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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.

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: Stevenson S. MacWhinney Papers
Dates: 1915-1920 (bulk 1918)
Abstract: The Stevenson S. MacWhinney Papers contain correspondence, diaries, army records, maps, ephemera, clippings, and artifacts relating to Sgt. MacWhinney's tenure in the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. The bulk of the material dates from 1918. MacWhinney was from the Bronx, and served as a supply sergeant in Co. E, 308th Infantry, 77th Division ("Liberty Division"), A.E.F.
Quantity: 0.75 Linear feet (2 boxes)
Location note: Manuscript cage
Call Phrase: MS 399

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Biographical/ Historical Note

1895 Jan. 14 Stevenson S. MacWhinney born
1914 Aug. World War I begins
1917 April 6 U.S. enters war
1917 Sept. 23 Stevenson S. MacWhinney, resident of the Bronx, drafted into Co. E, 308th Infantry, 77th Division ("Liberty Division"), A.E.F.
1917 Nov.-1918 April MacWhinney at basic training, Camp Upton, Yaphank, Long Island
1918 April MacWhinney's company arrives on the Western Front, where he serves as a Supply Sergeant
1918 Nov. 11 Armistice goes into effect
1919 April MacWhinney returns to New York
1919 June 28 Treaty of Versailles signed ending war
1972 Oct. MacWhinney dies

MacWhinney's home address: 1372 Ogden Ave.; Bronx, NY.

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Scope and Content Note

The Stevenson S. MacWhinney Papers contain correspondence, diaries, army records, maps, ephemera, clippings, and artifacts relating to Sgt. MacWhinney's tenure in the American Expeditionary Forces during the First World War. The bulk of the material dates from 1918.

Stevenson S. MacWhinney's letters and diaries, which make up the greater part of the collection, document the daily life of an American soldier on the Western Front. While he mentions combat, shelling, marches, and gas warfare, he also discusses the routine aspects of army life such as food, bathing, sports and entertainment, clothing, sleeping conditions, health, religious services, and lice infestations. MacWhinney's letters do not go into great detail about his own emotions about the war, and he occasionally withheld information he knew would be disturbing to his family, such as a bout with malaria. His diary entries, though brief, sometimes reveal facts and feelings that his letters avoid.

The remaining, smaller series, which include items like registration and permission notices, a pay record book, and equipment lists, further detail MacWhinney's army life. These series also provide a visual context of his experience through maps, postcards, and unit patches.

Arrangement

Correspondence arranged chronologically.

This collection is organized into the following seven series:

  1. Series I. Correspondence, 1915-1919, undated
  2. Series II. Diaries, 1916-1919
  3. Series III. Army Records, 1917-1919, undated
  4. Series IV. Maps, 1918, undated
  5. Series V. Ephemera, 1920, undated
  6. Series VI. Clippings, undated
  7. Series VII. Artifacts, undated

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • MacWhinney, Stevenson S., 1895-1972.

Document Type

  • Clippings.
  • Correspondence.
  • Diaries.
  • Ephemera.
  • Maps.
  • Postcards.

Subject Organizations

  • United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, 308th.

Subject Topics

  • World War, 1914-1918--Personal narratives, American.

Subject Places

  • Aix-les-Bains (France)
  • Camp Upton (N.Y.)
  • United States--Armed Forces--Diaries.

Family Name(s)

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Administrative Information

Provenance

Purchase, 2001.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to twenty exposures of stable, unbound material per day. (Researchers may not accrue unused copy amounts from previous days.)

Use Restrictions

Permission to quote from this collection in a publication must be requested and granted in writing. Send permission requests, citing the name of the collection from which you wish to quote, to

Library Director
The New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the Stevenson S. MacWhinney Papers, The New-York Historical Society.

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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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Series II. Diaries, 1916-1919

Scope and Contents note

This series contains MacWhinney's pocket diaries (not all are signed by MacWhinney but are assumed to be his). The civilian volume from 1916 includes brief entries of social events, rehearsals, shows, and sports, presumably in the Bronx. The remaining three volumes cover most of MacWhinney's time on the Western Front, May 3 [1918] to May 9, 1919. The first of these, May 3-Aug. 28 [1918], includes equipment lists, and brief entries concerning marches, fighting, food, illness, bathing, gas, letters written and received, rumors, entertainment, and lice.

"2 Allied planes fall. Slept in shell proof dugout (German). Barrage all afternoon. 1st prisoner for Company. Gave up. Kid of about 20 yrs. All Jewish interpreters & no one able to talk real german. Kid nearly starved. On gas guard from 11.45 to 1 am. Prayed nearly all the time for help & guidance & protection. Allied barrage all night" ([8]/17/[1918])

The next volume, August 29 to December 1 [1918], includes lists of field and kitchen equipment, descriptions of daily activities, food, mail received, gas guard, weather, insects, marches and shellings; reports of deaths, German prisoners, surrenders, and the armistice.

"Now in woods under trees after being awakened at 130 am & rushed out by 245 am for 4 ½ hr hike. Boys all in & tired. Talbot on being awakened asks about breakfast & Hank O'Dea says hand grenade & coffee. Breakfast of strawberry jam & hard bread." ([9]/20/[1918])

"I have just finished washing my cootie breeders." ([9]/22/[1918])

MacWhinney also mentions the "Lost Battalion," which included members of Company E, in this volume.

"Saw Capt MacDougall & heard his story of situation of 1 & 2 batt'ln how surrounded & cut off from food & communication. Only a miracle can save them & miracle would be peace or armistice." ([10]/7/[1918])

The final diary, Dec. 2, 1918 to May 9, 1919, includes social events, games, sports (esp. baseball), drinking, the town of Aix-les-Bains, waiting for news of departure, and his homecoming in late April, 1919.

"See cooks use a cognac bottle to mash potatoes. Some stunt." (2/18/1919)

"…Arrive at Penn St. Use "L" to go home. Everything looks familiar. Stop in Carr's & see people. Get in house & after that everything is a dream." (4/29/[1919])

Note: MacWhinney began his last two diaries in the middle or towards the end of the volume, then continued them in the front.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Diary
1916
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Diary
[1918] May 3-Aug. 28
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Diary
[1918] Aug. 29-Dec.1
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Diary
1918 Dec.2-1919 May 9

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Series III. Army Records, 1917-1919, undated

Scope and Contents note

This series includes MacWhinney's registration and physical exam notices, permission notices (for being in the back of the lines, a week's leave), a pay record book (three entries), and a list of equipment distributed, probably to his company.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 1 Registration and exam notices
1917
Box: 2 Folder : 2 Permission notices
1918
Box: 2 Folder : 3 Pay record book
1918-1919
Box: 2 Folder : 4 Equipment list
Undated

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Series IV. Maps, 1918, undated

Scope and Contents note

This series consists of three large maps of France. All three have marks or route tracings, presumably made by MacWhinney. One map includes notes of routes traveled, advances made, and towns occupied, April-December, [1918].

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 5 Map: France, "Part of the Argonne Drive"
1918
Box: 2 Folder : 6 Map: France, with routes traced
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 7 Map: France, with routes traced, campaign notes
Undated

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Series V. Ephemera, 1920, undated

Scope and Contents note

This series consists of souvenir postcards of France, postcards of London, and a banquet program for the Brotherhood of Andrew and Philip of the Union Reformed Church. Postcards of France (including a book of scenes of Aix-les-Bains) include descriptive notes written on backs, presumably by MacWhinney.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Postcards
Undated
Box: 2 Folder : 8 Banquet program
1920

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Series VI. Clippings, undated

Scope and Contents note

Newspaper clippings about the war, the "Lost Battalion," photos of war scenes, and inspirational quotes.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 9 Clippings
Undated

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Series VII. Artifacts, undated

Scope and Contents note

Includes two 77th Division Statue of Liberty patches, and a piece of material, perhaps from a flag.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 10 Artifacts
Undated

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