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Exhibition Echoes of the Great War: American Experiences of World War I

"Xmas Gifts for Men Over There and Those Who Are Going" [Franklin Simon & Co. advertisement], New York Tribune, November 4, 1917. Serial and Government Publications Division, Library of Congress (129.00.00)

Gifts for Servicemen

As the first Christmas after U.S. entry into the war approached, the Franklin Simon store on New York's Fifth Avenue advertised gifts to send the troops. The ad featured radium dial wrist watches, a tempting gift for servicemen, who could then read their glowing watch dials in the dark. The manufacture of these watches posed considerable health risks for young female workers at the United States Radium Corporation and the Radium Dial Company factories, who painted the tiny numbers on the dials. Dubbed "Radium Girls," the women were encouraged to lick their paintbrushes to keep the tips pointed, thereby ingesting fatal radiation doses. Radium paint was also used on the gauges of military instruments during the war.