Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: August 21-27, 1917

August 21st, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to fifteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Highlights this week include discussions about horses (“yesterday one sergeant hopped on a ‘green’ horse and was next ‘among those present’ in the hospital”), army discipline (“just now they posted a notice that any gambling would mean three months, with a cute little shotgun tickling the victim in the ribs”), new raincoats (“it’s as roomy as a young tent”), chores (“I got to get out my “housewife” which is a kit of needles, thread, pins, scissors, etc. and stab a button on my shirt. It’s a gay life”).

 

Thursday, Aug. 23, ‘17

Dear Marie,

You sure are mighty good to me to keep on writing. I guess you know how I feel. Be sure to write from Rockford too. Did you get the letter to Beloit? You must have had a great time in Chicago. That fortune telling gets my goat right. Or I mean it would if I let it. I suppose you are too young to go with boys. What Lauretta said gives me one good healthy pain. A girl is never too young to know herself. Lauretta may be a wise one but there is an awful lot she don’t “know about war.” All the real truth we learn at any age never will hurt any. Let the grandmothers and old maids argue to the contrary.

We are having about the same stuff every day now. You should see our big “slickers.” We just got them Tuesday as we have been having some rainy weather. It sure is some hot here when it’s clear. We get about 2 hours with the radio sets in the field every day now. This afternoon five of us run a buzzer telegraph line out in the hills. We crossed a road and hooked the wire up on a couple trees. It slacked up some way and hung down so that when one of the captains drove by in an auto, it knocked his hat off. He didn’t get very peeved about it but I guess our sergeant expected some hard words. When we got in from the field, the company went over the corral and groomed our horses. Yesterday one sergeant hopped on a “green” horse and was next “among those present” in the hospital. Most of the horses are in pretty good shape now. We had good luck in getting our pack mules, too. I wish you could see this place. There are herds of sheep and cattle, and a lot of garden truck is raised for the table. I guess the military prisoners do most of the work. Believe me, you won’t see yours truly lockstepping around with a guard behind him carrying a good healthy autoloading shotgun. The guards here carry these buckshot cannon instead of rifles. The engineers have the hardest work of any branch of service in the army. The camp here is building a line of trenches and tunnels out in the field. There used to be quite a few sham battles but I haven’t heard any for over a week. Some of the officers reserve in training here, left a few days ago. You should have seen the handshaking among those fellows as they left for different places. A fellow certainly makes some good close friends in a camp of this kind. The Signal Corps is about the big hest branch of service in the army and there is none of the “wop” class that you find the Infantry. At Jefferson Barracks about half of the 23rd Recruit Company were hardboiled Chicago roughnecks. You don’t see any dice or cards here. Just now they posted a notice that any gambling would mean three months, with a cute little shotgun tickling the victim in the ribs.

Any one that likes to split wood, mow the officers’ golf course, hoe the corn, or break rock for the new roads have my permission to start a little game of Sixty-Six. If you even hit a horse with a brush, or anything else except the open hand, you can be tried and given in the brick house with the barred windows. The regular army is strong for discipline, which is a good thing, and one has to be on the watch all the time. The officers are all very strict, but are all a pretty decent bunch. When anyone gets within 30 feet of a commissioned officer he has to salute. I have been jumped on twice for forgetting this, but haven’t had any worse luck yet. I sure am glad that I enlisted but I won’t be sorry when the time comes to gallop home. This is a great place here. I guess we don’t go to Fort Omaha after all. Well, I must go down and wash a pair of pants. Then I got to get out my “housewife” which is a kit of needles, thread, pins, scissors, etc. and stab a button on my shirt. It’s a gay life.

The first thing I’ll do will be to execute a flank movement over to my pal’s bunk and hook a piece of fudge that his girl sent him. George says that whenever he wants me to practice semaphore I am always writing. This is a pretty long letter for me. I bet you can’t read it though.

Say listen, don’t ever ask me to excuse your writing.

I hope this will find you in Beloit, O.K. Don’t forget that picture.

Yours
Forrest.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 26, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 26, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 26, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 26, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 26, 1917

Sunday, Aug. 26, 1917

Dear Marie,

Your letter of Friday came this noon. I know now that you understand me and I shall say nothing more. Don’t think for a minute that I see anything silly in your letter. It is too sincere for that. Whether I can come home or not depends on the Folks, entirely. If I do come it will have to be pretty quick. Yesterday, the First Sergeant sent for me and made a typewritten report on my knowledge of, and experience with photography work. I feel certain that I will be transferred as soon as they are ready. I am sure that I have something to show for my four years of study and work, and I am confident that I’ll make good as soon as I am given a chance. I am in the furtherest advanced class of student operators but I think I could serve better in the photographic section. I hope your photographer won’t be all year in finishing you pictures. If I don’t really see you pretty soon I sure will be mighty disappointed. You ought to see me in my raincoat that was issued a few days ago. It’s as roomy as a young tent. It rained quite a few nights last week.

We have to groom over a hundred horses every day. The sergeant that was thrown last week is still at the hospital with his head bandaged and his leg tied up. He waved his cane at us as we marched by this morning. My friend, George Stock, got kicked in the head by a mule this morning but it only scratched his temple a little. I haven’t had any hard luck so far but had one close one. George Stock is about the closest friend I have ever had. He is about 25 years old, and was a teacher of Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics in some Kans. school. These are the three studies that I liked so well at High School. We saw “The Slacker” last week at Leavenworth. It sure was good. Last night I got “La Paloma” and “The Flower Song” for the Victor Machine. Gee, but it stirred up a funny feeling when I thought how we used to play together. Someone is playing “Flower Song” now. I’d give most anything to be sitting on that piano stool now with you. Well I must stop. Will you tell me what day school starts?

Yours,
Forrest.

Take any of my music you want.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Total Eclipse of the Heart(land)

August 18th, 2017

In honor of Monday’s total solar eclipse, the Spencer Research Library staff was curious about our collection holdings related to this celestial phenomenon. We found two reports detailing previous solar eclipses, one from South America in 1889 and one from the United States in 1900.

Selected from from the Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1889

Selected from from the Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun, 1889

This image was developed using the negative from the exposure
created with the 18-inch reflector. Report on the Total Eclipse of the Sun,
Observed at Cayenne, French Guiana, South America, December 22, 1889

by S.W. Burnham and J.M. Schaeberle. Sacramento: A.J. Johnston,
Supt. State Printing, 1891. Call Number: C13311. Click images to enlarge.

The first report is from the Lick Observatory team’s visit to Cayenne, French Guiana, South America in 1889. The team left New York and traveled via boat to South America to observe and document the total solar eclipse on December 22nd. Despite some initial concerns about the weather, they were able to use several different lenses to create exposures of the eclipse that were later developed for further study.

Selected page from Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 28, 1900

Selected page from Total Eclipse of the Sun, May 28, 1900

The image shows what Charles Howard experienced when looking through
the telescope at the moment of the eclipse. Total Eclipse of the Sun,
May 28, 1900, Observed at Winton, North Carolina by Charles P. Howard
.
Hartford, Conn.: R.S. Peck & Co., printers and engravers, 1900.
Call Number: C13310. Click images to enlarge.

The second report is from Charles P. Howard’s visit to Winton, North Carolina, for the total solar eclipse in 1900. Howard joined the Trinity College team to observe and document the eclipse on May 28. Howard’s report also included images – created by the author – to convey his observations. His recorded thoughts show that he felt his images paled in comparison to the actual spectacle of the eclipse: ‘The view through the telescope, however, was far grander than the naked eye view and most awe-inspiring. Around the Sun was an appearance that almost made one exclaim, ‘the Sun is an enormous magnet, alive and hard at work.’” His illustration attempts to show the radiating waves he saw around the sun at the time of the eclipse.

If you are interested in learning more about the science behind a total solar eclipse, please take a look at Eclipse 101 from NASA!

Emily Beran
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Suitcase Avalanche Edition

August 17th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Today is Move-In Day, and new and returning Jayhawks are arriving on Mount Oread. This week’s post features a verbal description and visual depiction of what this looked like at the beginning of KU’s 1928-1929 academic year, according to the 1929 Jayhawker yearbook.

Happy greetings…hand shaking…taxis whizzing away loaded with newly arrived students…perspiring baggagemen swearing at an avalanche of trunks and suitcases…The sleepy town of Lawrence suddenly awakened to the realization that another nine months session had begun at K.U.

Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929 Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929

Selected pages from the 1929 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives.
Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click images to enlarge.

Subsequent pages in the yearbook describe the high points of the first week of freshman life at KU. Some events are familiar to modern students, for example participating in fraternity and sorority recruitment and learning about university customs and traditions. Other events – like taking a psychological examination, attending teas, and registering and enrolling for fall classes right before the beginning of the semester – would be foreign.

Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929

Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929 Page from the Jayhawker yearbook, 1929

Selected pages from the 1929 Jayhawker yearbook. University Archives.
Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1929. Click images to enlarge.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: August 14-20, 1917

August 14th, 2017

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-year-old Forrest W. Bassett, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry, which will feature Bassett’s letters to fifteen-year-old Ava Marie Shaw from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Forrest W. Bassett was born in Beloit, Wisconsin, on December 21, 1897 to Daniel F. and Ida V. Bassett. On July 20, 1917 he was sworn into military service at Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis, Missouri. Soon after, he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for training as a radio operator in Company A of the U. S. Signal Corps’ 6th Field Battalion.

Highlights from this week include Forrest receiving a special letter from Marie (“you have at last written the letter that I have hoped and wished for, but hardly expected”), finishing with mess hall duty (“believe me I am glad that someone else is taking his turn at it”), and hoping for an exchange of photos (“I am anxious to get that photo of you. I am going to get me a vest pocket Kodak”).

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 14, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 14, 1917

Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1917

Dearest Little Girl,

You have at last written the letter that I have hoped and wished for, but hardly expected. Marie, I love you now and I know I always will. We both have lots of time to change our minds in, but I am well enough acquainted with myself to know I will never change. Marie, it is the hope that some day you will really my little girl that makes me contented here, trying hard to make myself somewheres near worthy of you. Don’t worry about me, and have the best times you can. Whatever you do, don’t doubt me for a minute. In your next letter tell me that you really do  believe that I will always love you and want you. The days are getting full of hard work here and I won’t be able to write very often. Marie please continue to write the same kind of letters that you have written. Make them as long and as frequent as you can.

Yours, Forrest

 

Sunday, Aug. 19, 1917

Dear Marie,

This is my first day out of the mess hall. I had a week at being Dining Room Orderly and believe me I am glad that someone else is taking his turn at it. From 5:30 A:M to 7:30 P:M with just enough time to eat, and a rest between 3 & 4 P:M is no “light occupation.” It will seem good to get back at signal practice tomorrow. I will have to study and buzzer practice every evening so wont be able to write much. There was no letter from you today but will expect some in the morning. Gee but I wish I could talk to you.

It sure is going to be hard to leave without seeing you at all. If I didn’t have such a healthy bunch of folks I could dope out some way of having a day in Beloit. I can hardly wait to get your picture. Send it as soon as you can. Maybe I’ll get some here pretty soon. I should like to see you with your hair done up. Did Lauretta ever fix it for you? I sure am glad that you and Lauretta are such very close friends. Don’t ever tell her that I ever “hugged” you. She and you are the only girls I have had very much respect for — say nothing of anything further.

One reason I respect and like her so well is that I know she would never allow anyone to get too familiar. Any girl that hasn’t got pretty high ideals would never get a second thought from me. (Probably wouldn’t want one either) I don’t know why I am writing this to you — I guess its because I want you to know one reason why you have “wrapped yourself completely around my heart,” as Blanche put it. Everything that I have learned about you has increased my respect and love for you. The reason I know I will always love you is that I know you will never change.

Marie you are just exactly as I would have you in every way. You always were and I am sure you always will be.

Don’t let Lou “kid” you about school. I will admit that I admire any girl that has learned to reason and think independently, without getting muscle-bound between the ears.

Well there goes “taps” so I will have to quit.

Yours Forrest.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 20, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, August 20, 1917

Monday, Aug. 20, 1917

Dear Marie,

Just got your Sat. letter today. I wrote you a letter last night but addressed the letter to Beloit. There is quite a bit of talk that we will go to Fort Omaha, Neb. next Wednesday. There is an aviation corps there. I wonder if that will mean anything to me. We spent most of this afternoon out in the field with the wireless pack sets. We had four stations operating. I just bought a new text book on radio telegraphy this noon. We had an hour of unmounted drill, and the rest of the morning in semaphore and buzzer practice.

I hope you won’t stay in Chi. very long as I am anxious to get that photo of you. I am going to get me a vest pocket Kodak if I ever get out of that condition known as badly bent. It has just been a month since I enlisted at Jefferson Barracks. I wish I knew where I will be Sept. 20th. I sure would like to come home for a day about the first of the month. Well I don’t feel much like writing tonight. I hope you will get Sunday’s letter O.K. If you don’t — tell me.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Student Conversation Edition

August 10th, 2017

Each week we’ll be posting a photograph from University Archives that shows a scene from KU’s past. We’ve also scanned more than 34,800 images from KU’s University Archives and made them available online; be sure to check them out!

Fall classes start in a little over one week, and students are already starting to return to Mount Oread.

Photograph of two KU students on campus, circa 1940-1949

Two students on campus, circa 1940-1949. Note the freshman beanie.
Photo by Duke D’Ambra. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1940s Negatives: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

The students in the photo are standing in front of Old Fraser Hall (located roughly where modern Fraser now stands). Our best guess is that they’re on the east side of the building, near the lilac hedges across from Battenfeld and Watkins Scholarship Halls on Lilac Lane.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services