World War I with America’s March King — New Exhibit at the Sousa Archives

The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, October 12, 1917

With the outbreak of World War I on July 28, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson and most of the country embraced a national policy of neutrality to avoid becoming involved in Europe’s military conflict.  After completing his 1914 tour Sousa and his band joined Charles Dillingham’s extravagant Broadway-style revue, Hip! Hip! Hooray!, for its opening in New York’s Hippodrome on September 30, 1915 and performed two concerts daily until June 3, 1916.   Dillingham’s spectacular included an elephant show, high wire acts, theatrical ice skating, flower ladders and vaudeville routines, and Sousa’s band provided the music for these different acts. As Sousa’s band was concluding its Hip! Hip! Hooray! tour during the spring of 1917 the country learned of Germany’s failed diplomatic effort to incite Mexico to declare war on America.  As a result the country’s neutral sentiment abruptly changed and on April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany.  Two weeks later twenty-seven members of the Sousa Band joined the Armed Forces and Sousa temporarily disbanded his civilian ensemble.  The March King, at the age of sixty-two, offered his services first to the U.S. Marines and then the U.S. Army, but his offer to each military branch was turned down because of his age.  However, Captain William A. Moffett, commandant of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center outside of Chicago, heard of the Marine’s and Army’s rejection of John Philip Sousa’s offer and immediately commissioned him as a lieutenant in the United States Naval Reserve to organize and train naval bands.  This new exhibition explores Sousa’s musical contributions to America’s war effort and how this music reflected his acknowledgment of the sacrifices that were made by all Americans who fought in this military conflict.

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