“PEACE!” — This was the word dominating the heading on the special “extra” edition of The Manchester Union newspaper on the morning of Monday, Nov. 11, 1918. The word that expressed everyone’s dearest hope stretched across the page in huge type right below the masthead, and above this was boldly printed “ARMISTICE SIGNED — WORLD WAR ENDS.”
There had been rumors for several days that the war could soon be over, but here it was — a reality in black and white. The Associated Press article began “Armistice terms have been signed by Germany, the State Department announced at 2:45 o’clock this morning. The world war will end this morning at 6 o’clock, Washington time, 11 o’clock, Paris time.” Germany and its partner countries had been defeated by Great Britain and its allies, including the United States. An Armistice, a truce, a ceasefire, had been agreed upon! There would be no more battles.
“Concord Went Mildly Daft,” was the title of a report in The Manchester Union the next day that described that the “jollification” in the capital city had begun at 3 a.m.; and that “Concord tended strictly to the business of celebrating the glorious achievements of the Yankee soldiers and their Allies today. Nothing else mattered. Factories, stores, banks, offices, even the moving picture houses shut down for the day and joined in with the rollicking, boisterous crowd of men, women, and children out to give unrestrained play to their enthusiasm over the end of the fighting.” There was lots of noise from ringing bells, blowing steam engine whistles, blaring automobile horns, and cheering crowds. That night, the city put on a big parade featuring martial music from the Nevers’ Band and the Shrine drum corps, which was followed by a giant bonfire on the circus grounds.
The Manchester Union reported similar stories from several cities and towns in the state. “In a sense Dover went mad” the newspaper wrote, “and all joined in voicing their approval of the victory … Every known device for producing noise was brought forth — the discarded wash boiler, kerosene oil cans, rattlers, fish horns, drums, cymbals, fifes, trumpets and many other crude arrangements for producing commotion … were utilized to the limit.”
Rochester put on a “monster parade” led by three young girls on horseback followed by a platoon of police. There were parades in Milton, Derry, Exeter, Milford and Lisbon. In Portsmouth the shipyards were closed, and thousands joined in “rapturous acclaim of great news from overseas.”
The big feature in the spontaneous celebrations in Laconia, Franklin, Belmont, and Tilton were processions of decorated automobiles, some which traveled from town to town.
In Manchester, Mayor Moise Verette declared a general holiday, and “A spirit of patriotic enthusiasm, bordering on delirium, prevailed throughout the day …” and “So great was the outpouring of people into the business section that traffic was seriously impeded throughout the day. In front of city hall, it was but one mass of humanity, occupying all or most of the square.”
More than 25,000 people marched in the parade through the downtown that evening. Many organizations and businesses were represented, and there were contingents from several of the city’s immigrant communities.
Hundreds of shoe workers marched representing F.M. Hoyt Shoe Company, W.H. McElwain Company, and smaller shops. And hundreds of textile workers also marched. At the head of the line, Amoskeag Manufacturing Company employees carried a picture of their former co-worker, Private Henry J. Sweeney, the first member of the armed services from Manchester to be killed in the war. The emotional day ended with bonfires at Derryfield Park, Textile Field (now Gill Stadium), and Rock Rimmon.
The peace agreement that formally ended The Great War, the Treaty of Versailles, was signed on June 28, 1919. Later that year President Woodrow Wilson declared that each year Nov. 11 would be a day of commemoration, stating, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory …”
In 1938 the U.S. Congress declared Nov. 11 a legal holiday, and in 1954 Congress changed its name to Veterans Day, to honor the veterans of all wars.