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Tag Archives: Virginia War History Commission

- “We Will Remember Them”: Eleven Virginians in the Great War

One hundred years ago, on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month,” representatives of Germany and the Allied forces met in a railway carriage in the Forest of Compiègne to sign the armistice that would end the First World War. The conflict, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, was called in its own time “the war to end all wars,” and today is often overshadowed by the Second World War that it spawned twenty years later, although its impact on the world we know today can hardly be overstated. The United States officially entered the war in 1917, and Virginians made many contributions on the battlefields and on the home front. Over 100,000 Virginians would serve in the war, and over 4,000 would die from disease or injury.

Today, in honor of the centennial of the end of World War I, we will be spotlighting eleven Virginians from the World War I History Commission Questionnaires Collection.

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John Francis Barnett was born in Richmond in 1888. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in April 1917 as a Machinist’s Mate, serving on the USS Parker and the USS Melville. After the war, Barnett was unable to work, and declared on his questionnaire that “under the strain I am suffering mentally and am confined to the Western State Hospital Staunton Va.” He … read more »

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- A Few of Our Favorite Things: Letterheads in the Archive, WWI Edition

As promised in previous posts, here’s another look at some of the plethora of letterheads and stationery found in our archives. In honor of the centennial of World War I, the letterheads in this post are all taken from the Virginia War History Commission, which was created in 1919 “to complete an accurate and complete history of Virginia’s military, economic and political participation in the World War.” The original text on letterheads by Vince Brooks is included here for context.

Commercial stationery can offer a fascinating snapshot of a place or time. Scholars of this subject point out that the rich illustrations and elaborate printing of commercial letterheads, billheads, and envelopes correspond with the dramatic rise in industrialization in America. According to one expert, the period 1860 to 1920 represents the heyday of commercial stationery, when Americans could see their growing nation reflected in the artwork on their bills and correspondence. As commercial artists influenced the job printing profession, the illustrations became more detailed and creative.

Robert Biggert, an authority on commercial stationery, wrote an extensive study of letterhead design for the Ephemera Society of America entitled “Architectural Vignettes on Commercial Stationery” and donated his personal collection of stationery, now known as the Biggert Collection, to the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University.

The primary role of these … read more »

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- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part II

This is the second of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade.


Liberty Day opening U.S. Gov't Bag Loading Plant : Seven Pines, October 12, 1918 / Frederic H. Spigel.

While nurses and female yeomen filled military roles, civilian women’s organizations of all kinds worked on the home front. In fact, such groups composed three-fourths of the wartime organizations in Virginia. The state Equal Suffrage League temporarily suspended agitation for women’s voting rights and joined with dozens of other organizations, including the Virginia Association Opposed to Women Suffrage, to support the war effort. For instance, both groups supported the Khaki and Blue Kitchen, at 210 East Grace Street in Richmond, which provided meals for servicemen visiting the city. Richmond’s suffragists (including Adele Clark, Nora Houston, and Eudora Ramsay Richardson) transformed the Equal Suffrage League headquarters and worked tirelessly for the suffrage auxiliary of the Red Cross. “We have a sewing machine,” one member reported, “and [a] pleasant work-room.” The auxiliary also purchased a knitting machine and pledged to provide mittens for the hundred nurses assigned to U.S. Base Hospital No. 45. By November 1917, the women already had produced 1,244 garments, including bedshirts, bathrobes, pajamas, pillowcases, sheets, and towels, and had knitted sweaters, mufflers, mittens, and socks. In Roanoke, the Equal Suffrage League joined with twenty local women’s groups to encourage the cultivation of home gardens. As a result, agricultural production … read more »

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- “Our share in the war is no small one”: Virginia Women and World War I, Part I

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. It is the first of a two-part blog post adapted from an article originally written for the Summer 2001 issue of Virginia Cavalcade. The second half will run next week.


Group of nurses at Base Hospital 45

As soon as the United States entered the war on 6 April 1917, Virginia women sprang into action at home and abroad. Some women worked in traditional ways, knitting socks for soldiers in their social clubs and conserving food at home. Others were employed in industry, laboring on assembly lines to put together shells and airplane motors and to apply camouflage paint. They were “the girls behind the men behind the guns,” noted the Ladies’ Home Journal. Other women faced the guns themselves, enlisting in the military to fill clerical roles and serve as nurses. They treated patients, took dictation, fried doughnuts, drove ambulances, and operated switchboards.

 

The need for military nurses was pressing. The federal government ran full-page advertisements in the Ladies’ Home Journal, calling on women between the ages of nineteen and thirty-five to enroll in the U.S. Student Nurse Reserve. When slots opened up, applicants attended one of the 1,579 training schools in the nation. Schools waived most expenses, including tuition … read more »

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- Over The Top and at “em”: 100 Years at Fort Lee

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This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I.

Soon after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, the War Department acquired land between Petersburg and Hopewell to construct a new military cantonment. The camp, named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee, was soon designated as a division training center. Construction began on Camp Lee in June 1917, and by September the facility had more than 1,500 buildings and was ready to begin receiving members of the 80th Division for training. At its peak, the camp was the third-largest population center in Virginia behind Richmond and Norfolk, with some 60,000 doughboys passing through its training facilities on their way “Over There.”

 

The camp hosted a number of Army organizations, including an auxiliary remount depot, an office of the judge advocate, an infantry officers’ training school, a base hospital and later a convalescent center. As the area worked to accommodate the needs of this sudden influx of young men, a number of  social organizations also had a presence on the camp, including the YMCA, Jewish Welfare Board, and Knights of Columbus. The American Libraries Association, which had established a Library War Service headquartered at the Library of Congress, created a camp library with the assistance of Dr. Henry McIlwaine … read more »

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- Virginians in the Great War: Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918)


Photograph of Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918), Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 17, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

This is the latest entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. Corporal Harry A. Matthews, the subject of this week’s post, died on 5 December 1918 from wounds he received during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on 11 November. Matthews’s sparse World War I Questionnaire tells a sad story of love and loss.


Harry Anderson Matthews (1894-1918), Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 17, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Harry Anderson Matthews was born on 8 December 1894 in Richmond, Virginia, to Harry Lee Matthews (1868-1925), a general contractor, and Minnie Pohle (1870-1951). The Matthews family had at least eight children: Hudson W. Matthews (1893-1924), Henry A. Matthews (1894-1918), Irving Lee Matthews (1898-1967), Linwood C. Matthews (1901-1965), Marie Matthews (1905-1969), Herbert T. Matthews (1906-1967), Audrey L. Matthews (1906-1994), and William A. Matthews (1909-1910). When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Matthews worked for his father as a building foreman. On 19 January 1918, Matthews married Adelia Charlotte Howland (1899-1982). He was inducted into the army on 27 May 1918 and left for Europe on 6 August 1918. His daughter, Marjorie, was born thirteen days later.

Matthews served in the 164th Machine Gun Company, 26th Infantry Division. His unit fought in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, a 47 day (26 September to 11 November 1918) American offensive along a twenty-four mile front from the Argonne Forest to the Meuse River. … read more »

- Virginians in the Great War: Clarence A. Bryce, Jr. (1889-1918)


Photograph of Clarence A. Bryce, Jr. (1889-1918), Bryce Questionnaire.

This is the first entry in a series of blog posts spotlighting stories and records of Virginia’s involvement in World War I. United States Marine Private Clarence A. Bryce, Jr., the subject of this week’s post, died on 2 November 1918 after being hit by a German artillery shell during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.


Clarence A. Bryce (1889-1918) Questionnaire, Virginia War History Commission, Series I. Individual Service Records (Questionnaires), box 16, folder 15, Accession 37219, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia.

Clarence Archibald Bryce, Jr. was born on 17 August 1889 in Richmond, Virginia, to Clarence Archibald Bryce, Sr. (1849-1928), a physician, and Virginia Keene (1861-1935), an artist. Dr. Bryce was a prominent Richmond physician for over 50 years and a prolific writer on medical topics. Virginia Bryce studied art in Paris and ran an art school in Richmond. They had five children: Mildred Bryce (1886-1955), Virginia Bryce (1888-1974), Clarence Bryce, Jr. (1889-1918), Jeannette Bryce Staton (1892-1975), and Louise Bryce Pavay (1898-1985). When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Bryce was a self-employed auto mechanic in Richmond. He attempted to enlist in the Army but was rejected because of his low weight. Bryce successfully enlisted in the United States Marine Corp on 7 April 1918 at Paris Island, South Carolina.

After training at Fort Crockett, Texas and Quantico, Virginia, Bryce and his unit, Company B, 1st Training Battalion, left for France, arriving in Brest on 26 August 1918. After additional training for the front, Bryce joined 82nd Company, 6th … read more »

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- “See to it that his name be not forgotten”: An unknown soldier in the State Art Collection


Unidentified, by John Pleasants Walker (1855-1932), 1920

 

As a non-librarian at the Library of Virginia, I am constantly grateful for both the depth of our collections and the knowledge of our archival and reference staff. My job is to help look after Virginia’s State Art Collection, which consists of artworks owned by the Commonwealth on display in public buildings in the Capitol Square area.  As part of my job, I do research on state art objects in response to inquiries from the public and in order to flesh out catalog files.

The works in the State Art Collection are mostly what you would expect – portraits of public officials, statues and busts of presidents, and the occasional scenic Virginia landscape.  Paintings of private individuals have also become part of the collection over the years, either through association with a notable Virginian, or as a gift to the state.  In some instances, as with this portrait of a World War I era soldier, the identity of the subject and the way the piece was acquired have been forgotten, and we are left with a mystery.

As with any piece of material culture, the best place to start is the object itself. There are a few clues in the painting: the signature indicates that it was painted in 1920 by local artist John Pleasants Walker (1855-1932), and the uniform insignia shows  that our read more »

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- “We want the machine to work…not as an office ornament” – Charles Keiley vs. the Hooven Automatic Typewriter Company


Hooven Automatic Typewriter, ca. 1923 (image from Branford House Antiques - http://branfordhouseantiques.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-product.cgi?d=branford-house-antiques&item=35118)

One of my Sunday pleasures is reading David Segal’s bi-weekly “The Haggler” column in the New York Times.  “The Haggler” tries to resolve reader-submitted 21st century horror stories of bad customer service.  Virginia’s War History Commission could have used “The Haggler” in 1920 as they battled the Hooven Automatic Typewriter Company to repair their machine.

Created in 1919 by Governor Westmoreland Davis, the Virginia War History Commission’s goal was “to complete an accurate and complete history of Virginia’s military, economic and political participation in the World War.”  The Commission consisted of sixteen leading citizens appointed by the governor including:  Reverend Collins Denny; Brigadier General Jo Lane Stern, Adjutant General of Virginia; Douglas Southall Freeman, editor of the Richmond News-Leader; State Librarian Henry R. McIlwaine; and Colonel Charles R. Keiley, Executive Secretary of the Second Virginia Council of Defense.  Arthur Kyle Davis, president of Southern Female College in Petersburg, was named chairman of the commission.  Local branches were created to collect records of their community’s military and civilian activities. The commission needed a machine to create form letters for all of their correspondence with branch members.  However, they wanted each letter to appear to be an “original” – not a mimeograph or carbon.  After witnessing a demonstration of such a machine, Keiley purchased a Hooven Automatic Typewriter in February 1920 for … read more »

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- Season’s Greetings, We Will Be Back in January 2015!


Christmas Menu, 25 December 1918, Second Company, First Battalion, 155th Depot Brigade Training Center, Camp Lee, Virginia, Virginia War History Commission, Series IV. Virginia Camps and Cantonments, Subseries C. Camp Lee, Box 44, Folder 1, Accession 37219, State Records Collection, Library of Virginia.


Christmas Menu, 25 December 1918, page two and three.

These are some examples of how soldiers at Camp Lee, Virginia, celebrated Christmas in 1918.  The records of the Virginia War History Commission have been processed and are open to researchers.

-Roger Christman, Senior State Records Archivist… read more »

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