The Catholic University of America

Robert Lincoln O'Connell

An Inventory of Robert Lincoln O'Connell papers at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives


Contact Information:

Mailing Address: The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. 20064

Telephone: 202-319-5065

Email: archives@mail.lib.cua.edu

URL: http://archives.lib.cua.edu/

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Descriptive Summary

Repository: The American Catholic Research Center and University Archives
Creator: Robert Lincoln O'Connell
Title: Robert Lincoln O'Connell Papers
Dates: 1900-1972
Extent: 1 linear foot;2 boxes
Abstract: The Robert Lincoln O'Connell papers contain correspondence and related material as well as publications, postcards, and photographs associated with his time as an engineer in the U.S. Army from basic training in the states through military service in France and Germany in the First World War.
Collection Number: 206
Language: English

Biographical Note

Robert Lincoln O'Connell, a solder who served for two and half years in the U.S. army in World War I, was born 24 August 1888 in Wareham, Massachusetts, the eldest son of Daniel and Mary O'Connell. According to the 1900 federal census for Southington, Connecticut, where the family eventually settled, Daniel O'Connell was born 1855 in England to Irish parents and immigrated to America in 1881 while Mary was born 1856 in Wales to an Irish father and Welsh mother and had immigrated to America in 1879. According to family sources though, Daniel was born in Nova Scotia to Irish born parents who ended up in Wales while Daniel went to America. In addition to Robert, the Daniel O'Connells had four more children: Mary (b. 1890), Sarah (b. 1892), Ellen (b. 1895), and Daniel, Jr. (b. 1898).

According to his 1919 discharge papers, Robert entered service at Fort Slocum, New York, on 14 April 1917 and received training as a Machinist in Company C, 1st Battalion of the 1st Engineers, at Washington Barracks, D.C.(now known as Fort Lesley McNair) and along the Potomac on the grounds of the Belvoir Estate (now known as Fort Belvoir), until 6 August 1917. As part of the First Division, the vanguard of the developing American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.), the 1st Engineers, including Robert, embarked from Hobokken, New Jersey, on 7 August 1917, arriving at St. Nazaire, France, on 20 August 1917, but not before surviving a German U-Boat attack that same day near Belle Isle that was repulsed by the U.S. Navy's destroyer escorts. After a brief respite, Robert and his unit arrived on 4 September at Gondrecourt where they were trained by French engineers in the construction of trenches, dugouts, command posts, emplacements for heavy weapons, observation posts, wire entanglements, and other obstacles. They were also instructed to destroy the enemy's wire fences by cutting or using explosives and drilled as regular infantry in the use of rifles, hand grenades, and gas masks.

The final phase of training for the First Division was also a baptism of fire resulting in their first combat deaths as they were posted to the Sommerviller Sector on the Lorraine Front, located between Nancy and Lunesville. Robert served near the latter location from 13 December 1917 to 5 January 1918. He next served near Toul, part of the Ansauville Sector, from 15 January 1918 to 3 April 1918, where the 1st Engineers worked at constructing dugouts, command posts, and wire entanglements as well as quarrying rock and repairing roads, often while being shelled and gassed. Next came service from 25 April 1918 to 7 July 1918 in the Cantigny area of the Montdidier-Noyon Sector where the American efforts to better organize and strengthen the positions aided the French in stopping a German offensive in June. To contain yet another German offensive, the First Division was shifted to the Aisne-Marne sector, with the 1st Engineers deployed to the Compiegne forest area. Robert was wounded on 18 July 1918 during the first day of the Allied counterattack at Soissons. After recovering, he returned to service in the Meuse-Argonne in October and was serving there when the war ended on 11 November 1918.

Robert served as part of the Army of Occupation in postwar Germany, with the First Division crossing the Moselle River into Germany on 1 December 1918 and arriving at Coblenz on 12 December 1918. During the occupation, which lasted until 15 August 1919, the 1st Engineers worked to construct shelters, build pontoon bridges, and repair roads. There was also time for sports and recreation with Robert engaging in hiking and other sightseeing tours where he collected many of his colorful postcards. Embarking with the main elements of the First Division at Brest on 18 August 1919, Robert arrived at Camp Mills, New York, on 30 August 1919. He took part in the victory parade in New York on 10 September 1919 as well as the one in Washington, DC, on 17 September 1919, and was discharged as a Private First Class at Camp Devens, Massachusetts, on 27 September 1919. His decorations and awards are listed in his service record as WWI Victory Medal with Defensive Sector Battle Clasp, Montdidier-Noyon Battle Clasp, Aisne-Marne Battle Clasp, Meuse-Argonne Battle Clasp, WWI Victory Button (Silver), and a Purple Heart.

After the war, Robert settled in New York City where, according to the 1930 federal census, he worked as a laborer in an auto garage. His wife, Susan, who worked as a chambermaid in a hotel, was a New Jersey native born about 1886 to Dutch immigrant parents. Robert's 1942 draft registration card states that he was 5'7' tall, weighed 120 pounds, lived at 316 East 93rd Street, and was employed by the Parker-Kalon Corporation. Robert and Susan did not have any children and, she apparently predeceased him, as she was not mentioned in his 1972 obituary. Robert died 17 February 1972 in New York City at Metropolitan Hospital and was buried at St. Thomas Cemetery. He was survived by his sisters Mary French, Sara Georgii, and Ellen O'Connell.

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Scope and Contents

The Robert Lincoln O'Connell papers document the service of an Irish-American, born in Massachusetts, but raised in Connecticut, who served as a combat engineer in the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) in the First World War, 1917-1919. The papers include correspondence he wrote home to his mother and sisters at home throughout his training and active duty service. Also included are military odds and ends, such as passes and orders, in addition to publications, postcards, and photographs associated with his time in the U.S. Army. There are also some items gathered recently by his family members and/or Archives staff, such as copies of federal census forms and his obituary, to supplement the collection. The postcards have a special circumstance in that Robert tended to divide them into two parts. There were very basic ones, usually with little or no illustration, that he used for correspondence purposes. These have been treated as such and inter-filed chronologically with the letters in the first series. The other type of postcards were the photo and color print ones that he apparently considered as collectibles, either sending them home with his correspondence, or bringing home himself after the war. These have been placed with the photographs in the third series.

The first series, Correspondence and Related Papers, consists primarily of the correspondence, mostly letters but also some of the aforementioned postcards, written by Robert to various family members, especially to his mother Mary and sisters Ellen and Sarah. The correspondence spans the time of his initial training at the Washington Barracks in D.C., April to August 1917, through his arrival in France and service in the field, August 1917 until the war's end in November 1918, and subsequent operations as part of the Allied occupation force in the Rhineland of Germany until return to the United States in August 1919 and demobilization in September 1919. The letters are often amusing, especially Robert's 6 October 1917 letter from France to his sister Sara when he observes there is little sickness in camp "except the ordinary aches and pains and the French wine and chocolate accounts for most of those. There are only half a dozen girls in the village and three of them are waitresses in a wineshop. I don't remember the other three." Another light moment was recorded in his 18 March 1918 missive to his mother when he noted that "Patrick's day but only one man had any green and that was a scrap of weed in his buttonhole, that he had brought back from the trenches. He seemed to be the only good Irisher in sight." In the same letter he makes a very interesting statement about his enlistment and service with "it was Apr. 10, when I went up to Hartford to see if they would pass me. It has been a short but lively year" and "I'm glad I got in early because the drafted crowd certainly didn't have places like Washington Barracks to train in or warm weather, either, but they will have the laugh on us when they get over here and find things cleaned up." There are also occasional racial epithets used that are rather typical of the time and should be understood in that context. The 'related papers' materials that rounds out this series includes ephemera like his pay book, orders, passes, and discharge papers associated with his military service and other materials, such as copies of federal census forms and his 1972 obituary, that provide information about his family background and post-war life.

The second series, Publications, has three printed works honoring the service of the soldiers who served in the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) in France and a German language guide probably used as a reference tool for soldiers serving in the postwar occupation of the Rhineland. The printed works includes a book of sketches and verse with good exhibit quality.

The third series, Photographs and Postcards, is a lively assemblage of mostly print copies of photographs depicting the O'Connell family and Robert's military service, including contemporary shots of Robert posing in his uniform and a recent one of his uniform on display, as well as original photo and color print postcards showing scenes of war-time death and devastation in France and more serene depictions, especially the color prints, of the post-war occupation in the Rhineland of Germany.

The fourth series, Memorabilia, has a miscellaneous assortment of coins, lapel pins, and that ubiquitous necessity, a military bottle opener.

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Arrangement

The Robert Lincoln O'Connell papers consists of 4 series:





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Restrictions

None.

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Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

David Georgii, nephew of Robert Lincoln O'Connell, offered to donate the papers, primarily correspondence and postcards, in his letter of 14 December 2005. William J. Shepherd, Associate Archivist, accepted the offer in his letter of 26 January 2006 and Mr. Georgii returned the Deed of Gift form, signed 8 March 2006. The inaugural deposit of material was received February 27, 2006, with two later deposits in 2006 and two more in 2008.

Processing Information

Processing and EAD markup completed in 2008-2009 by William John Shepherd, with additional contributions by Lauren Kanne and Jane Stoeffler.

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Related Material

National Catholic War Council Papers

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Index Terms

This record series is indexed under the following controlled access subject terms.


Persons:
Sara O'Connell Georgii

Persons:
Daniel O'Connell, Jr.

Persons:
Ellen O'Connell

Persons:
Robert Lincoln O'Connell

Organizations:
American Expeditionary Force (AEF)

Places:
Southington, Connecticut

Places:
Camp Mills, New York

Places:
Washington, D.C.

Places:
Paris, France

Places:
Coblenz, Germany

Places:
Ebernhahn, Germany

Subjects:
World War I


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Select Bibliography

Coffman, Edward M. The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1968, 1986.

Messier, Michael. Robert Lincoln O'Connell family history web site at http://www.messierfamily.info/RobertOConnell.htm

Shepherd, William John. 'Robert Lincoln O'Connell: A Connecticut Doughboy's View of World War I,' Potomac Catholic Heritage (18), Fall 2009, pp. 19-29.

Society of the First Division. History of the First Division During the World War, 1917-1919. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; The John C. Winston Company, 1922.

Votaw, John F. Battle Orders: The American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. Northants, UK: Osprey, 2005.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

                       
Series 1: Correspondence and Related Papers 1900(1917-1919)1972
Primarily correspondence, both letters and postcards, written by Robert to his mother Mary or sisters Ellen and Sarah, during his service in both the states and in Europe. There are also some military administrative records, federal census forms, and Robert's obituary.
Box Folder
1 1 Correspondence, Washington Barracks, D.C., April 1917-August 1917
   
    01. Letter to Mary O'Connell, April 28, 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Postcard to Sarah O'Connell, May 2,1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Letter to Mary O'Connell, May 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter to Mary O'Connell, May 31, 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    05. Letter to Mary O'Connell, June 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    06. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, June 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    07. Letter to Mary O'Connell, July 3, 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    08. Letter (Fragment) to Mary O'Connell, August 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 2 Correspondence, France, August 21, 1917-December 1917
   
    01. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, August 21, 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Letter to Sarah O'Connell, October 6, 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Letter to Mary O'Connell, November 1, 1917
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter (Fragment), December 1917?
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 3 Correspondence, France, February 7, 1918-June 28, 1918
   
    01. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, February 7, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Letter to Mary O'Connell, March 18, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, March 20, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, March 24, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    05. Postcard to Sarah O'Connell, March 31, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    06. Postcard to Helen O'Connell, April 3, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    07. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, May 18, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    08. Letter to Sarah O'Connell, May 27, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    09. Letter to Mary O'Connell, June 10, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    10. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, June 28, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 4 Correspondence, France, July 21, 1918-August 23, 1918
   
    01. Postcard to Mrs. D. (Mary) O'Connell, July 21, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Letter to Mary O'Connell, July 24, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, Ca. August 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, August 23, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 5 Correspondence, France, 8/27/1918-10/23/1918, n.d.
   
    01. Letter to Mary O'Connell, August 27, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, September 17, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, September 27, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, October 15, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    05. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, October 23, 1918
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    06. Postcard to Hellen O'Connell, n.d.
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 6 Correspondence, Ebernhahn, Germany, 2/5/1919-4/16/1919
   
    01. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, February 5, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Letter to Sarah O'Connell, February 8, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell (Photocopy, Original in Series 3), February 15, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, March 7, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    05. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, April 2, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    06. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, April 4, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    07. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, April 16, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 7 Correspondence, Ebernhahn, Germany, 5/1919-7/1919
   
    01. Letter to Mary O'Connell, May 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, May 22, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, June 21, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter to Mary O'Connell, June 22, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    05. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, June 30, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    06. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, July 22, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    07. Postcard to Daniel O'Connell, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 8 Correspondence, Camp Mills, New York and Camp Leach, Washington, DC, 8/1919-9/1919
   
    01. Telegram to Dan O'Connell, August, 30, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    02. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, August, 30, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    03. Postcard to Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, August, 30, 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    04. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, September 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
   
    05. Letter to Ellen O'Connell, September 1919
        Document
        Transcription 
Box Folder
1 9 Discharge Papers, Camp Devins, Massachusetts, 9/27/1919
        Document
  10 Federal Census (Photocopy), Southington, Connecticut - O'Connell Family, 6/15/1900
        Document
  11 Federal Census (Photocopy), New York, New York - Robert and Susan O'Connell, 4/5/1930
        Document
  12 Membership Material - Society of the First Division, 1919, 1932
        Documents
  13 Form Letter from C.P. Summerall to Comrades of the Society of the First Division, April 1, 1920
        Document
  14 Obituary - The Waterbury American, Waterbury, Connecticut, 2/18/1972
        Document
  15 Orders, Passes (Military), 1918-1919
        Documents
  16 Pay Book, 1919
        Document
  17 Registration Card (Photocopy) of R. L. O'Connell, 1942
        Document
  18 Registration Certificate of Daniel O'Connell, 1918
        Document
  19 Note of Acknowledgement from the First Division, n.d.
        Document
                       
Series 2: Publications 1918-1919, n.d.
Works celebrating the service of the American Expeditionary Force (A.E.F.) in France and a German language guide.
Box Folder
1 20 Publication - Yanks: A Book of A.E.F. Verse, 1918
        Document
  21 Publication - To The Homeward-bound Americans, 1919
        Document
  22 Publication - "I Was There!" With the Yanks in France: Sketches made on the Western Front 1917 -- 1919 by Pvt. C. Leroy Baldridge A.E.F. Verse by Pvt. Hilmar R. Baukhage A.E.F., 1919
        Document
  23 Publication - Burger Sprachfuhrer: Burgers Help for The Englishman The American to Learn How to Speak German Without a Teacher, n.d.
        Document
                       
Series 3: Photographs and Postcards ca. 1911-1940, n.d.
Photographs, mostly print copies, of the O'Connell family and Robert's military service as well as original photo and color print postcards relating to the war in France and post-war occupation in the Rhineland of Germany.
Box Folder
2 1 Photo (B/W Print Copy) - O'Connell Family Portrait, ca. 1911
        Photo
  2 Photo (2 B/W Print Copies) - Robert O'Connell in Uniform, ca. 1919
        Photo
  3 Photo (B/W Print Copy) - First Engineers, Army of Occupation, Wirges, Germany, 7/19/1919
        Photo
  4 Photo (B/W Print Copy) - Second Platoon, C Company, Germany?, 1919
        Photo
  5 Photo (B/W Print Copy) - Robert and Ellen O'Connell, 1928
        Photo
  6 Photo (B/W Print Copy) - Robert and Susan O'Connell, ca. 1940
        Photo
  7 Photo (Color Print Copy) - Robert O'Connell's W.W.I Uniform on Display at the Bristol, Connecticut, Armory, n.d.
        Photo
  8 Photos (B/W) - War Devastated France, ca. 1918-1919
   
    01. An Unindentified Settlement on the Side of a Hill, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    02. An Unindentified Mountainside, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    03. A War torn Neighborhood with a Mountain in the Background, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    04. Mountainous scenery, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    05. Mountainous scenery, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    06. Mountainous scenery, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    07. An Unidentified Looted Factory, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    08. Military Rubbish on the Side of a Mountain, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    09. Unidentified Soldiers Sitting in a Yard in a War torn Neighborhood, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
   
    10. A War torn Unidentified Neighborhood, ca. 1918-1919
        Photo
Box Folder
2 9 Postcard: Sketch (B/W) - "Huns Don't Like These Tanks, and if You Buy More Liberty Bonds They Will Like Them Less" - Pvt. Rich to Daniel O'Connell, 1918
        Postcard
  10 Postcards: Photos (B/W) - France, 1917-1918
   
    01. French Lineman Electrocuted, ca. 1917-1918
        Postcard
   
    02. A Dead Boche, ca. 1917-1918
        Postcard
   
    03. A Human Skeleton, 1917
        Postcard
   
    04. A Dead Human Body, 1917
        Postcard
   
    05. English Trench, ca. 1917-1918
        Postcard
   
    06. Soldiers in Battle being Gassed, ca. 1917-1918
        Postcard
   
    07. A Neighborhood Ravaged by War (Portseint), ca. 1917-1918
        Postcard
   
    08. Explosion by Berry.ou.Bac, ca. 1917-1918
        Postcard
   
    09. Argonne 1918, A Dud, 1918
        Postcard
Box Folder
2 11 Postcards: Photos (B/W) - Coblenz, Germany, 1919
   
    01. Two Soldiers Crossing a Pontoon Bridge, 1919
        Postcard
   
    02. Soldiers Walking, 1919
        Postcard
   
    03. Baseball Game at Montabaur Castle, 1919
        Postcard
   
    04. At the Finish of a Race, 1919
        Postcard
   
    05. Soldiers and Small Boats on the Rhine River, 1919
        Postcard
   
    06. Soldiers along a River Front Eating Doughnuts, 1919
        Postcard
   
    07. Soldiers Working on a Pontoon Bridge, 1919
        Postcard
   
    08. Soldiers Walking on a Pontoon Bridge, 1919
        Postcard
   
    09. Boats, 1919
        Postcard
   
    10. A Boat Crew, 1919
        Postcard
   
    11. Soldiers, 1919
        Postcard
   
    12. Army Engineer Band Marching Along a Pontoon Bridge, 1919
        Postcard
   
    13. Soldiers Shooting Craps, 1919
        Postcard
   
    14. Notes on Photographs taken over the Rhine River, Coblenz, Germany, 1919
        Postcard
Box Folder
2 12 Postcards: Prints (Color) - Coblenz, Germany, 1919
   
    01. Coblenz, Germany, as Seen from the Rhine River, 1919
        Postcard
   
    02. Coblenz, Germany, mit dem neuen Regierungsgebaude: Robert L. O'Connell to his mother, Mrs. Daniel (Mary) O'Connell, dated February 15, 1919 (Photocopy in Series 1), 1919
        Postcard
   
    03. Coblenz Kaiser-Wilhelm Provinzial Denkmal, 1919
        Postcard
Box Folder
2 13 Postcards: Prints (Color) - Germany, 1919
   
    01. Scenic Bingen, Germany, 1919
        Postcard
   
    02. German Countryside, 1919
        Postcard
   
    03. Statue, 1919
        Postcard
Box Folder
2 14 Postcards: Prints (Color) - Der Rhein (Book of 20) - Germany, ca. 1919
        Photo
                       
Series 4: Memorabilia 1918-1919, n.d.
Miscellaneous coins and button pins as well as a military bottle opener.
Box Folder
2 15 Memorabilia - Coins, n.d.
   
    01. French Transit Token, n.d.
        Transit Token
   
    02. French Coin, n.d.
        Coin
   
    03. French Coin, n.d.
        Coin
Box Folder
2 16 Memorabilia - Button Pins, 1918-1919
   
    01. "United War Work Campaign: for the boys over there" Button Pin, n.d.
        Pin
   
    02. "United War Work Campaign: for the boys over there" Button Pin, n.d.
        Pin
   
    03. Red Cross 1919 Button Pin, 1919
        Pin
Box Folder
2 17 Memorabilia - Military Bottle Opener, n.d.
        Bottle Opener

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Descriptive Summary

Biographical Note

Scope and Contents

Arrangement

Restrictions

Administrative Information

Related Material

Index Terms

Select Bibliography

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Correspondence and Related Papers 1900(1917-1919)1972

Series 2: Publications 1918-1919, n.d.

Series 3: Photographs and Postcards ca. 1911-1940, n.d.

Series 4: Memorabilia 1918-1919, n.d.

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