Made in WNY: Manufacturers and the Great War


November 11, 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day (now referred to as Veterans Day), the end of WWI.  The Central Library of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library is currently hosting an exhibit commemorating this anniversary and Buffalo’s role in the “war to end all wars.”  Buffalo Never Fails:  The Queen City and WWI offers a glimpse about life in Buffalo at that time, manufacturers and their contributions to the war, and the impact of outside events, such as the sinking of the Lusitania.  Two local manufacturers highlighted in the exhibit are the Crosby Company and the Curtiss Aeroplane Company.

At the time the U.S. entered World War I in 1917, the U.S. army did not have helmets for its troops. The French, British, and German armies used helmets and this convinced the U.S. army that helmets were needed as standard pieces of equipment.  Buffalo’s Crosby Company was one of seven companies that produced the M-1917 helmet for the U.S. army and their helmet is highlighted in the exhibit.  By the end of 1917, the Crosby Company produced almost 500,000 helmets, which were modeled after the British Mk. I steel helmet. The Crosby Company is still located on Pratt Street in Buffalo.

Although aviation was in its infancy, it revolutionized warfare during WWI.  The Curtiss Aeroplane Company produced the JN-4 (Jenny) aircraft which became the mainstay of the US Army Air Service.  The service bought thousands of the plane to train pilots during the war. The company produced almost 7,000 Jennies, most of them during the twelve months before the end of the war. After the war the Jenny became a popular aircraft using in the daring sport of barnstorming.  The Curtiss Aeroplane Company was highlighted in one of our earlier blogs (

The Central Library’s exhibit is located in the Collections Gallery on the second floor and contains many stories about people and companies from that time. The exhibit runs through January 2020.