FALVEY MEMORIAL LIBRARY

You are exploring: VU > Library > Blogs > Blue Electrode: Sparking between Silicon and Paper

Frank R. Steed in WWI Paris

We recently acquired a 2-volume set of scrapbooks created by Frank R. Steed, an Army Field Clerk in World War I. Both volumes have now been digitized and there are many interesting things to be found within the pages. The materials are not affixed to pages in chronological order, but dates noted range from May 1918 to November 1919. In addition, Steed was inconsistent with his labeling of materials, so there will be several pages with very detailed descriptions written in followed by a run of pages with no notes at all.

Steed's Certificate of Identity

Steed’s Certificate of Identity, issued in August 1918.

Frank R. Steed was discharged from the medical department at Camp Dix, New Jersey, and appointed as an Army Field Clerk in July 1918. A memo describes process for applying to become an Army field clerk: “A candidate to be eligible for appointment must … pass the required physical examination, be of good moral character and a citizen of the United States. Army field clerks have a military status, and as they are appointed to office by the Secretary of War, they are officers in the military service, although not commissioned officers.”

Steed was assigned to the Casualty Division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. A letter from Steed’s superior, Lt. Col. Ernest G. Smith, details the work carried out by this division: “Our part in the Great Adventure concerned itself in large measure with the work of collecting and properly recording casualties of the A.E.F. This was one of the most trying as well as most important tasks of the war. How well it has been performed has been evinced from time to time by citations in orders as well as by favorable comment expressed by all who have investigated this work.” Smith goes on to thank Steed for his diligence and attitude: “Without these services so cheerfully, intelligently and dependably rendered, success would have been impossible.”

Steed posing as a statue

Steed posing as a statue on an empty pedestal in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the dismal nature of his job in the Casualties Division, Steed seems to have had a grand time in Paris and other French towns, as well as several other cities of Western Europe, including Brussels, London, and Dublin. The scrapbooks contain numerous photographs, postcards, programs, documents, menus, tickets, maps, tourist brochures, and even a few pen and pencil drawings. There is a lot to see and these bits of ephemera provide a fascinating glimpse back at Western European culture towards the end of and immediately after the Great War. There are also many postcards and notes from Steed’s friends and family and I am looking forward to looking at those more closely in the future.

Scrapbooks (and other types of hand-written/hand-made documents) are among the greatest pleasures of special collections and archives. Scrapbooks are especially challenging to digitize as there is no way to fully replicate the layers of paper and random objects (such as a bit of yarn or a toothpick) in digital form. Adding the metadata to these records was tedious, but I’m glad that we are able to share at least an approximation of these fascinating volumes. I hope that many more people will now have the pleasure of spending some time with Frank R. Steed in WWI Europe. It’s a bit like time travel, being able to share a personal perspective of life and events from almost 100 years ago.


Like

eBook available: The Brighton Boys in the Trenches

brightonThe latest of our proofreading projects to be completed is The Brighton Boys in the Trenches.

The Brighton Boys series is something that may be a bit hard for the modern reader to imagine: books for young boys glorifying the act of going to war, written during an ongoing conflict. Using the same basic hardcover series format as Tom Swift or the Bobbsey Twins, these books provide juvenile adventures in various World War I contexts. Unlike many similar series, though, the Brighton Boys books do not follow the same heroes from title to title; instead, each adventure features different students from the fictional Brighton Academy. Given the subject matter, there is a rather grim reason for this atypical format!

While the overall series concept is itself a bit shocking, The Brighton Boys in the Trenches goes a step further by dealing with what is probably the dirtiest and most horrific aspect of a dirty and horrific subject: trench warfare. The plot is simple enough: after encountering a boastful German, Herbert Whitcomb, a 17-year-old orphan with an eye for shooting, leaves school to enlist along with his Irish sidekick Roy Flynn. Before long, they are engaged in combat in France, facing gas attacks, trench foot and other dangers!

As a work of fiction, the book leaves much to be desired. Its main characters are two-dimensional at best, and the prose is littered with long, awkward, nearly-unreadable sentences. The author’s most ambitious attempt at achieving literary merit appears to be having one of his characters name a gun after a Dickens character. The plot is thin, just a series of action-filled incidents loosely strung together. However, despite its flaws, the book is quite interesting as a piece of social history.

The early portions of the book, set in America, have a decidedly paranoid tone. Germans and their agents are actively trying to turn the public against the war, and the book makes it very clear that acts of physical violence are perfectly acceptable to counter such dangerous speech. Once the action switches overseas, the book’s role as propaganda remains fairly clear. The Germans are generally referred to in dehumanizing terms, and while the conflict is unquestionably portrayed as dangerous, the text is designed to frequently imply American superiority and inevitable victory.

The book’s role as propaganda is not particularly surprising; more startling are its occasional deviations from predictability. There is a heroic depiction of an implicitly homosexual — or at least feminized — character (“He possessed a manner that some would have termed ‘sissy'”). There are occasional philosophical tangents about the madness of war (“In times of peace we regard the murder of one person as something over which to get up a vast deal of excitement and much indignation, but in warfare we plan for the killing of thousands as a business matter and read of it often with actual elation.”) and the pitfalls of stereotyping the enemy (“It is all wrong, unfair and a little small to consider all the people in any land unworthy; don’t you think so?”). And while the book at one point suggests that it is best “to draw the mantle of delicacy over those details of horror that follow a close conflict” it still offers some surprisingly disturbing details, as in this passage:

“They’re both gone! Wiped out! Shell! It hit right at Bill Neely’s feet! I couldn’t see anything but legs and arms and things.”

“Killed?”

“Done for.”

“Poor chaps! The only two boys in the family, too. Their poor old mother’ll miss them.”

“Know them, Pyle?”

“Sure; since we were kids. Just across the street.”

That about sums up the book: a strange mix of series fiction shallowness and gritty realism, an uncomfortable compromise between propaganda and protest, and a rather unengaging read that is nonetheless fascinating throughout.

If you are interested in experiencing the whole thing for yourself, you can read it online or download it in many popular eBook formats at Project Gutenberg.


Like

Now in proofreading: World War I children’s fiction

This week, we have opened up a new online proofreading project.  The Brighton Boys in the Trenches is part of a series of American children’s novels written during World War I portraying (and glorifying) the battles overseas.  While a  lightweight children’s story about trench warfare is hard to imagine today, these types of violent adventures were popular during both of the World Wars, and quite a few were published.  More information on wartime children’s fiction, as well as essays on other interesting trends in popular culture, can be found in two essay collections in Falvey’s stacks: Pioneers, Passionate Ladies, and Private Eyes and Scorned Literature.

This project is Villanova’s first contribution to Project Not Quite Nancy Drew, a subset of the Distributed Proofreaders effort which focuses on preserving vintage children’s series fiction.  You can visit the PNQND page to find other similar projects currently in progress as well as links to completed eBooks (including other books in the Brighton Boys series).

As always, you can help with our proofreading by visiting the Brighton Boys in the Trenches project page, and you can learn more about the proofreading project from our earlier blog post on the subject.

 

 


Like

Covering the Celt

Dust jackets offer a representation of a book’s content as well as an opportunity to provide an iconic and memorable marketing medium for a publisher. For books without illustrative matter the dust jacket is the only pictorial representation that will help create and focus the lens of the mind’s eye. Publishers and graphic designers work long and hard on the jacket design especially that most important aspect of the design: the front cover.

The newly published book, The Dream of the Celt by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mario Vargas LLosa, recently reviewed in the Guardian, is a fictional account of the life of Irish Nationalist Sir Roger Casement who was hanged by the British government during the First World War. Several of Casement’s manuscripts are in Special Collections; as well, other materials which were collected by his friend and ally Joseph McGarrity are housed in the Joseph McGarrity Collection in Falvey Memorial Library. All of these materials have been digitized and are made available in Villanova’s Digital Library. Prominently featured on the front cover of the English language translation of the Dream, (translated by Edith Grossman, Farrar, Straus and Girous, 2012) is a photograph of Roger Casement drawn from the McGarrity Collection. Credit is appropriately given for use of the photograph on the rear flap of the dust jacket by the designer Eric Fuentecilla.

Not only does this evocative cover image help depict Casement to the reader’s imagination, but also the citation and acknowledgement act as an advertisement for scholars and researchers to the wealth of additional information available in the Joseph McGarrity Collections and to the role of Villanova University in preserving and making access available to these internationally significant Irish heritage materials. According to Brian McDonald, a Digital Library Intern currently reading The Dream, citations to Joseph McGarrity “can be found on pp. 146, 148, 317, 319, 320, 331, 332, and 334.”


Like

World War I Pro-German Newspapers Published in America

World War

Joseph McGarrity, the Irish-American revolutionary who lived in Philadelphia area during the era of the First World War was an active collector of books and periodicals about Ireland. Within this collection, now housed in Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections, are a number of rare pro-German books and newspapers. These were largely published in Philadelphia and New York and chronicle the viewpoints of Imperial Germany and German-Americans in the United States, as war raged in the trenches of Europe and the sealanes of the Atlantic. At the same time as Germany warred against Great Britain, McGarrity and many members of the Irish-American community were actively raising funds to foment Irish independence from Great Britain. In 1916 these effort would help start the Easter Rising in Dublin. McGarrity’s collecting of German materials can thus be seen as an actualization of the proverb: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Vital Issue

Villanova’s Digital Library has completed the digitization of these newspapers collected almost a hundred years ago by McGarrity, and which consist of nearly complete runs of 3 titles: The Fatherland; Vital Issue; and World War. These titles are rich in articles ranging from hortatory arguments about continued American neutrality and perceived war crimes of the British to narrations of current events from an “unbiased” source, like the armament carried by the Lusitania. These titles also contain elaborate photographic spreads and polemical illustrations as well as pro-German advertisements including specific ads for German war bonds, war trophies, and aid packages (The Fatherland Needs Coffee); even games and apparel (Iron Cross Stick-Pins) were included. On noteworthy advertisement from 1916 for the “Deutschland Game”, claimed that this “game will interest grown-ups as well as the children. Two German submarines try to reach the United States and return to Germany in safety.” Indeed some of the ads are not so much pro-German as pro-Irish with titles such as The Gaelic American featured.

Advertisements

As an effort to publicize these titles Digital Library staff have composed a Wikipedia entry about the most notable of the three titles: The Fatherland; in edited form it is here reprinted :

“The Fatherland was a World War I era weekly periodical published by poet, writer, and noted propagandist George Sylvester Viereck (1884-1962). Viereck reputed to be the child of the Kaiser William I, was born in Munich, Germany, and moved to New York City in 1896, Viereck graduated from the College of the City of New York and directly entered the world of publishing.

Viereck outspokenly supported the German cause at the outset of World War I, and his poetry reflected his pro-German zeal. Drawing on experience gained while working on his father’s German-language monthly, Der deutsche Vorkämpfer (The German Pioneer), later called Rundschau Zweier Welten (Review of Two Worlds), the younger Viereck now channeled his German sympathies into his own publication. He founded The Fatherland in August 1914, a weekly publication in English that reached a circulation of 75,000, by some estimates, and 100,000 by others, to promote American neutrality in the war and give voice to German support. The Fatherland was advertised on the cover of its first issues as a magazine devoted to “Fair Play for Germany and Austria-Hungary.”

Three German-American banker friends helped Viereck with the fifty dollars needed to start up The Fatherland. The first edition of ten thousand copies sold out quickly in New York. The publication grew to thirty employees almost immediately and “took upon itself the task of exposing the malfeasance of the Allied countries, of revealing the prejudices and distortions of the American press, and of rallying German-Americans in their own defense.” The weekly received part of its funding from a German propaganda cabinet set up in New York Society, with which Viereck worked closely.

Viereck was accused by the New York World of receiving German subsidies for propaganda purposes, but the Department of Justice was unable to prosecute. Still, Viereck faced social censure, being driven from his house by a lynch mob and expelled from the Authors League as well as the Poetry Society of America.

Surely, Viereck’s personal circumstances affected the publication life and reception of The Fatherland. He continued the publication’s German bias until 1927. However, after America entered the war, he subdued the publication’s tone of German sympathy and changed its title. It was New World and Viereck’s: The American Weekly in February 1917, Viereck’s American Monthly in August 1918, and American Monthly in October 1920.”

The Fatherland


Like
« Previous Page

 


Last Modified: July 25, 2008