Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

V-Mail: You Write, He’ll Fight

January 9th, 2018

Victory Mail, commonly called V-Mail, was a process developed in 1942 to more efficiently transport the immense amount of correspondence being generated between military personnel and their families during World War II. The system was a cooperated effort between the U.S. Postal Service and the military, intended to preserve precious cargo space for essential military personnel, equipment, and supplies by reducing the volume and weight of the mail.

Image of a blank v-mail sheet, undated

Image of a blank v-mail sheet, undated

Image of a Blank v-mail envelope, undated.

Blank v-mail sheets and envelope.
Personal collection of Kathy Lafferty. Click images to enlarge.

A V-Mail letter started out as a single sheet of pre-printed stationery that served as both letter and envelope. The use of V-Mail was voluntary for both military personnel and those on the home front, but its use was encouraged by all branches of the U.S. military as a way to support the war effort. Correspondents were instructed to write only within the space provided, using dark ink or a heavy pencil, then to fold and seal the paper along the lines indicated, forming an envelope. V-Mail was mailed along with normal U.S. mail. Post office staff separated out the V-Mail and sent it to V-Mail stations for filming, using equipment provided by Eastman Kodak. In the U.S., these stations were located in New York, San Francisco, and Chicago, while a network of V-Mail stations throughout Europe and the Pacific handled V-Mail written by those serving overseas. Letters written by military personnel were censored for classified intelligence before filming. Once filmed, reels of microfilm were created, each capable of holding approximately 1,700 letters. The reels of microfilm were then mailed. Once the microfilm reached a V-Mail station, it was developed, and each four-by-five inch printed letter was folded and placed into a window envelope for mailing to the recipient. Members of the military who were serving overseas could mail V-Mail, as well as all other mail, for free under an Act of Congress in March 1942.

Shown here are examples of V-Mail from a few of the manuscript collections housed in Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Orin Roland Bales, June 26, 1945

V-Mail letter from Orin Roland Bales to his mother,
June 26, 1945. Bales Family Papers.
Call Number: RH MS 952. Click image to enlarge.

Orin Roland Bales (1919-2010) was born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia (1940) and a master’s degree from the University of Kansas (1942). From 1942 to 1945 he served in the U.S. Army Air Forces‘ 63rd Air Service Group, stationed primarily in the Philippines, where Luzon is the largest island. After the war he owned businesses in Emporia, Kansas, and Fairfield Bay, Arkansas.

Image of a V-Mail letter from John Avery Bond, December 31, 1943

V-Mail letter from John Avery Bond to his parents,
December 31, 1943. Papers of John A. Bond.
Call Number: RH MS 1272. Click image to enlarge.

John Avery Bond (1919-2016) was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1942 to 1946, serving in the Pacific, French New Caledonia, New Zealand, Guadalcanal, and Bougainville. At Bougainville, Bond monitored radar for information about Japanese position changes and potential attacks. Back in the United States, he taught electronics to Navy sailors and worked at the U.S. Marine Corps Rehabilitation Office, advising discharged Marines of their rights and opportunities as veterans. After the war he graduated from the University of Chicago with a masters degree in social science, and then earned his Ph.D. in political science. Dr. Bond taught at Hillsdale College, the University of Minnesota, the University of Southern Illinois, North Dakota State University, and the University of Southern Colorado.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Bill F. Mayer, April 11, 1945

V-Mail letter from Bill F. Mayer to his parents,
April 11, 1945. Bill Mayer Correspondence.
Call Number: RH MS 1386. Click image to enlarge.

Bill F. Mayer (1925-2014) was born in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1925. After graduating from Wyandotte High School in 1943, he served in the Army Air Forces as a navigator on B-24 bombers during World War II, flying missions over the European Theater of Operations. After his Army service, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas. He worked at the Lawrence Journal World newspaper for sixty years.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Charles S. Scott, March 16, 1944

V-Mail letter from Charles S. Scott to his father, March 16, 1944.
Charles S. Scott Papers. Call Number: RH MS 1145. Click image to enlarge.

Charles S. Scott, Sr. (1921-1989) was born in Topeka, Kansas. During World War II, he served with the United States Army’s 2nd Calvary Division and the Red Ball Express Transportation Unit. Following the war, he earned a law degree from Washburn University in 1948 and his Juris Doctorate in 1970. In 1954, Scott was one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which ended legal segregation in public schools.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Robert Ernest Willman, October 4, 1944

V-Mail letter from Robert Ernest Willman to his parents,
October 4, 1944. Robert Ernest Willman World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 946. Click image to enlarge.

Robert Ernest Willman (1923-1978) was born in Lawrence, Kansas. He was inducted into the Army in 1943 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, with the rank of Private. He was sent overseas in August 1944, serving in France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Germany with Company C of the First Division’s First Battalion, 26th Infantry. Willman was wounded in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest near Aachen, Germany, and was awarded the Purple Heart. He returned to active duty in May 1945 and served with American occupation forces at Fürth, Germany, guarding prisoners of war who had served in Hitler’s SS forces. In February 1946 Willman suffered injuries in a jeep accident and was hospitalized at Nürnberg, Germany, returning to the U.S. in May 1946 for hospitalization and recuperation.

Image of a V-Mail letter from Leo William Zahner, Jr., June 25, 1944

V-Mail letter from Leo William Zahner, Jr. to his parents,
June 25, 1944. Leo Zahner, Jr. World War II Letters.
Call Number: RH MS 1079. Click image to enlarge.

Leo William Zahner, Jr. (1925-2007) was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He joined the Navy in 1943, receiving training in the Navy’s metalsmith school. He shipped overseas in 1944, serving on a tank landing ship in combat zones in New Guinea and the Philippines. After the war, Leo joined his father in the family business, the Zahner Sheet Metal Company. Under Leo Jr.’s influence, the company applied its metal work to architecture, earning awards and a global reputation for innovative and visually striking building design. In 1989, Leo was awarded the National Sheet Metal Contractor of the Year. In 2000, he received the National AFL-CIO Labor – Management Award.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Happy Halloween from Spencer Research Library

October 31st, 2017

Spencer Research Library houses the records and films of the Centron Corporation, a production company that specialized in industrial and educational films from the 1940s through the 1990s. Childhood friends and aspiring filmmakers Russell Mosser and Arthur Wolf started working in films together while they were attending the University of Kansas. Their first film was “Sewing Simple Seams,” a one-reel sewing lesson. The rights for this film were purchased by a large instructional film company, and soon Centron grew to be a successful, independent film production company, nationally known in the field. Their most successful film was “Leo Beuerman,” nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary short of 1969.

For your Halloween preparation and enjoyment, here, compliments of Internet Archive, is Centron’s film “Halloween Safety,” produced in 1977 and now in the public domain. This film was directed by Herk Harvey, who would go on to direct “Carnival of Souls,” another excellent film to watch in preparation of Halloween. Be safe out there, little trick-or-treaters!

Image of "Halloween Safety" Film title sequence.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Happy Birthday, William Inge!

May 3rd, 2017

Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning playwright and screenwriter William Inge (1913-1973) was born on this day in Independence, Kansas, 104 years ago.

Photograph of William Inge, circa 1960

William Inge, circa 1960. University Archives Photos.
Call Number: P/ Inge, William (Photos). Click image to enlarge.

Inge attended the University of Kansas from 1930 to 1935, getting his degree in speech and dramatic arts. While a student, Inge pursued his interest in acting as a member of the KU Dramatics Club. In the fall of 1934 he was in a KU production of Eva the Fifth, the story of a traveling theater troupe.

Photograph of William Inge in "Eva the Fifth,” Fall 1934

William Inge and Virginia Hecker in a scene from Eva the Fifth, Fall 1934.
This photograph appeared in the Topeka Capital Journal, October 19, 1963.
William Inge biographical file. University Archives. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of William Inge, 1935

Inge was a also member of Sigma Nu while at KU.
This picture of him is from the fraternity’s
group photo in the 1935 Jayhawker yearbook.
University Archives. Call Number: LD 2697 .J3 1935.
Click image to enlarge.

Inge turned his attention to playwriting after leaving KU and was quite successful. His most well-known works are Come Back Little Sheba, Picnic, Bus Stop, Splendor in the Grass, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs.

Inge came back to KU several times as a guest lecturer, and in 1955 he directed a KU production of what would become Picnic, using an early draft version of the play entitled Summer Brave.

Photograph of the "Summer Brave" cover page, 1961

Cover page of Inge’s “Summer Brave,” 1961.
Call Number: RH MS D70. Click image to enlarge.

Spencer Research Library has a small Inge Collection, and the William Inge Memorial Theatre, housed in Murphy Hall on the KU campus, is named in his honor. The largest collection of Inge materials is housed at Independence Community College, where there is also the William Inge Center for the Arts and an annual William Inge Theater Festival.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Myrtle Shane: Devoted Ally of the Armenian People

April 24th, 2017

“I shall stay here and face starvation with the Armenians.” Myrtle Shane, 1920

One of the rewards of working in a place like Spencer Research Library are the unexpected discoveries you make. While working on a project involving the Shane-Thompson Collection, I came across the courageous story of one of James Shane’s daughters, Myrtle Shane. Her story is especially fitting on April 24th, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

Myrtle Shane from the Shane Thompson Photograph Collection. Kansas Collection. Call Number: RH PH 500.2.18
Photograph of Myrtle O. Shane, undated.
Shane-Thompson Collection, Kansas Collection.
Call number: RH PH 500:2.18. Click image to enlarge.

War always brings with it atrocities, and World War I was certainly no exception. One of the greatest atrocities during that time was the government-sponsored genocide and deportation of the Armenian people, which took place between 1915 and the early 1920s. The Armenian people were Christians who had made their home in the Caucasus region of Eurasia since the 6th century BC. Control of Armenia shifted between empires, eventually becoming part of the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. The Ottoman leaders and their subjects were Muslim, yet, in spite of this vast religious difference, the two groups were able to live together relatively peacefully. Still, the majority of Muslims viewed the Armenians as “infidels” and subjected them to unequal laws and unfair treatment. Toward the end of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire began to fall apart, and there was growing suspicion among the Muslim rulers that, if given the opportunity, the Armenians would be loyal to Christian governments such as Russia, and that they would turn on their Muslim compatriots. Consequently, in 1894 Ottoman ruler Abdul Hamid II instigated the first of several pogroms against the Armenians, ordering the razing of their villages and the massacre of the people.

In 1914, Turkey entered World War I on the side of the Germans and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and at the same time the Ottoman religious authorities declared a holy war against all Christians. The view they held of the Armenian people as infidels and potential traitors was intensified, and now it included Turkish military leaders. The genocide began on April 24, 1915, when the Turkish government started killing and deporting Armenian citizens. At the start of the war there were an estimated two million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire. Between 1915 and 1923 it is believed that over one and a half million of them died by execution, starvation, exhaustion, or disease. There were many non-Armenian witnesses to the genocide, in spite of government imposed restrictions and censorship of photography and reporting. Foreign diplomats and missionaries gave chilling accounts of the atrocities taking place. Among the missionaries serving in Turkey in 1915 was a woman named Myrtle Shane.

Myrtle was born in Lawrence, Kansas, on August 16, 1880, the seventh of ten children born to James and Missouri Lee Shane. Myrtle graduated from the University of Kansas in 1906 and taught school for nearly eight years. In 1913, at the age of 32, she turned her attention to the mission field and joined the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Her first assignment was to the mission in Bitlis, Turkey, where she was serving when World War I broke out and the full-scale genocide pogrom began.

Ancestry.com, Certificate of Registration of American Citizenry, Myrtle O. Shane, 1913.
Certificate of Registration of American Citizenry
for Myrtle O. Shane, 1913.
Accessed via Ancestry.com. Click image to enlarge.

By June 1915 the crisis had reached Bitlis, and the Armenian people began to seek refuge in the mission. Myrtle and a handful of other missionaries took it upon themselves to give the refugees as much protection as possible. They did this at great risk because foreigners had been forbidden to offer any help whatsoever. Not conceding to this directive, Myrtle went to the local governor to ask if he would allow the refugees – by this time about sixty women and children – to remain with her at the mission. She was told no, that there were to be no Armenians left in Bitlis. “In that case I will not give them up,” she replied. After several attempts by Myrtle, the governor finally relented and agreed to leave the refugees at the mission as long as he could.

By the middle of July conditions had worsened in Bitlis, and all missionaries were ordered by the governor to leave because he could no longer guarantee their safety, but again, Myrtle and her colleagues refused to go. Eventually Myrtle was the only missionary left to supervise the mission and the refugees. The others had died of typhus (which Myrtle also contracted during this time), been forced to leave because they were men, or been reassigned to positions in other besieged Armenian communities. Several times throughout the summer and fall attempts were made to wrest the refugees from the mission, but Myrtle always managed to negotiate a way to keep them.

By November, though, Myrtle herself was finally forced by the American State Department to leave Bitlis and go to Harpoot, where it was safer for her. She fought the order as long as she could and went reluctantly. She worked in Harpoot until the summer of 1917, when diplomatic relations between the United States and Turkey were severed and Americans were ordered to leave for good. Myrtle returned to the United States in October 1917. With no one left to defend them, the refugees were eventually overtaken. While back home, Myrtle went on a speaking tour and told her audiences what she had witnessed, encouraging Americans to provide support for the suffering Armenian people.

Letter from the State Department to Herbert Thompson, Myrtle’s brother-in-law. Shane Thompson Collection,Kansas Collection. Call number: RH MS 58:1.12.
Letter from the State Department to
Herbert Thompson, Myrtle’s brother-in-law, 1915.
Shane Thompson Collection, Kansas Collection.
Call number: RH MS 58:1.12. Click image to enlarge.

"Told of Cruelties to Armenian Race" article from the Lawrence Journal World, January 3, 1918.
An account of a lecture given by Myrtle Shane
about the “cruelties to [the] Armenian Race,”
Lawrence Journal-World, January 3, 1918.
Click image to enlarge.

In 1919, at the closing of World War I, Myrtle returned to Turkey, having joined the first expedition of the American Commission for Relief in the Near East, an organization formed to provide humanitarian aid in response to the Armenian Genocide. She worked as the director of an orphanage in Alexandropol, housing nearly 5,000 orphans. Ten of her assistants were women she had protected in Bitlis. The post-war Treaty of Sevres established an Armenian state, but the new Turkish regime did not recognize it and soon atrocities against the Armenian people resumed. Again, Myrtle fought to stay with her charges until the tension eased, resisting orders to leave and dedicating herself to defend the people she had come to love. She went on to serve in Turkey, as well as in Greece and Beirut, for another ten years. She retired from the Commission in 1929. Upon her return to the United States, she went to live with her sister, Ella Gilbert, in Columbus, Ohio, and resumed teaching school. On June 28, 1953, Myrtle suffered a stroke and passed away at age 72.

Sources
Armenian National Institute, Washington, DC.

Digital Library for International Research.

Hubbard, Ethel Daniels. Lone Sentinels in the Near East: War Stories of American Women in Turkey and Serbia. Boston: Woman’s Board of Missions, 1920.

Shane-Thompson Collection, RH MS 58 and RH PH 500, Kenneth Spencer Research Library.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

Louie Chester Walbridge Photograph Collection

March 8th, 2017

“I’m off Friday noon, destination Russell, Kansas…Direct all letters to Russell, Russell Co., Kansas, until you hear from me to the contrary”

Letter from Louie C. Walbridge, September 27, 1882

Louie C. Walbridge was born in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1859, the youngest of six children. In 1878, after finishing his education at the Riverview Military School in Poughkeepsie, he headed west to take a clerical job in St. Louis, Missouri. He left that job in the summer of 1879 to join his brother in Sioux City, Iowa, where together they worked for the government, surveying the Missouri River. Next, Louie went to Chicago and worked in a hardware store for a couple of years. Sometime after his 23rd birthday, he made the decision to move to Russell County, Kansas, and on October 24, 1882, Louie signed papers to form a partnership in a plot of land that would eventually grow to 3,000 acres and a herd of over 1,000 sheep. This would be the start of his life-long career as a sheep rancher and farmer.

Photograph of Louie C. Walbridge on porch of his home, 1884

Louie C. Walbridge on porch of his home,
Profile Ranch, Russell County, Kansas, 1884.
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21.
Click image to enlarge.

About two years later, Louis bought out his partner and proceeded in business alone. He named the property Profile Ranch. He wrote, “I have made this purchase basing all my calculations on the future prosperity of the country.” And just to remove all doubt as to who owned the property, he painted “WALBRIDGE” on the roof of his most visible barn.

Photograph of wool wagons on Profile Ranch, circa 1885

Wool wagons on Profile Ranch, circa 1885. Walbridge Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of sheep on Profile Ranch, circa 1885

Sheep on Profile Ranch, circa 1885. Walbridge Collection.
Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

On January 21, 1892, Louie married Louise Rachel Castle (1861-1947). They had six children: Margaret (1893-1974), Louise (1895-1966), Caroline (1898-1989), Anne (1900-1971), Chester (1903-1984), and Henry (1905-1949).

Photograph of tive of the Walbridge children, undated

Five of the Walbridge children: Caroline, Margaret,
Louise, Anne, and Chester, undated (circa 1904).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21.
Click image to enlarge.

One of Louie’s hobbies was photography. He owned his own equipment and set up a darkroom in his family’s home. He photographed his property and his herd, but his favorite subject was his family. What sets Louie’s family photographs apart from those of other amateur photographers of his time is the intimate and candid way in which he captured their images. Many of his photos show his children relaxed and smiling, often leaning on or touching one another, looking at each other and not at the camera. In one image, their faces, hands, and clothes are dirty, as though they had just come in from playing outside, and their attention is on a cat they are holding, seemingly unaware of the camera. It is as though Louie wanted to portray his family as they really were, and he did not try to get the “perfect” photo of “perfect” children. In this way his photographs are quite endearing.

Photograph of Louie C. Walbridge with Louise, Caroline, and Margaret, undated

Louie C. Walbridge with Louise, Caroline, and Margaret, undated (circa 1899).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of Louise Walbridge with Margaret, Caroline, and Louise, undated

Louise Walbridge with her children Margaret, Caroline, and Louise, undated (circa 1899).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

Margaret, Caroline, and Louise Walbridge holding a cat, undated (circa 1900).
Walbridge Collection. Call Number: RH PH 21. Click image to enlarge.

The Walbridge family enjoyed many years of overall success in ranching, and later in farming, but the Depression hit Louie and Louise hard, and their business suffered greatly. Poor economic conditions were made worse by dust storms, drought, crop failures, and Louie’s declining health. He was eventually forced to sell the ranch, and Louie and Louise moved to town. Perhaps the words he wrote years earlier gave him comfort: “There is one prominent feature of the Walbridges that I hope will descend to the coming generations, i.e., enduring with good grace what cannot be helped.” On February 1, 1939, just two months after moving to town, Louie passed away at the age of eighty. Louise would follow him in death eight years later.

Sources

“Louie Walbridge, Renaissance Man,” Kansas State Agriculturist, March 1981.

Walbridge, Caroline K. Ranchorama and Louie C. Walbridge: An Illustrated Story of Profile Ranch and the Owner, 1859-1939. Russell, Kansas: The Russell Record, 1966. Call Number RH D787.

Walbridge, Caroline Knickerbacker. Gallant Lady 1861-1947. Topeka, Kansas: Clyde E. Gilbert, printer, 1968. Call Number RH D3896.

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services