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Interpreting the Evidence

Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Comprehension

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Global History and Geography
    World War I

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:


  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain, Constantinople (Istanbul), Turkey, 1926 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
The Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain in Istanbul. The fountain was a gift from Kaiser Wilhelm II to the Ottoman Empire in 1898, showing the close link between the German and Ottoman Empires, 1926.

Historical Context
During the late 19th century, Wilhelm II participated in a series of visits to key European countries and cities. On October 18, 1898 the German Emperor visited Istanbul to meet with Sultan Abdulhamid II of the Ottoman Empire. The visit would be the first of two visits between the leaders that secured Germany’s support from the Ottoman Empire in their international policy.  
These visits from Wilhelm II also contributed to Germany’s attempt to build the Baghdad railroad which would run from Berlin to the Persian Gulf. Although at the time, the Ottoman Empire could not afford such a railroad, Wilhelm was able to secure the purchase of German-made rifles to Ottoman military personal and lay a foundation for future discussions about the railroad. 
The neo-Byzantine style fountain was constructed by the German government for Wilhelm II in honor of this visit and given as a gift to Sultan Abdulhamid II and the people of Istanbul. 
In August of 1914, the Ottoman-German alliance was established, resulting in the Ottoman Empire entering World War I on the side of the Central Powers. In 1918, the Ottomans were defeated and the Sultan was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres. 

Essential Question
How do monuments reflect the culture and values of a country?

Check for Understanding
Describe the architecture shown in the photograph and explain how the architecture reflects the culture and values of the people

Historical Challenges
Consider other symbolic gifts that have been given by one country to another country. What was the given purpose of such gift? Was their a hidden intention as well?

Interdisciplinary Connections
Art: Create a monument marking a relationship with another person. Include symbolic details on the monument that marks important elements of that friendship.

English: Write a letter to the Sultan Abdulhamid II explaining why or why he should not accept the Kaiser Wilhelm Fountain as a gift. Include historic details about what happened to the Ottoman Empire during World War I.