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Local History 

Assassination of Franz Ferdinand

  On June 30, 1914, the Springfield Republican published a brief article about the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. Ferdinand and his wife Sophie had been shot by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo two days earlier. Although it appeared on the front page, few residents probably noticed the story or believed his death would have any lasting impact. Instead, the murder set off a diplomatic crisis that plunged Europe into the First World War by August.

Ironically, on the day of the assassination the Republican reported about the thriving mule industry in Springfield. As war engulfed Europe, the Allied armies’ demanded a seemingly endless supply of horses and mules. Soon, French and British purchasing agents arrived in Springfield to do business with the local livestock dealers. In 1914, there were six mule dealers located on Convention Avenue. Many of their animals were raised on local farms, but the companies also purchased livestock from southeast Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas. They had customers as far away as Delaware and San Francisco. When the war broke out however, the local market faced an unprecedented demand for animals. In 1916 alone, over 14,000 horses and mules were shipped from Springfield. Their estimated value was $2.5 million.
 
The library is leading a state wide initiative to document Missouri’s experience during WorldWar I. Over There: Missouri and the Great War will include thousands of pages of letters and diaries along with three dimensional artifacts like uniforms and weapons. Family members and collectors are encouraged to contribute documents, photographs and
other mementos to help us tell the story of Missouri in World War I. All items are professionally scanned and returned to the donor with a copy of the electronic images. The library and its partners plan to launch the interactive website in early 2015. You can follow the progress of Missouri Over There and view some early collections on our blog missourioverthere.org

 The start of World War I has been fiercely debated by generations of historians. Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August is still a classic study. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark, Catastrophe 1914: Europe Goes to War by Max Hastings, Dance of the Furies: Europe and the Outbreak of World War I by Michael Neiberg and July 1914: Countdown to War by Sean McMeekin and are among the best new books.

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