WWII & NYC: Photography and Propaganda, Presented by the New-York Historical Society

History Photo
Newspaper Editors Visit Governor’s Island, 1942. Gelatin silver print. (Photo: New-York Historical Society)

Based on the blockbuster exhibition WWII & NYC, the New-York Historical Society will be displaying a selection of reproductions in Nolan Park on Governors Island, with help from their Student Historians.

This exhibition paints a vivid picture of life in war-mobilized New York, when virtually every industry, institution and home was transformed into a venture to support Allied victory. Through moving black-and-white photos, iconic propaganda posters and an authentic Victory Garden, experience what total war meant for New Yorkers.

Hands-on activities for all ages will be offered beginning July 13th.

About The Exhibit

The Second World War (1939–1945) was the most widespread, destructive, and consequential conflict in history. WWII & NYC is an account of how New York and its metropolitan region contributed to Allied victory. The exhibition also explores the captivating, sobering, and moving stories of how New Yorkers experienced and confronted the challenges of “total war.”

When war broke out in 1939, New York was a cosmopolitan, heavily immigrant city, whose people had real stakes in the global conflict and strongly held opinions about whether or not to intervene. The attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 brought the U.S. into the war, and New York became the principal port of embarkation for the warfront. The presence of troops, the inflow of refugees, the wartime industries, the dispatch of fleets, and the dissemination of news and propaganda from media outlets, changed New York, giving its customary commercial and creative bustle a military flavor. Likewise, the landscape of the city acquired a martial air, as defenses in the harbor were bolstered, old forts were updated, and the docks became high security zones.

The exhibition examines the experiences of New Yorkers on the home front and those who served. In New York City, workers mobilized to assist in wartime production, from shipbuilding at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to uniform manufacturing at Brooks Brothers. Families grew victory gardens and dealt with the challenges of rationing. Military training camps sprang up throughout the city, and nightclubs and theaters opened their doors to the droves of servicemen passing through. Each day in the crowded port a logistical miracle occurred. Sixty-three million tons of supplies and 3,300,000 men shipped out from New York Harbor—at war’s height, a ship left every 15 minutes. 900,000 New Yorkers served in the military; twelve of their stories are told through individual profiles, and in a 20-minute film shot by a Signal Corps combat cameraman trained in Queens.

Kevin C. Fitzpatrick has written and edited seven books with ties to New York history, including "The Governors Island Explorer's Guide" and "World War I New York: A Guide to the City’s Enduring Ties to the Great War." Kevin is a licensed sightseeing guide and has been leading walking tours since 1999. He resides in Manhattan.