Original U.S. WWI Verdun Trench Art Tobacco Can and Table Lighter - 2 Items

Item Description

Original Items: Only One Lot of 2 Available. Trench art is any decorative item made by soldiers, prisoners of war, or civilians where the manufacture is directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. It offers an insight not only to their feelings and emotions about the war, but also their surroundings and the materials they had available to them.

Not limited to the World Wars, the history of trench art spans conflicts from the Napoleonic Wars to the present day. Although the practice flourished during World War I, the term 'trench art' is also used to describe souvenirs manufactured by service personnel during World War II. Some items manufactured by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians during earlier conflicts have been retrospectively described as trench art.

With the entrance of the United States into World War I in 1917, cigarette use increased dramatically among United States military personnel as they were targeted by tobacco companies which touted cigarettes as a way for soldiers to psychologically escape from their current circumstances, boosting overall troop morale. Tobacco was viewed as indispensable to the war effort; General Pershing said "You ask me what we need to win this war. I answer tobacco as much as bullets. Tobacco is as indispensable as the daily ration; we must have thousands of tons without delay." Cigarettes became so integrated into life on the battlefield that these symbols of pleasure and comfort were also used as a form of currency. Although cigarettes had been regarded as a physical and moral hazard by early anti-tobacco movements around this time, by 1918, previously anti-cigarette organizations and the military began supporting efforts to distribute cigarettes to troops. The New York Times garnered support for these efforts by stating that cigarettes "lighten[ed] the inevitable hardships of war", and another popular periodical described cigarettes as the "last and only solace of the wounded."

The Items Included set are as follows:
- French 75mm Shell Tobacco “Tin”: This lovely piece of art was manufactured from an empty 75mm shell casing. The U.S. soldier or Marine who made this item even made a matching lid for it! The lid itself is engraved with US / Verdun / 1918. During the hellish Battle of Verdun that raged from February to December of 1916, an estimated 60 million shells were blasted between the French and the Germans, leaving the people and the ground around them mutilated. This was a new and grisly type of war, yet there was an unexpected by-product of these mounds of used shell cases: trench art.

- German 37mm Shell Table Lighter: This is a lovely example of a trench art made by an American soldier during the 1919 occupation of Germany after the Great War. The images etched into the lighter are the normal German related images of a 1914 Iron Cross, Pickelhaube, “Gott Mitt Uns”, a Prussian crown and the date, January 2, 1919 followed by the initial F.R. This is a non functioning table lighter, it would need to be cleaned and have a new wick installed. The base and the cap are both constructed out of two 1917 German 37mm spent casings. Soldiers had plenty of free time, so small models of homes and towns began to pop up, as well as a vibrant trench art community, where soldiers repurposed spent ammunition, spare change, scrap metal, and souvenirs captured from the other side.

All of this is a really long way to say that if soldiers wanted to enjoy the amenities of home, they were going to have to provide it themselves, even in things as small as lighters. Lighters aren’t anything we’d think of as rare or hard to come by, but there soldiers didn’t exactly have a shop they could head into whenever they found themselves lacking a light for their cigarette. Or explosive’s fuse.

These are both unique items that come more than ready to display, or use!

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