Strictly speaking, trench art is a phrase that describes folk art created by soldiers who were stuck in the trenches during World War I. But trench art as a more broadly defined genre includes all sorts of art objects made during numerous military conflicts going back to the early 1800s, including items produced by prisoners of war.
Leaving aside the question of era, there are several generally accepted categories of trench art. Some of the earliest examples are wooden boxes made by French prisoners captured by the English during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
By World War I, prisoners on both sides of that struggle were engraving and carving everything from spent shell casings to soup bones, transforming them into poignant mementos and useful historical records of the war to end all wars. Some pieces are particular to certain battle zones. For example, Turkish prisoners were known for their beaded snakes.
Those soldiers who did not have the time or tools to engrave spent artillery shells in the trenches often brought them home, where they would be embossed, fluted, and flared. Engravings on canteens and mess kits were probably done in the field, as were paintings on helmets.
Other examples of trench art include letter openers and knives made from bullets and shells; presentation plates hammered and engraved from flattened casings; lighters formed out of enemy belt buckles; and inkwells carefully crafted from fuse caps.
Soldiers recovering from their wounds also made trench art, usually in the form of embroidered badges and belts. Similar pieces made by wives and girlfriends waiting for their loved ones to return home are also considered trench art.
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McCord Gallery to present World War II artifactsSouthtownStar, March 4th
7, 1941, during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler's personal napkin ring, trench art, and more also will be shown. Admission is $12 for the public and $10 for McCord members. Veterans, military, students and children under 18 are free...Read more
World War II Exhibit at McCord GalleryChicago Tribune, March 3rd
New acquisitions include a saki set that survived the bomb on Hiroshima, a fragment of the USS Arizona which was sunk on December 7, 1941 during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Adolf Hitler's personal napkin ring, trench art, and much more...Read more
The 'Great War' in BelgiumDeutsche Welle, March 1st
The new exhibition "Expo 14-18, It's Our History!" at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels highlights the fate of the small, neutral country that became a huge battlefield. Bildergalerie Ausstellung Erster Weltkrieg...Read more
AMC Museum to hold Collector's Day March 29Cape Gazette, March 1st
Over the years, participants in this free family event have shared collections of turn-of-the-century postcards, World War I uniforms, pocket watches, trench art, football memorabilia and sunflower jewelry. All Delmarva residents are encouraged to...Read more
World War One: Scunthorpe area sees surge of interest in memorabiliaScunthorpe Telegraph, February 25th
This is, however, just the start in what is a huge field that ranges across paper memorabilia of every conceivable kind, paintings and drawings, photography, postcards, trench art, uniforms, enemy trophies, not to mention the weaponry. Rare items will...Read more
Five Questions: World war museum's art and artifacts become traveling exhibitsCanton Repository, February 21st
Parkinson noted that the museum currently offers visitors several other exhibits, including displays on the outbreak of World War II, trench art, women in World War II, aviation art, the history of toy soldiers and local contributions to the war effort...Read more
Letter - I was disappointed with World War I displayPontefract and Castleford Express, February 20th
Some years ago I gave to the Pontefract Museum curator items of Trench Art made by the soldiers in the trenches which surely would hae been of great interest had they been displayed, where are these pieces of Trench Art now? Once again I feel that ...Read more
Upcycling: Antiquing with a purposeOrillia Packet & Times, February 14th
Wartime brought its own special kind of repurposing: trench art. During the First World War, many bored soldiers made all kinds of things out of spent shells and whatever else was lying around. The term is still applied to later war-related examples...Read more