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”)

myArmoury.com

myArmoury.com

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]

Anonymous Works

Anonymous Works

This blog combines American primitive folk art, vintage vernacular photography, outsider art, and other interesting… [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]

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    

Antique 1903 Us Krag Ww1 Trench Art Dirk Dagger Survival Bowie Knife Knives OldWwi Usmc 5th Marine Regiment Trench Art Engraved 37mm Casing, Fine Shape Ww1 Tall Trench Art American Shell Fashioned Flowers And Butterfly & Dated 1916.Good Quality Military Interest Wooden Trench Art Tank BoxWw1 Trench Art Turkish Prisoner Of War Bead Snake C19181st Ww Trench Art Pocket Watch Photo FrameVintage World War I Eley Shell / Cartridge Vase Trench Art C1919 Ypres ImageWw1 Trench Art Turkish Prisoner Of War Bead Snake C1918 A/f9" Rare Wwi World War I Circa 1917 Trench Art Brass Metal Vase W/ Floral DesignWw1 Trench Art German 1917 Shell French Engraving "the War" 1914 To 1919.Vintage World War 1 Famed "yankee Division" Trench Art - NamedWwi Era "1918 Marguerite" Trench Art Ornate Brass Shell Vase ~ 12" Tall ~Large Decorated Ww1 Trench Art- 2 Pieces-beautifully Decorated-dated 19154 X Trench Art Small Shell Case Ww2Antique Brass Copper Miniature Hammer Bodkin Trench Art Stick Hat Pin NeedleWw2 Trench Art Parachute Regiment Badge Bullet Cross. Ww1 Trench Art Canadian 18lbr Shell Scuttle Dated 1916.Ww1 Tall Trench Art Shell "somme 1915/1916" & Dated 1916. Ww1 Trench Art Royal Navy Religious Button Pendant Locket Jesus Good ShepherdSkull & Bones Ring Soldiers Trench Art Ww1 Wwi Or Ww2 Wwi Metal EuropeWw1 Pair French Flare Cartridges Trench ArtWw1 Trench Art 6pr Brass Shell Case Engraved "the Great War 1914-18 Cambrai"Ww1 Trench Art Shell "battle Of Hamel" And Dated 1915.Wwi Silver ' Trench Art ' Bracelet Dog Tags Italy 1917 Royal Navy Air Service Heavy Vintage Solid Brass Ww2 Trench Art Raf Hurricane Fighter AeroplaneWw1 1918 Dated Norfolk Regiment Trench Art 18 Pounder "spent" Brass Shell CaseNice Ww1 British Trench Art Brass Container / Desk Top OrnamentTrench Art Sweetheart Ring World War 1 With Provenence Antique Wwi Brass Trench Art Lighter With George V & Victoria Coin - Not WorkingWw1 Trench Art 1pr Officer Shell Hat "royal Artillery" & Dated 1903. Ww1 Trench Art Royal Artillery PaperweightTrench Art Us Navy Torpedo Mk 13 Ww21945 Ww2 Wwii Shell Casing Artillery .57mm M30 Trench Art / DummyTrench Art Cigarette Ashtray Made From Shell,191st Tank Bn, "anzio Italy" British Royal Armoured Corps Officers Swagger Stick Fear Naught Trench Art TankWw1 79th Division Trench Art French 75mm Shell Casing InertWw1 Trench Art Mess Tin ,co.c,16th Company CarvedStunning, Ww1 1917 Trench Art Vase With Embossed Church Tower DesignWw1trench Art Masonic Ashtray Morgan,nj Munition Explosion 10/4/1918 Shell Case 4 Copper Wwi Ashtrays France Brest Bretagne Chateau Thierry Crest Trench Art LoaLot Of Three Trench Art Match Safes1940s Theater Prop Trench Art Scepter Crossing The Line Ceremony Equator Bronze(3 ) Wwi Trench Art Shells Vases Dated 1916 1917 Patronenabrik Karlsruhe Original Us Wwii Vet Bringback Bracelet Trench Art Dak Africa Italy German Ww2Wwi Trench ArtWw1 Imperial German Pommel Wire Grip Dagger Cs Union Cw Us Army Trench Art KnifeVintage 2 Lot Trench Art Cigarette Lighter Pocket Coin British Penny Brass 1939Ww1 Trench Art Tobacco Jar Engraved C Waterhouse Lens Nov 11 1918 Armistice DayWw1 Trench Art Tobacco Jar Engraved I Waterhouse Billy Montigny Nov 11 1918 Trench Art Ww1 German Shell Case Of 1917Vintage Verdun Paris Prince Wilhelm Trench Art Cigar Cigarette Lighter Wwi WarUs Soldiers Hand Made Trench Art Knife From Case Bayonet 1943 Casing? 20 Mm ? Shell Salt And Pepper Shakers Trench ArtVintage Vtg Ww1 Wwi Ww2 Wwii Trench Art Brass Petrol Lighter Cigarette Engraved U.s. Trench Art Anti Aircraft Shell Roses Etc."trench Art" Wood Stamped Receiver Buttstock !!!Vintage Wwii U.s. Military Iron Training Practice Bomb (ww2) Trench Art Antique Ww2 Trench Art Dirk Dagger Boot Survival Bowie Knife Knives Old VintageTrench Art Civil War Era Soldier Carved Wood Ball In Wooden Open Box- One PieceWw1 Trench Art 13 Pounder Shell Flared Top Shell Dated 1911 Reused