Gerard J. Fitzgerald, “Harvest For War: Imperial Systems, Local Networks, and the Quest for Coconuts in the United States During World War I”

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Date(s) - 10/12/2018
12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Katz Hall, #101


Gas warfare came to personify, for many, the darkest and most sinister scientific legacy of World War I. The 1.3 million casualties and more than 90,000 combat deaths, not to mention the mass production and successful battlefield use of thousands of tons of chlorine, phosgene, chlorpicrin, and mustard gas, among other chemical weapons, earned this conflict the designation of the Chemist’s War.

Fitzgerald Poster NewsIn the United States, government contractors manufactured just under 4 million gas masks and the key component was a dense carbon-based filter material. The key to the success of the gas mask program was the importation of coconuts from the Philippines and also peach and cherry pits and other types of pit based waste from all across the continental United States. Dr. Fitzgerald will explore the crucial role of the American Red Cross and the War Industries Board in gathering domestic foodstuffs and transporting them to the main gas mask production facility for industrial processing in New York City.

This paper, part of a larger environmental history of American mobilization and industrialization during World War I, is focused on the role of American imperialism and the fledgling US overseas empire in successfully prosecuting the war. Fitzgerald is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Linda Hall Library in the Fall of 2018, working on his new book project on the environmental history of American mobilization and industrialization during World War I. Join us on 12 October 2018 at 12 PM in Katz Hall Room 101 as part of the History Department’s “First Fridays” Lecture Series in New Historical Research.