much longer. There was already growing unrest in the country and the Revolution took place the following year. Still in the spring of 1916 there was still hope.
(images/Library of Congress)