Trench Art is commonly and broadly defined as any decorative item made by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians, where the manufacture is directly linked to armed conflict or its consequences. Common articles that this includes are decorated, and or modified, shell and bullet casings, mess kits, helmets, and similar items at hand to a solider at war. This type of art was a frequent souvenir of soldiers of the first half of the 20th century, and is still often found in the homes of veterans or their descendants.
Pictured is a tri-bulb Trench Art table lamp constructed from a complete US Navy 6-pounder deck gun (meaning it threw a six pound shot) and made by Melvin C. Zehner while serving aboard the USS Nitro about 1936. The Nitro was an ammunition supply ship commission in 1919, and probably was armed with the 6-pounder guns. This example of Trench Art is a very well crafted lamp which features nicely embossed images of roses and a butterfly. These features were then painted, an uncommon occurrence in works of Trench Art. The lamp is on loan from James N. Zehner.
This lamp, and dozens of other interesting items–each rich in history, will be on display in the show, Trench Art, Productive Pastimes from the Debris of War. Trench Art is a collaboration with the Museum of the Soldier, Portland, IN and guest curated by FWMoA Technical Director Brian K. Williamson. Williamson is a founding board member and Vice President of the Museum of the Soldier, Inc. as well as a Master Sergeant in the Indiana National Guard scheduled for a tour in Afghanistan in early 2012.