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The Great War: A Baylor University Museum Studies Exhibition
Team Pershing


In April of 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. This declaration drastically changed the landscape of the United States while
more specifically greatly transforming the Waco area. With the construction of Camp MacArthur and Rich Field, Waco became a nationally
recognized military location. Construction began on Camp MacArthur, named for General Arthur MacArthur, on July 20, 1917 in Waco’s
northwest side and was opened for troops in September. Between 1917 and 1919 Camp MacArthur became home to an estimated 35,000
men. The campsite encompassed 1,377 acres, however the entire property amounted to 10,699 acres with an estimated cost of $5 million.
The majority of the men in the camp came from Wisconsin and Michigan. The camp served primarily as a demobilization facility, an officers
training school, training camp and infantry replacement location.


Since aerial combat in World War I was still in its early stages of development, locations such as Waco were chosen as early sites for training
pilots. The Rich Field air base cost about $2 million to construct and was located 4 miles west of downtown. Starting in December 1917, the
camp opened for operations. During the two years Rich Field was active, approximately 400 pilots were trained.

With the construction of Camp MacArthur and Rich Field the soldiers truly became part of the local community. Soldiers ingrained themselves
in the local culture through attending local churches, shopping at local businesses and participated in the city’s events. The military presence
doubled Waco’s population for the duration of the war and caused the city’s economy to boom. In addition, the local culture drastically changed
as well. Due to encouragement from the United States Army, the city ministers and other citizens conducted an anti-prostitution campaign in 1917
forcing “The Reservation,” an infamous collection of bordellos in Waco's red light district, to be shut down. The presence of the soldiers and the
camp also visually changed the landscape beyond economically and demographically. Local buildings such as Waco’s iconic Second City Hall,
which served as a central meeting place in the city, was used for promoting pro-American messages such as “Food Will Win the War.” Local
events were also held in support for the troops. Thousands of local citizens attended an event at the Cotton Palace to honor a group of
Camp MacArthur soldiers prior to their deployment.


In January of 1919, Camp MacArthur was salvaged and the materials from the camp were sent for the construction of United States-Mexican
border stations. Camp MacArthur was officially closed on March 7, 1919 and the grounds were assimilated into the City of Waco. Although
no physical site of the camp remains, a historical marker is placed at the former site of the camp’s headquarters. Rich Field, like Camp MacArthur,
was also disassembled by the commencement of World War II, where only a few airplane hangers still stood in the 1950s. Camp MacArthur and
Rich Field Airport in Waco, Texas serve as prime examples of how wars overseas can impact the American landscape. Although these structures
and sites are no longer with us, they have come to define an important era in Waco and their history is celebrated in the materials presented in
this exhibition.


Additional resources recording the city’s transformation in conjunction with activities at Richfield and Camp MacArthur are available online
through the Richfield Flyer in the Texas Military Collection and the Camp MacArthur papers in the archives at the Texas Collection. For further
information about Baylor University, its students, and collegiate life during the war, the Baylor Lariat, the school newspaper, and the University
Annuals (The Round Up yearbook) are located online from the first issued to the present day. Follow the links below to relevant articles,
photographs, and archives for a sampling of the effects of World War I on the university and Waco.


View the Items in This Exhibit


Additional Curated Content


Waco Citizens Remember the Great War
A collection of excerpted audio and transcripts from oral histories available via the Baylor University Institute for
Oral History (BUIOH).

The Texas Military Collection

Google Maps of Rich Field and Camp MacArthur
View a pair of maps showing the boundaries of Rich Field and Camp MacArthur overlaid with current streets and
landmarks using Google's Map Maker.


Rich Field


Camp MacArthur



Additional Information Links

The Baylor University Annuals (The "Round Up")


The 1915 Issue of the University Annual (The "Round Up")
Fred Gildersleeve was a Waco photographer who captured many of images of Camp MacArthur seen in this exhibition.
Below is a link to his photography business in the school yearbook.

The 1918 issue of the "Round Up"
Features a string of pages dedicated to students who are serving in the military.

The Baylor Lariat


On October 1st of 1914, the first article was published about a student serving overseas.
"On Ship Wrecked by German War Mines, Baylor Man is Hero." pg. 2


The issues printed in 1918 offer a variety of items on the Spanish Flu epidemic, student soldiers fighting in combat, Red Cross Stations and
military training on campus, among other serious articles. The October 31st paper has a local advertisements for supplies for soldiers and
military paraphernalia for locals interested in the life of a soldier.


Sources Consulted

Ames, Eric.
Images of America, Waco. Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2009.

Johnston, Loretta. "Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas". The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 18, No 8. (May, 1918), pg. 697-699. Published by
Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Article Stable URL:


Christian, Garna L. "The Ordeal and the Prize: The 24th Infantry and Camp MacArthur". Military Affairs, Vol. 50 No.2 (April 1986), pp. 65-70
Published by Society for Military History
Article Stable URL:


The Wisconsin Magazine of History vol 4 no. 1 Sept. 1920 Publisher:
State Historical Society of Wisconsin electronic publisher Wisconsin Historical Society copyright 2006 “The Division as a Fighting Machine” by
Major General William G. Haan

Places in Time. "From 'Tent City' to Camp MacArthur nation". Waco History Project.


Roger N. Conger, "Waco, TX." Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 17, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Vivian Elizabeth Smyrl, "CAMP MACARTHUR," Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 17, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

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