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MS-095: Letters received by John Wright, World War I

Processed by Kayla Lenkner

August 2008


Purchased from The Rhodes Scholar catalog.

Full Finding Aid (Pdf)


Knoxville, Iowa, located about 25 miles south-east of Des Moines, is the county seat of Marion County.  It was founded in 1845 by Joseph Robinson and James Montgomery.  The local newspaper, the Knoxville Journal, was founded ten years later.  During World War I, the paper's editor, John W. Wright, received letters from more than twenty-five local men in the military, stationed both in the states and abroad.  These letters were frequently published in the paper.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consist of 32 letters and ten postcards received by John Wright between 9 June 1917 - 18 December 1919.  Most of the correspondence is addressed to John Wright or the Knoxville Journal, however, some letters are addressed to other people who presumably passed the letters along to Wright for publication in the paper.  The collection contains a mixture of letters from soldiers, sailors, cavalry men and officers.  

None of this correspondence refers to actual combat.  Instead, the letters focus on daily life in the military, training, and life on the front.  The letters include very few specifics or details due to the censor, a restriction frequently mentioned in the letters.  While the letters themselves show no physical signs of censorship, the envelopes often have stamps or stickers indicating that the letter was opened and inspected by a censor. 

Almost half of the correspondence is from France. The other letters are from various locations across the United States, with the exception of one letter from Liverpool and two from Niederbreisig in Germany. Correspondence from France frequently describes the French countryside, people, and customs, as well as the quartering and living conditions of the soldiers. The 9 January 1919 letter from Major Robert Blaine describes working on the Verdun-Metz railroad and seeing the destruction caused by the war.  The majority of the correspondence from the United States is sent from training camps and the letters are mostly about training, impending military assignments and adjusting to life in the military.  Quite a few of these letters express an enthusiasm to join the excitement on the front and a lot of the men speculate about when they will be going "across the pond". One letter is written from a sailor on the USS Canandaigua (14 March 1918) and another from the  USS C. W. Morse (5 May 1918).  The 15 April 1918 letter from Leslie O. Oswandel describes life as a member of the border patrol stationed in Texas. 

Several letters refer to illnesses and quarantines (15 February 1918; 20 March 1918;  30 April 1918; 20 May 1918; 17 January 1919).  Another common topic is the work of the YMCA (25 April 1918; 5 May 1918; 12 May 1918; 30 January 1919).  Nearly every letter mentions reading or wanting to read the Knoxville Journal.  A few letters respond to and discuss the letters of other soldiers published in the paper.  

The letters are arranged chronologically.

Full Finding Aid (Pdf)