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Guide to the New-York Historical Society World War II Collection
1940-1945
 MS 672

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


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Alison Dundy (2012), with later additions

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on June 20, 2019
Description is in English. using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Descriptive Summary

Creator: New-York Historical Society
Title: New-York Historical Society World War II Collection
Dates [inclusive]: 1940-1945
Abstract: The World War II collection is an "artificial" collection of subject-related materials acquired by the New-York Historical Society at different times from a variety of sources. Letters to New-York Historical Society superintendent Garrett H. Winter from nine employees on active service describe different war experiences in different branches of the armed services during basic training and from combat. There are also letters from Britain by Edward Tempest in Yorkshire describing air raids and British morale during the blitz. Other correspondence includes an account by a sailor on board the USS Hilary P. Jones of a search and rescue operation for American sailors whose ship was sunk off the coast of Iceland by a German U-boat, V-mail, and an exchange of letters from 1942 about the ban on taking photographs in New York Harbor. Documents in the collection include ration books, a civilian service award, and a war damage insurance policy.
Quantity: 0.42 Linear feet in one box
Call Phrase: MS 672

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Scope and Contents

The World War II Collection is an "artificial" collection of subject-related materials that were donated by or acquired from a variety of unrelated sources at different times. A group of letters to The New-York Historical Society superintendent Garrett H. Winter from nine employees on active service describe a range of servicemen's war experiences: working as a radar operator in Washington State; guarding prisoners of war in Delaware; serving in India; witnessing surrender in Germany; and hospitalization for "operational fatigue, in other words, nerves."

Other servicemen's experiences are documented in a letter from "Johnnie" to his mother, describing a Navy search and rescue mission off the coast of Iceland for survivors of a ship sunk by a German submarine. The collection includes accounts and artwork by servicemen through V-mail, or Victory-mail, that was a unique form of microfilmed correspondence used during World War II to screen messages and reduce bulk on cargo ships. Correspondents would write on special V-mail letter-sheets, which were then reviewed by military censors and reduced to thumb-nail size on microfilm. The reels were then sent to receiving stations near the addressee where miniature facsimilies of the original V-mail letter sheets were reproduced and delivered.

The experiences of British civilians during the German air raids are also documented in this collection. A group of letters by Edward Tempest from Yorkshire, Britain to American friends were circulated in round robin letters--a wartime penpal exchange sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. Tempest's letters are a vivid portrait of everyday life during the blitz yet were clearly written for a broad public with the purpose of fostering solidarity between British and American civilians.

War-time deprivations, restrictions, and civilian activities to support the war effort are exemplified in numerous documents. The collection includes several ration books and stamps, including one that had been issued to a 12-year-old boy; these are primarily ration book numbers 3 and 4, but there is also a sheet of fuel oil ration stamps from 1942.

The collection also includes an identification card of a hostess of a Stage Door Canteen. Broadway's wartime service organization, the American Theatre Wing sponsored the popular Stage Door Canteens for the exclusive entertainment of uniformed military personnel. There is also a Civil Service Award by the Navy Department for "outstanding performance and loyalty" to the chief of construction on the docks of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Other items include an exchange of letters regarding the ban on taking photographs in New York Harbor, a war damages insurance policy, and the logistical plan for a 1942 "New York at War" parade in Manhattan.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in three series:

Series I: New-York Historical Society Employees Letters

Series II: Edward Tempest Letters from Britain

Series III: Other Correspondence and Documents

Folders are arranged alphabetically within series by the name of the correspondent, or alphabetically by format. Correspondence and documents within folders are arranged chronologically.

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Access Points

Subject Names

  • Baillie, William R.
  • Csierny, Ladislaw
  • Fisher, James J.
  • Givens, Wiliam
  • Gymory, Joseph
  • Johnson, George
  • Marshall, Vincent J.
  • Miller, Charles J.
  • Takacs, George
  • Tempest, Edward
  • Winter, Garrett H.

Document Type

  • Identity cards.
  • Insurance policies
  • Personal correspondence
  • Ration books.
  • V-mail

Subject Topics

  • Radar operators
  • War neurosis
  • World War, 1939-1945. -- Participation, American
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- England -- Yorkshire
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Iceland
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- India
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- New York (State) -- New York
  • World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American
  • World War, 1939-1945 -– War work

Subject Places

  • New York Harbor (N.Y. and N.J.) -- History -- 20th century

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Administrative Information

Conditions Governing Access

Open to qualified researchers.

Use Restrictions

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as the World War II Collection, MS 672, The New-York Historical Society.

Related Archival Materials at the New-York Historical Society

Additional materials related to World War II can be located by searching the library's online catalog.

Provenance

This is an artificial collection composed of World War II material acquired by the New-York Historical Society at various times and from various sources. More recent sources of particular material in the collection are noted in the container list.

Processing Information

Alison Dundy initially processed the collection in 2012. Small accruals were subsequently added by various other archivists through 2019.

Accruals

Occasional small acquisitions of documents may be added from time to time to the collection.

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Container List

Series I: New-York Historical Society Employees Letters, 1941-1945

Scope and Content

This series consists of nine folders of letters to New-York Historical Society superintendent Garrett H. Winter by employees on active service: William R. Baillie, Ladislaw (Larry) Csierny, James J. Fisher, William Givens, Joseph Gymory, George Johnson, Vincent J. Marshall, Charles J. Miller, and George Takas. These letters describe a variety of wartime experiences from basic training camps in the United States to active combat overseas. New-York Historical Society employees were deployed in different aspects of service: operating radar in Washington State; guarding prisoners of war in Delaware; serving in India; serving in Germany during and after the German surrender. One employee writes from his hospital bed where he is recovering from "operational fatigue, in other words, nerves."

The letters indicate that Garrett H. Winter wrote and sent care packages to these employees and that the employees in uniform also wrote to each other. The collection includes only the letters written directly to Garrett H. Winter.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 William R. Baillie Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1943 April 23-1945 September
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Ladislaw (Larry) Csierny Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1941 January 12-1944 September
Box: 1 Folder : 3 James J. Fisher Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1941 May 2-1945 February 7
Box: 1 Folder : 4 William Givens Postcard to Garrett H. Winter
1943 February 4
Box: 1 Folder : 5 Joseph Gymory Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1942 April 9-1944 January 5
Box: 1 Folder : 6 George Johnson Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1942 August 24-1945 July 11
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Vincent J. Marshall Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1943 August 30-1945 August 1
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Charles J. Miller Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1943 September 12-1943 November 12, undated
Box: 1 Folder : 9 George Takacs Letters to Garrett H. Winter
1942 December 2-1945 July 5

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Series II: Edward Tempest Letters from Britain , 1940-1941, 1944

Scope and Content

This series consists of five letters from Edward Tempest of Spofforth, Yorkshire, England (November 17, 1940-May 1941). Tempest describes everyday life in Britain under the German air raids. His letters to "dear American friends" were part of a round robin penpal exchange of correspondence sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. The collection also includes a January 13, 1942 letter from Sydney Carney Jr. to Alexander J. Wall, Director of the New-York Historical Society, explaining the context of Edward Tempest's letters and the  Christian Science Monitor international letter exchange program.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Edward Tempest Letters to Christian Science Monitor Letter Exchange
1940 November 17-1941 May, 1944 27 February

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Series III: Other Correspondence and Documents, 1941-1945, undated

Scope and Content

Series III includes other correspondence and documents pertaining to military and civilian life during World War II. A highlight in this series is a letter from "Johnnie" to his mother about a Navy search and rescue mission for survivors of a ship that was sunk off the coast of Iceland by a German submarine. The series includes a civilian service award for the director of construction at the Brooklyn Navy Yards, other correspondence (including V-mail), an exchange of letters about the banning of photography in New York Harbor, plans for a "New York at War" parade in Manhattan, ration books and pouches (including a ration book for a 12-year-old boy, ration books for various members of the Zipkin family with a red and black leather "Token Ration Book Holder," and others), a photo ID card for a Stage Door Canteen hostess, and a war damage insurance policy.

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Civilian Service Award
1944 February 22
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Correspondence
1940 May 31-1945 May 15
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Harbor Photography Ban
1942 January 29-1942 July 16
Box: 1 Folder : 14 New York at War Parade
1942 May 25
Box: 1 Folder : 15A-D Ration Books (4 folders)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Includes, among others: Gifts of Brenda Z. Steere (2013) and Wendy Galston Gold (2018). One anonymous donation (2019) includes 5 ration books and two 1942 bills from Misericordia Hospital.

circa 1942-1944
Box: 1 Folder : 16 Stage Door Canteen Hostess Card
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 17 V-Mail
1944 March 26-1945 March 19
Box: 1 Folder : 18 War Damage Insurance Policy
1942 July 1

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