Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: 1918-1919. 10½” x 8½”. Quarter leather over thick, heavy boards. 116 pages with 60 black and white photographs, 44 items of ephemera, 16 images clipped from magazines, and dozens of news clippings; nearly all adhesive mounted with the final 26 pages blank. Eight photographs measure 7¼” x 9¼”, 22 are 3½” x 5½”, the rest measure from 2” x 3” to 2¼” x 4”; approximately one third are captioned. Album good: heavily worn with a spine reinforced with old black duct tape, three leaves detached with a few partially so and evidence of removal of approximately 20 leaves as well as a few items; photographs generally very good plus or better, ephemera generally very good or better.
This is a primary source history of the Oklahoma County World War I American Red Cross (“ARC”) canteen created by its chairwoman, Katherine F. Haskell. According to the clippings here, Haskell first organized the group in March 1918 and they worked out of a small room in an office building. The front pastedown celebrates the canteen's more formal opening, with Katherine's ARC identification card showing she was appointed chairman of the service on April 8, 1918. Above it is a news clipping dated April 25th with an image of Katherine and several other women filling the first care packages that the canteen created for soldiers. These “comfort kits” included cigarettes and sewing supplies, candy, magazines and more.
Within a month, the Studebaker corporation donated a van that was turned into the
Red Cross Canteen Motorized Kitchen. This mobile kitchen was outfitted to serve coffee, sandwiches, fruit and other quick-serve items. It can be seen in a number of photos. The mobile kitchen helped immensely in servicing troop trains with short stops: an average train had 500 men and required 56 loaves of bread for sandwiches and 60 gallons of coffee. In August, a canteen hut was built. A local architect donated his time for the design and building materials were donated as well. Over the course of a few weeks, a miniature bungalow was erected in Santa Fe Park (apparently the Santa Fe Depot). Once this was completed, the women served an average of 6,000 men a month. By the time the canteen closed, they'd served around 75,000 men.
The large photographs are spectacular. One is a group shot of Red Cross workers in uniform holding a banner in front of the mobile kitchen. Two show the canteen hut, with women outside serving soldiers. Two more are internal shots of the interior of the Oklahoma County Red Cross chapter, showing women working and patriotic posters on the walls. Another is a large group photo of members of the French Foreign Legion posing with at least ten Native Americans. According to contemporary news accounts, the men were in town September 28, 1918 as part of an Americanization Day program at the Oklahoma State Fair. The news clipping that accompanies the photo stated, “the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were the center of attraction for the legion . . . they were posing for photographs with blanketed squaws in the foreground and gaily bedecked braves in the rear.” An Americanization Day ribbon is also tipped in here.
Other photos show soldiers getting served by women working the mobile unit, ARC workers posing with servicemen outside troop trains, and several of the magazine images show ARC canteen huts in Arizona, Virginia, Louisiana and several other states. There are also several photographs from June 1919 where the women put together a “Liberty Kitchen” for the return of members of the 36th and 90th Infantry Divisions.
The ephemera includes packaging labels for the ARC's chocolate-wheat bar, a 5 cent scrip ticket and examples of the canteen's stationary. There are at least thirteen notes and letters from grateful soldiers including one from a man recovering at Walter Reed Hospital. There's a 16 line poem that Haskell wrote about the importance of the canteen, as well as a telegram to Haskell from a soldier alerting her to an impending train arrival. There are a few membership cards as well as watercolors of the 36th Infantry Division and 90th Infantry Division insignias. Many pages are also littered with small American flags, red crosses, and “Compliments of American Red Cross Canteen Service” shields.
The clippings fully document the mobilization of a community that donated everything it could, from baked goods and building materials, to time and money, to support young men on their way to (or coming home from) war. They are filled with stories of countless kindnesses and also provide many profiles of female volunteers. Others show Haskell's continued involvement with the Red Cross as well as her efforts in creating local resources relative to poverty and the difficulties that soldiers and their families faced once returned home.
Haskell continued her work with the Red Cross after the war. She became the chapter's executive secretary and oversaw the creation of a Red Cross community house, the first of its kind in the United States. She also wrote a history of the Oklahoma County chapter. Internal evidence suggests she only made three copies of the book, and an original painting of what she apparently intended as the book's cover adorns the rear pastedown.
A comprehensive history providing evidence of the extraordinary efforts of women in Oklahoma City to care for soldiers during World War I.
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