Forman’s Travels Through France: Using Postcards to Understand Changing Landscapes

By Brianna M. Quade

The text below describes the process of completing this project. To view, click on the link.

Forman’s Travels Through France

Urban history is an incredible fascinating field of historical research. This field allows historians to understand how cities were constructed and the social, political, and economic systems that influence the construction of the city and urban areas. The focus of this project was to examine how French urban landscape changed, if it did at all, from World War I to the present. Using the postcards of Edward Forman, this project demonstrated the necessity to examine urban landscapes.

Using atavist, a content management system, I used sliders to contrast the Forman postcards with images from Google Maps. Atavist was chosen because it was the easiest to work with. Storymap JS provided similar features as atavist but was more difficult to use sliders. In Storymap, the images had to line up. With atavist, it was simple to show the before and after images of the places Forman send postcards from.

There were very few changes to the buildings in the postcards. It was difficult to locate some images, like Le Pont en X because it was destroyed. There was also no specific address linked to Le Pont. Additionally, Le Palais des Muses et le Pont St-Gorges, Le Gare de l’Ouest-Etat, Portails de la Cathedrale, La Cathedrale, la Caserne de Bon Pastuer, and La Maison de Duguay-Trouin were also difficult to find. La Maison was an image of a street, not a specific building, proved difficult to locate the place. For the others, translating French was difficult. Le Gare, when translated means station, so instead of the proper pronoun, it is just a noun. La Cathedrale and Portails were very general, which led to searching for cathedrals in the cities listed on the postcard.

During the course of the project, translating and pinpointing locations proved to be the biggest challenge. With no background in French or France’s urban landscape, several Google searches were needed with different variations on the names of the locations. It took several looks at not only Google Maps but also at websites to discover if the location was correct. Coming to the conclusion that the places in France were referred to differently than what was listed on the postcard was a significant finding during the project. Some names did not change, but the buildings were used for different things. For example, Caserne St-Georges is now a fire station, but it was difficult to determine if the building was used for a fire station in World War I. Other buildings like Le Palais des Muses et le Pont St-Georges proved to be more difficult. It referred to the building and the bridge. It was important to translate the different words in the phrase in order to know what the location was. Upon successful translation, I discovered Le Palais is now called Musee Des Beaux-Arts de Rennes. The building still looks the same, but the name changed completely. Through this, I was led to question if the building still existed or if the name changed. Luckily, only the name changed. It would have been interesting to see if the entire building was destroyed.

For many of the churches, I questioned why Forman visited them. The churches did not change much, but from the Google Maps images, there was a significant amount of modernization that took place. This was interesting to see. The buildings remained the same but streets were created and cars were everywhere; a telling sign of urbanization.

Atavist was very easy to work with. Some drawbacks include not being able to change the font size or color and customizing the slides or pages. Regardless, atavist allowed me demonstrate my argument and provide evidence.

This project can be expanded by looking more in depth at the history of the buildings in World War I and the present. It would be interesting to examine the specific changes that occurred and community reactions. I would also be interested to research how public transportation changed and if it influenced changes that occurred in France during and after World War I. This project was interesting and engaging. It is my hope that viewers will take away the message that examining the construction of cities and urban areas is important. Specifically, memory impacts how people view cities. I would be interested to see if there are any records of the name changes to buildings or changes to the buildings themselves. How do people remember these structures? Do they remember them at all? Le Theatre ve des Promenades de Jacobins changed dramatically after World War I. From the postcard it is evident the building was stone or concrete. But upon a Google search, the building appears to have glass windows and completely renovated. Why such the big change? Do people remember what the building looked like before? These are the kinds of questions that can be answered by looking at urban areas. And these questions can help to understand how urban areas have transformed and why they have.

An Infantryman’s Journey Through WWI: Edward Forman’s Postcard Collection

By Michaela Smith

Possibly Edward D. Forman. Sourced from Falvey Memorial Library's Digital Library.
Possibly Edward D. Forman. Sourced from Falvey Memorial Library’s Digital Library.

Edward/Mae Having outlined the beginnings of this digital project, some background about Edward Forman is due. Edward Forman was an AEF (American Expeditionary Force) Infantryman deployed with the 29th Division 116th Infantry. Very little is known about Forman’s duties while he was deployed, even with access to his postcards, but this is likely due to censorship regulations surrounding mail leaving army bases during WWI. Unfortunately searching for more information on Forman and his duties didn’t yield any results. What is known, however, is that Forman was writing to Mae Kaiser his sweetheart at the time who lived in Brooklyn, New York. Forman would go on to marry Mae Kaiser after the war.¹

All of the data comes from Edward Forman’s postcard collection. This is worth noting because the original plan had been to potentially explore other scrapbooks in Villanova or Bryn Mawr’s digital collections. But this ended up not being the case as the information in Forman’s collection was more than enough for this digital project.


The postcards themselves are quite straightforward with the collection containing fifty postcards in total. There are thirty four with writing, sixteen without, and one blank postcard with a hand-drawn drawing. Out of the fifty postcards, all but one made the timeline below. The postcard that did not make the timeline was excluded because it had neither a date nor an approximate or definite location on it, and as a result, it couldn’t be placed on the timeline or the map.

The excluded postcard. Sourced from Falvey Memorial Library's Digital Library.
The excluded postcard. Sourced from Falvey Memorial Library’s Digital Library.

There are also a few postcards from Washington, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Similarly, while most of the postcards are written from Ed to Mae and there are none written by Mae to Ed, there is one postcard that was written to Ed by a Tom E. Mannes. There was no further information that could be found on or about Mr. Mannes.

When it came to interpreting and understanding the French titles and etcetera on the postcards in the collection, Google Translate was used as the main source for translations. This proved to be a useful tool in that it translated the postcard titles and any other French on them without requiring much in-depth research. The other tools used in the creation of this project are outlined below.

Timeline JS

Creating a timeline with Timeline JS was a fairly approachable task. Initially a timemap (map and timeline combined in one visual) was going to be created as a visual to highlight Forman’s travels via Timemapper. But after running into issues with getting the map portion to function properly, a last minute move to Timeline JS was made. To put together a timeline with Timeline JS, an excel sheet had to be created that listed the title, date, description, image link, credit for any images, and the headlining text for each entry on the timeline. Once this spreadsheet was uploaded to timeline JS, it was just a matter of working with the embedding code to get it to display properly on WordPress.

*Note: Postcards that did not have a date, but that had an identifiable location were given the dates associated with postcards from the same area so as to best cohesively show Ed’s travels. That said, there are eight postcards at the beginning of the timeline that do not have dates. These were included in the timeline because they are still relevant to Ed’s experience.

The one decision that really shaped the way this part of the project developed was the change from making a timemap and choosing to make a timeline and map separately. The timemap would have allowed for the map and timeline to be interacted with simultaneously and side by side in the same frame whereas they are now separate and the relationship between map and timeline isn’t as seamless as it could have been. As a result, the feeling of following Forman on his journey is lost.

Google My Map

Creating my map with Google My Maps was very straight forward and easy to do. After having decided that creating a timemap wouldn’t be a feasible option, Google My Maps was chosen as a map replacement. To create the points on the map the location was entered into a search bar on the map itself, and then once it was located, the points were entered in separately by hand. Once all the points were added and in the right places, all that was left was to customize the colors and style of the map and then, like with Timeline JS, embed it on the page.

*Note: All red markers indicate at least one postcard. If there are markers of any other color near a red marker they represent another postcard in the cluster. It is also best to zoom in to see the clusters clearly on the map.

One decision that might have changed the way the map works with the timeline is whether or not lines between each of the points had been included on the map as a way of illustrating where Forman had travelled and when. But because the exact movements of Forman’s unit couldn’t be discerned from the information available from Forman’s postcards to Mae, the decision was made to leave the lines out so as not to accidentally muddle the presentation of the data.


As for organizing the data, the decision was made to order the postcards chronologically on the timeline because it was the best (and only) real way to capture the extent and locations of Edward Forman’s journey as a whole.  Also rather than imposing any questions on the data, the project tried to let the data guide the understanding  of Forman’s travels rather than trying to search for any one specific answer.

Overall one of the biggest obstacles faced when trying to create this project was not issues with Timemapper/Timeline JS or any of the choices made regarding data presentation. It was figuring out how to make sure the project was viable. As it would turn out, the postcards themselves didn’t have any identifiable postmarks on them. They had postmarks on them, but they were either from New York or from a generic Army mailroom. Which created the issue of figuring out how to track Forman’s travels accurately.  Because without verifiable postmarks  on the postcards there was no real way to tell where Forman was when he was sending or receiving the occasional postcard. But then as the data was being compiled, two things became apparent.

First, it was noted that the front of many of the postcards had pictures of the locations where Forman was sending them from, and that this was often confirmed by many of his messages to Mae on the back. Sometimes, Forman’s messages on the back were the only way to get an approximate location and were relied on heavily in order to get the clearest picture possible. The next discovery was that many of the postcards were in clusters, potentially revealing how long Forman was in a certain area and where he was when he sent them. As a result, these observations were used in order to take on a slightly modified approach and produce the project as it is now.

Research Methods

The research methods for this project were fairly simple. The idea was straightforward in that the project sought to study the postcards and the idea of seeing where Forman went throughout his deployment in order to gain a stronger understanding of his WWI experience. In order to attempt to best explore those initial thoughts the following questions were generated:

  • How often did Mr. Forman travel, and where did he travel? How close to one another were the locations?
  • What was the experience abroad like?

As it turns out, the information gathered from Forman’s postcard collection wasn’t enough to answer both questions concretely. There was enough data to answer the first question above fairly well while the second question remained almost unanswerable. As a result, the data was left to speak for itself using the clusters and the front of the postcards to inform the understanding of Forman’s journey through out the War.


Based on the questions: how often did Mr. Forman travel, and where did he travel? How close to one another were the locations? The data combined between the map and the timeline allowed for an answer to be attempted.

As for how often Forman traveled during his time in Europe, it seems like it was a fairly frequent interval as one might expect when looking at the movements of an Army infantryman. Similarly, it looks like on a few occasions there were towns like Bourges, Le Mans, or Rennes where his regiment might have had longer stop overs. For example, based on some rough estimates based on the dates on the postcards, Forman spent about a month or so in Bourges, before moving on to the city of Le Havre.

Though this could also be due to the fact that it appears that Forman sent a few postcards at a time, or multiple a day, which could skew the data and indicate that he spent more time in one place than he actually had. It also became clear that Forman visited the following cities in Europe: Bourges, Dinard, France, Le Havre, Le Mans, Mont Saint Michel, Rennes, Saint Malo, and Tours.  And that while he was in the states he visited: Anniston Alabama, Washington DC, Greenville SC, and Monroe NC.

Distance was a bit more difficult to measure by the postcards alone, but using the ruler tool on Google My Maps a rough estimate was made to determine that Forman traveled about 10,000 miles during his whole deployment. This is a very rough estimate that includes two trips (to and from) France and then about five hundred miles or so while he was in France. This is less than was originally anticipated for his time in Europe, but with everything being much closer together than is typical in the US, it makes sense that his mileage is lower. When looking at the map it is easy to see just how close French towns really are to one another.

It also became apparent that Forman might have made his way north towards the coast and then potentially back down again depending on the full length of his deployment and his true movements. It does seem possible considering that Le Havre is one of the main ports for ships entering and leaving France, and if he did end up making a few trips from the United States to France, as Forman’s postcards do suggest, it is possible that he was entering and leaving through the port at Le Havre.

After having spent a significant amount of time with Forman’s postcards, it also became apparent that for Forman and his sweetheart Mae postcards were likely one of the only and best ways to truly stay connected to one another. More specifically, during the War the censorship efforts of all parties involved was quite strong. In fact, on a few of Forman’s postcards there appears to be writing in pencil that is not Forman’s and looks to be approving the contents of the letters.

Another potential perk of using postcards versus writing letters or any other form of communication for Forman is that in choosing a postcard with something related to where he was staying, he could share that information with Mae without directly having to tell her so. And in not specifically mentioning where he was and what he was doing, Forman didn’t necessarily have to worry about anything being removed by those in charge of censorship since his messages themselves were free of any detail and often brief. The fact that Forman elected to write such short messages could be indicative of the level with which personal letters were censored, or simply suggest that Forman’s time abroad didn’t lend him much free time outside of the time he spent writing to Mae.

Lastly, it is hard to say whether or not Forman had ever anticipated these postcards to survive to this day or for Mae to save them in the first place. But because they did survive, they probably allowed Forman and possibly Mae to remember his WWI experience in quite a unique way. Particularly in that unlike a scrapbook, that can have headlines that remember more downtrodden times during the war, Forman was able to focus on what were likely very happy moments during the War. Because although the postcards don’t reveal anything groundbreaking about the War or his regiment, they remember a very personal aspect of Forman’s time abroad. Which is rather unusual considering many scrapbooks and other media remembering the War focus more on the war itself at large, rather than one particular moment.


Although the scope of this project is really quite small and gave only a glimpse into the life of a WWI soldier, it draws attention to the fact that these experiences still matter even after all these years. Small pieces of a US infantryman’s life hold the potential to teach historians and the public alike many new things. For example, Forman’s postcard collection sheds light on the fact that not every waking moment of a soldiers life was action oriented, along with the fact that they likely did find time to enjoy the cities they saw (particularly that late in the War. It was also somewhat surprising to see just how much one small collection of postcards could reveal when someone takes the time to sit down and apply them to a more visual approach.

Overall the project was successful in offering both a learning opportunity concerning digital tools, and what they can and cannot do. But it also was quite a satisfying, intriguing, and humbling experience to sit down with one small corner of history to see what it had to say.


¹ Falvey Memorial Library Digital Library. “Collection of postcards from Edward D. Forman.”

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.