National Archives Display Marks Wartime Draft 100th Anniversary
Press Release · Friday, May 5, 2017

Washington, DC

Features original draft registration cards of Babe Ruth, Norman Rockwell, Harry Houdini

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Selective Service Act, passed on May 18, 1917, the National Archives is displaying a selection of notable men’s draft registration cards, including Irving Berlin, Duke Ellington, Marcus Garvey, Fiorello LaGuardia, and Al Capone.

Explore related resources on the National Archives World War I Centennial web page.

The exhibit will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, through June 7, 2017. Museum hours are 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. Free admission. Enter on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW.  Metro accessible on the Yellow and Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial/Penn Quarter station.

World War I Selective Service Act and Draft Registration

Under the Selective Service Act, approximately 24 million men registered for the draft during U.S. involvement in World War I.

When the United States entered World War I on April 6, 1917, its military was relatively small at just over 100,000 troops. President Woodrow Wilson initially hoped to raise an army of 1 million volunteers, but six weeks after declaring war, only 73,000 had enlisted.

Congress passed the Selective Service Act May 18, 1917, which authorized the Federal Government to temporarily expand the military through conscription. The act required all men between the ages of 21 to 30 to register for military service. It was later amended to include men up to age 45.

Under the act, approximately 24 million men registered for the draft—4.8 million went to war. Of the total U.S. troops sent to Europe, 2.8 million men had been drafted, and 2 million men had volunteered. When the war ended on November 11, 1918, the activities of the Selective Service System greatly decreased, and by 1919 the wartime draft was terminated.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Document” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.


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For media inquiries, please contact: National Archives Public and Media Communications at (202) 357-5300 or via email at

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This page was last reviewed on May 5, 2017.
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