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eBook available: Jed’s Boy

In April, we started a Distributed Proofreaders project for Jed’s Boy, a juvenile novel of World War I written by Civil War veteran Warren Lee Goss. Because it is a sequel of sorts to the author’s earlier Civil War novel Jed, that makes it a “series book” of sorts, though it is somewhat different in style and tone than many of the more formulaic Great War stories that were specifically written to be packaged into series like the Brighton Boys or Two American Boys.

The novel is written in the first person, which gives it the flavor of a memoir and allows a bit more time to be spent on the protagonist’s interior life than a contemporary third-person narrative would have. Time passes and characters develop at a faster pace than in a typical juvenile series, since there is no apparent desire on the author’s part to stretch the narrative out to multiple books. Of course, some familiar elements from the series books are also on display here: a patriotic tone, a lot more violence than the typical children’s book, and a generally unquestioning portrayal of war.

Given that it was published shortly after the war ended, when readers might not have cared to be reminded of the recent conflict, it is perhaps unsurprising that this book has been mostly forgotten. Nonetheless, for anyone studying juvenile fiction about the war, it fills an interesting space in the landscape: an attempt by a veteran of 19th century warfare to portray the new horrors of the 20th century — gas, lice, machine guns and all — to a young audience.

The entire book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.


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eBook available: Two American Boys in the War Zone

Another book from our Digital Library has passed through the Distributed Proofreaders process and into Project Gutenberg. Like many of our recent releases, this is a juvenile novel written and set during the first World War: Levi Worthington Green’s Two American Boys in the War Zone.

The novel, a direct sequel to the author’s The Boy Fugitives in Mexico, has a pair of brothers separated from their father while on vacation in Russia. The father’s ability to speak German leads to his arrest as a possible spy, and the boys make a long and dangerous journey to find their way home to their mother. While the shadow of the war hangs over the novel and influences some of its major events, the author’s focus seems more on providing an incident-filled travelogue of Russia than on describing key events of the conflict.

This book was marketed to children by a major publisher in 1915, but it would not receive the same treatment today. The author clearly meant to paint the titular siblings in a heroic light, but their depicted attitudes toward race and violence provide a few genuinely shocking moments for the contemporary reader. While the novel is decidedly inappropriate as a piece of family entertainment, it might offer some insight for the cultural historian.

The full text of the book can be read online or downloaded in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.

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Available for proofreading: Jed’s Boy

Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project, Jed’s Boy, continues the theme of juvenile novels about the first World War, though this one has a deeper history than most of the others. Its author, Warren Lee Goss, was a Civil War veteran who wrote several books about that conflict, including a juvenile novel called Jed: A Boy’s Adventures in the Army of ’61-’65, published in 1889. When the Great War broke out, Goss wrote a sequel to Jed in which the earlier protagonist’s nephew participates in the newer conflict. The sequel was published thirty years after the original, in 1919, shortly after the end of the war. While the original Jed is not completely forgotten (an audio book version is currently in print), the sequel has been less fortunate. By producing an electronic text for Project Gutenberg, you can help make it accessible once more for anyone interested in Goss’ later work, or contemporary portrayals of World War I.

Distributed Proofreaders makes it possible for volunteers to assist with corrections one page at a time; even a few minutes of effort will help! To learn how it works, just read our Proofreading the Digital Library post. When you’re ready to join in, you can visit the project page to get your first assignment.

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Available for Proofreading: Two American Boys in the War Zone

Last month’s Distributed Proofreaders project was well-received and went through the early rounds of processing quite quickly, so we are back with another one! This time, we have returned to the World War I theme of many of our recent projects with Levi Worthington Green’s Two American Boys in the War Zone, a juvenile novel completely unrelated to Major Sherman Crockett’s similarly-themed Two American Boys series.

You can help produce a free Project Gutenberg eBook of this long out-of-print novel by assisting with corrections one page at a time; even a couple of minutes of effort will help! To learn how it works, just read our Proofreading the Digital Library post. When you’re ready to join in, you can visit the project page to get your first assignment.

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eBook available: Two American Boys with the Dardanelles Battle Fleet

Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project to be completed and posted to Project Gutenberg is Two American Boys with the Dardanelles Battle Fleet, the third book in the series begun with Two American Boys with the Allied Armies. While the second book in the series has not been released as an eBook yet, little is missed by skipping over it; this book finds the titular heroes still in the midst of the first World War, still searching out Frank, one boy’s brother, who has joined the Allies as a pilot.

This particular book brings the boys into contact with combatants from a variety of different cultures caught up in the conflict — Australians and New Zealanders supporting the Allies, Greeks playing a variety of roles, Turks commanded by Germans. Unsurprisingly some of the period’s prejudices are revealed, as the author seems more comfortable allowing his heroes to stretch the boundaries of American neutrality further when facing foes they view as more foreign. As in many books of this period, the violence can be surprisingly unflinching given the juvenile audience, though some nuance is added by the fact that the author has his two characters react to it in significantly different ways.

If you are interested in learning more, the full text of the novel can be read online or downloaded in common eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.

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Available for proofreading: The Airship Boys in the Great War

Like many of our recent Distributed Proofreaders projects, our latest offering is another World War I juvenile series book: The Airship Boys in the Great War. This differs from most of the previous ones by being a war-themed entry in a pre-existing series, rather than part of a series created especially to tell stories about the war. Released in 1915, this was written comparatively early in the conflict.

To help turn this more-than-a-century-old book into a new electronic text, you can read our earlier blog post, Proofreading the Digital Library, to learn how the online proofreading process works, and then you can join in the fun at the project page.


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WWI at Sea

We recently digitized the Photograph collection of Walter Timothy, Jr., an African American from Philadelphia who served in the United States Navy from 1911 to 1919. The collection consists of photos mainly from Timothy’s years in the Navy, but includes a few earlier photos as well.

Walter Timothy, Jr., was born on November 12, 1894 to Walter Timothy, Sr., and Rosa Timothy. The collection includes 2 photos of Timothy Jr. as a 16-month-old toddler. A few other uncaptioned portraits may depict family members.

The bulk of the photos document Timothy’s time as an enlisted sailor in the United States Navy. Timothy enlisted in April 1911 and was honorably discharged in February 1919. While in the Navy, he served as a mess attendant and cook on several different ships. (The U.S. armed services were racially segregated until the latter half of the 20th century, with African Americans often relegated to support roles, such as stewards and mess workers.) The ships on which Timothy served were primarily assigned to convoy duties.

Photos of Navy life include several of Timothy’s shipmates, some in silly poses. There are also numerous photos of different kinds of ships, including several in “dazzle camouflage,” a technique in which ships were painted in bold geometric patterns in order to make them more difficult targets. Airships, airplanes, and submarines are depicted a few times as well. There are also a few photos of shipboard pets or mascots, including a cat, a dog, and a goat.

After the war, Timothy worked as a letter carrier. He married Laura Christine Ford in the 1920s and they do not appear to have had any children. Timothy died in May 1985.

Further reading:

A Short History on Segregation in the Navy: From the War of 1812 through World War II, U.S. Naval Institute blog, February 26, 2019. https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/02/26/a-short-history-on-segregation-in-the-navy-from-the-war-of-1812-through-world-war-ii

General Mess Manual and Cook Book, U.S. Navy, 1902. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/g/general-mess-manual-and-cook-book.html

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eBook available: Our Young Aeroplane Scouts In France and Belgium

Our latest Distributed Proofreaders project to reach Project Gutenberg is another example of juvenile fiction from the World War I era: Our Young Aeroplane Scouts In France and Belgium by Horace Porter. Like Two American Boys with the Allied Armies, this was published in 1915, before the United States’ entry into the war.

In the novel, two airplane-loving friends, Billy and Henri, find themselves drawn into events as the war unfolds in France. Much of the narrative involves Henri’s efforts to retrieve his family’s treasure from the war zone, but the story is highly episodic and contains a variety of different scenarios. Its portrayal of death and combat is fairly unflinching for a children’s book. The writing itself is quite slangy and filled with unusual sentence constructions, making it surprisingly difficult for the modern-day reader to parse. Perhaps this was more accessible to its target audience at the time, though given that other books from the period remain much more readable today, it’s also possible the writing always felt awkward.

Awkward or not, the full text of the book is now available for free online reading (or download in a variety of common eBook formats) through Project Gutenberg.

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Available for proofreading: Two American Boys with the Dardanelles Battle Fleet

Two American Boys with the Dardenelles Battle FleetLess than two weeks ago, we released the eBook of the World War I juvenile novel, Two American Boys with the Allied Armies, by Major Sherman Crockett; now we are ready to begin work on one of that story’s sequels, Two American Boys with the Dardanelles Battle Fleet.

If you would like to help create a new electronic edition of this more-than-a-century-old story, you can join the Distributed Proofreaders project, where volunteers contribute small amounts of work to produce large numbers of eBooks. To learn more about how the process works, see our earlier blog post, Proofreading the Digital Library. Once you are ready to help, the adventure await you at the book’s project page.

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eBook available: Two American Boys with the Allied Armies

Cover imageOur latest Distributed Proofreaders project to become a Project Gutenberg eBook is another World War I juvenile, Two American Boys with the Allied Armies, by “Major Sherman Crockett.” This book is the first in a series, in which two American youths visit the European war zone in search of a missing relative.

Published in 1915, before the United States entered into the conflict, the tone of the book is quite different from war novels of the following years, in which anti-German sentiment was much more explicit. Here, the main characters are careful to maintain neutrality, expressing admiration for bravery on both sides of the conflict, and rendering aid to the injured without prejudice. The portrayal of war is sometimes more nuanced than usual for this type of book as well, making some effort to separate the actions of individuals from those of nations.

However, just because the portrayal of conflict is in some ways more subtle than in other similar books, nothing else about the volume offers much subtlety. The titular boys, a pair of cousins, are drawn with little shading: Jack is always right and does everything perfectly, and Amos simply follow’s Jack’s lead, fawning along the way. Back story tends to be filled in through expositionary dialogue, with absolutely no regard for naturalism. The book also expresses quite strong feelings for the value of unquestioning patriotism.

Along with other series books of this vintage, this title fills in more of the picture of how an active conflict was used to sell books to children in the early 20th century, and what messages publishers thought were appropriate to present in this context.

The entire book is available to read online or download in popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.

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Last Modified: November 10, 2019