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]

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    

Australian Ww2 Pacific Chrome Plated P-38 Aircraft Ashtray Trench ArtUnique Ww1 Australian Trench Art Navy Officers Hat Cap Sweethearts Compact Ww2Ww1 Great War 4 Inch Trench Art Vsm Vickers, Sons And Maxim Artillery Shell VaseWw1 Trench Art British Biplane.Rare Wwi Us Army 1918 Versus Military Trench Art Canteen Cigarette Lighter NrWw1 Trench Art Shell "machine Gun Corps" Somme 1916.Vintage Wwi Or 2 Army Helmet Old Antique Military Gear Painted Trench ArtAustralian & Raf Ww2 Twin Prop Bomber Aircraft Ashtray Art Deco Trench ArtWw1 Mccleam 37mm Maclen Gun . Stily Trench Art. Rare Ww1 French Trench Art Lighter French Nurse & Cannon Signed A Bargas Ww1 Trench Art German Souvenir Letter Opener Waterloo Occupied Belgium 5 InchAntique Boer War Prisoner Of War? Carved Mutton Bone Snuff Box C1902 Trench ArtWw1 Treen/ Trench Art Match Holder,hms Iron Duke Admiral Jellicoe Jutland 1916Superb Ww1 Brass Trench Art Cigarette Lighter In The Form Of An Army Boot1ww Trench Art Military Solid Brass/copper Petrol Lighter/desk PaperweightAustralian Trench Art Hawker Hurricane Aluminium Aircraft Ashtray Art DecoVintage Ww1 Trench Art Letter Opener German Shell Fell At Eparges August 19151ww Trench Art German Death Head Large Heavy Brass Vesta Case/desk PaperweightWw1 German Fokker D7 Biplane Propeller Luftstreitkräfte Trench Art Red Baron ?Wwi Eagle Snap Toiletry Kit, Money Belt, Ammo Pouch, Trench Art, Vet NamedWwi French Foreign Legion Carved Wood Coquilla Nut Smoking Pipe Army Trench ArtWw1 Pair French Trench Art Shells With Poppies & Dated 1914 And 1918.Antique Edward 1 Rupee 1907 Solid Silver Coin Dish Anglo Indian Raj Trench ArtAsymmetrical Mahogany Ww1 Trench Art Propellor Easel Photo Frame 1 Oval Window1938 Us Navy 75 Cal 1.10 Anti Aircraft Mk-1 Brass Shell Casing Trench Art InertWwii Trench Art Dagger Knife NamedAntique George V 1 Rupee 1919 Solid Silver Coin Dish Anglo Indian Raj Trench ArtWw1 Tall French Trench Art Shell Ornately Decorated & Dated 1916.1ww Trench Art German Death Head Solid Large Brass Vesta Case/desk PaperweightWw1 Trench Art Brass Officers Personal Ashtray "royal Artillery" Dated 1915Trench Art Shell Case, Motor Boat Section Asc Salonika 1915 Ww1.Wwi Trench Art Shell Box With Coins, Shrapnel, Insignia Corps Of Engineer, 1915Antique George V 1 Rupee 1917 Solid Silver Coin Dish Anglo Indian Raj Trench ArtVintage Ww1 Brass Cased & Farthing Coin Trench Art Cigarette Lighter C1916Trench Art Empty 75mm Shellcase Design Of Flowers Trench Art. Ww I. Matchbox Holder. No Matches. Royal Engineers/ypres. Ref. 9306.Ww1/ww2 Trench Art Brass Doodle Bug LighterWwi Ww1 Trench Art Austro Hungary Vintage Solid Brass Petrol Lighter With CoinTwo Ww1 Medals With Dog-tags, Trench Art, And Provenance Inc. Ww2 Aaoc Award Ww1 Copper Trench Art Letter Opener Yser 1914 - 1916 Wwi Inert Artillery Projectile 75mm Trench Art U.sVtg Personalized Engraved & Signed Brass Trench Art Bullet Shell Casing VaseWwi Artillery Shell Casing - Trench Art - American FlagWw1 Heavy Peice Of Trench ArtSuper Lighter Made From Two Bullets And Raf Buttons Trench Art War PeriodWw1 Trench Art Button HookVintage Niello Sterling Wwll Military Sweetheart Bracelet Iran 1944 Trench ArtWwii Aluminium Trench Art German Wj44 Mess Tin P.o.w. Etched 1945 Heinz HädickeJudaica Ww1 Or Ww2 Yad Pointer For Thora Jewish Trench Art Wwi Wwii Bronze Wood Order Don 1942 Cossacks Ww2 Soldiers Trench Art Wwii Germany Medal Iron CrossRare Ww1 Trench Art Artillery Brass Shell Dragon Design Wny-7 1903Cigarette Case Ww2 Germany German Soldiers Trench Art Wwii 30.12.1941 Battle ForAustralian Wwii Trench Art Mug - Rising Sun Badge - Stunning Item - Gun ShellsWwi Bullet Trench Art Letter OpenerWorld War 1 Shell Casing Trench Art Ashtray Boy Peeing C. Zauzig EstateMedal Star Of David Ww2 Judaica Jewish Trench Art Wwii Unknown Medalion 37 MmVintage British Military Trench Art Aluminium Jewellery Box Post Wwii Egypt 1947Original Kuk Austrian Hungarian Trench Art Bracelet Artillery Ww1 1wk 1gmBrass Trench Art Cigarette Lighter. Shot Wwi Warii 1910 Half Penny Coin Bullet Embedded Detected Trench Art Relic