Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: October 16-22, 1917

October 16th, 2017

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).

Forrest’s recent illness features prominently in this letter. “Here is the one [photo] of me writing to you at the hospital,” he tells Marie. “You can see a small scar on the edge of my jaw.”

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 21, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 21, 1917

Wed. Oct. 21, 1917*

Dear Marie,

Just got your letter of the 21st. You got me guessing as to what “this” is, but the stakes are so high that I’ll take you up on the bet anyway. Better stick to regulation style of slapping the stamps on my letters but I am curious to know this one means anyway. Did you get the pictures O.K.? Here is the one of me writing to you at the hospital. You can see a small scar on the edge of my jaw. It won’t show much but there is a small knot (that’s what the Doc calls it) on the bone. I left the hospital Monday morning. It was cold and rainy all day. I got pretty rusty on my telegraph receiving but my transmitting is a lot better.

My best luck was in getting my horse. I can hardly wait to strap a saddle on him. It will be my first time on a horse.

Please invest the 15 cents in stamps. Co A-6 bought over $7,000 in Liberty bonds. I signed up for $100 to be paid at the rate of $20 per month – 5 months. Well I must quit & scrub some clothes.

Yours, Forrest.

*Forrest meant either Wednesday, October 17th, or Saturday, October 21st.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: October 9-15, 1917

October 9th, 2017

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).

Forrest only wrote one letter to Marie this week, and in it he describes suffering and recovering from a serious illness. “When I was at my worst,” he told Marie, “I was handled with rubber gloves and fed tomato soup thru a glass tube. My face was swollen and my eyes were nearly shut. My ears were like hams.” This illness probably explains the lack of letters over the last two weeks; according to Spencer’s holdings, Forrest’s previous letter to Marie was dated September 25th.

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 12, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 12, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, October 12, 1917

Friday Oct. 12, 1917

Dear Marie,

Well I am just getting out and exercising my pins abit. Still pretty shaky and don’t feel much like doing “To the rear,” or “By the right flank” yet awhile. When I was at my worst I was handled with rubber gloves and fed tomato soup thru a glass tube. My face was swollen and my eyes were nearly shut. My ears were like hams. On top of this I was painted every four hours with a coal black salve. When the Hospital Major first looked at me he said I would be out by Christmas. I am all fine & rosey now though. This afternoon I came down to the city and got a little birthday remembrance for you. You will be several days over fourteen before it reaches you, and I am sorry I couldn’t do better. I sure do hope your new year will be full of happiness and good luck.

I am also sending you a Signal Corps emblem to sew on the left hand front of my sweater coat. The crossed wig-wag flags and torch represent the highest branch of service in the U.S. Army, and you may be proud to wear it. You should see me in my new army overcoat that was just issued to me yesterday. Now when I get some shoes I will be fixed up in good shape. The coat is a “beaut” though, if I do say so.

Say maybe you would rather not wear the Signal Corps insignia. If not then wait and sew it on for me when I get home. Well I must catch the car for the Fort.

Hope you are getting along well in your studies, and in your music and elocution.

Yours,
Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

October Exhibit: The Russian Revolution

October 6th, 2017

Spencer’s renovated North Gallery includes two new cases in which staff members can display materials on a short-term basis. During October, we’re exhibiting items in Spencer’s holdings that relate to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The exhibit is free and open to the public in the Spencer North Gallery during the library’s regular business hours.

The cover of the pamphlet entitled Eugene V. Deb’s Canton Speech, published after 1921

One of the most well-known and popular American socialists
during the early 20th century, Eugene V. Debs was the
Socialist Party’s candidate for U.S. President five times.
As a result of this speech, Debs was arrested and convicted
in federal court under wartime espionage law.
Call Number: Josephson 5687. Click image to enlarge.

“During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a single week incomparably more than in a whole year of every-day sluggish life.”

Vladimir Lenin

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Spencer Research Library is currently displaying highlights from the Leon Josephson Collection on Modern Socialism. Extensively documenting the international socialist movement during the first half of the 20th century, the Josephson Collection contains over 8000 pamphlets, books, and ephemeral materials.

Examples of materials on display include Lessons of the Revolution and The Land Revolution in Russia by Vladimir Lenin, as well as a copy of the first constitution adopted by the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) in 1918.

Image of the cover of The Masses, September 1917

As a result of the magazine’s consistent denouncement of
World War I and American involvement, nearly all of the
editors and writers of The Masses were charged with violating
the Espionage Act of 1917. Call Number: D2009. Click image to enlarge.

Image of the cover of The Liberator, March 1918

John Reed later published his eyewitness account of the Bolshevik Revolution
as a book, Ten Days that Shook the World (1919). Reed died in a Moscow hospital
in 1920; he is buried in the graveyard of revolutionary heroes near the
Kremlin Wall. Call Number: RH WL D1614. Click image to enlarge.

“The Russian Revolution is an incomparably mightier even than any previous revolution; larger in scope and deeper in ultimate meaning than the French Revolution.”

Louis C. Fraina, a founding member of the American Communist Party

Socialist publications from America such as The Masses and its successor The Liberator are also on display. These magazines were illustrated with realist and modernist artwork, which they combined with poetry, short stories, and articles discussing and interpreting the Russian Revolution and its influence on the international socialist movement.

Statement from Public Services student Zachary Lassiter

I started KU in the fall of 2015 as a History major, and began working at Kenneth Spencer Research Library in August 2016. I’ve spent most of my time as an undergraduate studying the former Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and the Cold War. I had the desire to take part in researching and constructing one of the many exhibits that are showcased at Spencer throughout the year. With the recent renovation of Spencer’s North Gallery, and with the 100th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it was a perfect opportunity. Going through countless pamphlets, magazines, and ephemeral materials, I have gained a better understanding of the Russian Revolution from the perspectives of the Bolsheviks and American socialists in their own words as it was happening. I also gained experience in the research and development process of constructing an exhibit, knowledge I hope to utilize in future work. Finally, I want to thank Caitlin Donnelly, Head of Public Services, for helping me through this process and providing me with this opportunity.

Zachary Lassiter
Public Services Student Assistant

World War I Letters of Forrest W. Bassett: September 25-October 1, 1917

September 25th, 2017

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).

 

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917

Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917 Image of Forrest W. Bassett's letter to Ava Marie Shaw, September 25, 1917

Tues. Sept. 25, 1917

Dear Marie,

Your letter of Sun. 23rd came this noon. Sorry to hear that the Sundays go so hard but I am glad to know that you do miss me. It seems like two years instead of two months since I last saw you yet it seems as if I had been in the army about two weeks. The time sure does fly. Strained most of the day so we had it pretty soft. The captain gave the company a little mounted drill on “shank’s horses” this morning then we had a buzzer class in the barracks. I am holding a seat at the speed shark’s table but it is too fast for me. 20 to 25 words a minute is faster than I can write and I lose a word about every three words. I should worry though as I am no longer expected to become an operator anyway. After this class we put on our slickers and waded over to the stables and groomed and fed our horses. Our saddles are expected this week and then we will have a gay time. When we came back we had an hour of practice at setting up and sighting the heliograph.

After dinner we had a class of semaphore and an hour of infantry foot drill on the muddy roads. At 3:30 the day’s work was called done. I am down to Leavenworth “Y” now and want to get an early car home so will have to quit.

Marie don’t feel that you are making me homesick by writing letters like the one of Sunday. That’s the kind that help me the most and make me want to get someplace. It’s the very most you can do for me and you don’t realize how much that is.

Forrest.

 

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Emma Piazza
Public Services Student Assistant

Military Musician: The Diary of Thomas C. Key

September 22nd, 2017

“This book while today may not be of much value to me, I hope will in future years become priceless.”

                – Diary of Thomas C. Key, 1918

Image of the cover of Thomas Key's World War I diary

The cover of Thomas C. Key’s diary.
Call Number: RH MS B75.
Click image to enlarge.

Image of the first page of entries in Thomas Key's World War I diary

The first page of entries in Thomas Key’s World War I diary.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Thomas C. Key was a member of Company F in the 357th infantry division of the American Expeditionary Forces from 1917 to 1919. In March 1918 he became a member of the infantry band before being transferred overseas. He was stationed in parts of France and Germany from 1918 until his discharge in June 1919. During his time in the Army, he filled this diary with daily updates – concert preparation details; the receipt of a letter from his wife, Edna; the daily weather, etc. – so that in later years he would have a record of his military service.

Image of the title page of Thomas Key's World War I diary

The title page of Thomas Key’s World War I diary with a photograph
of his wife, Edna. Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Image of a list of European towns in Thomas Key's World War I diary

Key’s list of the towns he visited in Europe during World War I.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

In addition to Key’s entries from his time in Europe, the diary includes entries from his life after he returned home as well as a list of addresses for his bandmates, some of his family history details, and his transcriptions of military poems, essays, and burial rites.

Image of the civilian addresses of bandmates in Thomas Key's World War I diary

The civilian addresses of Key’s bandmates.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Image of family history information in Thomas Key's World War I diary

Family history in the diary, including information about Thomas’s relative
Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner.
Call Number: RH MS B75. Click image to enlarge.

Emily Beran
Public Services