Library War Service photos, 1916-1919

I’m back with more Library War Service material!  Since right now I’m specifically researching the women’s uniforms of the service, I’m going to post only the photos that show women librarians in uniform, but I’ll link to their source webpages so readers interested in more can click through.

First, an awesome book drive event at the New York Public Library:

Uniformed librarian making announcement at NYPL war library book drive

Twenty-Two Words has a post with some more photos, including this, as an example of the kind of library being served by the drive:

War Library in France

The Bentley Historical Library at University of Michigan has digitized some contemporary publications, listed here:
http://bentley.umich.edu/legacy-support/ww1/war-relief.php
Clicking the links takes you to their library catalog pages for the items, but the catalog entries include a link to the Google Books version of each one, and you can add the books to your Google Play Books library or download PDFs from there.

As mentioned previously, the American Library in Paris has an excellent tumblr which features scanned photos from their archives (and scanned backs of photos with notes from various decades).  Here are more of their photos– as noted above, these are just the ones showing the women’s librarian uniform, so if you’re interested in images of soldiers reading or loading books into ships and trucks, or permanent and temporary buildings used to house field libraries, definitely take a deeper look.

Staff photo on steps of field library

Black and white photograph of ALA staff, Camp Pontanezen Library, Brest, France. Notes on back of photograph read: Le personnel & la Direction de l’ALA du Camp Pontanezen – Brest. The staff at Pontanezen on the library steps. The war had not yet killed the era of the shirtwaist and the Gibson girl hair-do. (Photo through COVERAGE from the American Library Association, which MUST be credited). Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 3.

Field library circulation desk

Black and white photograph of a soldiers reading at Place du Chateau, Brest, France. Notes on back of photograph read: Brest – Pontanezen. Typical of overseas libraries in big permanent camps was the one at Camp Pontanezen, at the Brest base. From this circulation desk, soldiers drew the books they wanted. (Photo through COVERAGE from American Library Association, which must be credited).“G. Gorce Editions d’Art. 354. Publications illustrees. 19, rue Lafayette, PARIS 8e. 355. Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 4.

Technical Services and Collection Management at the future American Library in Paris

Black and white photograph of ALA employees selecting and arranging books at 10, rue de l’Elysée, the future home of the American Library in Paris. Notes on back of photo: G. Gorce Editions d’Art. 354. Publications illustrees. 19, rue Lafayette, PARIS 8e. 370 Additional note, attached to photo: First floor. (Present periodical room.) Books were selected and arranged here to send ? Paris camps + hospitals. 1918.

Picking books to transfer to shipboard collection. They’re holding the lid of a crate of books, with some books stuck to it, which explains why they both look like they’re holding in laughs.

Notes on back of photo: Door entering ALA headquarters in U.S. Army P.O. bldg. Miss. Milberon the ALA librarian at Lavernay hospital center. A sailor from the “Kerowles” who came to select books for his ship. The lid of an ALA box of books just opened to which a number of books are sticking because they were wet. Mr. Ranck’s series. #22. E.B. Thompson, 741 11th St. N.W.

I’m not sure if the woman at the center of this photo is a uniformed librarian– her hat isn’t one I understand to be official.  However, her matching tunic and skirt seem like they’d be the right color?

Black and white photograph of soldiers in a reading room of an ALA library in Tours, France. Notes on back of photo: Tours. G. Gorce Editions d’art, publications illustrees. 19, rue Lafayette, Paris, 9e.

Puns in library signage: probably as old as time.  (Somebody help me speculate on signage at Alexandria.)  The uniformed librarian at center front is flanked by two women in civilian clothes, I think– their outfits don’t look like other uniforms of the time.

Black and white photograph of Group of library personnel, France. Notes on back of photo: L’ibrary circa 1919. Early book service station (whereabouts unknown). Note ALA worker (director?) in center of bottom row, wearing distinctive ALA uniform.

The Home Front of war libraries.  I’m not sure if these women are in uniform, either– the only one that seems especially likely is the woman second from right in the white blouse and dark tie.  Pretty good view of their shoes, though.

Black and white photograph of library personnel preparing books at the Hoboken, NJ ALA library war service dispatch office. Notes on back of photo: Preparing books at the ALA dispatch office, Hoboken, NJ. For shipment to our men in France. Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 100

Thanks again to the American Library in Paris for providing their great ditigal archive!

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Library War Service photos, 1916-1919

Library War Service uniforms

During World War I, the American Library Association launched a Library War Service program to bring books to soldiers in training camps and overseas.

The librarians wore dark green uniforms with Library War Service patches and insignia.

A group of librarians in matching uniforms, thigh-length coats over narrow pants or ankle-length skirts.
Staff of American Library in Paris, 1918

The ALA archive has a page about the Library War Service uniforms (both the camp uniform, shown above, and the hospital uniform).  They offer this description, drawn from a 1918 circular letter on women’s uniform standards:

The camp librarian uniforms for women consisted of a skirt suit of “forest green” wool, with four pockets on the coat, a fabric belt, and a seam down the center of the skirt. The tie was a darker green than the suit, the shirt was any white high-necked shirt of the librarian’s choice (or a grey flannel shirt if needed), and the shoes were either black or tan. The hat was dark green with a large black ribbon band with a flat bow on the back, and adding a veil to the hat was expressly not allowed. The uniform was marked “ALA” with one large pin on the front of the hat, two small pins on the lapels, and an embroidered patch on the lower left sleeve.

Only one of these uniforms is known to survive; it has never been photographed (or not at all thoroughly) and, moreover, doesn’t seem to be documented up to the current standard.  (Which is to say, it’s at the Smithsonian and I have tried several times to find even an item record for it in their web system with no luck.)

It seems useful to note that some of what makes that photo so striking, and the uniform so appealing, is the presence and attitude of the woman at center front.  Here she is again with an overcoat and alternate hat:

Lillian Baker Griggs (in uniform under her coat): in this photograph she has abandoned the women’s round brimmed hat for a barracks cap, probably inspired by her male counterparts.
Lillian Baker Griggs (in uniform under her coat): in this photograph she has abandoned the women’s round brimmed hat for a barracks cap, probably inspired by her male counterparts.

You can get a better look here of her shirt collar, and her laced, heeled boots.  Anyway, not everyone is as flattered by the uniform as Ms. Griggs, and if I make one for myself, I’ll have to keep an eye on how I can make sure it looks that snappy.  (Given that I think I’m a lot taller than her, this might be an interesting challenge.)  Admittedly, some of her snap is in her confidence inside the uniform.

The women’s librarian uniform is actually pretty similar to other women’s uniforms of the time.  The Smithsonian has a page about women’s uniforms during WWI, which has photos of a contract surgeon’s uniform, a Salvation Army cook rolling pie crusts while wearing a gas mask pouch, and a display case with three Red Cross driver uniforms and one Foreign Service.

The uniforms all appear to have a similar form of A-line ankle-length skirt with center front seam (sewn for librarians, buttoned for the others) and four-pocket “tunic.”  There is some variation, and it’s harder to tell on the pie chef, but there’s a definite consistency here.

Here’s a better photo of a Red Cross uniform in this style:

Outdoor Uniform worn by members of the Red Cross and U.S. Army Nurses in France during World War I. Jackson Library, UNC Greensboro.

The American Library in Paris Tumblr has a photo of a librarian in her shirtsleeves:

Black and white photograph of military personnel and a librarian in the reading room of the camp library in France.
Title: Military personnel and librarian in camp reading room Creator: ? Description: Black and white photograph of military personnel and a librarian in the reading room of the camp library in France. Notes on back of photo: none Subject: WWI, World War, 1914-1918, France. American Library Association. Library War Service. Date: 1919 Format: 9” x 11” printed image Contributors: ALA, the American Library in Paris Source: the American Library in Paris archives, file 1, no. 127 Rights: No known restrictions

The tumblr is full of period photos of the library and its users.  If you love libraries, definitely take a look.  Also if you love old documents!  They scan fronts and backs of everything they post.

I’d guess this photo is also the uniform without the tunic:

Description: Black and white photograph of a woman carting books at Newport News Dispatch office, VA. Notes on back of photo: Library war service, Newport news dispatch office
Description: Black and white photograph of a woman carting books at Newport News Dispatch office, VA. Notes on back of photo: Library war service, Newport news dispatch office

This photo is particularly noteworthy as it looks like her skirt has a slash pocket!

Anyway, I’ll be researching this more, but this is an initial survey so I can figure out things like what patterns to look for, and what kind of blouse I’ll need.

Library War Service uniforms

Yearbooks from a small town

For work, I had to read through a whole lot of yearbooks, to make sure the collection was complete and ready for digitizing. I snapped pictures of pages that caught my eye, but I generally did so quickly so as not to slow down the process too much, so the quality varies. At least in the earlier years, much of my focus was on styles for longer hair, as personal costume research, although I also paused for interesting jewelry, especially nice-looking people, and interesting text.

Here are my selections from before 1920– the collection actually started in 1914, but I guess I hadn’t thought of taking pictures yet. (1915 and 1919 are missing.) Continue reading “Yearbooks from a small town”

Gallery

Women wearing men’s suits (as women), 1890s-1920s

I’m going to refrain from making any comments or assumptions about the gender identity, sexual orientation, or lifestyle practices of any of these people– I’m just interested in the details of their clothes.  Relatedly, and specifically, what I’m looking at is pictures of women wearing men’s suits, without significant obvious modification to flatter a woman, but without bound/hidden breasts, or without hair cut or worn to look like a close man’s haircut.  Women passing as men wearing men’s suits is a different subject.

I’m also excluding images that clearly seem like a costume– a photo of a man wearing an ill-suited dress and a woman wearing a suit, or two women posed in front of a studio background wearing suits one of which is several sizes too big, seems to me more likely a goofy thing among friends and family, and not indicative of contemporary fashion practices.  I might do a separate post for costumes– there are some amazing ladies-styled-men’s-suit costumes, and really snappy male impersonators, plus of course the cross-dressed couple cabinet cards. Continue reading “Women wearing men’s suits (as women), 1890s-1920s”

Women wearing men’s suits (as women), 1890s-1920s