The field service postcard from 1918 sends a basic message: “I am quite well. Letter follows at first opportunity. I have received no letter from you lately.” Other sentences (“I have been admitted into hospital wounded and hope to be discharged soon.” “I have received no letter from you for a long time.”) are crossed out in long ink lines. Only the signature and date—Lloyd Logan, September 7, 1918—are written in cursive script, a lone personal touch to an otherwise impersonal note.
Because they did not require review from censors, field service postcards became a popular way for soldiers serving in World War I (1914–18) to send home brief, albeit cryptic, updates of their condition abroad. Nearly 100 years old, this yellowed, mottled card sent by Logan, a Hopkins alumnus and professor at Hopkins in the 1920s and ’30s, is one of many wartime documents included in “Hopkins and the Great War,” a cross-divisional exhibit that explores the war’s effects on the Hopkins community.
Located at the School of Nursing, the School of Medicine, and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library, the exhibits at each of the three locations contain items chosen to reflect the roles the divisions played in the war effort.
“The library does not have a World War I collection, per se,” explains Jennifer Kinniff, program manager for the university history initiative called Hopkins Retrospective. She and Jim Stimpert, senior reference archivist, worked on the Homewood exhibit. “But we looked for collections of that time and looked for things that were relevant.”
The Homewood archives—heavy on paper documents and photographs rather than artifacts—create a detailed picture of the service experience of both students and faculty, and the ways in which the campus was transformed by the presence of soldiers-in-training pre-war, and later, post-war veterans.
The exhibit begins on Q-level, where color-saturated posters exhort citizens to action with messages like “Food is Ammunition—Don’t waste it.” and “Stenographers! Washington Needs You!” On M-Level, the exhibit turns personal. Scrapbooks from undergraduate Frank Smith ’21, who interrupted his studies to serve and later returned to Hopkins to earn his medical degree in 1925, contain pages of war-related newspaper and magazine cartoons and articles. Hullabaloo yearbooks from 1917 to 1919 devote pages to the growing Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) unit on campus, and in later years, included lists of Hopkins students, faculty, and alumni who died in wartime service. A series of photos show the transformation of Maryland, Gilman, and Latrobe halls into military barracks for members of the Student Army Training Corps, a short-lived program created by the U.S. War Department in 1918 to combine undergraduate study and military training.
Also central to the display are items related to Elisabeth Gilman, daughter of Hopkins’ founding president Daniel Coit Gilman. She volunteered for service in France with the YMCA from 1917 to 1919 when she was in her early 50s. Gilman’s papers reveal her deep dedication to her work, and in one letter, a soldier, Malcolm W. Vaughan, makes a poignant request of “Miss Gilman”: that if he should not survive combat, might she post what he calls a “love diary” to a friend who will ensure it gets to his sweetheart.
In the years following the war’s end, Hopkins saw its campus transformed—by the return of students and faculty who had served, a new influx of disabled student veterans sponsored by the Federal Board for Vocational Education, and the creation of plaques and buildings, including the Alumni Memorial Dormitory (now called the Alumni Memorial Residences), in honor of Hopkins affiliates who lost their lives during the war. Through items like a Disabled Veteran Student Assignment memo or a photo of the unveiling of the World War I commemorative plaque, “the exhibit shows a different side of Hopkins that I don’t think many people know about—like soldiers living here on campus,” says Kinniff. “It illustrates things that happened on campus that are forgotten now, and reminds people in the Hopkins community that the places where they are walking, people were here years ago.”
“Hopkins and the Great War” will be on display through January 4, 2017. Visit the exhibit online.