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Home > News> American Archives Month

For Immediate Release
October 6, 2010
Contact: Matthew Dunlap
207-626-8400

Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap Notes the Announcement of the End of World War One: Addresses Importance of American Archives Month

AUGUSTA, Maine—As archival records keepers across America mark American Archives Month, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap is marking the occasion by noting the October 3rd announcement of the German government that the last reparation payment required under the Treaty of Versailles had been made, officially concluding the First World War.

Germany surrendered to the Allied forces in the armistice signed on November 11, 1918, ending hostilities in the field. The subsequent Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany take responsibility for the war and pay the allied victors some $33 billion in reparations. The last payment of $95 million was transmitted on Sunday, October 3rd, 2010. The money has been earmarked for bonds held by individuals, corporations, and pension funds as directed under the auspices of the Treaty of Versailles.

“The occasion of American Archives Month brings attention to the importance of maintaining records—the evidence of who we are as a people, where we’ve been as a culture, and how history has shaped individuals and societies,” said Dunlap. “In the case of the German reparation payments, it’s really astonishing to reflect on the level of records management, accountability, and diligence that’s been required to make the issuance and disbursement of these payments over nine decades possible.”

“Without careful government recordkeeping over long periods of time, entire chapters of our understanding of current events can be lost,” said David Cheever, Maine State Archivist. “There are important and formative questions about why things are the way they are that can only be answered with archival information.” While an announcement about the official end of the First World War in 2010 seems laughably obvious, said Dunlap, the long-term costs and effects of the cataclysm of World War I are everywhere and ongoing, and in the case of the payments for reparations, wholly dependent on sound recordkeeping.

“It’s a sobering reminder of the costs of all wars and the commitment nations make,” said Dunlap, noting that the last pension payment to a Union veteran of the Civil War was made in 1956, more than 89 years after the surrender of Confederate forces at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. As Maine prepares to observe the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the announcement of the final reparations payment from the First World War, while historically unique, also serves as an important reminder about the enduring impact of events in our history, Dunlap said.

Cheever noted that Maine holds a special position in the observance of the upcoming Civil War sesquicentennial. “Maine has one of the finest—if not the most complete—collections of military records from the Civil War period. The Civil War-era Adjutant General for Maine, John L. Hodsdon, made the decision to keep all our military records intact for a reason—Maine state government was broke. In order to assure that state funds were spent appropriately, good recordkeeping was in order. And we’re the beneficiaries of that.”

“Our personal stories as Mainers are intertwined with the greatest moments in history,” Cheever said. “The Blaine House, known as the home of Maine’s governors, was given in honor of the memory of Walker Blaine Beale, grandson of James G. Blaine for whom the mansion is named. Beale was killed in action during World War I,” he said.

Long-ago treaties ending wars in faraway places have had lasting impacts in Maine, Dunlap added, noting that the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, signed to end the war of Spanish succession to the crown, had another, more lasting effect around Maine and the modern Maritime Provinces. “It ceded control of much of this area from the French to the British,” he said. “So a treaty signed in Holland nearly three hundred years ago informs greatly the commerce today between the United States and Canada.”

“But one thing never changes,” Dunlap added. “For families that have been affected by these upheavals from the colonial settlements of New England to the American military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the struggle goes on. For the survivors of those in uniform who are killed, captured, grievously wounded or missing in action, these conflicts never really end.”