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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

American Folk Art Museum

American Folk Art Museum

The American Folk Art Museum's website showcases current and past exhibitions along with their permanent collection… [read review or visit site]

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Anonymous Works

Anonymous Works

This blog combines American primitive folk art, vintage vernacular photography, outsider art, and other interesting… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]

The Outsider Art Pages

The Outsider Art Pages

A modern look at folk and outsider art with a focus on what people are doing to keep these traditions alive. The si… [read review or visit site]

Folk Art in Bottles

Folk Art in Bottles

Whether you call them Bottle Whimseys, Whimsey Bottles, Puzzle Bottles, or Whimsies, this site showcases great folk… [read review or visit site]

Index of American Design

Index of American Design

The Index of American Design project (1935-1942) was an effort to catalog American decorative arts objects from the… [read review or visit site]

Stoveburner.com

Stoveburner.com

A stunning collection of 162 images of stoveburners, those corroded cast iron elements that power stoves, broilers,… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Original Wwii Aaf Named Trench Art Cbi Hat W/ Missions Marked "flying The Hump"Wwii Aaf P-39 Airacobra Fighter Aircraft Trench Art Dummy 37mm Ammo Shell 1942Rolex Rolco Watch 20s 30s Cocktail Art Deco Trench Vintage Silver Case ScottishTrench Art Solid Brass Ww1 Zeppelin Pocket Airship Whistle Vintage Aircraft Trench Art Inkwell Machine Gun Corps Brass And Copper With Ceramic InkwellWw1 Artillery Shell, Antique / Trench ArtOriginal Wwii Trench Art Door Stop 90mm Aa Dummy Anti-aircraft Shell & CasingTrench Art Dummy Wwii 20mm Anti-aircraft Red I Shell Round Nose Case 1943Ww 1 Zeppelin Pocket Put & Take Game Box Trench Art Style 1916Anzac Japanese Pow Wwii Trench Art Bullet Shaped Bamboo Pencil CaseShot Brass Royal Engineers Military Button Bullet Embedded Trench Art Relic Ww1?Vintage Trench Art German V1 Rocket Doodlebug Buzz Bomb Chrome Nickel Plated 6"Ww2 Germany Model Aircraft B-b Luftwaffe . Made Style Trench Art.Trench Art Dummy Wwii 20mm Anti-aircraft Green Shell Round & Nose & Casing 1943Trench Art Stickley Era Brass Vase Arts And Crafts Pinecone Motif Roycroft EraWwii Trench Art B17 M1 Garand Carbine 45 AcpWwii Ww2 Brass Shell Fuse Timer Paperweight Trench Art JapanAnzac Trench Art Wwii Engraved Raaf Aeroplane Alloy Wreckage Made Cigarette CaseWw1 Trench Art Album Of 130 Drawings Northumberland FusiliersWwi Airplane Desk Model Trench Art Brass French Bleriot Aviation Antique 5sw09Wwi Trench Art Shrapnel Blade Letter Opener Iron Cross Verdun 1916Anzac Trench Art Brass Letter Opener The Somme 1917 Australia At War 1914-1918Wwii Trench Art Shell Casing Ashtray 1941 9" Airplane Marine Corp InsigniaModel Aircraft Biplane Ww1 / Ww2 Trench Art ? Fuselage Made From A Real Bullet! 1916 1917 World War I Ww1 Trench Art Plumb Bob Plumb Bob Plum Bob PlumbbobOriginal Wwi Named Trench Art Gas Mask Bag 117th Engineers 42nd Rainbow DivisionVtg Wwii Handmade Theater Fighting Knife 13" Colorful Lucite Handle Trench ArtWw1 Trench Art Sweetheart Jewellery: Bird Of Peace & Memory: "arras" Pin Brooch.Ww Ii Trench Art, Japanese Army, MortarWwii Usn Battleship Cruiser Folk Trench Art Display Desk Model Cribbage Game SetRare Wwii Deco Industrial Aluminum Carrier Navy Ship Trench ArtWwii Ww2 Trench Art P-38 Airplane, Made From Brass ShellsWw1 Or Ww2 Shot Brass Petrol Lighter With Embedded Bullet Trench Art Old Relic Trench Art Ww1 Plumb Bob George V Pennies 1917 Penny Coins Vintage PlumbobOriginal & Scarce Ww1 Trench Art LighterWwii Trench Art. Ash Tray Artillary 2 Trench Art Brass Teetotum Spinning Top Dice Vintage Ww1 Game 1916 Farthing CoinWwii- Trench Art- Italian Campaign-theater Made Rings-lot Of Three!2ww Trench Art German Miniature Patterned Brass/copper Tot CupOriginal Wwi Trench Art German 77mm Artillery Casing Improvised Gas Alarm 1918Vintage Ww2 Vietnam Trench Art Dirk Dagger Hunting Survival Bowie Knife KnivesVintage Ww1 Trench Art Brass "artillery Shell Case" Money Box 14cmGerman Ww1 Trench Art Knife VerdunAustralia 1927 Parliament House Florin Cut-out Coin - By N. Rasch - Trench ArtAnzac Raaf Trench Art Egypt Brass Hammered Plate Epaulette Wilson O.l.raaf A2509Trench Art Deco Sweetheart Cigarette Case India Map Taj Mahal Wwii War SouvenirWw1 Royal Flying Corps Rfc Silk Souvernir Trench Art Embroidered HandkerchiefRare Ww1 Gold & Enamel Welsh Fusiliers Sweetheart Momento Mori Trench Art BroochGerman / Germany Nazi Coins, Paper Currency, Trench Art & War Ribbons No ReserveTrench Art Aircraft Avro Anson Rough Cast White Metal25mm Solid Metal Dummy Shell Trench Art/displayNice Old Antique Ww1 Trench Art Brass Lighter, Kings Reg't, Still Works WellWw1 Ww One Trench Made And Art Soldier Hand Made Lighter Simply Incredible...Trench Art 373rd Bombardment Squadron 14th U.s.a. Airforce Bullet Shell Beer MugAnzac Brass Trench Art Wwii VaseVintage Trench Art Metal Ashtray Military Army Tank, Ww1 Or Ww2 ? BarwareTrench Art Stag Antler Cigar Cutter & Match Stand Artillery RegWw1 Trench ArtA Very Rare * Tower Bridge * London Wwii Aluminium " Trench Art " German Pow BoxTrench Art, Brass Bell Made From Artillery Shell Case, 1917 ?

Recent News: Trench Art

Source: Google News

Antiques: Just the right size
Ottawa Citizen, April 17th

A: You've got a piece of “trench art,” which is any decorative object that can be linked to an armed conflict. In your case, the pot bottom markings identify the source of the brass as a Second World War artillery shell case dating to 1945. Your...Read more

Memories of the 'Great War' on display at Insch
Inverurie Herald, April 16th

There is also a fascinating picture of a group of volunteer knitters at Insch School, every one of which is male! Also on display are rare items of 'trench art' made by soldiers at the front. Insch Connection Museum is open on Wednesdays and Sundays 1...Read more

Compton Gallery's wonderful landscape sets it apart from others
Birmingham Post, April 11th

Another attraction later this year will be First World War Trench Art (July 16) showing what the troops did and the gallery's Folk Art collection will be re-emphasised. “The way ahead for us is to offer a far more well-rounded day out and to make much...Read more

Arts Notes, Walnut Creek Journal and Lamorinda Sun
San Jose Mercury News, April 9th

"From Swords to Plowshares (through April 13): Metal Trench Art from World War I" -- During the "Great War," soldiers crafted art from artillery shells, bullets, aircraft parts, shrapnel and other salvaged military detritus. Works in the exhibition are...Read more

Pride, Propaganda and Redemption
Lamorindaweekly, April 8th

so this new kind of conflict required the mass production of public support," adds Hochschild, whose lecture opened the latest exhibition by Saint Mary's College Museum of Art to depict humanity at war - "Swords to Plowshares: Metal Trench Art from...Read more

Exploring the tangled history of an iconic flower
University of Bristol, April 3rd

and 2004. He has published more than twenty-five books, including Trench Art, Killing Time, Alexander's Tomb and Matters of Conflict, and has appeared in documentaries for the BBC, the National Geographic Channel and the History Channel. Feedback...Read more

Redoubt to commemorate 100 years since World War I
Eastbourne Herald, March 30th

The Redoubt includes the biggest military collection in the south of England, with artefacts ranging from rare First World War trench art, to a captured German staff car. Launching in April – with a free opening weekend on April 5-6 – the fortress will...Read more

Trench-art tank found in reading room
Northumberland Gazette, March 22nd

During the restoration, David Douglas, from Chatton, and an expert in First World War militaria, called in and identified it as a piece of trench art that is historically very interesting, because it is an exact copy of a very early tank. The...Read more