Main content

Clair Miles Rickard World War I letters and memorabilia


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Clair Miles Rickard was born in Johnson City, New York on July 8, 1893, to Miles Rickard and Sophronia Brown. He had six siblings by the time his family and he moved to Great Bend Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. Rickard was a farmer and lumberman by trade, and he worked in his father’s business in Great Bend Township.

Rickard registered with the United States Army on June 5, 1917 at the age of 23. He served as a forestry soldier in the first World War with Company B, 3rd Battalion of the 20th Engineers in France. The 20th Engineers was the largest regiment ever to exist in the United States Army and its primary purpose was to provide the Allied forces in Europe with the large amount of timber necessary for the war effort. The U.S. Army recruited seasoned lumberjacks from the Northeastern part of the country, although these companies had soldiers that represented all 48 states in the Union, to manage France’s forestlands. The men of these regiments produced wood that was then transported to American forces throughout Europe. The wood was used for building roads and railroads, constructing barracks, erecting telephone poles, supporting trenches, and various other building and construction projects.

Before Rickard was joined with the rest of the draftees in the 3rd Battalion, he married 22 year old school teacher Helen Viola Jacobs in Binghamton, Broome County,NY, on August 9, 1917. Rickard left for the Army by train on October 12, 1917 from Montrose, PA. Their route took them by way of Tunkhannock, S. Bethlehem and then to Baltimore and Ft. Meade, M.D. In January 1918, the 3rd Battalion arrived in France and Company B was sent eastward to the Haute Marne region where they joined Company E of 2nd Battalion on the St. Dizier operation. At St. Dizier a consolidated mill was built with two saw rigs, each of 20,000 feet rated capacity and the timber available was more extensive than at most of the developments. Although the mill was not far from enemy lines and not immune from German air raids, no soldier was ever killed during an air raid. By March 1919 camp operations were complete and the battalion began preparations for the voyage back to the United States. In 1921, Rickard and Jacobs welcomed their first child Spafford Raymond Rickard, followed by three more children, Clair Miles Rickard Jr., Eulalie Rickard, and Bryce Rickard. On May 24, 1962 Clair Miles Rickard died in Jackson Township, Susquehanna County,PA.

The Clair Miles Rickard World War I letters consists mostly of transcriptions and photocopies, the bulk of which comprise Rickard's original letters from 1917 to 1919. Additionally, there are photographs featuring Rickard, a copy of his registration card, copies of postcards, and copies of maps, clippings, and other printed matter that mention Rickard. There is also a brief write-up on Rickard’s war experience and a note from Rickard’s daughter, Eulalie, explaining the changes made from the original letters to the typed transcriptions.

Gift of Eulalie Chilson, 2014.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sabrina Bocanegra.
Finding Aid Date
; 2014
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Memorabilia and miscellaneous materials, 1917-1919, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Transcriptions of original letters, 1917-1919.
Box 1 Folder 2
Original letters (photocopies), 1917-1919.
Box 1 Folder 3

Print, Suggest