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”)

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

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]

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]

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    

Superb Ww1 Original Trench Art Early German Picklehaube Helmet With CrestWw1 Rfc Trench Art Brass Badge - 15 Squadron Royal Flying Corps - PropellerWw11 Trench Art Brass Bomber Airplane On A Shell Ashtray Dated 1942 Trench Art Brass & Copper Model Ww1 German U Boat Submarine 1914 CrossRare Ww1 Trench Art Knife With Bayonet Blade And Steer Bone HandleTrench Art Brass Dice Shaker Box Ww2 Royal Artillery Gun Shell Case 1939 Vintage1ww Trench Art Military Solid Brass/steel Miniature Utility Tool KitTrench Art Ww2 Model Us Navy U-boat Submarine Torpedo Mk 14Trench Art Ww1 .303 Vickers Gun 1912 On Stand Ww1 Trench Art Tall Shell Engraved And Dated 1916.Antique Ww Ii Soldier's Trench Art Us Helmet Painted With Japanese Battles Sword2ww Trench Art Solid/heavy "raf" Copper/brass Tot Cup/desk PaperweightWw2 Japanese 1st Infantry Regiment Badge Banner Day Medal Flag Gun Wwii HelmetVintage Military Wwi Trench Art Vases Superb Pair Art Nouveau Decorated 1917Trench Art Copper Coin Brass Miniature Chair 1897 1899 Queen Victoria Penny WwiWw1 Wood Tank On Wood Pedestal Marked 1917 And Tank Corps Trench ArtWw2 Vintage Trench Art 1939/1945 Paras Sterling Machine Gun.1ww Trench Art Military Brass Oil Tin Kit/desk Paperweight, Lords Prayer Wwii Trench Art Lamp Service Pilot Army Air Force Bullets Piston WingsWw2 Trench Art Brass Torpedo On Carriage Wwi Us Trench-art Match-safe, Id'd To "fred G. Patton, Co A, 81st Engineers"Great Ww2 U S Veteran Trench Art-brass Japanese Fighter-float PlaneTrench Art, Brass Shell Cases Ww1, The Wiltshire Regiment Case Or Ink Well Heinkel He 112 Airplane Desk Model Brass Trench Art Luftwaffe Magyar Légierő E41Trench Art Brass Vesta Case Match Safe Vulcan Gun Shell Case Vietnam Plane F-4eWw1 Trench Art ~ Oval Brass Hinged Trench Art Tobacco Tin Ww1 Trench Art Oil Lamp & Lantern From French 75mm Shell Case & Bremmer WickTrench Art. Ww I. Brass 'scimitar' Letter-opener. Hulluch. Ref. 7265.Ww1 Trench Art Brass Ashtray, Gordon HighlandersW.w.1 Trench Art Spill Vase Shell Case Cartridge Legs 1918 Ypres DecorationOriginal Us Ww Ii 2 Trench Art P-38 Lightning Airplane Dottie On NoseWw 1 Trench Art, Bronze Petrol LighterVintage Art Deco Ceramic Trench Art Copper Reed Kingfisher Wall Plaque C1910-20sWwi Trench Art Royal Flying Corps LighterBoer War Trench Art Job Lot All Copper 1 X Hat 2 X Trinket Trays Dated 1900 19022 Wwii Trench Art Shell Ashtray 37mm M17 Dated 1941 Us Navy Army Artillery MarksWw2 Brass Model Of A Fighter Plane Spitfire Hurricane Trench Art Model Ww1 Trench Art Shell Engraved And Dated 1915... 1899 Queen Victoria Penny Coin Snuff / Stash Box Or Pill Pot . Trench Art .Wwii Era Trench Art Hunting Knife Dagger Us Military Old Vintage 736hWwii Trench Art Three Bulb Artillery Shell LampTrench Art Hand Made Darts With BoxTrench Art Brass Officers Cap Snuff Pill Box Ww1 George V Penny Coin 1918 CaseTrench Art , Superb Very Rare Lighter, Ashtray & Cannon Shell / Bullet. 8 InchesRare! Wwi Antique Campagne 1914 1918 Trench Art Lighter Brass Ww2 World War Two - Africa Campaign Raf Trench Art Cigarette Box - Unusual!Vintage Wwii Engraved Trench Art Japanese Mortar Shell - Pencil Holder??Us Army 34th Infantry Trench Art? Belt Buckle Old Red Bull Attack Estate FindWw2 Era U.s. Navy Deck Clock No. 2 By Seth Thomas Mounted As Trench Art PieceWw1 Trench Art 18lbr Officers Cap "somme" Dated 1916.Nice Ww1 Trench Art Made Brass Ash Tray Ww1 German Imperial Silver Trench Art RingInitialed E.l.b.original Trench Art Wwi Lighter Not Tested See Pics Sold As SeenTrench Art Snuff Tin & Chain Rasc RegWwi German Shell Bases Rh.m.f. 1916 Düsseldorf - Brass Trench Art Ashtrays1959 Polish 10 Zloty Coin Snuff Box Or Pill Pot . Trench Art . Poland PolskaWw1 Or Ww2 Trench Art Bullet Airplane Plane Aeroplane With Pivotal WingsWwii Trench Art Shell Lamp “iowa” Artillery Naval 6 Pdr Dated 1943 7 Cwt Rm/c Unique Nickel Plated Trench Art Artillery Shell Wwi 1918 75mm Hawk Falcon Trench Art 19" Rocket Projectiles. Very Heavy Metal Sculpture. Military/vintage

Recent News: Trench Art

Source: Google News

Richard Lewer: The game's the thing
New Zealand Herald, March 27th

Back in Australia, his next project is huge, a three-four year travelling show based on World War I trench art which he is working on for the Australian War Memorial. He is working on the paintings for that in his studio right now but tomorrow he'll...Read more

Village remembers its contribution to the Great War
Darlington and Stockton Times, March 22nd

Artefacts were loaned from a variety of locations around the country including the Durham Light Infantry Museum.. The items on display included an ashtray created from bullets and other trench art created from objects soldiers picked up from the...Read more

The Man Who Collects Little Hitlers
Daily Beast, March 22nd

He has a lot of Trench art, which, despite its name, refers to any art made by soldiers or POWs in any war, usually using military materiel, such as used shell casings. He has a hefty library, including a volume relating to military architecture, such...Read more

Trash or treasure? Local experts tell us what it's worth, March 19th

Appraised by Kime • A metal trench art banjolini, inscribed with artist's name F.F. Zimmer. Fair market value • $400 to $600. Kenneth Bruder, 58, Manchester. Item • “I have a World War II Japanese flag brought back from my wife's uncle.” Appraised by...Read more

Trench Art: Museum exhibit showcases art made during wartime, March 17th

This is plain to see through the Vermilion County War Museum's latest exhibit, labeled "Trench Art." The exhibit features various types of artwork from different wars. Some of the pieces were made by U.S. troops during times of war. Vermilion County...Read more

Soldiers' creativity on view
Danville Commercial News, March 6th

Pointing at items around the museum, Kouzmanoff noted that several could be considered trench art: a painting on felt of a woman from the 1940s, a pillow decorated with Navy emblems, a mannequin dressed up like a “Sad Sack” character from WWII...Read more

Trench art from Afghanistan helps Bushmills hero fund
Coleraine Times, March 5th

Lance Corporal Chris McKendry had made and sold trench art during his recent tour to Afghanistan and he made the presentation of the money raised and a piece of his trench art to President of the society, local war historian Robert Thompson...Read more

Trench art: a story of grace under fire
Sydney Morning Herald, February 26th

Slade, who's based at the Art Gallery of South Australia, envisioned a marriage between historical trench art and contemporary work, and came up with En-Trenched. The exhibition – supported by the federal government's Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture ...Read more