“On the Homefront: Gaithersburg in World War I”
To commemorate World War I officially ending on November 11, 1918, the Gaithersburg Community Museum is hosting an 18-month exhibit entitled “On the Homefront: Gaithersburg in World War I.” As the United States entered World War I, Gaithersburg was in a growth cycle. The expansion that had begun in the years following the opening of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B & O) in 1873 was bolstered by the war. The world needed food and Gaithersburg was ready with farms, mills, a new cannery, and rail transportation.
While jobs in farming and related industries represented the largest employers in the area, the B & O brought rail and communication jobs, which in turn brought manufacturing industries with well-paying jobs. All of this meant an increase in the service and medical industries, home workers for the well to-do families that had those jobs, and white-collar professions – clerks, accountants, insurance agents, lawyers, doctors, nurses, etc. – as well as the skilled labor needed for building trades. The war also increased the size of the federal government and Gaithersburg was conveniently located on the rail line to DC, making a comfortable suburban home life possible for commuters.
In some ways, the war had little impact on the everyday lives of Gaithersburg residents. The war effort called for increases in agriculture and industry, areas in which the community was already engaged. The minutes from Town Council meetings during this period do not even reference the war or its impact. Nonetheless, a close look at the historical record shows the effect the war had on the Gaithersburg community.