Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: January 1-7, 1918

January 2nd, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, we’re going to follow the experiences of one American soldier: nineteen-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 thirteen-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.

Ava Marie Shaw was born in Chicago, Illinois, on October 12, 1903 to Robert and Esther Shaw. Both of Marie’s parents – and her three older siblings – were born in Wisconsin. By 1910 the family was living in Woodstock, Illinois, northwest of Chicago. By 1917 they were in Beloit.

Frequently mentioned in the letters are Forrest’s older half-sister Blanche Treadway (born 1883), who had married Arthur Poquette in 1904, and Marie’s older sister Ethel (born 1896).

In this week’s letter, Forrest discusses his time serving guard duty. He also recounts a day trip to a “cider farm” with a fellow soldier; the two – with their horses – got stuck in a snow and ice storm on the way back to the fort (“It started to sleet and the wet snow and sleet froze as soon as it hit the road. In about five minutes the roads were covered with a thin coat of ice”).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, January 5, 1918

Sat. Jan 5. 1917

Dear Marie,

The dates came fine and sure were good. I was afraid that they were lost. There is a Bassett in the Co. C-6th F. Bn. S.C., and he got one of your letters but brought it down to me unopened. I think if you make the Co. “A” with a printed “A” some of our nearsighted mailmen won’t make mistakes. Thanks to you for the sweets. “Ten” [Forrest’s horse] says he never eats such truck but will have apples instead. My hair is growing slow but sure. You remember how very short it was when I came home?

Our Company went on guard Thursday. I was put on Post No. 1, which is the guard house at the Cantonment. It boasts of three prisoners. I had the hours between 4:45-6:45 and 10:45-12:45, day & night. During the day I had the front of the guard house only and at night, two storehouses extra. It was pretty cold but not as bad as some nights. I got pretty handy at “pulling the gun,” as everyone has to be challenged with the pistol raised. Of course no one is challenged except at night but Post #1 is as busy one as the officers of the guard are coming in from inspection tours about every 15 minutes.

I think we will go South this month. The Major of the B’n. told us in a speech that we were going South unless a counter-order was issued. This would suit me fine only it would take our letters longer to reach eachother. Also there is a big chance of the Co. “A” being motorized. The 1st Sgt. was looking for men in the Co. who could use motorcycles. I like the horses though and am on “Ten” a great deal.

Last Sunday I got a mounted pass, and a bugler by the name of Collins and I went out to the Cider farm that I told you about. We had I fine time going out and covered the five miles in short time. The lady at the farmhouse said there was no more cider but she offered us a big basket of apples for nothing. She sure was good to us. Well, when Collins and I, and Ten had eaten all the apples we could, we started back. It started to sleet and the wet snow and sleet froze as soon as it hit the road. In about five minutes the roads were covered with a thin coat of ice. Our horses are all smooth shod as they fight and kick eachother in the corral. The roads here, are just up one hill and down another and our horses soon had trouble keeping on their feet with that thin, hard glaze of ice. Pretty soon when we were walking down a rather steep hill, both of Ten’s hindfeet slipped forward and he sat down pretty neatly. In a few minutes Collins did the same stunt and his horse fell twice while regaining his feet. We rode a few minutes longer then it got so bad we had to dismount and lead our horses. You would think that we could have ridden along the edge of the road where it wasn’t hard, but no chance. We came to a plank bridge across a creek and believe me it sure was slippery. Every plank was glazed over with a coat of ice. I got Ten across alright but when Collin’s tried to lead “Buck” across he fell and wouldn’t budge an inch. I tied Ten to the fence and went back. While I stayed with his horse, Collins scraped up some loose earth and sanded a path over the bridge. Well finally the two of us coaxed and pulled the horse across but it was slow work. We had an awful time finding the rough spots along the road and there was no place off the road where a horse could go. Well we finally got to the stables an hour late, after an hour and a half of plugging along in the sleet and snow. Our saddles were all ice and my hat had a coat of ice all over the brim. The hat cord tassels were two balls of snow and ice. We blanketed our horses and rubbed their legs then dried them all over. After this we walked them up and down the stable aisles for ten minutes. About six P.M. we headed for the barracks, but when we got to the Post Exchange we saw a Kansas City car waiting so we went to the L. City and got a good supper. There were fellows skating up and down the paved streets of Leavenworth, so you can see how it was. We telephoned to the first sergeant when at the stables and nothing more was said to us when we got back. The Co. has only been riding once this week as even the narrow paths in the woods are so slippery that a horse can’t stand up.

Well is getting close to retreat so I guess I’ll have to close. Lauretta tells me you are N.G. when it comes to answering her letters. “Things to worry about.” I got the snapshot of your house and it sure looks wintry. However, the warmth inside isn’t the thing that makes it look inviting to me.

I am enclosing my last mounted pass. Well I must catch the next car home or I will miss retreat.

With love,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Celebrate the New Year with a Carrier’s Address

January 1st, 2018

Carriers’ addresses were published by newspapers, usually on January 1, and distributed in the United States for more than two centuries. The custom originated in England and was introduced here during colonial times. The newsboys delivered these greetings in verse each New Year’s Day and the customers understood that a tip was expected. The poems, often anonymous, describe the events of the past year, locally, regionally, and nationally, and end with a request for a gratuity for the faithful carrier. Often the poem referred to the carrier’s diligence and hardships during winter weather. Illustrated with wood-engravings and decorative borders, carriers’ addresses are distinctive examples of popular publishing in nineteenth century America.

Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship

Spencer Research Library has several carriers’ addresses in its holdings, including one distributed in Lawrence on January 1, 1870, to readers of the Republican Daily Journal newspaper.

Image of a Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal, 1870

Image of a Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal, 1870

Image of a Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal, 1870

Carrier’s Address to the Patrons of the Republican Daily Journal,
Lawrence, Kansas, January 1st, 1870: Happy New Year
.
Call Number: RH P629. Click images to enlarge.

The poem notes that “For events of importance ’tis useless to roam/There’s enough to engage us, right here at home.” Throughout 1869, Lawrence residents were focused on several local events and topics, including the following, mentioned in the text:

  • A failed attempt to build a dam on the Kansas River.
  • Controversies about the railroad (“what matter whose land these Railroads must cross?”) and the tolls charged to use the only bridge crossing the Kansas River at Lawrence (“the time has arrived, when the Bridge should be free”).
  • Road improvements and remaining problems.
  • New buildings, including the gas works (a plant for manufacturing gas and especially illuminating gas) and the First Baptist Church.
  • Praise for the city Library and the University of Kansas.
  • The success of the Kansas State Fair (held in Lawrence, September 7-10) and Kansas entries at the National Fair.
  • Immigrants moving to Lawrence
  • The election of Elijah Sells and his son William H. Sells to represent two of Douglas County’s six districts in the Kansas Legislature.

What did Lawrence look like in 1869? Check out a bird’s-eye view of the town from that year, digitized by the Library of Congress. Be sure to zoom in to see all of the details. (Spencer Research Library also has a copy of this map.)

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Card Game Edition

December 28th, 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!

It’s National Card Playing Day! Follow the lead of the KU students in this week’s photograph and celebrate with a game or two.

Photograph of KU students playing cards, 1900

KU students playing cards, 1900. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 71/0 1900 Prints: Student Activities (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Throwback Thursday: Holiday Lights Edition

December 21st, 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!

Wishing all of our researchers, visitors, donors, friends, and supporters the merriest of holidays!

Photograph of Hoch Auditorium with holiday lights, 1954

Hoch Auditorium with holiday lights, 1954. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: RG 0/22/33 1954 Negatives: Campus: Buildings: Hoch Auditorium (Photos).
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Spencer Research Library will be closed from December 23rd through January 1st.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

“Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night”

December 19th, 2017

To help celebrate the holidays, we’re sharing Clement Clarke Moore’s poem The Night Before Christmas (originally published in 1823 as A Visit from St. Nicholas) as illustrated by two copies of the text in Spencer’s collections – one from 1896 and the other from the early 1900s. The version of the poem used here comes from a 1920 edition, also in the library’s holdings.

Image of The Night Before Christmas, cover, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, or, A Visit of St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore,
undated, circa early 1900s. Call Number: Children E40.
Click image to enlarge.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was white as snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and twist of head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team he gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

Meredith Huff
Public Services