The Pritzker Military Museum and Library is located in the heart of Chicago’s business district and tourist destination known as The Loop. The Pritzker is a research library and is open to the public. There’s a $5 entrance fee for non-members. The museum has special exhibits (WWI is their current focus), an art gallery, and some relatively permanent exhibits such as the one focusing on The Medal of Honor.
They also have a fantastic auditorium for author and speaker events, some of which are streamed or broadcasted. When I lived in the area I attended some of their author events. One that sticks out for me is Karl Marlantes, author of Matterhorn.
I was recently back in Chicago for a visit. My mom had never visited the Pritzker, which we were passing en route to lunch at The Berghoff, so we ducked in for a quick look. Here are some photos of our visit.
I was curious about this poster. Although I was visiting the museum with my German mother, my father was Polish. I don’t know much about Polish history, but I did know that Poland didn’t really exist as a country back then and so didn’t have an army. I found this explanation of the poster on the Boston Athenaeum’s Digital Collections:
In 1914, Poland did not exist as an independent state, and Poles around the world saw the war as an opportunity to re-establish their homeland. It was widely believed that the Allies were more sympathetic to the Polish cause, a belief confirmed by Tsar Nicholas II’s announcement in 1916 that an independent Poland was a goal of the war. In June of 1917, the French government authorized the formation of a Polish Army on French soil, the so-called “Polish Army in France” (also known as the “Blue Army” or “Haller’sArmy”). Nearly 22,000 North American men of Polish descent joined the Blue Army. Most of the recruits were recent immigrants; Polish-Americans citizens eligible to fight in the US Army were prohibited from joining the Polish Army in France.
The artist W. T. Benda came from his native Poland to New York City in the late 1890s and studied with Robert Henri and Edward Penfield. A highly successful magazine illustrator, Benda was deeply committed to the Polish cause and produced posters for both Poland and America during the World Wars. This poster was one of his most popular; it shows a heroic Polish soldier, gun in hand, and dressed in the grayish-blue French uniform. The Polish eagle is shown prominently on the flag and the soldier’s armband. [source link]
John Wayne starred in a movie called The Sands of Iwo Jima. I’m not a devotee of The Duke, but I do love that movie. But these sands of Iwo Jima give an idea of how rough the fighting was. Knowing the sand composition of a beach is a crucial factor when planning a military operation.
The Mission of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library is to acquire and maintain an accessible collection of materials and to develop appropriate programs focusing on the citizen soldier in the preservation of democracy.
The Pritzker Military Museum and Library was founded in 2003 by billionaire philanthropist and businesswoman, Colonel Jennifer Pritzker. I was excited to learn it was founded by a woman and then delighted to learn Jennifer was born a man and transitioned in 2013. People easily assume military service and courage go hand-in-hand. I agree, and also believe transgender people are among the most courageous people on earth.
Whether you’re a bookworm, a history buff, or a tired tourist looking for some peace and quiet, the $5 you’ll spend visiting the Pritzker is definitely worth the price of admission.
The Pritzker Military Museum and Library
104 S. Michigan Ave. 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603
To learn more visit their extensive website: www.pritzkermilitary.org