Exactly one hundred years ago, on November 11, 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement, to stop what was hoped to be the "war to end all wars." Fighting would formally cease at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. All told, in four years, the war resulted in about 40 million casualties, including 20 million deaths.
To honor those who fought and those who gave their lives, we have several special items on display, and one which led to a surprising find, which, given the grave nature of war, allows for some amusement.
One part of the display is the front page of the San Francisco Examiner, dated November 11, 1918, with the headline "Peace on Earth: GERMANY SURRENDERS." The paper announced "Greatest World War came to an end this morning," and, "This is the world's greatest day in the age long fight between good and evil." This special issue of the Examiner includes descriptions of flares and fireworks set off from the top of Mt. Tamalpais and the illuminated San Francisco City Hall. Despite the celebratory tone, there are many articles reporting on the dead and wounded; and foreshadowing worldwide rebellions to follow.
Another artifact on view is a military satchel belonging to Samuel Heiman of Ross. The bag, worn strapped to the front of the body, contained a gas mask. Heiman donned this bag when he posed as model for the doughboy statue, which originally stood outside the County Courthouse on Fourth Street in San Rafael, and today stands at the Avenue of the Flags. Heiman, an accomplished local architect, also designed the statue's base. This satchel was donated to the California Room by Heiman's son, Warren, who is himself a World War II veteran. We are honored to have this item in our permanent collection, and as a centerpiece of this exhibit.
Read more about the origins of Marin's WWI Memorial in a previous article by Marin historian Jocelyn Moss. San Anselmo Historian Judy Coy describes Sam Heiman's architectural accomplishments in an article courtesy of the San Anselmo Historical Museum.
Also on display is a collection of WWI ribbons and medals, on loan from Marin historian Richard Torney. When Richard generously lent us this collection, it required some research. The medals were issued to two British servicemen, curiously named Kenneth Hunter Clark and Alfred Stanley Clarke.
Cpl. Kenneth Clark sadly died in battle in October 1914 at age 19 or 20, just two months after the war began. Included among his medals is the "Death Penny," given to families in the British Empire who lost soldiers in action. Clark is honored at Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-l'Avoue, at a memorial erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, "to record the names of the officers and men who fell in the Great War and whose graves are not known."
Pte. A. Stanley Clarke, born around 1888, earned medals including the Great War Victory Medal and the British War Medal. He was a member of the King's Royal Rifle Corps (K.R.R.) and a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force.
Using newspaper articles, census records, military records, and directories, I discovered the connection between the two Clark/Clarke men: a woman named Jean. Jean's brother was Kenneth Clark. Stanley Clarke immigrated to America shortly after the end of the war, and in 1921 married Jean, thus making her full name: Jean Clark Clarke. The Clarkes became U.S. citizens and lived in Southern California. Alfred died in Los Angeles County in 1932, and Jean in 1980 in San Rafael, which explains how the medal collection made its way to our area.
We wish to thank all veterans for their service, and we hope this Veterans Day provides a time to reflect on the importance of those who serve our country.
You can view our display, located adjacent to the California Room at the Civic Center Library in San Rafael, from now through January.