Educator Resources

Using World War I Draft Cards to Research Social History n

Using World War I Draft Cards to Research the Social History of the 20th Century


With World War I (1914-1918) raging in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson and the Congress focused on American preparedness. They ensured the government's ability to raise an army by establishing a nationwide draft registration system. Of the 24 million men who registered, two million were drafted.

Among these 24 million men were interspersed many of the musicians, writers, poets, athletes, gangsters, political leaders, comedians, performers, businessmen, artists, and scientists that shaped the 20th century.

The draft registration cards completed by all registrants are now among the records at the National Archives Southeast Region and although only a small number have been entered into the National Archives Catalog as digital images, those that are in the National Archives Catalog are representative of many of the shapers of the 20th century.

Sample Document

Research Activity

From the list of personalities below, assign each student to locate the World War I Draft Registration Cards of one of the names in ARC. Have them record information about each which you think is significant from the following criteria: full name, city and state of residence, age, birth date, race, type of citizenship granted, occupation, and employer. Then have your students research the name of an internet search engine. They should report back to you about what specific accomplishments they attained or specific events in which they took part. Students should attempt to place the personality in the historical context of their time.

To locate and research in our National Archives Catalog:

  1. Go to
  2. Type in "World War I Draft" with name of Research Personality
    1. For example, "World War I Draft Tom Edward Mix"
  3. Click on image of draft card and start reading.

For more World War I Draft Cards, go to

Guiding Questions:

  • If their research personality was a musician, poet, performer, comedian, or artist, what specific work or works did they create or take part?
  • If their research personality was an athlete, what sport did they play and, more importantly, what effect did they have on society because of their athleticism?
  • If their research personality was a scientist, political leader, or businessman, what long term effect did they have on society?
  • If their research personality was a gangster, what societal impact did the personality have?
  • If their research personality was an activist or philosopher, what was their impact on society?

List of Research Personalities in ARC
Tom Edward Mix
Charles August Sandburg
George Gershwin
Marcus Garvey
William Christopher Handy
Michael King
Irving Berlin
Joseph Patrick Kennedy
Harry Houdini
Frederick Austerlitz Astaire
Tyrus R. Cobb
Andrew Rube Foster
Kermit Roosevelt
Cole Porter
Norman Rockwell
Edgar Rice Burroughs
George Michael Cohan
James Francis Gagney
Erle Stanley Gardner
Robert Frost
Fiorello LaGuardia
Robert Hutchings Goddard
John Augustine Ford
John Hamilton Houston
Alphonse Capone
Fletcher Henderson
John Blythe Barrymore
Reinhold Niebur
Joseph Armstrong DeLane
Cecil Blount DeMille
George Herman Ruth
Louis Armstrong
Sinclair Lewis
Edward Kennedy Ellington
Ben Kubelsky
Norman Vincent Peale
Huey Pearce Long

List of more Research Personalities at

Hector Boiardi
Charles Spencer Chaplin
William Harrison Dempsey
Thomas Stearns Elliot
Douglas Elton Fairbanks
William Claude Fields
Rodolfo Guglielmi
Oscar Hammerstein
Conrad Nicholson Hilton
Duncan Hines
Harry M. Horwitz
Harry Handcuff Houdini
Edwin Powell Hubble
Joseph F. Keaton
Julius Henry Marx
William Penn Rogers
Upton Beall Sinclair
Charles D. Stengal
Alvin Cullum York

If a teacher finds unique and effective ways to use these documents in their classroom and would like to share them with other teachers, please contact