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Interpreting the Evidence

Fay McFadden Employment Inquiry

  • 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:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Capital District
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Fay McFadden Employment Inquiry, World War I, April 25, 1918 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Fay McFadden inquires about working in an airplane factory, April 25, 1918.
Historical Context
At the height of the war effort in 1918, four-minute men delivered thousands of speeches at local movie theaters in an effort to recruit workers for U.S. shipyards. In response to these speeches, thousands of men reported to government offices to offer their services. The New York State government, however, was not prepared for the number of workers responding to this request. A New York Times article from February 7, 1918 reported that 1,500 men were turned away from the U.S. Employment Agency which lacked the proper enrollment forms for these men.
William A. Orr, to whom this letter is addressed, was the secretary to Governor Whitman and State Director of the United States Public Service Reserve. He was in charge of coordinating the labor available for the war effort in New York State. In the New York Times article, he defended the state’s handling of the recruits and dismissed most of those turned away as not skilled labor.
Fay McFadden may have been one of the men who, upon hearing a speech by a four-minute man, ran to apply for a job at a shipyard. As a dealer in motorcycles, Mr. McFadden may have possessed the skills necessary to work in a shipyard or other manufacturing facility. He apparently applied for the shipyard position in an attempt to fulfill his patriotic duty and went even further by writing this letter to Mr. Orr requesting an application for an airplane factory position.
Essential Question
How do citizens on the homefront contribute to a war effort?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of this letter and explain the intentions of the author in writing the letter.
Historical Challenges
What other industries and services are linked to a country’s involvement in war? What skills are needed to work in these career fields? What opportunities exist for these skilled workers after a war ends?
Interdisciplinary Connections
English Language Arts: Write a letter to a local business requesting information about employment opportunities with their company.
Technology: What skills are most needed for employment in a shipyard or airplane factory?