Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Milo H. Main: June 11-17, 1918

June 11th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in Illinois.

As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.

Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917, and served in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.

Milo wrote this week’s letter from “somewhere in France.” He describes the “country and customs,” especially comparing them with his previous observations of England and contrasting conditions on farms and in cities. “The home boys like all the others in our Battery are enjoying themselves as if they were on their annual vacation,” Milo says. “No reason to be dissatisfied, for we are in the best of health, plenty of good wholesome food, good climate (just a little cooler than Kans), and going thru an experience of a life time.”

 

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 14, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Somewhere in France.
June 14th, 1918.

Dear Father and Sisters: – We (including all the Argonians) are located in a beautiful old village in France.

The country and customs here are some different from England. Not so many beautiful lawns and parks here for most all tillable land is under extensive cultivation. Arthur Knox, my bunkmate and I helped an old French man and daughter make hay one afternoon. And will say we “Yanks” cannot handle any more hay with their three tine forks than the French girls. I, also operated a hay rake, it was hand power driven and cleaned a three ft. swath. Mowing machines are few and are small one horse mowers, but, most of the hay is cut with scythes.

To see these big open wells with a bucket on a pole, big stone houses with a barn in one end and hog pen in the other, one horse carts hauling heavy loads, small milk wagons drawn by a pair of dogs, guided by a French maid in wooden shoes or the milk maid milking at noon reminds me of my school days at Argonia when we studied of this foreign land and its people.

But in the cities you find the people living in a more progressive age than these pheasants who farm small plots with one horse, or if farming on a large scale use two and most generally a man or girl leading each horse. Altho I saw an old man cultivating his vineyard with an old horse educated to work by “gee and haw,” (or something similar) instead of being led or driven.

Tell J.W. the quality of the drinking water is not the best in the world, but, the substitute used by the French and more especially we Yanks is fine wines and plenty of them. Carry Nation died too soon.

The home boys like all the others in our Battery are enjoying themselves as if they were on their annual vacation. No reason to be dissatisfied, for we are in the best of health, plenty of good wholesome food, good climate (just a little cooler than Kans), and going thru an experience of a life time. One Sammie* stated to-nite he would not take a $1000. for his experience to-date.

Only regret that I cannot speak French as well as I do Spanish for a solider speaking French is jake** in this part of France.

Give my regards to all, I am

Yours respectfully.
Your son and brother.
Milo H. Main

Address
Battery F. 130 F.A.
American Expeditionary
Forces in France.

*”Sammie” or “Sammy” was British slang for a U.S. soldier in World War I; it was a reference to Uncle Sam.

**”Jake” was slang meaning “excellent, fine.” From 1914, American English, of unknown origin.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Waving Wheat Watch

June 6th, 2018

“In wheat Kansas can beat the world” – Topeka Daily Capital, October 12, 1888.

Venture outside the Kansas cities and you will find one of the state’s greatest assets: its farmland. During this time of year, many of the rolling fields are starting to turn gold as farmers prepare for Kansas’ upcoming wheat harvest. Kansas is the nation’s leader in the production of winter wheat – wheat planted in the fall and harvested during the late spring and summer – with eight to twelve million acres of winter wheat planted in the state every year.

As we look forward to the upcoming harvest season, let’s take a look at some photos of wheat harvest in Kansas from the early to mid twentieth century.

Photograph of a wheat harvest in Kansas, 1910s

Harvesting wheat in Kansas, 1910s.
Photograph by L. M. Ulmer, Abbyville, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH P2605.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

 

Photograph of a wheat harvest wheat near Jetmore, Kansas, 1919

Harvesting wheat near Jetmore, Kansas, 1919.
Call Number: RH PH P1488.2. Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of a wheat harvest in Thomas County, Kansas, circa 1922

Harvesting wheat in Thomas County, Kansas, circa 1922.
Photograph by George Gould, Colby, Kansas. Call Number: RH PH P1130.1.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

 

Photograph of two combines in a wheat field, St. John, Kansas, 1945-1949

Two combines in a wheat field, St. John, Kansas, between 1945 and 1949.
Photograph by William Gray. Call Number: RH PH P1101.
Click image to enlarge (redirect to Spencer’s digital collections).

Even as the times and technology change, one thing remains constant: Kansas continues to lead the way when it comes to wheat production!

Emily Beran
Public Services

World War I Letters of Milo H. Main: June 2-10, 1918

June 4th, 2018

In honor of the centennial of World War I, this is the second series in which we follow the experiences of one American soldier: twenty-five year old Milo H. Main, whose letters are held in Spencer’s Kansas Collection. Each Monday we’ll post a new entry featuring selected letters from Milo to his family from that following week, one hundred years after he wrote them.

Milo Hugh Main was born in or near Pittsfield, Illinois, on November 21, 1892 to William and Rose Ella Henry Main. The family moved to Argonia, Sumner County, Kansas, in 1901. After his mother died in 1906, Milo remained in Argonia with his father and his two sisters Gladys (b. 1890) and June (b. 1899). His youngest sister Fern (b. 1905) was sent to live with relatives in Illinois.

As Milo reported to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1919, after graduating from high school he worked as a store clerk. He resigned in July 1917 and took a position at Standard Oil Company, possibly co-managing a gas station in Argonia.

Milo entered into military service on September 21, 1917, and served in Battery F, 130th Field Artillery. He was stationed at Camp Funston (September-October 1917) and Camp Doniphan (October 1917-May 1918). On May 19, 1918, he boarded the ship Ceramic in New York City and departed for Europe.

In this week’s letters, Milo summarizes his journey to England and provides some observations about the country, especially how he perceived it to be different than the United States. “Many things of interest of our voyage and this country I would like to write about,” he says, “but owing to the censor will have to wait until I return to tell you.”

 

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918

Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918 Image of Milo H. Main's letter to his family, June 2, 1918

Click images to enlarge.

Somewhere in England.
6/2/1918

Dear Father and Sisters:-

I arrived safely overseas. Must say I enjoyed the trip from the time we left our Camp in Okla. until we landed at our present camp. And more too, I never got sea-sick, sick of the sea or fed the fish on our trip across the salt-water pond.

What short time I have been here I have had the pleasure of seeing much of this beautiful country. Was out walking this evening and I strolled over to one of the big estates near by. It is just as Raymond Flory* stated, “very well kept up and one of the very beautiful countries.” Every thing is kept “up-to-now” in the way of farms and highways but, the railroads with little toy like engines and coaches divided into sections seem so much different from the R.R. in the U.S.A. The heavy truck horses are generally driven tandom instead of abreast and on the left of the streets. In fact every think is a bit different here, even, the ladies are not as they are in the U.S.A. But the change of scenery and customs makes quite a novelty for we “Bloody Yanks” as the English call us. (The word “Bloody” being used over here instead of the familiar “Dam” as in the States.

To date I have not received any mail from the States. But by the time you receive this, I possibly will have.

When writing, please mention all the latest scandal “from me home town” and all news of interest.

Tell Mrs. Dyer I have not been able to visit with her sister yet, but hope to be able to before I return. Ray F. [probably Raymond Flory] is another “Yank” I have not seen, but tell his “Mary” not to fear him leaving her behind.

Many things of interest of our voyage and this country I would like to write about, but owing to the censor will have to wait until I return to tell you.

Above all, I have the best of health an a good appetite and hope this find all well at home.

Give my regards to all.

With love to all
I close
Your son and bro.

Milo H. Main.

Bat. F. 130 F. A.
American E. F. [Expeditionary Forces]
Via New York.

P. S. The Argonia Bunch is the same old gang and send best wishes to all.

OK

Julian Sher[illegible]

1st Lieut FA

*Raymond Henry Flory and Milo were likely childhood neighbors and may have been friends. The two had very similar histories: Raymond was born in Iowa on February 28, 1892. By 1900 his family was living in Sumner County, Kansas. Raymond’s mother died in 1906, and by 1910 he was living with his aunt and uncle in Wichita. Raymond’s father and brother, both named Benjamin, continued to live in Argonia, and area newspapers reported that he periodically visited them. Raymond enlisted in December 1917, reporting that he was living in Wichita and working as a truckman for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He served in the 137th Aero Squadron, Aviation Section, Signal Corps – leaving New York on March 6, 1918, presumably bound for England.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Making Collections Accessible for Researchers

May 30th, 2018

When manuscript collections – the papers, letters, documents, photographs, and/or diaries of an individual or organization – are acquired by the Spencer Research Library, they need to undergo processing in order for them to be ready for researchers to use them. Some collections need more processing than others in order to make them accessible. While we process the collection, we create a finding aid so researchers know what is in the collection.

This blog post will use the Jane Wofford Malin Collection (Call Number: RH MS 1444) to illustrate what processing entails.

 

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

The “before” picture of an unprocessed donation to Spencer Research Library.
Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018 Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

Sometimes collections are pretty large. Even a small box can contain hundreds of letters!
Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

Correspondence is unfolded and put into acid-free folders so researchers can
access them easily. The folders will be put into acid-free boxes. Notice the pencils
in the photo above? We use those to label the folder. We never use ink pens
around archival items. Researchers are also required to leave their ink pens behind
when they enter the research room here. Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

This donated box contained hundreds of photographs. In order to protect the photographs and
make them useful for researchers, we put them into acid-free folders and
note the content so we can enter it into the finding aid. Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

The photos from the box shown above were sorted into like-groups and by year.
On the far right corner of the work table, you can see the purple nitrile gloves worn
when handling the photos. We always wear cotton or nitrile gloves when handling photographs
so that our finger-prints don’t ruin the image. Researchers also have to wear gloves
when using photographs here at Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

 

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

The “after” picture of a processed collection at
Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

Here is what the collection looked like after it was all arranged and organized. The larger boxes on top hold oversize documents, such as certificates and artwork, and an oversize scrapbook. Everything is ready to go to the stacks and wait for a researcher to call them into the Reading Room!

With the collection all organized, we put the finishing touches on the finding aid and publish it to our website. Try searching the finding aids for yourself and see what you can discover in the Spencer Research Library. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to ask the staff. We work hard to preserve history and to make sure that it can be used and accessed by you!

Lynn Ward
Processing

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: Epilogue

May 29th, 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 selected letters from Forrest 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).

 

Photograph of Forrest Bassett in The Beloiter yearbook, 1916

Forrest Bassett’s senior picture in the
Beloit Memorial High School yearbook, The Beloiter, 1916.
The quotation accompanying his picture is “without my camera, I would be lost.”
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

We have reached the last of Forrest’s letters from Fort Leavenworth. By May 31, 1918, he had reached Camp Wadsworth, South Carolina. Forrest’s experiences there are documented in a collection of his letters at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina. According to Army Transport Service passenger lists, Forrest and the other members of Co. A left New York City, heading for Europe, on July 7, 1918, aboard the Darro. He returned to the United States almost a year later: on June 3, 1919, he set sail from Brest, France, on board the USS Mount Vernon. This was almost eight months after the armistice but only a week after the Treaty of Versailles formally ended World War I.

Forrest and Marie were married on March 6, 1920, in Beloit, Wisconsin. They had two children: Sally Ann Bassett (1930- ) and Terrence Shaw Bassett (1932-1996).

Photograph of Forrest and Marie Bassett on their twenty-fifth anniversary, March 6, 1945

Forrest and Marie Bassett on their twenty-fifth anniversary, March 6, 1945.
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Sally Ann Bassett's twentieth birthday, March 22, 1950

Forrest, Marie, and Terrence Bassett celebrating Sally’s twentieth birthday, March 22, 1950.
A note on the back of the photograph says “Ethel [Marie’s sister?] came down and took this for us.
(The cake is a chocolate ice box cake made with ladyfingers. It was good. You’d have liked it, I know.)”
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

According to Forrest’s obituary in the Janesville (Wisconsin) Gazette, he was employed for forty years at Yates-American Machine Co. After retiring, he worked for ten years in the credit department at Dane Aluminum Co. Forrest was a member of numerous community organizations, including American Legion Post No. 48, William J. Huemphner World War I Barracks, the Second Congregational Church, and the Men’s Garden and Beloit Camera clubs.

According to Marie’s obituary in the Janesville Gazette, she was a teacher of speech and oral interpretation for many years. She also worked as a secretary for the Freeman Shoe Company, Yates-American Machine Co., Fairbanks Morse, and the Second Congregational Church, and she served as coordinator of volunteers at the Beloit Senior Center. An “accomplished actress, singer, and solo dramatist,” Marie was a founding member of Beloit Civic Theatre and served on its board of directors. She was also a member and former president of the group Treble Clef.

Photograph of the Bassett family, undated

Forrest and Marie Bassett with their children Sally and Terrence, undated.
Image courtesy of the Beloit Historical Society. Click image to enlarge.

Forrest died on August 3, 1985; Marie died October 8, 1992. They are both buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Beloit, Wisconsin.

Special thanks to the staff at the Beloit Historical Society for locating and scanning the images included in this post.

Caitlin Donnelly
Head of Public Services

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant