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Guide to the Stevenson S. MacWhinney Papers
1915-1920 (bulk 1918)
 MS 399

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


@ 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Processed by Melissa Haley

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on November 01, 2011
Description is in English.

Container List

Series I. Correspondence, 1915-1919, undated

Subseries 1. Letters sent, Stevenson S. MacWhinney ["Sherman"], 1917-1919, undated

Scope and Contents note

The letters are to his stepmother, father ["Chief"], and siblings. Some are quite lengthy, and were written over the course of several days (letters are sorted by first date to appear). They are generally upbeat in tone.

"Gee our boys are great, oh how they have given it to Jerry." (10/14/1918)

Letters written from Camp Upton, Yaphank, Long Island (Nov. 1917-April 1918), discuss camp life, drills, pranks, religious matters and family strife. A lengthy letter from April 1918 details MacWhinney's journey across the Atlantic.

Letters from late April through the armistice (11/11/1918) discuss daily army life on the Western Front including food, bathing, baseball, entertainment, religious services and his faith, amusements, conditions in his dugout, the morals of soldiers, health, insect infestations (particularly lice), finances, clothing, sleeping conditions, 'temptations,' and French life. They also describe marches, battlefields, encounters with the Germans, German prisoners and shelling, such as the following from May, 1918:

"…Fritz is very rude at night. He has a mean habit of crossing over at night and droping [sic] some of his pills. Now these pills when they land make quite some noise and if you are in a certain radius they have a tendency of knocking you out of bed or some such tricks. Of course he gets his three times as bad so he never gets away with much."

In addition, MacWhinney's letters mention gas threats and serving as "gas guard":

"Old Jerry uses his famous gas almost continuously and again I say you cant fight the unseen, namely gas." (8/1918)

A number of letters, particularly those to his stepmother, reveal much family strife and a history of grievances. He also speculates about the state of family life upon returning home, offers advice, and requests items (especially razors). MacWhinney discusses how he has changed since joining the army, and the ways in which his presumably working class horizons have been expanded by military life:

"…I might tell you that my pals were two lawyers (one a Lieut) a big business man from Bklyn and one or two other celebrities. Well I've never been in such company in civil life but the army has done this much for me in that my associates are now men high in life." (10/14/1918)

Letters from the armistice until his return in April 1919 describe marches, food, entertainment, the town of Aix-les-Bain and its caves, drills, baseball, their "French mother," and his frustrations over the delays in returning home.

Note: most of MacWhinney's letters were passed by the censors without any alterations, but occasionally some words were deleted.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1917
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1918 Jan.-Apr.
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1918 May-June
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1918 July-Aug.
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1918 Sept.-Dec.
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1919 Jan.-Feb.
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
1919 Mar.-Apr.
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Letters sent, Stevenson MacWhinney
Undated
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Alienated envelopes, Stevenson MacWhinney
1918, undated
Subseries 2. Letters sent, others, 1915-1919, undated

Scope and Contents note

This subseries contains mostly letters from other MacWhinney family members, including two letters from MacWhinney's stepmother, letters from William Carr to the MacWhinney family, and a letter from MacWhinney's brother Bob, also serving in the army, to his stepmother.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Letters sent, others
1915-1919, undated

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