Project Proposal: The Great War and Slippery Rock

by Kevin Lukacs

During my undergraduate studies at Slippery Rock University, I worked on The development of this project is ongoing and will eventually offer county-wide historical stories. The project enabled me to work closely with the Slippery Rock University archives. A portion of my role was dedicated not just to researching and writing my own stories but helping to find topics to research for future contributors. To that end, I poured through the student newspaper, formerly known as The Slippery Rocket.

The Rocket was a gold mine. The first issue of the Slippery Rocket was issued the week before the official end of World War I. Students celebrated prematurely and began to wonder what was going to come after. Students wrote stories about triumphant heroes heading off to the front, or disillusioned warriors coming home and literally questioning the existence of God.

A short story from Slippery Rock student Debbie Downer, November 1919.

I used several issues of the Slippery Rocket to write this article for Butler Historical. I made a bold claim that Slippery Rock students quickly forgot about the war and became more concerned whether or not jazz music and sex education should be allowed in schools.

But did how quickly did they forget about the war?

What I would like to do as a print project is look at the Slippery Rocket over a long span of time, and use character recognition and distance reading to determine how Slippery Rock students moved on from World War I. How soon did it stop becoming news? How often did they remember or memorialize it in print? What took over their concerns? My close reading started in the November 1919 issue, and ended only a few months later. I did not have the time and tools to continue the examination.

Cameron Blevins’ research into Houston newspapers with the goal of determining imagined geography is the clear inspiration for this project. The road map Blevins laid out will provide tremendous help in determining the scope of this project. Additionally, practicum tools like Voyant could provide a source to create visualizations for this print project.

The memory of World War I has recently come under reexamination from scholars in the midst of the centennial. 2018 marks the hundredth anniversary of the end of the war, and the beginning of a contentious and oft understated legacy. There is a vibrant and rich historiography that could help understand the consensus on how different people moved on after the war. Studying a small community like Slippery Rock University has the potential to reveal evidence supporting or countering the consensus.