Postmarked Past: Examining Edward Forman’s Wartime Correspondence

By Emily Sabol

This interactive digital project examines Falvey’s collection of World War I postcards sent from American Infantryman Edward D. Forman to his sweetheart Mae Kaiser. Forman served in the 29th Division, 116th Infantry and wrote to Kaiser, who remained in Brooklyn, NY throughout the war. Forman’s communication during the war demonstrates how American soldiers abroad and their friends and families back home constructed and maintained memories of their wartime experiences. After viewing the postcard collection, my initial research questions included: How do the ways Forman contextualizes and personalizes his postcards affect his shared experience and memory with Mae Kaiser? How does Forman’s personal communications with Kaiser relate to or fit within the narratives of the 116th Infantry and the overall narrative of American soldiers in the Great War? Click through the timeline to examine the postcard images and message transcriptions:

About the timeline: This timeline examines the postcards on which Forman wrote messages to Kaiser. There are also postcards without dates or postmarks, blank cards, a drawing, and one postcard to Forman from a colleague. All postcards without a date were excluded from this timeline, but the remaining postcards are available to view in a gallery slideshow at the bottom of the page.  The timeline above lists the written postcards in chronological order, includes the images featured on the front of each postcard, the date listed or stamped on the cards, and the transcribed messages that Forman wrote to Kaiser.

Instead of displaying an image of the written message, the timeline lists a transcription of Forman’s message to Kaiser (example pictured below).


The timeline was created with the Knight Lab’s Timeline JS tool, which used a formatted spreadsheet to compile and map the data into the timeline layout. The Timeline JS program required little to no experience with digital and required only public access to a Google sheet to generate the timeline. After uploading all of the data into the formatted sheet, the timeline is created into a previewing s2Untitledection which creates an embedded link. Timeline JS worked best for the project of tracking Forman’s communication and showcasing various aspects of the postcards themselves. In the initial stages of the project, I considered using a mapping element to visualize the cards and their locations in France, but I noticed an emerging pattern that centered around four or five major cities and chose to visualize the data with a supplemental Google map (pictured left).

Design Choices: As previously stated, not all postcards were included in the timeline. The Timeline JS program requires specific dates for the corresponding data fields. If a specific date is exlcuded, the entry is ‘mapped’ at the year zero. These errors skewed the data and altered the timeline period. While the dates of the postcards could have been estimated between 1918 and 1919, it was not appropriate to guess or write arbitrary dates for the sake of including them in the study. Additional design choices involved integrating  U.S. 29th Division and 116th Infantry military engagements to contextualize Forman’s experiences within the narrative of his unit. The slides outlining the postcards are red, while the division-based slides are navy. I chose to alter the subjects by contrasting colors to draw attention to the dates and the movements of the the U.S. troops.

Instead of displaying an image of the written message, the timeline lists a transcription of Forman’s message to Kaiser (example pictured below).


I initially wanted to feature both sides of the postcards within the timeline. However, only one image is allowed per dated entry so I decided to transcribe the messages of the postcards. While this method separates the user from the primary source, the transcriptions are streamlined and consistent, which allows accessible data and easier interpretation.

October 20th postcard that includes the description of 425 stairs. Forman also mentions scratching his name in stone at the top of the cathedral.

Research generated from this project: Edward Forman’s postcard collection allows researchers to study the changes or consistencies in the ways Forman communicates with Kaiser. Although censorship limits communication from troops to the home front, Forman rarely describes the effects of the war in France or the war’s effect on himself and his fellow soldiers. Forman never mentions another soldier in any of his postcards sent back home. What do such absences reveal? The limitations of the postcards must be acknowledged as Forman writes to Kaiser: “I will write a longer letter tomorrow evening.” Forman and Kaiser’s style of communication likely changed depending on the format, and it’s possible that the blank postcards supplemented some of the letters that Kaiser received. However, we can discern that Forman’s postcard communication demonstrates choices to mark specific events and experiences. The clumps of similar postmark dates and locations suggest that Forman wrote postcards to Kaiser while away from the front. Forman’s communication style indicates how he experienced and curated snapshots of France for Kaiser to experience through their postcards.  Several of his cards describe towns and landmarks with a tourist’s or sight-seeing observations. Furthermore, Forman shares these travel memories with Kaiser, as if she was traveling with him and experiencing the same sights.

In addition to the communication between Kaiser and Forman, what else do the postcards reveal about Forman’s wartime experiences? What can we learn from the locations documented in Forman’s postcards? In his September 3rd postcard, Forman writes that he began his “new job,” describing that it felt similar to civilian life.  If Forman served as a clerk, which could be a civilian-type job assigned to an infantryman, would Forman be near the trenches or would he be stationed in the cities the majority of his postcards depict: Rennes, Le Mans, Tours, and Bourges? Note the map feature above: the teal trees indicate the locations of the Meuse-Argonne front. The maps indicates how far postcard are from the front lines, but this does not rule out Forman’s potential involvement in battle. According to the Center for Military History, the 29th Division played a significant role in the early stages Meuse-Argonne offensive. After suffering heavy casualties, the unit was pulled off the front line in mid-October. Based on  the timeline of the Meuse-Argonne battle, I assert that Forman was at least indirectly involved in this offensive. Even if Forman himself did not fight on the front lines, many of his comrades in the 29th Division did and experienced over 5,000 casualties. The dates of Forman’s Bourges postcards support the idea that the soldiers were pulled off the line and granted leave.

While this project has centered on Kaiser’s received and postmarked cards, examining their content and observing any changes throughout their communication, the blank or non-postmarked cards are worthy of including in this slideshow as they further demonstrate how Forman constructing and commemorated his experiences abroad and what he chose to relate to Kaiser and her family. If there is any letter or text on the reverse, the content is transcribed and listed with the card. The slideshow below further illustrates how Forman chose to document his experience in France.

Greetings to you from France
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
Dear Mae,
What do you think of this French youngster
Dear Mae,
We are all marching the road to victory.
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
No written text
Dear Mae,
The interior of all the cathedrals of the towns I've struck are of the same architecture. You will notice this is practically the same as the one in Bourges.
No written text
May joy, happiness, love, and prosperity increase with years.
This is the station at Rennes.
This is the way our tents look when we unfurl them for an airing.
Dear Mae:
It was dark when the train pulled into Le Mans, therefore, I didn't get a good view of the town.

Conclusion: My initial research analyzed how Forman contextualizes and personalizes his postcards and shared memory with Mae Kaiser and how Forman’s personal communication with Kaiser shed light on the experiences of the 116th Infantry and the overall narrative of American soldiers in the Great War. By creating the timeline, the user can trace patterns in Forman’s communications and easily track the differences and consistencies throughout the two years of postcard communication. Furthermore, the users can examine how Forman personalized his postcards with his experiences in and around the city. The postcards demonstrate how Forman contextualized his experiences abroad and shared small snapshots of memory with Kaiser. Although letter writing would allow for more intimate or heart-warming messages, Forman uses mass produced postcards to share his sentiments with Mae.

An additional examination of the postcards allows the user to compare Forman’s experiences within the context of the Western Front. Based on his communication with Mae, where he addresses his ‘civilian‘-like job and never hints at combat, fighting, or morose events, researches might ask if Forman ever saw the trenches of the front. The time-lined events of the 29th Division and the dates on Forman’s postcards validate the possibility that Forman served near the front during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in the September and October of 1918. If this is true, how can we further investigate Forman’s communications with Kaiser and the lack of content that describes the horrors and aftermath of the front?


Timeline JS.

“Collection of Postcards from Edward D. Forman.” Villanova University Falvey Memorial Library.

Additional Forman Postcard Projects:

Fitzpatrick, Anna, L. “Forman Postcards: A Journey Through Memory.”

Quade, Brianna. “Forman’s Travels Through France: Using Postcards to Understand Changing Landscapes.”

Smith, Michaela. “An Infantryman’s Journey Through WWI: Edward Forman’s Postcard Collection.”


“116th Infantry.” 29th Division Association.

“29th Infantry Division.” Center of Military History.

Fleming, Thomas. “Meuse-Argonne Offensive of World War I.” Military History (October 1993),

Forman Postcards: A Journey Through Memory

By Anna L. Fitzpatrick

To view additional points on the map, please zoom in closer on the icons.

The Edward D. Forman collection of postcards provides an excellent example of how soldiers communicated and memorialized their military service during World War I. Nearly all of the postcards in Forman’s collection were written to his future wife, Mae Kaiser. These postcards provided Forman with a way of sharing his experiences during war with the woman he loved, enabling him to continue a valued relationship despite the separation imposed upon Forman and Mae. One might expect these postcards to be filled with romantic sentiments; however, expressions of love and romance are the exception to the generally matter of fact tone of Forman’s writing. Of course, postcards have very limited space for writing, which surely caused Forman to write succinctly. Furthermore, the censorship of military letters perhaps placed a certain level of restraint on Forman’s sentiments. Nevertheless, his emphasis on telling Mae of his travels, and the places he saw while in the service, indicate that Forman hoped to memorialize his wartime experiences through the postcards by creating visual and textual reminders of the places he visited.

Investigating the concept of communication and memory in Forman’s postcards required transcribing the postcards and then placing each postcard with its transcription on a map. Google My Maps made it possible to create a map that displayed all of the necessary information. The benefit of the map is that viewing the transcriptions and documents on a map provides a visual representation of how Forman wrote about the places he visited during the war, since the map displays the locations from which Forman wrote the postcards. Some locations on the map are exact while others are only approximate; at times, the postcards clearly indicate where Forman was when he wrote the short note to Mae, whereas at other times, Forman only provided a vague description of his location. Remedying the uncertainty of some places required making an educated guess as to the location. In some cities, Forman wrote multiple postcards, but placing multiple map markers on one location proved to be difficult. Therefore, making educated guesses was also necessary for the locations from which Forman wrote several postcards, such as Paris and Bourges, France. Additionally, most of the postcards contain exact dates, but several have no date at all, though the bibliographic information on Falvey Memorial Library’s Digital Library website generally indicates at least the year. Thus, when viewing the map, the reader is asked to remember that not all locations and dates are precise.

When viewing the map, please keep in mind that it is necessary to zoom in on the locations to see all of the place markers. The Forman Collection contains fifty items, but only thirty-four include text; therefore, only these thirty-four are included on the map. Additionally, the various icons represent different years; the brown balloon represents the year 1917, the purple envelope represents the year 1918, and the yellow envelope represents the year 1919.

Forman wrote the vast majority of his postcards in the year 1918, during the U.S. Army’s most active time in World War I. Perhaps, then, Forman wrote so many postcards to Mae throughout this year as a way of comforting himself amidst the stress of war. Perhaps he also wrote to Mae so often to soothe homesickness and loneliness, and maintain a sense of assurance that those at home still loved him. To visualize how Forman’s communications with Mae changed throughout the war, please view the following word clouds, made with Voyant.

1917 and 1918 word cloud
Postcards from the years 1917 and 1918
1919 word cloud, updated
Postcards from the year 1919

The first word cloud includes the year 1917 with the war year of 1918, since Forman only wrote one postcard in 1917. To avoid skewing the results, information in the postmarks and exact addresses was not included in the analyzed text; however, towns and dates were included. Additionally, given that only three postcards were written in 1919, it is difficult to get a true sense of how communication changed over the course of the war. However, the word clouds do demonstrate a focus on the places Forman traveled to, but yet he and Mae remain the center of the word clouds, indicating the importance of their relationship.

Even though Mae and Ed are the center of the word clouds, the clouds also show that Forman’s postcards are primarily unromantic and somewhat matter of fact. Indeed, reading through the postcards sometimes feels more like reading a travel guide, rather than notes to a loved one. For example, on Oct 20, 1918, Forman wrote to Mae, “Dear Mae: – Walked up 425 steps to tower of this cathedral! Arrow points to highest part. Cost is five cents to go into tower. Scraped my name in stone. Also had to walk down the 425 steps. Ed.”

Forman 10:20:18 5 front
Forman 10:20:18 5 back
Edward D. Forman to Mae Kaiser, postcard, October 20, 1918, Collection of Postcards from Edward D. Forman, Digital Library, Villanova University,

Of course, a lack of romantic sentiment is not unheard of in other World War I letters; while studying a collection of letters written between a Canadian couple during the War, Megan Robertson found that the soldier’s letters were somewhat formulaic. However, the emphasis on Forman’s travels that contributes to this lack of romantic sentiment in his cards indicates that Forman was hoping to document his journeys with the postcards he sent home.

The military also had to censor letters and postcards soldiers sent to their loved ones. Quite a few of Forman’s postcards bear a stamp stating that they had “passed as censored.” The postcard dated August 12, 1918, written from Paris, France, provides a good example of a ‘censored’ mark.

Forman 8:12:18 front
Forman 8:12:18 back
Edward D. Forman to Mae Kaiser, postcard, August 12, 1918, Collection of Postcards from Edward D. Forman, Digital Library, Villanova University,

Given the matter of censorship, it would seem logical if Forman’s language in the postcards written from the United States was more open and informative than in the cards written in Europe. Interestingly, however, when comparing the texts in the postcards Forman wrote while in the states with those he wrote in Europe, the cards written in Europe sometimes contain more information than those written in the states. Of course, more postcards were written from Europe than from the U.S., and thus a comparison between the two is somewhat unequal. Still, it is interesting to note that perhaps Forman’s lack of sentiment and emphasis on his travels was a consequence of realizing that the censors would read his words to Mae.

Regardless of why Forman wrote his postcards as he did, the collection has transformed into the embodiment of his memories. Now preserved at Falvey Memorial Library’s Special Collections, as well as online, Forman’s postcards memorialize where he traveled during the war, and the things he did that gave him pleasure. Certain postcards, though few, do demonstrate the love Forman and Mae shared, such as the postcard dated September 24, 1918, written from France.

Forman 9:24:18 front
Forman 9:24:18 back
Edward D. Forman to Mae Kaiser, postcard, September 24, 1918, Collection of Postcards from Edward D. Forman, Digital Library, Villanova University,

By documenting Forman’s travels, love, and life during the war, the postcards now serve as memories of what he experienced during World War I. As stated by Robertson, collections of World War I letters can “help to transform an event that happened nearly a century ago and demonstrate that those who lived through the Great War were not so very different from you or me in their concerns for family, friends, and their dreams for their futures. The letters matter now more than ever because the relationships that sustained their existence have begun to fade.” As a collection of memories, the Forman postcards do show the similarities between people who desired to record their travels during the Great War, and those who similarly document their lives with modern formats. The collection is a valuable resource for those interested in learning more about wartime communication and how soldiers memorialized their experiences through the postcards they selected to send home.

It is difficult, and perhaps even impossible, to know definitively why Forman wrote to Mae as he did – whether it was to allow the postcards to pass the censors, or because Forman was mostly concerned with documenting his travels. However, the nature of the postcards, which show troop encampments, artwork, and buildings and scenes in Europe and America, indicate that Forman hoped to memorialize his wartime experiences through his communications with Mae. Now, these same postcards serve as visual and physical representations of Forman’s memories of the Great War.

For more information on communication between soldiers on the front line and those on the home front, please read, “Assurance and Memory: Communication During World War 1.”

Works Cited and Bibliography:

Acton, Carol. “Writing and Waiting: The First World War Correspondence between Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton.” Gender & History 11, no. 1 (April 1999): 54-83.

Bonfiglioli, Margaret, and James Munson, eds. Full of Hope and Fear: The Great War Letters of an Oxford Family. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Collection of Postcards From Edward D. Forman, Digital Library, Villanova University.

Hanna, Martha. “War Letters: Communication between Front and Home Front.” In 1914-1918-Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 2014. doi:

Hubbard, Riley. “America and World War I: A Brief Overview.” Remembering World War 1.

Robertson, Megan. “Epistolary Memory: First World War Letters to British Columbia.” BC Studies no. 182 (Summer 2014): 125-150.


Martha Hanna, “War Letters: Communication between Front and Home Front,” in 1914-1918-Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. Ute Daniel, et al, (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 2014), doi:

Carol Acton, “Writing and Waiting: The First World War Correspondence between Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton,” Gender & History 11, no. 1 (April 1999): 62.
Megan Robertson, “Epistolary Memory: First World War Letters to British Columbia,” BC Studies no. 182 (Summer 2014): 126.
Margaret Bonfiglioli and James Munson, Full of Hope and Fear: The Great War Letters of an Oxford Family (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), xxviii-xxix; Martha Hanna, “War Letters: Communication between Front and Home Front,” in 1914-1918-Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. Ute Daniel, et al, (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, 2014), doi:
Megan Robertson, “Epistolary Memory: First World War Letters to British Columbia,” BC Studies no. 182 (Summer 2014): 131.
Carol Acton, “Writing and Waiting: The First World War Correspondence between Vera Brittain and Roland Leighton,” Gender & History 11, no. 1 (April 1999): 62; Megan Robertson, “Epistolary Memory: First World War Letters to British Columbia,” BC Studies no. 182 (Summer 2014): 136.
Megan Robertson, “Epistolary Memory: First World War Letters to British Columbia,” BC Studies no. 182 (Summer 2014): 128.

The Second Line of Defense: Female Representations during the WWI (Project)

By Andreina Soto

Women performed noncombatant roles during the WWI in the U.S. and in Europe. Their presence in the war, sometimes overlooked, can be observed through a wide scope of visual culture that circulated during the years of the Great War. Photographs, postcards, and propaganda show different dimensions of the female persona during this period. Women were portrayed as vulnerable and defenseless, but they also played more active roles, ranging from healers, to providers, and embodiment of national identity. All these representations portrayed the imagery towards femininity and gender stereotypes, as well as depicted the changing identities of women during the course of the war.

The visual culture and printing media that circulated during the Great War reflects the imagery towards gender roles, shows the multifaceted character of the female representations, and women’s engagement in different activities at home and overseas. Giving the inextricable relation between war and gender, I created a digital storytelling project that portrays and explains some of the female representations of women during the WWI. The storytelling is based on propaganda, photographs, and videos I have selected from digital databases related to the Great War. These resources serve to explore in more depth the role of women in the early-twentieth century U.S., particularly in the context of the war.

Women became the “second line of defense” that secured the moral, social, economic, and political methods of sustaining of the U.S. in ways the male soldiers and civil men could not achieve. As Susan Grayzel notes, World War I was the first modern war that required the full participation of both combatants and noncombatants, altering the battlefield as well as the domestic and social spaces of the Homefront in Europe and the U.S. Even though the outcome of WWI did not radically change the place of women in society, this epoch did had a great influence in different aspects of the domestic and public life that affected women and men. As well as the image of the country and the male soldiers highlighted the cohesion of a national identity, the visual representations of the war also relied and engaged female imagery. At the same time, the war opened new opportunities for education, employment, and national service for women in the country and overseas, performing duties as nurses, stenographers, factory workers, food producers, among others. The composition of different types of visual culture using female models, especially in propaganda, reflect this transition.

Depicting the Battlefront and the Homefront: Sources

Printed media and keep the population informed. During this period, mass media was accessible and cheaper, which increased their circulation and their conservation, as occurred with the making of scrapbooks and clipping albums. Similarly, the development of technologies during the industrial revolution increased the production of photographs that registered the fast-moving world. The use of photographs expanded the concept of fine arts beyond the canvas and the brush, as well as improved the circulation of information. Photography, in conjunction with printed media, became fundamental forms of documentation and visual representation in the post-WWI era.

Within this context, the wide scope of government propaganda that circulated in the U.S. and Europe is significant for understanding the recruitment of common citizens as combatants and noncombatants of the war. According to David Welch, war propaganda had a significant impact within the public, since their content tackled specific goals of nationalist sentiment.

Propaganda justified the war to the people, helped to promote recruitment into the armed forces, and convinced the population that their sacrifices at home and in the war would be rewarded with victory. Propaganda targeted men to join the military forces, alluding almost to a sentiment of shame if they were unwilling to protect their women and children. These advertising also used a similar discourse calling women to duty, whether helping with food provision for the soldiers or joining the Red Cross to assist men in the battle zone. The messages are usually patronizing when it comes to women, but they also reflect the importance of women –their moral image and their work- in the success of the battle, a message male imagery did not fulfill. I decided to incorporate several types of propaganda I have found at the Library of Congress Digital Collection, a very comprehensive database to locate printed media from U.S. and overseas from the early twentieth century.

[virtual_slide_box id=”8″][virtual_slide_box id=”10″]

Roll over the images to learn more about them!

By analyzing the scrapbooks from Frank Steed and Alma Clarke, I found recurrent use of visual media -photographs, postcards, and propaganda- showing female symbolism and women performing different roles as workers, nursers, nuns, and even models of leisure and fashion. These scrapbooks offer a more personal perception of the war, from the angle of two different persons who were in the battlefield and gathered, selected, and constructed their memories into a physical form. In this sense, Alma Clarke, a female nurse from the Red Cross and Frank Steed, a male soldier of the casualties division, are two similar but divergent views of the war. The memories they framed in their scrapbooks allow readers to see individual perspectives based on gender, occupation, leisure activities, social interactions, and personal values.

[virtual_slide_box id=”11″][virtual_slide_box id=”12″]

Another enriching source is the Scrapbook of the Home Front. Even though the author remains unknown, we have knowledge the scrapbook is from Atlantic City and was made circa 1918. This source gathers visual elements that circulated in the U.S. during the period when Clarke and Steed were in Europe.

The scrapbook contains different newspaper clips showing images of soldiers going to the war and different female representation, which reflects the inspirational and nurturing vision embedded on the women’s roles.

Villanova University Digital Collection
Page from Scrapbook, Home front – Atlantic City, 1918. Digital Library, Villanova University.

The Tools: Digital Storytelling

The main goal of this project is to analyze visual culture produced and circulated during the WWI and its relation to the construction of female representations. Hence, a digital storytelling project is an enriching and dynamic way to present this historical theme, which allows to combine writing text, images, and videos in a dynamic way.

Digital storytelling allows to construct compelling narratives with the use of different tools, guiding the user through the topics in discussion with interactive methods. The project is built entirely on WordPress, which allowed me to use different plugins simultaneously. This is a feature that strengths the concept of storytelling with text visualization within the images and comparative exposition of the visual content.

For my storytelling, I have used mainly Visual Slide Box Builder to embed text analysis in the images. This plugin is very useful for appreciating the visual content but also gives the user the opportunity to explore more about their composition and messages with brief explanations. I have also used Juxtapose JS and NextGen Gallery. Juxtapose JS permitted me to create comparative visions of certain images. Meanwhile, NextGen Gallery offers the opportunity to create sets of pictures from a similar theme to observe several examples. By using the three tools, I can create contrasting views of the visual content and examine their similarities and differences in more depth. Moreover, I can create elements that are dynamic for the users, which allow them to make decisions and engage with the narrative of the storytelling.

The structure of the project goes through a main narrative, divided in three themes. Each excerpt offers a particular view or role I have defined to understand the female imagery during the WWI. The sections are 1. Motherland: Female Symbolism of National Identity; 2. Healers: Nurses in the Battlefield; 3. Muses: Longingness and Domesticity; 4. Providers: Working Women in the Homefront. Each excerpt is formed by a main argument presented through a comparative analysis of different visual resources. This gives the sense of an “interactive museum,” where in each gallery the user cannot only observe the visual culture but also manipulate the images and learn through the contrast between visual and writing content.

The user can scroll down the page, as when reading a web article, and hover over the images edited with Visual Text Box Builder to gain more insight and information about the visual content. The images in Juxtapose offer a contrasting view between male and female representations, empowering the visibility of women in the war.

Future directions

Beside the levels of analysis I expose in the storytelling (motherland, healer, and provider), I would like to identify other feminine identities highlighted during and after the war to expand the multifaceted faces of women during the early twentieth century.

I would like to see how the imagery of women continued once the soldiers returned home and new relations took place once women increased their participation in the productive and political sectors of the U.S. I would like to see if women gained more agency in depicting themselves through the printed media of the epoch. Except for Alma Clarke scrapbook, most of the material used for this project was made by men. Hence, I considering the idea of trying to identity later images produced and designed by women compelling, especially during the suffragist movement in the 1920s.

Overall, this project has thought me how important noncombatant individuals were for the outcome of the war, and how a battle that engaged multiple nations had such an impact in the quotidian relations of women, children, and men. Soldiers were fundamental to win the battle, but women, those who usually remained relegated to a minor place in history, also played a fundamentals roles in the outcome of the war. This is my tribute to them.

To access the Storytelling, click here.


Susan Grayzel, Women’s Identities at War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press), p. 2.

Alison Nordström explains how, by the end of the nineteenth century, the availability of mass produced visual culture also enhanced the culture of collecting and scrapbooking in the U.S. Alison Nordström, “Making a Journey: The Tupper Scrapbooks and the Travel they Describe,” in Photographs Objects Histories, Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart ed. 81-95 (New York, Routledge, 2004), p. 88.

Katherine Ott et al, “An Introduction to the History of Scrapbooks,” in The Scrapbook in American Life, Susan Tucker, Katherine Ott and Patricia Buckler ed., 1-21 (Philadelphia: Temple University, 2006), p. 7

Juliana Kreinik, “An Introduction to Photography in the Early 20th Century,”; Department of Photographs, “Early Documentary Photography”. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.

David Welch, “Propaganda for Patriotism and Nationalism,” British Library

The Library of Congress has a very rich of collection of material from the U.S. and other countries. To see more examples of WWI propaganda, visit:
Following the guidelines of The Goggles Manifesto, a digital storytelling should be grounded on a linear script that guide the user through the exploration of the topic., May 30 2012,”>

The Long Road: Mapping Soldiers’ Journeys With Alma Clarke’s Scrapbook

By Daniel Gorman Jr.

When I first read Nurse Alma Clarke’s English-language scrapbook of her WWI experiences, I struggled to envision her photos, drawings, and notes as a digital project. The content seemed to lend itself to an essay on cultural history, not a map, timeline, or other digital item. As I kept reading, though, I discovered pages of soldiers’ names. Most of the soldiers were American, but a few of them were French and one was British. Alma perserved their names, hometowns, injuries, major battles, and medals in tables that she drew longhand in pencil. I realized that Alma included enough data in her inventory of patients to pinpoint the soldiers’ journeys on a map. Suddenly, I had a project. I would visualize the arc of the soldiers’ travels, from their hometowns to the frontlines and finally to Alma’s Red Cross American Military Hospital, No. 1, housed in the Lycée Pasteur academy in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.

Arguably the hardest part of the project was transcribing the inventory. The scrapbook has been digitized, but since the scrapbook’s text is handwritten, not typed, OCR software will not transcribe the document. As such, I had to retype every page and arrange the data in a chart that emulated the scrapbook’s layout. In the process, I learned that the data was less cooperative than I had hoped. Some entries had no hometown address, or even a hometown, in a few cases. Other entries omitted the names of battles or summaries of the wounds that soldiers received. One man’s name on page BMC_010r was struck through and illegible. Information from one entry might spill into another part of the chart, as was the case with the illegible name on BMC­_010r, or with Herbert Martin & Grady Salter’s entries on BMC_028r.

The data posed problems of greater significance. First, the entries were not written in one hand, as I had initially thought. I now believe that Alma asked the patients, and perhaps other nurses or orderlies, to fill out the ledger. These individuals wrote with varying levels of neatness and grammatical accuracy. We cannot know for sure who authored each entry.

I ran searches for some of the trickier soldier names on, but a few names remained illusive, so I had to make educated guesses when transcribing them. Such was the case with the French soldier Leo Tasquet (hopefully that is his correct name) on BMC_028r. A secondary problem arose: Several entries, including Leo’s, were in French. I cannot read French, so I asked around for assistance. Ultimately, an undergraduate from Villanova’s Romance Languages Department helped me to transcribe and translate these entries. Merci, Alice! No documentary editing project happens in solitude.

The third issue with the scrapbook was the omission of key dates. When I first skimmed through the book, I assumed that every battle would be matched with the date a patient fought in it. However, when I read the scrapbook in its entirety, I learned this was not the case. Similarly, the inventory did not always say on which day, or even in which battle, the patients were injured. The last battle a soldier mentioned was not necessarily the place he received his wound(s). My initial plan for visualizing the data had been to create an animated map — as you scrolled past a date, a new marker would appear — but I realized this plan would have to be discarded. You cannot show change over time effectively if half (or more) of your events have no date! As such, my final project is a stationary map. I provide the dates of battles in the captions where applicable. The map may not be the most fancy from a digital perspective, but all the available data is there.

The fourth complication with the data was finding latitude and longitude coordinates for the places each man fought. Places like “Saint-Mihiel” or “Wissous” were easy to identify, as they are specific towns. Unfortunately, “Argonne Forest,” “Somme,” and “Champagne” refer to battles that spanned dozens of miles, with swaths of the countryside torn apart. If I had a lot of time and access to the National Archives’ holdings on the U.S. military, I could probably find each regiment, track it through the battlefield, and write down the sequence of GPS coordinates. However, that process would take weeks, if not months. The scale of this project was greater than the time left in the semester.

I compromised by identifying sites at the center of major battlefields. Even though I failed to locate every troop position, I believe that my map provides a general sense of where the soldiers traveled. In some ways, my map is an artistic impression of the soldiers’ movements, rather than a strictly historical account. I know that Alma’s patients began their journeys in America and ended them in the Lycée Pasteur; where they went in between those locations remains hazy. Still, the artistic fiction of my map sits atop a base of historical research, which I have embedded on this page and made available to download.

Some cartographic issues popped up near the end of the project. Google Maps only shows one marker per set of latitude/longitude coordinates. In other words, if every soldier in a particular battle had the same coordinates, then only one point would appear on the map, and this would not convey the volume of individuals in each zone. As such, I gave the soldiers who fought in Champagne or the Argonne Forest coordinates that were very similar, but different by a few decimal points. Again, there was an element of historical fiction to this process. I also gave each soldier a distinct color and/or shape for his map markers, so that his narrative could be followed easily across the map.

What does my project reveal? Above all else, Alma’s inventory illuminates the spatial dynamics of WWI. Alma’s patients hailed from towns all over the United States, as well as France and Britain, but military service funneled these soldiers into the same places. Look through the transcribed inventory. 32 men fought in or near the Argonne Forest. 23 men fought on or near the Champagne front. 13 fought at Verdun. And so on. Shared battle experiences united Americans from diverse geographic origins, not to mention diverse economic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Those combat experiences also forced Americans to interact with French and British soldiers from the broader alliance. My map visualizes only a sample of the patients, but the markers clustered in Champagne and Argonne make this unifying spatial dynamic clear. The war blurred not only class, nationality, and social status, but also the physical spaces that men occupied.

From "The Long Road" Map by Daniel Gorman Jr., based on Alma Clarke's patient inventory.
10 of Alma’s 32 patients who fought in the Argonne Forest. From “The Long Road” Map by Daniel Gorman Jr., based on Alma Clarke’s patient inventory.

Reading the inventory hammers home the casualties of WWI. It is one thing to read that thousands of men died or were wounded at Verdun, but it is another to read their individual names and injuries. By preserving portraits of her patients, Alma humanized the war’s cold statistics. At the same time, Alma’s inventory only encompasses men from Ward 185 of the Lycée Pasteur. That’s just one ward of just one hospital, amid a vast theatre of war. The scale of the casualties is appalling.

Yet I suspect that Alma kept the records simply because she cared about her men. She may have also wanted to save their impressions of her:

  • “Give my gratitude to Mademoiselle Clarke for the good care.” — René Bausc (French).
  • “If you want to know the auxiliary in No. 1 ^hospital,^ it’s Miss Clarke of New York. She was more than to willing to do anything in her power for every one of the boys, and personally I can’t thank her enough for the many things she’ done for me.” — Elmer Ohlson (American).
  • “Cared for in the American Ambulance, Neuilly, by Miss Clarke, the nice and dedicated nurse, to whom I give my sincerest thanks for the good care that she gave me.” — Antoine Descombes (French).
  • “Thanks to the care of Miss Clarke in ward 185, – I am still going strong and nearly ready for another scrap.” — Clarence T. Barnes (American).

The inventory provides other vivid vignettes. A newspaper clipping attached to one page tells how Hugh MacNair earned the Croix de Guerre, Legion d’Honneur, and the American Distinguished Service Cross — at the cost of his right leg. Other entries reveal additional recipients of the Croix de Guerre, among other commendations. Finally, Private Larkin Bailey shares a U.S. Marine Corps joke that still circulates in 2015: “If the Army and the Navy / Ever looked on Heaven’s scenes, / They would find the streets are guarded by / The United States Marines.”

The logical way to expand this study is to find more GPS coordinates for each regiment and produce an expanded map. Next, historians should determine which of the patients, if any, died in the hospital — something Alma never recorded. Websites like and Fold3 supply enough census data for historians to conduct this kind of research. Finally, historians could investigate soldiers’ long-term health struggles after returning home. Many soldiers had abstracts of their service, which outlined their experiences and medical issues. has digitized a significant number of these abstracts, but the full collection is available only at the National Archives.

These projects would be lengthy, but they would provide a full portrait of the journeys that American soldiers undertook, even after WWI came to an end.


Thank you, David Uspal and Laura Bang at Falvey Library; Prof. Deb Boyer; Alice Zylla, B.A. ’16, for helping with the French passages; Dr. Seth Whidden, Romance Languages Department; and my dad, Lt. Col. Daniel Gorman, for teaching me to read military maps.

Historical & Geographic References

“2nd Battle of the Marne: Soissons and Vicinity, Franco-American Counterattack, 18 July–6 August 1918.” Dept. of Military Art and Engineering, West Point Military Academy. Wikimedia Commons. File in the Public Domain. File uploaded by Lawrencema [pseud.], modified by Hohum [pseud.]. Last modified January 11, 2012. Accessed November 26, 2015.

“Argonne Forest (PSF).” Archives of Pearson Scott Foresman [publisher]. Wikimedia Commons. Image in the Public Domain. Last modified February 18, 2008. Accessed November 27, 2015.

“Battles of French Flanders & Artois, France.” The Great War 1914–1918. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“Battle of Seicheprey, April 20, 1918, US 26th Infantry Division.” American Expeditionary Force: Doughboys in WWI. Accessed November 28, 2015.

“Battles of the Western Front.” The Great War, 1914–1918. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“Chemins des Dames.” First World War [website]. Accessed November 27, 2015.

“The Chemins des Dames Battlefield [Google map].” Google Maps. Accessed November 27, 2015.

Clarke, Alma A.“Alma Clarke’s English WWI Scrapbook.” Ca. 1927 (covering events from ca. 1910–1920). Alma A. Clarke Papers, Bryn Mawr College Special Collections. Accessed November 2015.

“Collier’s 1921 World War – Maps.” Wikimedia Commons. Files in the Public Domain. Files uploaded by Bob Burkhardt. Accessed November 25–27, 2015.

Duffy, Michael. “Battles – The Second Battle of the Marne, 1918.” First World A Multimedia History of World War One. Last modified August 22, 2009. Accessed November 25, 2015.

“French Flanders and Artois Battlefields of WW1, France.” The Great War 1914–1918. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“GeoHack – Battle of Mulhouse.” Wikimedia Tool Labs. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“GeoHack – Battle of Vimy Ridge.” Wikimedia Tool Labs. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“GeoHack – First Battle of Artois.” Wikimedia Tool Labs. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“GeoHack – Second Battle of Artois.” Wikimedia Tool Labs. Accessed November 29, 2015.

Gobeth, Wally. “Washington, DC: Colorado Building.” Photograph, October 31, 2010. Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. Accessed November 25, 2015.

Highsmith, Carol M. “Architectural details on the Colorado Building, 14 and G. Street, NW, Washington, D.C.” Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, 2010. Accessed November 27, 2015.

Johnson, Douglas Wilson. “Topographical map of the Villers Bretonneux Area [Reference for Second Battle of the Somme (1918)].” Originally published by New York: Henry Holt, 1917. Wikimedia Commons. File in the Public Domain. Uploaded by Keith-264 [pseud.]. File uploaded November 19, 2013. Accessed November 25, 2015.,_Villers_Bretonneux.jpg.

A Little Guide to AFS in Paris: “Chapter Three: Neuilly-sur-Seine.” Our Story: The Field Service. Accessed November 23, 2015.

“Map Showing the battle lines for the American drive at St. Mihiel from September 12–17, 1918.” Collier’s New Encyclopedia, vol. 10 (P.F. Collier, 1921), 431. Wikimedia Commons. File in the Public Domain. File uploaded by Bob Burkhardt. Accessed November 27, 2015.

“Map of the Battle of the Somme, 1916.” Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0. File uploaded by Grandiose [pseud.]. File uploaded July 3, 2013. Accessed November 29, 2015.,_1916.svg.

“Map of the Battle of St. Mihiel.” Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0. File uploaded by Rcbutcher [pseud.]. Accessed November 27, 2015.

“Our History: The History of the American Hospital of Paris.” American Hospital of Paris. Accessed November 23, 2015.

Quintiliano, Barbara. “An Auxiliary Nurse’s Scrapbooks of the Great War.” Home Before the Leaves Fall: The Great War, 1914–1918. Villanova University Special Collections and Digital Library. Last modified October 23, 2014. Accessed November 23, 2015.

Rickard, J. “First battle of Artois, 27 September – 10 October 1914.” History of, September 15, 2007. Accessed November 29, 2015.

“Vimy Ridge.” World War One Battlefields. Last modified 2008. Accessed November 28, 2015.

Websites/Software Applications

Google Maps.
Google Maps GPS Coordinates.
Wikimedia Tool Labs.

Endnote One

For more about Red Cross American Military Hospital, No. 1, Lycée Pasteur, Neuilly-sur-Seine, see: Barbara Quintiliano, “An Auxiliary Nurse’s Scrapbooks of the Great War,” Home Before the Leaves Fall: The Great War, 1914–1918, Villanova University Special Collections and Digital Library, last modified October 23, 2014, accessed November 23, 2015,; A Little Guide to AFS in Paris, “Chapter Three: Neuilly-sur-Seine,” Our Story: The Field Service, accessed November 23, 2015,; “Our History: The History of the American Hospital of Paris,” American Hospital of Paris, accessed November 23, 2015,

Endnote Two

Alma A. Clarke, “Alma Clarke’s English WWI Scrapbook,” ca. 1927 (covering events from ca. 1910–1920), Alma A. Clarke Papers, Bryn Mawr College Special Collections, accessed November 2015,



Mapmaking with Frank R. Steed’s Scrapbook

By Emily Vasas

External Link to Map


Frank R. Steed volunteered as a Field Clerk in World War I and compiled a two volume scrapbook between May 1918 and November 1919. Steed served as an Army Field Clerk and medic, assigned to the Casualty Division of the American Expeditionary Forces in France. According to a letter from his superior, Colonel Ernest G. Smith, Steed was diligent, dependable, and kept spirits up for the unit.[1]

His scrapbooks contain mainly photographic evidence, but also include various postcards, official documents, tickets, brochures, drawings, and maps. Steed’s scrapbook records experiences he had traveling to small towns and big cities, like Paris, London, Brussels, and Dublin. He also included notes from family and friends, which allows the reader a glimpse of how correspondence worked at this time and how Steed interacted not only with friends and acquaintances in Europe but with family back home in the United States.

According to the digital library blog post on Steed’s scrapbooks, it is possible he tried to see and do as much as he did in Europe as a welcome distraction from his dismal work with the Casualty unit.[2] Whether that is the case or not, the scrapbooks provide an interesting slice of life for an American traveling abroad during the early 20th century and are surprisingly similar in content to what a modern day student might collect while studying abroad. Today, trips abroad, especially to study abroad, are becoming more and more commonplace for people in Steed’s age bracket. That is not to say the study abroad experience today is at all similar to why Steed was in Europe, but what he did with his time off was definitely comparable to what a student traveler might do today. Going to plays, trying new food, sightseeing, taking walking tours – these are all things Steed did and things tourists continue to do to this day.

Even the way he preserved his memories of his travels is similar to how people document vacations today. Sure, the technology used to do so has advanced, but people still do scrapbook. In fact, scrapbooking has become ever more elaborate since Steed’s time. And those who don’t keep physical scrapbooks still do scrapbook in a way. Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and the Cloud could all be considered digital scrapbooks for the pictures people take with their smartphones and digital cameras. The selfie is new, but taking photographs of and with monuments or scenery haven’t changed much in the past century.


[1] Bang, Laura. “Blue Electrode: Sparking between Silicon and Paper.” Falvey Memorial Library: Villanova University. June 29, 2013. Accessed November 29, 2015.

[2] Ibid.


*All images courtesy of Falvey Memorial Library and its Digital Collections