William Stinson, SJ: Postcard Album, 1914-1919

The postcard below depicts Verdun, France following the Battle of Verdun fought from February 21 to December 18, 1916. The Battle of Verdun was one of the largest battles on the western front between the German and French armies. A memorandum from General Erich von Falkenhyn to Kaiser Wilhelm II reveals that the Germans designed Verdun to be a battle of attrition. Casualties on both sides have been estimated as high as 800,000, and between 40 and 60 million shells were fired over ten  months.


William Stinson, SJ, Papers, Box 2, BC.2005.128, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

This postcard depicts leading generals from the Allied Powers who were victorious in World War I. It illustrates the stark contrast between life on the front for the average soldier in the trenches with the more distinguished life of the wartime generals. Interestingly, even though the generals won the Great War, there is a somber mood to this image. This likely reflects the uncertainty for the post-war world, another departure from images displayed in many World War I propaganda posters.


William Stinson, SJ, Papers, Box 2, BC.2005.128, John J.  Burns Library, Boston College.

This postcard, from 1916, depicts Catholic priests praying for the dead, who lay in their trenches. Religious symbolism throughout World War I depicted those lost as “martyrs” who not only fought for their country, but for the values they represented. The Allies depicted their cause as one of “Right and Freedom” against that of the barbaric German Empire. William Stinson was moved by such imagery throughout the war, collecting postcards depicting priests, churches, and religious images. He would go on to himself become a Jesuit.



William Stinson, SJ, Box 2, BC.2005.128, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

  • Omar Bennani, MCAS ’16, Kevin Kane, MCAS ’16 & Kathleen O’Shea, MCAS ’16 Spring 2016 Making History Public students

The images and content in this blog post are from the exhibit Propaganda & the Great War, which is now on display in the History Department, Stokes 3rd Floor South.    This exhibit was curated and organized by Professor Robert Savage’s Spring 2016 Making History Public class, in collaboration with the Boston College University Libraries.

About John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections at Boston College

The University’s special collections, including the University’s Archives, are housed in the Honorable John J. Burns Library, located in the Bapst Library Building, north entrance. Burns Library staff work with students and faculty to support learning and teaching at Boston College, offering access to unique primary sources through instruction sessions, exhibits, and programming. The Burns Library also serves the research needs of external scholars, hosting researchers from around the globe interested in using the collections. The Burns Library is home to more than 200,000 volumes and over 700 manuscript collections, including holdings of music, photographic materials, art and artifacts, and ephemera. Though its collections cover virtually the entire spectrum of human knowledge, the Burns Library has achieved international recognition in several specific areas of research, most notably: Irish studies; British Catholic authors; Jesuitica; Fine printing; Catholic liturgy and life in America, 1925-1975; Boston history; the Caribbean, especially Jamaica; Nursing; and Congressional archives.
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