Many new inventions, movements, and cultural advances came out of necessity, like the ‘grow-your-own’ movement, which has had a resurgence in recent years. “In WWI, the US Food Administration regulated food production to support the armed forces and allies,” says Doran Cart, Senior Curator of The National World War I Museum and Memorial. “To conserve food, Americans were encouraged to be self-sustainable with practices such as growing their own food.” The regulation also led to new initiatives like canning vegetables to preserve food, he says. “If Americans weren’t fighting for the war, they were working for the war, and growing their own food was one way to contribute,” Cart says. In today’s world, we look to grow-your-own and farm-to-table as a way to reduce food production costs, eat healthier, and support local farmers.
How bad is it to reuse a tissue? Doctors had that very same thought when they decided to use gas mask filters as disposable handkerchiefs after the war. “Items created for the war often had to be repurposed following the war, and one of those items is Kleenex, which was actually the crepe paper used in the filters of gas masks,” says Jonathan Casey, Director, Archives and Edward Jones Research Center, of The National World War I Museum and Memorial. “During the influenza epidemic following the war, [paper goods company] Kimberly-Clark repurposed the paper as a disposable product for people to sneeze into and limit the spread of bodily fluids.” Later given the brand name ‘Kleenex,’ we now use the word to refer to any facial tissue.
Back in World War I, plastic surgery emerged as a way to treat soldiers with facial injuries. “The modern idea of plastic surgery and the techniques used today originated in WWI due to the injuries from the use of explosives such as artillery, machine guns, and chemicals,” Cart says. “Dr Harry Gillies developed the techniques to rebuild faces after so many noses were lost, and performed over 11,000 plastic surgeries on the wounded during the war.” In addition, sculptors created partial masks for those with facial disfigurements to help restore a more typical appearance. “These advances were made very quickly in this field because of an effort to make it seem like what had happened to these soldiers was not so horrible,” Cart says.