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August 01, 2011

A Survey of World War I Resources in the Special Collections Research Center

“The centennial of World War I offers an opportunity for people in the United States to learn about the sacrifices of their predecessors.” World War I Memorial and Centennial Act of 2009

As the centennial observation of World War I approaches, The Special Collections Research Center joins Cleveland area Archivists in reviewing their holdings to highlight material documenting this era in history. Some of our collections consist entirely of records related to the Great War, others contain material reflecting wartime service or general interest in the war incorporated in personal papers. Still other material, ephemeral in nature, has come to us as part of the practice of retaining once-circulating library materials in the Special Collections Research Center to prolong their use.

Collections related entirely to World War I include the Benedict Crowell Papers, The Charles G. Abbott Papers and the Thomas Slavin gift of Underwood & Underwood photographs. This last collection, still in process, consists of 50 images taken by commercial photographers Underwood & Underwood for distribution to news-bureaus during World War I.

Interesting World War I era records can be found as part of larger collections. The Charles F. Brush, Sr. Papers include correspondence between Brush and family members in service during the war and touch on subjects close to home such as Liberty Bond drives, the YMCA presence in Camp Sherman, Ohio, and victory celebrations.

The Fred H. Colvin Collection contains records relating to his wartime service as an efficiency expert. A life long student of the machine tool industry, Colvin identified and helped eradicate the waste inherent in U.S. manufacturing plants converted hastily to war time production.

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Fred H. Colvin Collection. Photographs. Description in Colvin’s hand: "Taken in Winchester Army Co. New Haven, July, 1917. Men waiting for Army to decide details on Springfield Rifle.”

The Hugh S. Cooper Papers and The Warner and Swasey Collection also contain small but significant amounts of World War I material. Typical of much of the material acquired from the former Case Archive of Contemporary Science and Technology, the creation dates of these collections span the first fifty years of the 20th century. Their creators were either involved in industries that were awarded military contracts or they served in uniform or as military advisers during the war.

The principle source of World War I ephemera deposited in The Special Collections Research Center has been our predecessor institutions – the libraries at Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology prior to Federation. One such example can be found in The Kelvin Smith Library Manuscript Collection and consists of a small but arresting set of French Army trench newspapers given to the Library of Western Reserve University by Kate Hanna and Perry Williams Harvey. Consisting of 15 handwritten and typeset pages dating from 1915 to 1917, they were created by French Army soldiers serving in the trenches to circulate news, advice and jokes amongst themselves. There are seven titles represented by single issues; Le Canard Enchaine, Le 120 Court, Le Croissant, Le Diable au Cor, L’Echo des Guitoines, L"Echo des Tranchees, and Le Gafouilleur.

Happily, we have already overseen the use of another group of ephemeral items through the annual Future Connections Program which brings Cleveland area High School Juniors to explore career opportunities in the field of information and library science at the Kelvin Smith Library. The Special Collections Research Center joined other library departments to offer the interns hands-on experience in our workplace. For their work with us, Future Connections interns learned a popular method of providing access to Special Collections materials.

Ephemeral item selected and researched by Future Connections intern Jhane Sims, June, 2011.

The project required interns to select, scan, describe and design a poster exhibit of ephemeral materials related to World War I. Their selections were made entirely from United States Food Administration pamphlets and broadsides published in 1917 and 1918. These publications were widely distributed during the war years to promote food and fuel conservation in the home to help America win the war. During a current processing project we identified this material as having come from the Library of the Case Institute of Technology.

Interns created posters using their own creativity along with skills acquired in workshops, lectures, tours, and hands on training provided by several Kelvin Smith Library departments and area cultural institutions. The posters, accompanied by a brief talk given by each intern, were presented to the staff of the Kelvin Smith Library and invited guests a recognition luncheon on July 7, 2011.


Future Connections interns at the end of their visit to the Dittrick Medical History Center in the Allen Memorial Library, June, 2011.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information about World War I materials in the Special Collections Research Center, or our 2011 Future Connections Internship project.

Posted by exo2 at August 1, 2011 01:21 AM

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