Davis, Elmer
Collection of Correspondence of Elmer Davis – future director of US propaganda in World War II – as a cynical young New York Times journalist, to Nelle Reeder, a young woman he had met aboard the “Ford Peace Ship” in World War I, 1915-1919

7 Autograph and Typed Letters (and several incomplete fragments) from Elmer Davis to Nelle Reeder, the first written aboard the R.M.S. Adriatic, returning from Europe after the Ford Expedition, the others from New York: Feb. 9, April 16, June 14, July 24, Nov. 24, Dec. 27, 1916; and Aug. 12, 1917. Approximately 40 total pages. (There are also incomplete fragments of other letters written on very fragile paper, heavily repaired at folds, two with dates Nov.29, 1916 and Jan. 22, 1918). Accompanied by a 17-page typed (carbon copy) transcript from the privately-held Nelle Reeder Papers of letters written by her, which recount her Peace Ship experiences, Dec. 17, 1915 to Feb. 18, 1916.

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     Henry Ford’s quixotic attempt to end the First World War in Europe, while America was still neutral, sending a “Peace Ship” of idealistic “peace activists” across the Atlantic in December 1915, was regarded by many cynics – including the 40 journalists who sailed with the party - as a ridiculous venture in amateurish diplomacy by bickering buffoons.

     One idealist aboard, more down-to-earth than many of the elder suffragettes and pacifists who sailed on the Oscar II was Nelle Reeder, a 21 year-old Wellesley graduate from Kansas who had been a social worker in the tenements of New York City when she joined the Ford expedition as representative of her alma mater. One of the cynics was 25 year-old Elmer Davis, a New York Times reporter and Rhodes Scholar from Indiana, a cub reporter who was normally assigned routine crime stories, but was chosen to accompany the Ford Ship because of his “sardonic wit” which “won him the chance to cover one of the most whimsical stories of the decade…”

     Perhaps their Midwest origins – Reeder’s parents were also from Indiana - drew them together. In any case, after Ford himself abandoned the ship (which continued to sail around Europe) and Reeder and Davis, like many of the passengers, had returned to the United States, they kept up a correspondence for more than a year after their Atlantic voyage. It trailed off after Davis was married in February 1917 to a woman he had met in England.

     Nelle Reeder went on to do research work for the War Department in Washington, studying the problems of women in the munitions industry, after the US entered the War, later returning to New York City to become training director for a department store; she never married and remained in New York for the rest of her life. Whether or not she kept up her friendship with Davis, she undoubtedly followed his brilliant career; First a successful free-lance writer, then a nationally-prominent news analyst during the Depression, after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt tapped him to head the US Office of War Information, responsible for “managing” both domestic war news and propaganda. Post-war, he became an ABC radio news broadcaster and was renowned for denouncing the McCarthy era assault on civil liberties.  He died in New York in 1958.

     Nelle Reeder’s letters from the Ford Peace Ship – copied in this archive - were quoted in the 1967 and 1978 histories of the fruitless expedition, which noted that her papers were privately held. Apparently, they still are, as no mention of them appears in the ArchiveGrid database. 

      Elmer Davis’ 36 page oral history account of the expedition, recorded at Columbia shortly before his death was based on his 40 year-old memories. The letters in this archive are not only contemporary but written by a young man with no thought of protecting his historical reputation. His journalistic cynicism about what, in writing to Reeder, he laughingly called the “Fredsexpedition” was unguarded, as were his caustic remarks about some of the Ford Ship notables, and, incidentally, his anti-Semitism. They are particularly valuable historical sources since they are probably not duplicated in the extensive Davis Papers at the Library of Congress. Indeed, many of the letters in this archive were hastily typed on scrap papers so flimsy that they came close to distintegrating while in Reeder’s possession.

The collection includes the following:

Carbon copy of a typed transcript of Nell M. Reeder’ letters to her parents in Kansas, written during the Ford Peace Expedition:  Dec. 17, 1915, Kirkwall between the Shetland and Orkney Islands; Dec. 18, 1915, Christiansand; Dec. 22, 1915, Grand Hotel, Kristiania; Dec. 29, 1915 Grand Hotel, Stockholm; Jan. 5, 1916 Paladshotellet, Copenhagen; Jan. 9, 1916 The Hague; Jan. 12, 1916, aboard the Noordam, near Dover, England; Jan. 22, 1916 In the Atlantic en route to New York; Feb. 18, 1916 Wellesley College, Mass. 17pp. total

Reeder expresses her surprise at all the “terrible dissension” on the Ship about “the methods of settling peace”, even the “battles royal” at meetings of the 24 students and graduates aboard. She herself was idealistic about the cause of Peace but doubted that she would oppose American preparedness if she thought her country was itself threatened. But her letters are less significant records of the diplomacy of the Expedition than of the day-to-day life on the ship. She mentions some notables like Ford himself, S.S. McClure, Ben Lindsey, Louis Lochner and particularly suffragette Inez Milholland, whom she greatly admired (and who is also mentioned in several of Davis’ letters) but she spent most of her time with the other students her age as tourists on their first trip to the Continent, visiting museums and attending the opera and social events like an Artist’s Ball. Curiously, one person who is not mentioned in any of her letters is Elmer Davis. Their experience together can only be surmised from the following retrospective letters, which also mention many of their mutual Expedition acquaintances, such as Milholland and her former lover, poet and Socialist editor Max Eastman. 

 

Autographed and Typed Letters of Elmer Davis to Nelle Reeder

 “On Board RMS Adiatic”, Feb. 9, 1916, 9pp.

     Everything ends finally except the things that ought to end, and won’t and wiggle along on the edge, half alive and half dead. One of which is the well known Fredsexpedition / unless the Stockholmites have ended it by this time. But my part ended – somewhat sooner than I had expected for I had hoped to come back at leisure in the Nieuw Amsterdam…But my boss for God know what reason, having a somewhat inadequate conception of the difficulties of international travel in these times, bade me catch the Adriatic in order to get home earlier. I did it, much to my disgust; if these had been the slightest hitch anywhere between the Hague and Liverpool I’d have missed the Adriatic and come back with the bunch. But every connection worked perfectly; our London office got the British diplomats to decorate my passport with a visa that brought respectful kowtow from official whom Id expected to detain me for several hours; the boat on which I crossed to England was sunk by a mine, but a British gunboat took us off and ran us into a war port where a special train was made up to take u to London; a major on the Liverpool dock came near arresting me on the theory that I was a Polish Jew named Szczernowki, wanted for espionage, but after gazing into my simple, open countenance and listening to my heavy Hoosier dialect decided that he made a mistake. I simply could not miss the Adriatic…This excellent old tub is traversing the Atlantic at a rate of about four kilometers a month, turning aside now and then to graze on the cowslips along the way…I am making up sleep cutting down the skoals per day to a figure tending to approach zero as a limit, and amusing myself by trying to write a fiction story about a man who committed a highly praiseworthy murder which nobody appreciated.

      The Fredsexpedition and the part of it we were interested in jolted to pieces slowly like a ship stuck on a sand bank. First you went; then four or five days later the main body, with most of our journalistic friends; then after a bit the Stewarts, who had stayed over to go to London; then Carolyn, whom we farewelled extensively and who was anti-climatically sent back from the frontier and stayed with us another week or so; then Rosika and Louie (Gott strop ‘em) and then peace delegates bound for Stockholm; then Carolyn, for good (she got through at least to Berlin); last of all myself.

     It had a curious detachment and definition and finality, that whole party, so that I can only compare it to a work of art; it started abruptly and was somehow aloof from everything around it, and ended decisively (except for the ridiculous after piece at Stockholm) so that the whole thing was like walking in off Broadway to see a four act play and when the last curtain falls putting on your coat and walking back with the same old Broadway. Don’t you think so? Or do you?

      There wasn’t much in the way of events, episodes and campfire stories after you left. Joe and Carolyn and I completed our financial ruin by continuing to eat at the Hotel des Indes, an institution where we became well and favorably known and where we left about all of our currency. There were a few events of note – perhaps the most notable being a skoal party in which Joe and I participated with Perk and

     Allie Stewart just before these left for London – the conversation including the liberation of the subconscious personality, the spiritual value of intemperance, the spiritual value of passion, possibilities of elevation of the vulgar throng, asceticism, ways and means of freeing the spirits from the trammels of this clayey husk, relative value of mortification of the flesh on the one hand, and full-blooded worship of Dionysus on the other – the inevitable classic touch which I usually tend to introduce after five highballs – discussion of the personal characteristics of various members of the party, including those present; free and frank criticism of the universe at large, winding up with Allie telling Joe that he had a beautiful soul, which had no doubt been alive for many thousands of years, and that she could see the colors in it, one of which was lavender; but that perhaps after all the vegetables were beings of a higher order then ourselves.

     Now it occurs to me that you threatened to be in New York on or about the 6th or 17th of this month…If this worthy kettle gets there by that time, which God alone knows, I expect to see you… This is by far the longest letter – indeed almost the only letter – that I’ve written since I gave up trying to tell my friends back home what the Ford party was like. You should appreciate it, for the time for its composition was time stolen from the murder story which might make me famous. And again might not. Probably not. What?” 

New York, Apr. 16, 1916, 5pp.

“…I know I am the scum of the earth; but as a matter of fact I was a sort of a Cinderella – on, a very mild Cinderella, I admit, but still a Cinderella – on the Fredsexpedition. I was sort of human for a while, and for a little while after I got back; but I don’t seem to be able to keep it up after contact with the job and a few of the long-term obligation – is that a good taxational phrase – and standing issues of my ordinary existence. One thing that spoiled me was that right after I got back I plunged into a literary work that I thought for a few brief weeks was going to make me a fame and a fortune all at once, till I realized that I was trying to put over an eighteen-months job in about as many weeks. I didn’t wake up to that will I had spent in profitless labor a lot of valuable time that I ought to have used in consolidating the territory gained – as the war offices put I – while on the well known Pilgrimage of Piffle.

So I am not much more of a person now than I used to be – a little, but not much; and it isn’t anybodys fault particularly – of course maybe its mine, but I couldn’t admit that you know – but only the way the cards are dealt.

The past few weeks have been notable chiefly for the frantic effort of the Ford survivors to keep together and to be all friends and brothers when back in the great city and their own little circles just like they were whey they stood in hollow square with their bayonets toward the foe on the Oscar II. Despite our well meant intentions it cant be done, of course. None of us will every be again exactly as we were then, and there was so much of external circumstance that contributed to the quick growth of friendship that here in the big town, where Damon sees Pythias about once a month, and calls up some morning to ask him to go to a show that night and finds that Pythias was carted out to Cypress Hills in a mortuary car two weeks ago – why here in the big town, to resume, we see each other only fragmentarily and diversely.

The Swains, of course, are the one best bet; they will be friends with most of the others a long after most of the others have drifted apart…Max [Eastman} has put over an educational movie which involves a trip from coast to coast…at the firm’s expense. I see the Braleys now and then…they seem to be getting along infinitely better, both with each other and with outsiders, than they did on that hapless honeymoon. Ed Graham drops long occasionally, to try to suppress stories discreditable to the university which he represents; Miriam Teichner got to ride on a Barnum and Bailey elephant across the arena in Madison Square Garden and wrote a piece for the paper about it…Helen Bullitt Lowrey is disporting herself at all the artists’ balls and notable festivities that our great city, the modern Babylon, affords. Helen is becoming some notable character and fussed our chubby Venezuelan Sunday editor considerably at the Fakirs’Ball by remarking how well he’d look in a halo and nothing else….

…our ways lie along different routes. Mine, at present, to be sure, don’t lie along any route at all, but when I abandon work…I have a few friends. Or had. At first they all hopped in and asked with one accord, ‘What bout the Ford expedition?’ Everything in one sentence, you understand. And a few days later it was ‘Can that Ford stuff – we don’t want to hear any more about it.’…

Our your friend Carolyn blew through rapidly on route to Chicago…She alleges a great time in Berlin, but professes that she doesn’t like the labor of real newspaper work…

…I’m taking three days off my real job this week to help a friend who is putting out campaign literature about T. Coleman du Pont, the favorite son of Delaware. My small practice as a fiction writer should be of great avail in that activity…

You description of winter at Wellesley was enough to make me wish I could be there…

I am a rotten correspondent, particularly at 330AM when I have been working all night and am trying to sit up and stay awake till nine o’clock in order to start in writing encomiums of the presidential candidate…When are you coming to New York…We need experts in taxation in this state – need them very badly – and I feel sure that Greenwich Village could one more use an expert instructress of dancing…

Willie Bullitt…was wedded last month to one Ernesta Drinker…I hear that Mr. Sniffen, the well known courier, and Miss Lynch are actually engaged. They were drunk the first time they said so and all of us thought they would both come out of it when they sobered up, but apparently not…Betty Hall got herself a small chunk of fame by being on the editorial staff of a professedly radical publication called Challenge that was frowned on by the Barnard authorities. Challenge turned out to be pretty tame…the only worse frost on record was the attempted satire on Challenge which a few self-appointed wits in Columbia got out a week later….the classic romance of the Fredsexpedition has like some of the other associations failed to survived the distractions of metropolitan life.

Miss Balch passed through here en route to Stockholm the other day, calling us up four time sot be sure that we would mention the fact. There are some few educators in this city who could be exported to Scandinavia with great benefit to the community…”

“400 West 118th St., NY, June 14, 1916, 6pp.

Where are you now? Is Wellesley still operating or are you scouting on the trail of a job? And have the little girls learned cooperation and democracy? And what are you thinking about and why? I thought Id put you on the defensive right away by a drumfire of questions so as to cover up my own emptiness of anything inspired. Ive been staying at home and working – those two activities don’t go together at all…staying at home and trying to work, and wondering why it is that good ideas and quaint conceptions come so easily, and the working of them into commercial form is so hard. And I know not one thing except the gossip of near authors and the bucolic chronicles of Morningside Heights…I had a chance to go to the Chicago convention [Republican Party?] and work for a candidate who got as many as 18 votes on one ballot, but my boss unhappily shut down and said it would cost me my job. Since this job may be my shelter from the stormy blast next fall I thought Id better stay at home even at the cost of missing one or two college commencements that I could have cleaned up after the convention.

Gaston Plantiff has gone back to do something with his peace conference. Old McClure lectured here one night recently and managed to irritate his audience exceedingly in his own inimitable way. After he was done several snakes and a few of the elect and pacific, who had heard him, got together amicably and led the Colonel over to Childs and had a pleasing little argument.

Its warning up a little today and the smoldering rebellion against respectability, domesticity, poverty, work and the rest of the curses that afflict humanity is beginning to blaze a little. Id like to bet it to a hot spot, and sit on the white beach under the green palm trees, watching the blue ocean and pouring sand on my toes. But I wont. I am a sturdy bourgeois; Ill go forth presently and buy and evening paper and a head of lettuce and a ten-cent cigar…and then come back to my highly respectable residence and try to put the joy of life and the abandon of the open road into my fiction, in order to pay the rent…”

To Reeder at her home in Hays, Kansas,  400 West 118th St., NY, July 24, 1916, 9pp.

“...no apology yet, for leaving you to wrestle against the dust devils of the Great American Desert for four long weeks with no support of Eastern correspondence beyond the contributions of the Holy Five…my widely mentioned soul has been weathering a few gales of late, and until the sun came out again I didn’t feel like writing letters…As to the work – it goes, after a fashion. I finished one long story for which I am now trying to find a home with some kind editor. They treat the homeless orphan like a Circassian slave on the market, unveiling it, pinching it, discussing its charms and shortcomings with appalling frankness; but I have hope that I may yet persuade one of them to take it into his seraglio for a  proper sum. If not, good night. I haven’t done much else, being somewhat exhausted after the lady sightseer went home. Yesterday, however, I was livened up and rejuvenated, but by a process that will be slow and cumbersome if I have to do it every time I need ginger. I chanced to smash a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and while I was sweeping up the fragments…the liberated oxygen poured into my nostrils in such quantities that I went back to the typewriter and worked in a perfect frenzy all the rest of the day.

The effect was great, but the method is bout as uneconomical as the ancient Chinese system of roasting pig.

Columbia summer school is on, and eight or ten or fifteen thousand students are overrunning our hilltop like cockroaches in a damp kitchen. One or two of my frat brothers from Indiana and we have had a reunion or two with another brother living in Jersey City, who is better domesticated that I am or ever will be. God forbid…

I enclose a photo of one of our Ford Argonauts (or Vikings, I believe was the word) in fast company as usual…

Sharks have been eating bathers down in Jersey…Walter Kingsley, press agent of the Palace, sends to all newspapers an announcement of Miss Edna Wallace Hopper’s shark hunt, which will take place at Long Beach… on Saturday. The two most beautiful women in New York will plunge into the water, attired only in silk union suits, and lure the sharks in sore to where Miss Hopper stands ready with her harpoon, purchased from the last surviving whaler of new Bedford. Turn that gun in shore, Edna, say we; you will get a shark at every shot.

The great city runs on as usual – a new police scandal, the old now between the Mayor and the Holy Catholic Church, politics, solicitude over our gallant warriors on the Mexican front – And I look at my bank book now and then and decide to go to the movies instead of the Follies. Wait till I sell a few cubic feet of literature. I am writing on an Indianapolis paper and my eye has just fallen on the advertisement of Kregels and Baileys Funeral Parlor – ‘Its not home, but just as homelike as we can make it.’ Prosit domus!”

Café Lafayette, NY. Nov. 24, 1916

To the liveliest of all known invalids, greeting – Since your life is probably once more blighted by the respectability of New England, let me tell you the sad fate of one of N.E.’s most Bostonian representatives in New York – Thomas Shaw Bosworth of the Times staff otherwise known as ‘the Calist of the Showers’…Thos, who regards the world as containing only three really endurable spots – Boston, Cambridge, and Oxford – and three semi-endurable, via. Plattsburg, Stuyvesant Square and the South to England generally – this Thos. I repeat compact of inherited prejudices and sensibilities, was recently sent to cover a cheap revival meeting. He was taking notes on the evangelists utterance and apparently the audience thought he was preparing a catalogue of his sins, for presently a fat lady – plumed and perfumed, who looked as if she might run a rooming house off Seventh Avenue in the Forties – grabbed his arm (this was during the trail-hitting) and shouted, hilariously, ‘Brother, confess!’ Bos put on his Beacon Street manner and observed frigidly: ‘I’m afraid I have nothing to confess.’ The dame was in for him now and remarked at the high voice ‘Oh yes you have, brother. I seen you write it. Come, tell me – what is you secret sin – women?’ And an earnest young man grabs his other arm and squeaks, ‘Brother, confess!’ Thos. Is now alarmed and observed in a pacific tone, ‘You don’t understand. I’m from the Times.’ ‘Never mind, brother’, says the dame. ‘Jesus can forgive anything’. This was too much for the Calist of the Showers and he went away from there while the low brows went on being save.

One lives, at a high rate of speed, and learns, with regrettable slowness. Fresh from college, like many earnest young men of our time, I decided that to permit old conventions, prejudices and convictions to hamper the progress of the race was an act of cowardice and barbarism. I would like according to reason with no concession to outworn superstition. What ought to be so, must be made so. But after only three years, one realizes that not all things are that should be.

These reflections due to present surroundings. In this city, which now and then sees amazing indications of defensive race prejudice, I have been known as a Hebraiophile. But if the cloak and suit merchants continue the present trend which crowds the Lafayette with them each afternoon, I shall be ready to vote for confining them to a Pale in the Bronx. In the minority, they are a noble race; but it doesn’t take very many of them to be too many.

The high cost of existence continues to be the chief topic of polite conversation in the metropolis…

More Jews. I will join a pogrom at a moments notice. Three cheers for Nebuchadnezzar, Titus and the Black Hundreds – A whole race, in spots, when sober…”

New York Times, November 29, 1916 (incomplete and heavily tape repaired)

[Inez Milholland was a radical suffragette, labor lawyer and World War I correspondent who was a leading figure on the Ford Peace Ship expedition. For a time, she had been the lover of Max Eastman, the radical poet and editor of the Socialist Masses. She died while giving a suffrage speech in California.]

“If you only wrote on a typewriter I could appreciate you emotions considerably better…as far as puzzling out the exact verbiage I am much in the position of one without qualifying education trying to read the Svenska Dagbladet.

Beginning…with the matters of superior urgency, so that if I am suddenly shot out on a midnight murder I may be able to mail you something informative: the Dec. 4 reunion is still scheduled to take place at Henry’s Scandinavian restaurant…It is to be very informal as to clothes. This was assured when the meyerblock was left out of the invitations, so that there should be no white cotton gloves and hosiery for the rest of us to compete with. Anybody wearing evening dress will be forthwith boiled in Swedish punch…

Inez’s funeral is on Sunday…True, she is a tremendous loss – recognized as such by the press of our city, with the exception of the well known Times, which refuses to admit that there can be anything worth losing in a woman whose place is not in the home, or what passes for it, all day and all night. And it does seem abominable that people like Inez and Max should be lost when we still have with us a large number whose names might be mentioned but will not lest superstitious organs such as the Times should suspect us of wishing a little black magic on them.  But what can we do? Will anybody feel like making merry. Well, to begin with you probably knew her, or at least appreciated her, better than most of the others. And we journalists revive with great rapidity…we have to keep alive at all. It may be that her absence will cast a gloom over the occasion;  but I think it more likely that we will all console ourselves with the obvious…alibi that she wouldn’t want her death to make us gloomy, and will proceed as best we may to make a mock of the inevitable tomb that awaits us all.  (This is punk, rotten and unseemly levity, but unless you happen to be a Christian it is about the best you can do with the regrettable or…comforting that that we all have to die.)

It seems to me even more likely to spoil the affair is the absence of Max [Eastman]. I think there was hardly one of us who wasn’t about fifty percent better than par when Max was playing opposite, and what a reunion without him will be like is hard to say…Inez was a friend to comparatively few of us, and Max was the life of the party…

It would give me much pleasure to hear Caroline [Hazard, former president of Wellesley?] on the wars abroad…but apparently her schedule does not include any lectures within the metropolitan district…much to the regret of those of us whose occupations do not permit us to go as far away as Wellesley…I once went back to my old college and talked to an alumni gathering, with large expectations, but the college paper that week merely said: ‘There also spoke…’”

New York Times, Dec. 27, 1916, 2pp.

“…These are hectic days. I am doing the Times charity story, which is equivalent to grooming the sacred cow…[tried to return her phone call but]…Spring 2259….turned out to be (as nearly as I could judge from the voice and vocabulary) a branch of the Amalgamated Sicilian Murderers of the World. (That is doubtless a libelous statement, hence I beg you to burn this letter.) …the girl at the People’s Institute asked me to tell you that you had lots of mail waiting for you there…”

NY, Aug. 12, 1917, 3pp. (heavily tape-repaired, minor loss of text)

“Young men in New York are very busy, or think they are…We should regret to think that our own taciturnity of correspondence checked the flow of thoughts yearning to be put on paper [to] others, but we have noticed in practice that it usually does.

I judge that you do not care for life in Kansas. Well, it was my purpose to read you a lecture on making the best of one’s environment; but I recalled how I hated Lenox and Buffalo…and forebore. Doubtless it is possible to get something out of any town, but some surroundings make one lose the energy necessary.

Not all of your Fredsexpedish students have gone to the wars. The unshaven and soft-collared Charles Francis Phillips, beloved of the Barnard blonde…recently served six days in the Tombs for refusing to register [for the draft]. He got his name in the paper several times which doubtless soothed the pain. Louis F. Lochner and Rebecca Shelly are still keeping the torch alight, plugging for the Kaiser where they may; but Katherine Lackie, worst of all known press agents, has lit on her feet like a little angora and is now chief pressagentine for the Food Administration of Herbert Hoover. Charles Cushing is a second lieutenant in the marine corps, assigned to publicity – nearly all our press agents in New York are wearing uniform these days; but I never expected to see Katherine boosting a war measure. But perchance she learned, as did others.

Rose Schwimmer, I learn from Mr. Penfield, late ambassador to the court of the Hapsburgs, was engaged as late as March in trying to promote a movement for bringing the Austro-Hungarians to the understanding of America; so it seems that the unfortunate female is destined to be in opposition wherever she may be.

Your analysis of patriotism and the lack thereof in Kansas was most interesting. What we hear from the old home in Indians indicates that the large percentage of Germans in my home county didn’t lower the temperature any. The Irish Catholics tried to get the German Lutherans [?] by accusing them of pro-Kaiser sentiments, but the only result [?] a popular emeute in which the Lutheran pastor was run out of town and all the doubtful in his flock hastened to get on the right side of the fence and become the loudest shouters among those making the world safe for democracy.

I was duly drafted last week and passed the physical exam 100 percent perfect, Arthur J. Apollo-Sandow, the perfect man. My district, I may add, includes the bulk of Greenwich Village and is inhabited chiefly by free verse poets and Italian waiters. Nearly all the wild radicals live around there, but by some strange trick of providence, Louis Lochner and his kind all drew draft numbers around 9000. Since the physical standards of Washington Square are for the most part as low as the moral ones, the doctors on the board exercised a certain latitude, passing anybody with two legs not more than one of which was made of wood and at least one visible eye, glass or otherwise. I never regarded myself as a Hercules, but when one lines up with average specimens of humanity ones chest automatically distends about four inches.

Having filed for exemption on the grounds of dependents, I now wait for the decision – and when all the East Side Jews and the Greenwich Village long-hairs are trying to wriggle out, one feels an awful compelling urge to line up with the white men. However, I don’t think I ought to go at present; also I don’t want to go; but I feel like the devil when I ask them to let me stay at home. And no doubt several hundred thousand other youths feel about the same way…

I get so I care for my job less and less…

Ted Pockman was married in expectation of having to go to the wars…Arthur Hartsell is going to the next Plattsburg, and has also been offered a job as interpreter with the rank of Captain, and has also been drafted. His country evidently wants him. Florence and May Swain and I were down at Long Beach the other day and ran into the Pockmans, Madame having relaxed somewhat the severity which one surmised at first meeting; she appeared to like the surf as well as anybody.

You ought to have a pleasant winter researching in Boston [for the Women’s Educational and Industrial Union.] I wish you could research up some way to utilize the surplus energy of women in the fifties and sixties, a little too old to compete with the young ones but still able to do a good deal.”

 Jan. 22, 1918 (fragment)

“…my mother-in-law lived through a Christmas holiday in the Berkshires where it was 28 below…The world collapses around us and falls into the bottomless pit; we no doubt fall with it, but so rapidly that as in the well known rotation of the planet, one feels no sense of motion. A few weeks back, I cherished a momentary and flitting hope of being sent to Paris…

Undated fragments:

…Rebecca Shelly revived her neutral conference last week at lunch, at which Hamilton Holt, David Starr Jordan, Miss Balch and others officiated, and Jacob Schiff, who is frankly pro-German and naturally wants to see them get away with the loot while there is still a good chance, as the start performer. Huebsch gave out the story to the press – reporters not admitted – and with it a long list of notables who were present and endorsed the purpose of our organization. The man who covered it for the times didn’t know Rebecca and swallowed it all, but the undersigned got busy and prodded the high powers until they investigated…and discovered that about a third of those listed were not there at all….

…As to your personal observations…we appreciate their sardonic tenderness and acknowledge…I don’t know much about women, my friend. What inspired your observations, I do not know, but I have my suspich, and if it is correct there is one sharper than a serpent’s tooth who will be blunted as with a file…But as to classifying me…there are 52,387, 991 women in the United States of America…they fall into 52,387,991 different classes…

…our city is getting to look more and more like Hays, Kansas. No bright light except on Saturdays, and not always then, food getting more irregular and prices rapidly going north; cafes formerly good degenerating. We went to Rectors a few nights ago…and found it full of a crowd most of which should have been in the Tombs or under observation…the only amusements left. May be a good thing for us all.  From vain desires and fleeting toys we turn to seek immortal joys. Contemplation of the innermost soul would be good for a lot of people in this country, though upon giving attention to where it has led the Russians, one hesitates to recommend it as a panacea…”