Memories of the 1940s: World War II collections at HSP

World War II pilots with airplane, photograph (1943), Society photograph collection.

The week marks the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and its aftermath, including the United States’ entry into World War II. For some, the memories of that day remain forever engrained. Their voices, in the form of primary sources from that era serve as powerful remembrances of that time period, of loved ones separated, of home front heroes, and of the war itself.

Those collections HSP has that recall the World War II era are varied and insightful. Below is a list of just some of these collections. Whether you’re researching a family member who served during the war, doing a study of World War II propaganda, or just want to know what life was like for soldiers before, during, and after the war, these collections illuminate an era in which people banded together, donated time, and served the county for a common cause.

American Friends Service Committee, Clothing Committee, Japanese American relocation center card files (MSS065) — The Clothing Committee of the American Friends Service Committee sent gifts of clothing, toys, and other articles to Japanese Americans living in relocation projects during World War II.  This collection contains AFSC administrative files for their program with new mothers.

Joseph Beck papers (Collection 3083) — Joseph E. Beck (1904-1981) was a social worker who helped Jewish refugees during World War II. He became the executive director of the Jewish Family Society of Philadelphia in 1934.

Herman Berger papers (Collection 3075) — Philadelphia Herman Berger was drafted into the U. S. Army in 1946. After basic training, he sent to occupied Japan and assigned to duty as a clerk typist at U.S. military general headquarters in Tokyo, where he served from September 1946 to February 1947.

Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle papers (Collection 3110) — Biddle was a politician whose career took a turn to diplomacy before and during Word War II. From about 1935 to 1944 he served as U. S. ambassador to several European countries, including Norway, Poland and France. There’s no finding aid yet for this collection, but there is a paper inventory in our library.  The collection is slated for processing next year under our current NHPRC grant.

Frank Gordon Bradley letters (Collection 3548) – Bradley, who lived in Philadelphia but was born in Connecticut,  served with the United States Army during World War II. This collection consists of approximately 300 letters written by Bradley to his family in Connecticut during the war.

James Cleary papers (Collection 3086) — During World War II, Cleary volunteered as an air raid warden and help run collections for  scrap cans, rubber, and other items in his North Philadelphia neighnorhood.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania collection of World War II papers (Collection 1479) — In late 1942, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania solicited materials to form an artificial collection to document the war effort of a number of community and social service agencies in Philadelphia. The collection contains numerous materials such as correspondence, financial records, photographs, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and ephemera

Historical Society of Pennsylvania war posters collection (Collection V95) — This collection contains over 500 original posters from both the World War I and World War II eras.  Many organizations and artists are represented.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania World War II propaganda collection (Collection 3335) — This collection is comprised of posters, magazine advertisements, flyers, and pamphlets from a variety of governmental and nongovernmental agencies dating from the late 1930s to the 1940s.  Most items focus on the conflict in Europe.

Sumiko Kobayashi papers (MSS073/PG230 and MSS073A) — In May 1942 Kobayashi’s family was evacuated from its California home under Executive Order 9066 to the Tanforan Assembly Center, a former race track, and then placed in the internment camp in Topaz, Utah. Her papers document her experiences as a young woman in leaving the Topaz internment camp to enroll in college, and her later activities on behalf of redress for Japanese Americans who had been imprisoned in the internment camps in World War II.

Leon Kolankewicz papers (Collection 3071) — Kolankiewicz was a Pennsylvania assemblyman and Philadelphia councilman. He was appointed president of the Philadelphia chapter of American Relief for Poland in 1929. He later served as vice-president then president of the Polish National Committee in Philadelphia, and he was a committee member of the short-lived (December 1939-June 1940) Philadelphia Chapter of the Commission for Polish Relief.

Mrs. Stacy B. Lloyd papers on American Red Cross’s Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service (Collection 3647) — Eleanor Burrough Morris (Mrs. Stacy B) Lloyd Mrs. Lloyd became the director of the nation’s first American Red Cross Allied Prisoners of War Food Packing Service, which opened Philadelphia in February 1943. From then through the end of the war in 1945, Lloyd supervised hundreds of mostly women volunteers as they created care packages for prisoners in war camps in Europe and Japan.

Edward A. Psulkowski letters (Collection 3123) — Psulkowski served with the Army Air Corps, 494 Bombardment Group (H), 864th Squadron. This colelction of letters narrates the story of two pen pals (Psulkowski and Gladys Kramer) who fell in love during World War II and married in 1946

We have dozens more World War II-related collections that are open for research.  For further descriptions and availability check our online catalog Discover.  If you’re interested in images, search our new Digital Library, as some items from these collections have been digitized.  If you need research help or have any questions, see our website for services and contacts.

For your enjoyment: more collections that are now available

In terms of processing, the HSP archives department had a good 2009 and is off to a good start in 2010.  In this time, staff processed and improved access to almost 50 collections.  Following up on Cathleen’s previous post, here are just a few highlights.  Others can be found on our website.

HSP collection of Benjamin Franklin papers, 1628-1951 (Collection 215)

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was a printer, writer, politician, inventor, and one of the most well-known figures of early American history.  He played a significant role in the founding of several Philadelphia institutions, such as the University of Pennsylvania, the American Philosophical Society, and the Pennsylvania Hospital.  HSP’s collection of Franklin’s papers primarily highlight his later political life, particularly as a representative of Pennsylvania in England (1757-1775) and U. S. ambassador to France (1776-1785).  The collection includes a wide range of materials including correspondence, copies of Congressional orders and resolutions, French manuscripts and memoires, certificates, writings, notes, clippings, and ephemera.   This collection was supported by Mary Countess of Bessborough.

Benjamin Franklin to James Logan (circa 1747)

The outside of this same letter

Christopher Marshall papers, 1744-circa 1971 (Collection 395)

Christopher Marshall (1709-1797) was druggist and chemist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  His papers consist of his original diaries from 1774 to 1781 and 1783 to 1785; six bound volumes of photocopies of the original diaries; handwritten transcripts of his diaries from 1782 to 1783, 1786 to 1791, and 1793 to 1795; and two sets of extra-illustrated volumes (seven total) containing pages from William Duane Jr.’s Extracts from the Diary of Christopher Marshall, 1774-1781, illustrations by David McNeely Stauffer, and a variety of original documents.  This collection was supported by Dr. Randall Miller.

Christopher Marshall wastebook of accounts with the Continental Congress, page 1 (1776)

Christopher Marshall wastebook of accounts with the Continental Congress, page 2 (1776)

Plastic Club records, 1888-2007 (Collection 3106)

The Plastic Club is the oldest club for women artists still in existence in the United States. It was founded in 1897 in Philadelphia and has included many illustrious members, such as Emily Sartain, Violet Oakley, Blanche Dillaye, Elizabeth Shippen Green, Cecila Beaux, and many others. It has sponsored exhibitions, lectures, and classes, and provided a place for women artists to meet and exchange ideas. The club has also played an active civic role over the years, for example conducting art classes for servicemen during World War II and donating art supplies to underprivileged children. Since 1991, the club has admitted men, who now form close to half the membership.  The historical records of the Plastic Club go back to its founding and richly document the club’s activities and members over most of the 20th century. The records include board minutes; annual reports; correspondence; exhibition programs, notices, and reviews; photos from events; directories of club members; files about early members’ artistic activities; scrapbooks of clippings; early sketchbooks and preparatory drawings for a set of stained glass windows; maintenance reports about the building; and a recent graduate thesis about the history of the club that focuses on the building.  This collection was supported by Dorothy Del Beuno.

A flyer from the club's Rabbit of 1944

Graphic often used the advertise the club's Rabbits during the 1950s and 1960s

John MacCarley collection of Willow Grove Park concert programs, 1904-1925 (Collection 3147)

Located just north of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Willow Grove Park opened in 1896 and was a popular regional attraction and amusement park for several decades. This collection of several hundred concert programs dating from 1904 to 1925 highlights one of the park’s main features that brought popular band leaders such as John Phillips Sousa to the area.  This collection was supported by Carol. A. Ingald.

Program from "Nine days of Gala Music by Sousa and his band" (undated)

list of music to be performed from July 3-14 (undated)

Corporal Edward Psulkowski letters, 1942-1953 (Collection 3123)

Corporal Edward Psulkowski served during World War II as Assistant Crew Chief, 864th Bomb Squadron, 494th Bomb Group, Army Air Corps.  This collection consists primarily of a series of love letters between Edward Psulkowski and Gladys Kramer. The letters narrate the story of two pen pals who fall in love during World War II. The correspondence and greeting cards from relatives and friends reflect the married life of Gladys and Edward in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 1 (23 April 1945)

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 2 (23 April 1945)

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 3 (23 April 1945)

Psulkowski to Gladys Kramer, page 4 (23 April 1945)

If you click on the links to the finding aids, you’ll notice some variation of formats (pdf, xml, html).  The MacCarley collection represents our most recent foray into Archivists’ Toolkit and EAD.  As you’ve seen in other posts, most collections being processed through HSP’s  Digital Center for Americana project are also being entered directly in AT.  The output looks pretty nice, no?