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Interpreting the Evidence

Elmira Draft

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Southern Tier
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Elmira Draft, World War I, c. 1917 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Scene outside of the Elmira draft. This photograph was taken around the time when the largest selection of new draftees was conscripted from Elmira, New York, World War I, c. 1917.

Historical Context
The Selective Service Act was enacted in 1917, and it required men to register with the government in order to be randomly selected for military service.
By the end of 1918, 24 million men had registered under the act and almost 3 million were called up.  About 2 million troops reached Europe before the truce was signed.
The draftees from all over the country reported to various military camps where they were inducted into the armed forces.  In these camps, the men were trained to be soldiers.  The eight-month training program took place in the U.S. and in Europe.  The men put in long days of target practice, bayonet drill, kitchen duty, and cleaning the grounds.
Women were not allowed to enlist but the army reluctantly accepted them in the Army Corps of Nurses but denied them any army rank, pay, or benefits.  Some 13,000 women accepted non-combat positions in the marines and navy, where they served as nurses, telephone operators, and secretaries, with full military rank. In April 1917, a Home Defense Corps was created in Elmira, NY.   The purpose of this group was to stimulate recruiting of men for the army and navy and for police duty. The members of the corps also gave aid in caring for the dependents of soldiers. 

Essential Question
How do country's build military strength?

Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the level of participation using evidence from the photograph and your knowledge of history.

Historical Challenges
Create a list of government agencies that helped with the war effort during World War I.

Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a short story about the scene in the photograph of the Elmira draft.